by Aug 26, 2016

Double-mindedness: Holding Two or More Opposing Beliefs at the Same Time

If there is one biblical word that describes the problem that every person brings into a TPM session, it would be “double-mindedness.” James the Apostle uses this term to describe the man who is holding two belief perspectives: truth and doubt. Double-mindedness is having “two minds” in opposition – that is, holding two or more opposing beliefs at the same time; typically, one being intellectual and the other experiential. People will often say something like “I know that what I am saying is not the truth, but it feels true.” “I know that God loves me, but I feel abandoned by Him.” “I know that Jesus died for my sins and I am forgiven but yet I feel dirty and shameful when I think about what I did.” When the lies we believe feel true and yet we know intellectually that they are not, there is something wrong. This is the act of holding two opposing beliefs at the same time. James says that a double-minded person is like a “wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind…” and a double-minded man who is “… unstable in all of his ways.” (James 1:8)

In this place of double-mindedness, we typically know truth intellectually, but have great difficulty making it feel true experientially. People coming for prayer ministry commonly say, “I know the Bible says ____, but I feel ___.” Or conversely, “I know that what I believe is not true but it feels true.” When feelings do not match the truth that God has given, it points to double-mindedness. The answer to this dilemma is not to try harder to believe the biblical truth, or to deny the lie-based belief learned in a life experience, but rather to identify and acknowledge the lie and seek the Lord’s perspective concerning it.

We can believe something to be true intellectually and believe its polar opposite at the experiential level. Thus, a major struggle ensues. When what I know intellectually (the Bible verses that I have memorized) runs contrary to what I experientially believe, inner turmoil will follow. I can intellectually believe the Bible verse that says, “My God shall supply all your needs…” (Phil 4:12) while living in constant fear and worry over how I am going to pay my bills (experiential belief). When we intellectually believe a biblical truth (such as, we are loved by God and we are secure in Him), and yet we feel abandoned, fearful and distant from God; then something is amiss.

Again, this is double-mindedness. We can believe intellectually that God loves us and yet experientially not feel loved by Him. We may intellectually agree and affirm what the Bible says, and yet our experiential belief produces the anxiety, fear and worry that is in contrast to the intellectual assent we give to the Bible verse.

Bible Knowledge is No Guarantee of Transformation

Transformation is the inner work of God that results when we know the truth experientially. When this occurs it becomes our faith. Some assume that simply learning truth from the Bible will automatically result in transformation. This is not so. Unbelievers can memorize Bible verses and it will have no effect. Unless the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God in our hearts, it will remain printed words on a page. The Apostle Paul underscored this reality when he prayed, “… may [God] give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling” (Eph. 1:17-18). We can read and even memorize the Bible cover-to-cover, but unless the Holy Spirit reveals and illuminates the truth, we cannot know it.

Most already know truth intellectually but struggle with “double-mindedness” when it is opposed to what they have experienced. People do not generally need new truth when they come to a ministry session; rather, they need the Holy Spirit to replace their lie-based beliefs with a heart-level understanding of the truth. For example, they may already know intellectually that they are loved by God, but it only becomes known when they “hear” him say with their heart, “I love you.” Then truth takes on life and breathes life into the lie-worn believer.

Even those who have little to no Bible knowledge already possess much of the basic core beliefs that are needed. Some might be surprised by this; nonetheless, God has seen to it that all mankind possesses the basics. The Apostle Paul declared this fact when he wrote, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made….” (Rom. 1:19-20)

Typically, people are not struggling in their lives because they lack understanding or because they do not know the deep theological tenets of Scripture; rather, it is because they lack an understanding of the simple things that deal with trust, love, safety, provision, faith, assurance, self-identity, and self-worth. People want to believe that they have worth and value, are loveable, can trust, are safe and protected, cared for, appreciated, and have some level of purpose. These are the beliefs that are generally lacking and thus most frequently addressed in a TPM session. Most people already know with their intellect many simple truths and yet do not know them in their hearts.

We Interpret Life Through Experiential Belief, Whereas We Navigate Life Intellectually

When we experience an event, we automatically come to a conclusion or interpretation of what occurred. For example, if our spouse is being quiet and not engaging in conversation we may assume that he or she is mad, offended, rejecting us, etc. We have no idea what is actually occurring, but our mind is supplying a host of possibilities, all of which flow from what we believe and not necessarily what is actually going on. Thus, we actually feel what we conclude.

