Three Kinds of Discernment

An insightful exploration.

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Three Kinds of Discernment

This post identifies and discusses three types of discernment, Spiritual Discernment, Cognitive Discernment, and Social/Emotional Discernment. To make the discussion easier, I’ll adopt a nomenclature of SD, CD, and ED, respectively.

Under a previous post, A Revised Understanding of Game (2020 September 14), TheDeti asked a pertinent question,

“…when we talk about discernment, are you talking about the spiritual gift of discernment (which is “discerning spirits”; the gift of special and deep understanding what is of God and what is not, “rightly dividing the word of Truth”)?  [SD]

Or are you talking about natural, cognitive discernment (the ability to look past what appears to be so and getting to what actually is; critical thinking; inductive and deductive reasoning)?”  [CD]

Novaseeker describes a third variety of discernment — being able to sense the socio-sexual interest and intent of others, and being able to detect and read IOI’s.  Novaseeker describes this as such.

“I was using [the word discernment] in terms of discerning women’s behaviors and IOIs and so on — not in a spiritual sense at all. Many men struggle in “reading” women, because they lack social discernment in general, and in particular when it comes to women — like discerning when a woman is showing interest in you or not. That’s what I was talking about, not spiritual discernment a la the NT.”  [ED]

I think this last kind of discernment also includes (1) an ability to connect with others on an emotional, heart-felt level, and (2) Theory of Mind, something which Autistic individuals are incapable of experiencing.

In the post containing these comments, I was referring to SD and ED, believing these to be the same.  But upon further consideration, I find that they are not.  They only appear to be the same to me personally.

A young and precocious boy is ready to teach you about new theories.

Cognitive Discernment

I want to go into further detail regarding CD because it is much more than simply the ability to identify logical truth from error. It also affects one’s decision making (i.e. “free will”) and moral agency.

Over at the Orthosphere, Richard Cocks writes about the role of Agency and the Criminal Justice System (2020 September 17). Here, he philosophically describes agency.

“An agent is the locus of decision-making. If [causal] determinism is true, and there is no free will, then no person is “deciding” anything. Agency would be an illusion.”

I’ll interrupt Richard to offer some definitions to the reader.

Determinism: The theory that everything that happens must happen as it does and could not have happened any other way.

If a person believes that determinism is true, then this person could be described as fatalistic.

Fatalism: The belief that people cannot change the way events will happen and that events, especially bad ones, cannot be avoided.

Without agency, we are in no position to assess truth or falsity. You are forced by mechanical means [viz. causal determinism] to whatever you think, not by reasons. If he happens to think [any proposition to be] true, that is of no significance whatsoever. If determinism is true, which it could logically be, then further discussion is otiose. There is no person/agent discussing anything; just a stalk of grass blowing in the wind.”

Richard Cocks goes on to say that having agency is (at least) one trait that makes one truly human. I’ll add that this particular trait is also the one that opens the door to (1) true authentic obedience to the Holy Spirit, (2) the potential pursuance of sin, and/or (3) repentance.

With these things in mind, it is evident that having cognitive discernment is mutually codependent on having a sense of agency. This means that one is able to recognize that there exist at least two different paradigms of consciousness that delineate a single state of being, and that one is able to change one’s own cognitive process from one paradigm to the other, based on one’s convictions, principle, or purpose. As a consequence, one is able to discern a moral choice, make decisions accordingly, and therefore exercise agency. This idea is the backbone of the argument for free will. Conversely, an agent is one who is aware of the choices, makes an informed decision, and takes a responsible action. This logical proof merely rephrases what Richard described, but I will add that agency is a mark of maturity.  For example, children and solipsistic individuals lack agency.  Of note, in a previous post, The Evils of Solipsism (2019 November 19), we identified that solipsism equals sin.

