Cognitive Contamination

I have been thinking about how the process of ideas, the power of words, and the direction of our minds can go from A to B to C to dead. Sounds heady, but I assure you it’s not. In other words, I am suggesting contemplating how our beliefs slip and slide from a firm foundation to a soap-covered tarp in the front lawn.

My conclusion is cognitive contamination. I think I heard that phrase somewhere at sometime from someone, so I cannot claim credit. The concept of cognitive contamination is nothing new, in fact it is found in Scripture.

Paul writes to Timothy warning him that some who profess the faith will inevitably leave the faith because they have come to devote themselves to “deceitful spirits” and nasty “teachings of demons” which is brought about by liars (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

Cognitive contamination is the twisting of the truth into a lie. The thing about good liars is that they can make their lies sound good by sprinkling it with familiar words of truth. It would be like eating a nasty cupcake with delicious frosting. It is like drinking unfiltered water, eventual dysentery sets in.

When we allow untruth to be present in our lives, to dwell next to us as a neighbor rather than an enemy deserving death, we are susceptible to contamination. I know of too many once-biblical men and women who have been cognitively contaminated over the years to the point where they abandon the faith. And on certain occasions take others with them.

But Paul  goes on in his letter telling Timothy what to do. Timothy is to teach the church. He is to teach the words of the faith and sound doctrine combating the falsehoods of irreverent liars (1 Timothy 4:6-8). I remember one Sunday at church my wife and I were attending when our pastor took time to battle heresy. He devoted 45 minutes of the service to protecting the flock from the teachings of a wolf. This was very beneficial, and according to Paul, exactly what he is called to do.

The training in godliness comes from knowing what God says. We are called to battle, to fight the dragon, to slay the serpent, to blow the fog horn of Truth and drown the screeching sirens of lies.


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