latest  boundaries  about

Bible Knowledge Alters Perceptions, Motivations, and Actions

Surely this is a work of the Holy Spirit.

James Anthony
January 14, 2022

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (NIV)

He loves the Lord’s teachings. He thinks about those teachings day and night. Psalm 1:2 (ICB)

I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts, because I will put my Spirit in you and make you eager to obey my laws and teachings. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (CEV)

Our brains use significant fractions of our energy [1], so our brains have ways of using less energy automatically.

Automaticity in our actions is familiar. When we first were learning to ride a bicycle we paid close attention to every action we made, but then it wasn’t long before we found we could just get on our bikes and ride. Our daily routines get so automatic that we sometimes don’t know whether we already took a medicine [2].

Automaticity in our decisionmaking is less familiar. It sometimes takes some conscious thought to assess authority, loyalty, and purity, but it’s more automatic to assess harmfulness or fairness. We’re influenced automatically by feeling disgust [3].

Automaticity even colors what we are able to perceive. Our attention is drawn to stimuli that in the past brought rewards [4]. Our brains automatically filter incoming perceptions [5]. Our brains’ extensive back-connections would make sense if our perception works in the first place by predicting what we’ll perceive and confirming those predictions [6].

All this processing seems inevitable but at least some of it can be disrupted. In light of this, we could think of it not as automaticity but as subconscious processing [7].

Practically speaking, the fact that some subconscious processing can be shaped by conscious actions is quite valuable.

In a given field of knowledge, a person gathers information better and solves problems better if he knows more upfront [8]. Our knowledge gets incorporated well enough that our brains use this knowledge in the background and we’re not consciously aware we’re using it.

The Bible immerses readers in stories.

Stories lead us to picture things in our minds [9]. We predict what characters will do, and then as new information comes in we update our predictions [10]. As we envision characters’ actions, the motor controls in our brains follow along [11]. We model characters’ intentions [12].

The Bible’s stories pull no punches. Bible characters, including heroes, commit murder and adultery, use sex for personal gain, covet, lie. Some show incredible faith and heroism. Sometimes the same characters do both good and bad.

Alongside the copious true stories are copious practical guides for living—God’s laws, parables, proverbs, other wisdom, laments, prayers.

The Bible’s metastory, which plays out over and over, is that God draws near to people, people who aren’t perfect and never could be, often at times when they have hard feelings and ugliness, and God walks with them as closely as they choose.

Everything we experience and everything we learn vicariously has the potential to be reinforced and enter into the modeling and predicting that our brains do as they sift through torrents of incoming sense information, consider multiple possible interpretations and weigh various motivations, and settle on unconscious and conscious courses of action.

Our brains definitely use our knowledge from the Bible.

What they use and how much they use depends on how much we feed in, and how clearly we understand it.

It should strike us as only obvious that Bible prophets and others close to God were immersed in the written word of the Scriptures of their days. And that just-such people would figure prominently among those described as having the Spirit of the Lord in them.

Why wouldn’t our knowledge of the ways of God, upon permeating our thoughts, increasingly influence our perceptions, motivations, and actions?

And after Jesus died, rose from the dead, and went away, and then the story of His life was intensely retold and read, why wouldn’t His story make the Holy Spirit far-more accessible to all?

… we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good. Romans 8:28 (DRA)


  1. Kuzawa, Christopher W., et al. “Metabolic Costs and Evolutionary Implications of Human Brain Development.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 36, 9 Sep. 2014, pp. 13010-5.
  2. Bargh, John A., and Tanya L. Chartrand. “The Unbearable Automaticity of Being.” American Psychologist, vol. 54, no. 7, July 1999, pp. 462-79.
  3. Bargh, John A., et al. “Automaticity in Social-Cognitive Processes.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 16, no. 12, Dec. 2012, pp. 593-605.
  4. Anderson, Brian A. “Going for It: The Economics of Automaticity in Perception and Action.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 26, no. 2, Apr. 2017, pp. 140-5.
  5. Kutschireiter, Anna, et al. “Nonlinear Bayesian Filtering and Learning: A Neuronal Dynamics for Perception.” Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 8722, 18 Aug. 2017, pp. 1-13.
  6. Walsh, Kevin S., et al. “Evaluating the Neurophysiological Evidence for Predictive Processing as a Model of Perception.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1464, no. 1, Mar. 2020, pp. 242-68.
  7. Besner, Derek, et al. “The Stroop Effect and the Myth of Automaticity.” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, vol. 4, no. 2, June 1997, pp. 221-5.
  8. Judy, Judith E. “The Interaction of Domain-Specific and Strategic Knowledge in Academic Performance.” Review of Educational Research, vol. 58, no. 4, Winter 1988, pp. 375-404.
  9. Zwaan, Rolf A., et al. “Language Comprehenders Mentally Represent the Shapes of Objects.” Psychological Science, vol. 13, no. 2, Mar. 2002, pp. 168-71.
  10. Zacks, Jeffrey M., et al. “Event Perception: A Mind-Brain Perspective.” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 133, no. 2, Mar. 2007, pp. 273-93.
  11. Buccino, Giovanni, et al. “Listening to Action-Related Sentences Modulates the Activity of the Motor System: A Combined TMS and Behavioral Study.” Cognitive Brain Research, vol. 24, no. 3, 2005, pp. 355-63.
  12. Zwaan, Rolf A., and Gabriel A. Radvansky. “Situation Models in Language Comprehension and Memory.” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 123, no. 2, Mar. 1998, pp. 162-85.

James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers and has written articles in rConstitution.us, American Greatness, Foundation for Economic Education, American Thinker, and The Federalist. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.


  1. Be respectful.
  2. Say what you mean. 
    Provide data. Don’t say something’s wrong without providing data. Do explain what’s right and provide data. It’s been said that often differences in opinion between smart people are differences in data, and the guy with the best data wins.  link  But when a writer provides data, the writer and the readers all win. Don’t leave readers guessing unless they go to links or references. 
  3. Credit sources
    Provide links or references to credit data sources and to offer leads.