Going further, if one chooses to embrace any cognitive paradigm that is at odds with God’s covenant order, then this is sin by definition. Clinging to such a paradigm, even without being aware that it is sin, is being/living under a curse by definition (e.g. a generational curse). Some curses can be elusive to the conscious mind’s understanding, which makes them difficult to sift out and purge.

One primary way that this perdition happens is when one becomes obsessed with the things of a fleshly nature (e.g. money, power, social status, desires, sensual passions, fears, et al.), and these cognitive preoccupations preclude (or exclude) any awareness of one’s agency and any perception of spiritual truths.

Of note, the mental framework that supports sexual sin is one such curse which is difficult to uproot, partly because it is reinforced by one’s culture, lifestyle, social group, and anatomical physiology.

In 1st John 5:16-18, St. John makes a distinction between “sin which does not lead to death”, and “sin which leads to death”. [Sidenote: Bible Gateway has an interesting discussion of this.]  Within the present discussion of CD, it is conceivable that that “sin which leads to death” is an unholy cognitive paradigm that causes one to become deprived of both CD and agency (as described above), and therefore become “locked into” this mode. This is what it means to be “in bondage to sin” — a state from which one can only escape through repentance and exercising a heart-led faith in Jesus Christ. The miraculous restoration of agency and CD is an integral part of redemption, and is commonly called “freedom in Christ” or “spiritual liberty” within Christian doctrine. This freedom may also bring about the enhancement of one’s SD and ED.

My Own Experiences with Discernment

With respect to CD, if I put some time and effort into studying a matter and praying about it, then I can eventually figure out how things work. This includes the physical world, including difficult engineering problems, and also things of a spiritual nature, such as philosophy of belief. This approach does nothing for my social life, however, but my SD and ED take up most of the slack. With people, there’s always an element of unpredictability and a bit of the unknown.  In my opinion, God is much more “predictable” than people are. (Perhaps “reliable” is a more reverent word to describe God.)

I think the Cognitive brand of discernment depends on one’s IQ and cognitive ability in general. This may also explain why intelligent individuals often have greater difficulty in sorting out their spiritual needs and the substance of their faith, while less intellectually gifted people have been known to “find God” while sitting at a bar in a state of inebriation.

In my personal experience, SD and ED seem to be concomitant.  That is, as my ability to discern between what is of God and that which is evil grows, so too does my ability to connect with others at an emotional level, to sense “vibes” from others (especially women), and to detect IOI’s.  This is why I naively fused the two in previous posts. But I am getting the impression that for many others, “getting closer to God” does not permeate one’s social and intersexual relations.

For me, CD seems to be unrelated to either SD or ED. I have a couple theories about this.

  1. They are somehow related, but not directly, at least not enough for me to notice any kind of cause-and-effect interaction.
  2. They are not related, but are influenced by the Holy Spirit.

I really need more real world data based on others’ experiences with discernment to refine these theories any further.

Concluding Statements

I hope that this examination of discernment has been enjoyable and insightful to the reader, and not just an exercise in navel-gazing sophistry.  Most of what I’ve described here is my attempt to condense deep mystical concepts into words, which might appear speculative to some, or prophetic, if you will, to others, so I’m open to feedback and reproof.

I’m wondering if other men might have a different experience with discernment, and whether my own experience might be a peculiar case.  I would like to get some feedback on this phenomenon, either qualitative or quantitative, so if you would, please leave a comment to describe your own experiences with different kinds of discernment.  I am sure other readers would be interested in exploring these personal differences as well.


About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Authenticity, Decision Making, Discerning Lies and Deception, Discernment, Wisdom, Freedom, Personal Liberty, Indicators of Interest, Introspection, Maturity, Personal Growth and Development, Moral Agency, Prophecy, Psychology, Purpose, Solipsism, The Power of God. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Three Kinds of Discernment

  1. Ed Hurst says:

    There’s nothing wrong with your analysis, but it doesn’t describe how I experience things. It’s not always that easy for me to slice clearly between the various forms you mention. And because of all the deeply invested meaning so many folks put into the term “spiritual discernment” I tend to favor the term “moral discernment” in terms of how I operate when I’m reflecting on my convictions. Again, I tend to look at the whole question as something that should naturally vary between individuals.


