Practical Application of the Word of God
James 3:9 is an example of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance describes the mental stress and discomfort we humans experience, whether we’re aware of it or not, when we have two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs, and/or behaviors at the same time.
And here’s the rub. Most of the people who exhibit cognitive dissonance are either not uncomfortable about it at all, or they ignore whatever momentary discomforts might pop up and just breeze on by them.
I, on the hand, experience a lot of discomfort when I see cognitive dissonance in action. It stops me dead in my tracks because I can’t reconcile the differences.
Although we see – and expect – cognitive dissonance all around us in society, cognitive dissonance in the church is most troubling. Unfortunately, it seems to have become the norm there as well.
I’ll give a common example among church of God organizations.
There are two terms that mean very different things within these man-made religious organizations. These terms are irreconcilable.
One term has been egregiously perverted and twisted from its biblical spiritual meaning to a non-biblical, physical meaning, and it has been given proprietary dimensions for each humanly-devised organization.
The second term has emerged in the last twenty years or so and it is actually the term that brings about cognitive dissonance in action.
The first term is “the church.” As I’ve explained in-depth in a previous post, the word translated church in the New Testament is ekklesia. “The church” refers to the body of Christ, which is spiritual, and has no physical (i.e., organizational) limits or boundaries.
However, each of the church of God organizations has systematically appropriated the term “the church” to mean the physical organization and each of these physical organizations uses the term “the church” to imply, if not outright say, that God is working only with that physical organization.
The second term in juxtaposition with the first term (I heard both of these used, in their commonly-defined contexts, within a few minutes of each other in a sermon recently and the speaker was not even aware of the cognitive dissonance in their use) is the example of cognitive dissonance.
That term is “the greater churches of God,” which seems to tacitly recognize that the ekklesia is not limited to a single physical humanly-devised organization.
You can’t have it both ways.
You can’t claim that ABC organization is “the church,” and proceed to demand exclusive loyalty, financial support, and promoting its “stuff” as “the truth” (God’s word alone is truth…anything else, including this blog, because it involves human, fallible reasoning, ideas, and opinions is suspect because we err and we simply do not know it all) and then talk about “the greater churches of God.”
One of these terms is false, at the very least, even if all the deception and perversion around the first term did not exist.
It reminds me of a funeral I attended for a friend’s mother in a little farming community in South Carolina about ten years ago. The country preacher had my friend’s mother in heaven, which I expected.
What I didn’t expect was the cognitive dissonance that brought this poor woman out of heaven somewhere in the future back down to her grave to be resurrected when Christ returns.
Sitting in the back row of the congregation, I looked up front at my friend and his sister to gauge their reaction and then around the rest of the assembly to see if that didn’t make sense to anybody else. Apparently, I was the only one it didn’t make sense to in the tiny gathering of mourners. And that baffled me. It still does.
Of course, I have proven by God’s word that we go to the grave, not to heaven when we die. There is no consciousness when we die – Christ and Paul both liken death to sleep – and, in terms of our awareness between physical life, death, and the resurrection, it’s like a blink of an eye.
So the cognitive dissonance I witnessed in that rural little congregation on a typical South Carolina Lowcountry sweltering summer day somewhat surprised me, but didn’t totally surprise me, because I anticipated it.
However, the cognitive dissonance I routinely observe within the church of God organizational constructs and within the ekklesia itself never ceases to surprise me.
We have God’s spirit and God’s word. If we are asking God and allowing God’s spirit to teach us, to guide us, to give us wisdom, understanding, and discernment and we are spiritually nourishing ourselves continually with the Bread of Life, then there will be no cognitive dissonance.
The problem is that we don’t “sole-source” God’s truth the way He tells us to.
Instead, we build a patchwork combination of organizational traditions, human (ours and others) ideas, opinions, and reasoning, and the word of God that inherently contains these conflicts.
At some point early on, we may have recognized the cognitive dissonance of our spiritual patchwork quilt. I guarantee you that if we pointed it out, we were met with resistance and all the reasons why the Word of God didn’t apply or take precedence over the other components.
If we backed down, either because of intimidation or claims of superior spiritual knowledge (in other words, only certain ones of us have special knowledge that all the rest of you don’t have), then eventually the recognition of cognitive dissonance disappeared.
I truly believe for many of the ekklesia today that the recognition of cognitive dissonance has disappeared. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see much evidence to prove that I am.
If our ability to see cognitive dissonance is intact or being reawakened because we’ve returned to God’s instruction to “sole-source” His truth, then the discomfort we are experiencing is a positive sign that we are doing as the Bereans did and comparing everything we hear, we see, and we read with the word of God to see if it is true or not.
This is the narrow way, my friends. But we – the house of God – have had opened to us and are being judged now by the same criteria that those in the second resurrection will have opened to them and will be judged by.
The books that Revelation 20:12 refer to are the word of God, and that must be the foundation of everything else in our lives. Anything else is a foundation of sand.