If we get into our car to go to the supermarket, we will use our intellectual beliefs to start the car, put it in gear and head in the direction of the store. There will be no emotion accompanying this, in fact it may feel nearly automatic. It is by using our intellectual beliefs that we navigate from point A to point B in life. However, if the person behind us dramatically lays on his horn, we may draw from our experiential belief to interpret the moment.

How do we know that this shift has occurred? Because we are now feeling some things, very possibly unpleasant emotions. Depending on how we interpret the horn honking we may feel afraid, angry, stupid, or incompetent.

We interpret life through what we experientially believe, even if that belief runs contrary to what we know intellectually to be the truth. How we interpret life depends upon what we experientially believe to be true. Our experiential belief dictates our perception and perspective of the world around us, our view of others, our self-image, etc. We want to believe the biblical truth that we have learned, but what we believe experientially holds more power and influence. Experiential belief always wins. If we are having a Bible study discussion we can easily recite what we know about some particular topic; however, when life happens we will feel what we experientially believe, and our behavior will follow. Someone will surely say, “I just do not let my emotions control me. I control them, and do the right thing.” However, the very fact that a person has to expend effort to keep from acting on what he feels actually confirms that he is reacting to his emotions. So then, who is controlling who?

“I Know that I Shouldn’t feel this way, but…”

In other words, “I know the truth, but I feel something else. I know that God loves me (intellectual knowing), but I feel like He has abandoned me, is mad at me, doesn’t listen to me, doesn’t care, etc.” (experiential knowing). “I know that God will supply my needs (intellectual) but I worry over how I will pay my bills” (experiential).

Again, we may try hard to believe the biblical truth “take every thought captive,” (2 Co 10:5), choose to do the right thing (obedience), and yet the lie-based beliefs will still feel true. Again, the problem is that what feels true (lie-based core belief) will eventually win over what we may know in our head. The answer is not to deny what we feel and disregard the beliefs we harbor, but rather to take ownership for what we believe. The Lord will give us His truth, but we must first bring into the light what has been hidden.

Holding belief in Two Different Locations

Even though we can hold opposing beliefs with our hearts and minds, we cannot hold opposing heart beliefs or opposing intellectual beliefs at the same time. For example, I cannot concurrently believe in my heart that God is faithful and believe in my heart that He is not faithful. Nor can I believe with my heart that I am worthless and also believe in my heart that I have value. In similar fashion, I cannot believe that the earth is round and at the same time believe that it is flat. I cannot believe that 2+2=4 and also believe that it equals 6. This would be a state of holding opposing heart beliefs or intellectual beliefs at the same time. This is not being double-minded, this is simply impossible. This we cannot do.

Opposing beliefs cannot dwell in the same place simultaneously. The truth will always drive the lie out. This is why when we receive the truth from the Lord during a ministry session, the lie is immediately cast out, since His light will overcome the darkness.

To hold a truth-based heart belief and an opposing lie-based heart belief at the same time would be in a sense a “kingdom divided.” This is why I can believe in my heart that God hates me, but I cannot convince my heart that he also loves me. I can believe in my heart that I am worthless, but I cannot convince or persuade myself in my heart that I have worth and value. This holds true for my intellectual belief as well. However, I can hold a truth in my mind that is directly opposed to a lie I hold in my heart.


Double-minded or a Divided Kingdom

So we see a difference here; being double-minded (holding an intellectual belief that opposes our heart belief) is very possible, but a “divided kingdom” (holding either opposing heart beliefs at the same time, or opposing intellectual beliefs at the same time) is not.

When I hold a lie-based heart belief that is contrary to the truth that I intellectually know, I will believe with my intellect that God is my provider, and yet feel fear concerning how I will pay my bills. This is being double-minded. And if I genuinely believed with my intellect that Jonah built the ark in order to carry the Children of Israel across the Sea of Galilee to escape the Philistines, then I could not convince myself of anything else, since my mind cannot be a “divided kingdom.”