    • Jack says:

      @ Ed,
      Ever since I started examining discernment, I’ve had a variety of feedback. So I’ve come to expect that different people have different experiences with discernment.

      I think it’s good for Christians to talk about this. This is something that is very important for Christian Living, yet people never talk about it at all. The scriptures have quite a bit to say about it, but it is never addressed in sermons or books. In all my life, I’ve only heard one Sunday school lesson on discernment.

      I’m hoping that readers might venture to describe their own experiences with discernment, so that we could compare notes and perhaps learn something more about it.


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  3. There’s one thing that I’d take exception to: the idea that autists and aspies are incapable of “theory of mind.” We (I include myself) are quite capable of seeing the motivations and perspectives of others as differing from our own: because the “neurotypical” (NT) mind is both more common and more homogeneous than the autistic, it’s hard not to have a degree of “Theory of Mind” for them (or “y’all”): far easier for the autist to have one for the NT than vise versa. We can tell, much of the time, what other people are thinking, and even why, if some basis is given for their reasoning.

    Part of what divides the NT and many “higher-functioning” autists is that the latter, growing up outside the social cliques and often (not always) tone-deaf to interpersonal/nonverbal cues, does not always have a “Theory of Hive,” I’ll call it, by which group-participation in a given activity or condition is itself sufficient to recommend the same (or conversely, the crowd’s aversion becomes adequate reason to dismiss or avoid something) absent assessing that things own merits. We can see that the crowd likes it. We might see why the crowd likes it. Many of us find it impossible (or unduly difficult, anyway) to give a damn what the crowd thinks.


    • Jeff Barnes says:

      I have both a close friend and a brother who are both low on the autistic spectrum. I tend to like autistic people, probably because I also am not a ‘neurotypical’. I would agree that autistic people are capable of having a ‘theory of mind’. However it is rudimentary and in my experience they both miss many interpersonal/nonverbal clues, routinely lack insight into the other person’s internal experience and have an incapacitated ability for self-reflection in this context. The problem is worse, because autistics don’t realise how much they are missing, for how can one know exactly how much one is deaf too? I would imagine that most autistic individuals have a low EQ, or at the very least there is a strong correlation. I am sure that with age autistic individuals grow out or around some of their deficits. My experience has been that the most frustrating thing with the two autistic people I know well is their irrationally stubborn insistence on being right. However I have met other autistic people where this trait is either not there or barely visible. It seems to me to be a character trait likely to come to a young autistic. J. J. Griffing, I would be interested to hear how you think you have grown as an autistic individual since your youth.


  4. lastmod says:

    The problem many people with milder autism find difficult is that “the herd” or “approved social group” or “NT” or whatever they are calling themselves this week are always…..and I mean always convinced they are “right or correct” and any question of this or a point is always met with silence, or a mish-mash of jumble-mumbo of terms, big words and “context” of what they really mean……kind of like the word “confidence”


  5. lastmod says:

    In my work with Autism of varies levels (street folks I ministered to) and profound cases of transition in New York State when the DDSC (Developmental Disabilty Service Centers) were closing when I was training to be a Special Education teacher (when I was actually optimistic about the world). This illusion was smashed when I realized the State, the professionals and the like didn’t want people to get well. They wanted them stuck, addicted to pills and thrown into a social-welfare-system that rewards mediocracy and makes them dependent on that script, that check, that subsidy, that political party


  6. okrahead says:

    I believe you are correct that the “sin leading to death” is the sin that a man refuses to repent of, locking himself into a behavioral loop. If I continue to engage in a behavior I know is wrong, I will then begin to look for justifications for that behavior, until I no longer regard it as wrong and thus feel no need for repentance. Thus the adulteress who wipes her mouth and says she has done no wrong.
    I also believe this is a mistake made by many hard core Calvinists… they fall into determinism, and reject agency.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack says:

      @ Okrahead,

      “I also believe this is a mistake made by many hard core Calvinists… they fall into determinism, and reject agency.”

