In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell suggested that in many instances relying on our instinct, doing what he calls “thin-slicing,” making a snap decision on the basis of minimal information, often yields the better result. He acknowledged that our instincts can be swayed by a number of factors that make us prone to poor decisions, but he also asserted that piling on more and more information often leads to “analysis paralysis.” We struggle to make a decision, and when we finally decide we do so poorly because in the deluge of information we get distracted from the most important facts by a flood of superfluous and often trivial data.
As I was thinking about this it occurred to me that there is a sort of spiritual parallel. We have a spiritual System One. It is our instinctual reaction to various situations that is formed mostly by previous experiences and habits. Our spiritual System Two is God’s Truth. We are commanded to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Romans 12:2. Part of that process is having our spiritual System One, trained by God’s Truth. The more the Word of God shapes and controls our instincts, the more we will automatically react or automatically decide to behave in a way that is consistent with God’s will. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.” I like to think of this idea as being a bit like “muscle memory” in sports. You practice an action, such as a baseball or tennis swing, so constantly that it becomes automatic. When we read, study, hear, and memorize God’s Word we are seeking to train our spiritual System One so that we can know what God’s will is and instinctively do it. This is a slow process, for our System One, has deeply embedded habits of a fallen nature. But the Spirit of God is strong, and as we ask him to, as we trust in him, as we input God’s Word in our minds and hearts, he can create whole new instincts. Instincts to do God’s will. “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:27).