Yet if my old seminary professor graciously sits me down, opens up the Bible and points out my biblical error, he could persuade me to believe the truth because I trust him and I know that he knows more than I do about these things. This is the Trust and Authority Principle at work with my intellect. As soon as I hear his words, I am persuaded of the truth, which would allow me to: put Noah back on the Ark and Jonah back in the whale; cross the Red Sea with Moses; and leave the Philistines with King David.

In order to be persuaded of the truth, I will not have to try to believe it, work at it, exert any effort to believe it, or even choose to believe it. Doing any of these things would be an indication that I did not believe my professor held an authority of knowledge over mine. My believing him will be the spontaneous outcome of  him showing me the truth, because I trust the source of the truth being offered. I am persuaded because I trust him and he has more knowledge of the Bible and holds a higher authority than my own.

This same principle holds true as it applies to our salvation. We were not saved because we decided one day to choose to trust Jesus. Salvation came because God persuaded us of the truth and we believe it with our hearts. It is “…with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness…” (Rom. 10:10). This is why our salvation is a “gift of God” from beginning to end. (Eph. 2:8)

We believed because God shone His light into our hearts and we believed. “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) In the same way that you came to believe that resulted in your salvation, you need the Spirit to persuade you of the truth so that you might walk in Him and bear His fruit.  You need God to fill you “… with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, SO THAT you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:9-10)


Are the Scriptures Not Enough?

You might ask, “Why not take our lie-based heart belief to the Scriptures and be persuaded by them directly? If I believe a lie that says God cannot be trusted, and consequently, live in fear, why not just go to the Scriptures, read the truth, and choose to believe?” We can choose to believe with our intellect when the right criteria is met (see the Trust and Authority Principle), but heart persuasion is a work of God. The Scriptures are all we need in truth, but trying to believe them apart from the persuasion of the Spirit will not happen. We can memorize Bible verses, meditate day and night, but unless the Spirit brings the truth to life within us, we will only grow in knowledge.

This is not to say that the Spirit does not speak directly through the written Word, for indeed He does. Every believer has had the experience of reading a particular passage of Scripture when suddenly the truth is illuminated within our heart and we believe.  Our heart belief is then renewed, and lasting transformation follows. When it comes to heart belief, we need to be persuaded of the truth by God’s Spirit. Even when we read the Bible itself, we will only be persuaded of the truth therein, when the Spirit opens the “eyes of our hearts” to hear it.

This commonly occurs in a TPM session when a person believes in his heart a lie something as, “I am worthless.”  No one, including himself, can ever talk him out of this belief. Perhaps he came to this belief because his father repeatedly told him, “I hate you. You are worthless and will never amount to anything!” Then, as a result, he concluded that his father hated him and therefore he believes the lie, “I am worthless.”

In that life moment he was persuaded of this falsehood and therefore, believed it. Now he needs to be persuaded of the truth by someone with a higher authority than himself. He cannot tell himself the truth because he is convinced of the lie, based upon his experience. His conclusion is based upon his eyewitness account of what happened; he was there. Today, his well-meaning friends and counselors cannot persuade him of the truth, because they lack the needed authority to speak into his heart. All they possess is second hand information, opinion, conjecture, and intellectual information.

Here is where the Lord’s perspective is essential. Only God has the necessary authority to persuade him of the truth. When the Spirit of the Lord reveals the truth to him with something like, “Your father was wrong. You have value with Me. I love you!” This man can easily let his lie-based belief go and immediately exchange it for the truth. When this truth is embraced in his heart, it becomes a purified faith: the persuasion of God.

The Scriptures say, “… faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Some Bible teachers suggest that the “hearing” referred to in this passage is limited to hearing the truth that people are speaking, and therefore believing in faith. However there is nothing specific in this passage to indicate that the one speaking may not be  the Spirit Himself. Either way, unless the Holy Spirit does the persuading,  that person will not hear it with his heart, and the result will be simply knowledge, not faith.


Self-persuasion Cannot Produce Genuine Faith

Self-persuasion is the tool many people attempt to use to grow in faith, overcome a lack of faith, or rise above their doubt. Exerting more energy to believe does not produce more faith. Trying hard to believe something generally brings about frustration and more doubt, but does not change what we believe. The only way to change what we believe is through persuasion of the truth. The Trust and Authority Principle is always at work governing whether or not we will believe the truth we are being offered. When we choose to move into position to receive truth, TPM can be of benefit to us.