      Calvinism frames determinism within the argument of predestination and unlimited atonement. It is seen as evidence of God’s sovereign will and a positive proof of redemption. There is Biblical support for this view. But yes, I have seen how many Calvinists apply this doctrine with a wide brush and adopt a fatalistic outlook, not only towards salvation, but also towards sin. This is where I am confused about the matter, because it implies that sin is included in God’s will. God’s will certainly accounts for sin, but there is a grey area in my understanding as to the believer’s role/agency in resisting sin.

      As I stated in the post, I suspect that the three types of discernment are interdependent. For example, SD would guide CD so that a believer would be aware of any actions/behaviors that would lead to a spiritual death before getting drawn into that lifestyle. I’m not yet sure if this theory is supported by scripture, so I’m still studying this and looking for evidence/testimonies.

      Another thing that makes things confusing is that God works in different ways with different people. For example, some people could grow in faith if they were less conscientious, less fearful about sin not leading to death, but others like to live out their faith extemporaneously, and see how much they can get away with as a way to know God and themselves better.


  7. cameron232 says:

    Off topic a bit but did anyone notice that one of the Duggar daughters (yeah I know it’s gossipy TV crap) is publicly in rebellion against the parents conservative teachings?

    Is it an anecdotal confirmation of RP theory that it’s Jill Dillard, the one who got the lowest quality husband (in terms of both masculine physical and personality attractiveness), Derick Dillard?

    Bet money that Jinger (Jeremy Vuolo) and Jessa (Ben Seewald) the ones who married the hunkier guys don’t publicly rebel.


    • Jack says:

      It is both interesting and insightful to come across real world examples that highlight red pill praxeology.
      All of the Duggars’ daughters are feminine and attractive, and I attribute this to their conservative Christian upbringing. However, Jill is the least beautiful sister, so it is not surprising that she landed the least hunkiest man. Jill’s husband is not at all unattractive, he’s just not as Alpha as her brother-in-law’s. But this matters greatly to women.

      This case study also shows that one’s relative SMV (or possibly sexual authority, although we don’t have enough info to know for sure, see my latest post) has a bigger impact on one’s socio-sexual life (i.e. her marriage) than does education and upbringing. I also suspect that Jill is a bit spoiled from all the media attention over the past few years, so she’s not a very good representative example.


      • cameron232 says:

        My wife used to watch the show, so, of course, I watched it and we talked about it (we don’t follow it any more). Jill is the least physically attractive of the older daughters (still pretty). We are convinced that Jim Bob favored her (probably for her compliant personality – we noticed he cried a bunch at her wedding) and was giving his prized daughter to the most Christian husband in Derick (e.g. the one who went on multiple international missions).

        If you watched Jinger (who got by far the most attractive husband of them all) when with Jeremy she looked like she would crawl over a mile of broken glass (yeah hyperbole) to ,um, please her man. A guy like Derick will never see that sort of look of desire from his wife. IMO, he’s being shit tested and is failing. Yeah the rebellion is against Jim Bob but also against the husband even if he’s going along with it.

        Another possible red pill insight from the show. All the older Duggar daughters are noticeably more attractive than the Duggar daughter in laws with the possible exception of the oldest boy’s wife. Hypergamy? They come from the same set of parents. The Duggar males get less good looking women particularly because they marry young when the women are at their peak attractiveness and because of hypergamy.

        Thanks for letting me share my hypotheses.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jack says:

        @ Cameron,
        Usually, siblings are on the same SMV/MMV tier because of shared genetics and upbringing. From what I have seen among many examples, the sister’s husband is higher than the brother, and the brother’s wife is lower than the sister. This is clearly due to hypergamy. Good observation.


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