Cognitive transformation and spiritual growth: The matrix for discerning the wisdom of God (An exploration in Pauline discernment: part 2)

  • Dirk G Van der Merwe
Keywords: Discerment, Wisdom of God, Cognitive transformation, Spiritual person, Natural person, Fleshly person


This paper focuses on cognitive transformation and spiritual growth as fundamentals for the discernment of divine wisdom. This is the second part of two articles that explore Pauline discernment, specifically with reference to 1 corinthians 2. For Paul, “being spiritual” encompasses a new way of thinking which is imperative for the discernment of the wisdom of God. It is only here, in 1 corinthians 2, that Paul discusses the cognition of divine wisdom so comprehensively. In order for his readers to understand the “discernment of divine wisdom” he compares the spiritual person (πνευματικὸς), firstly, with the person who lives on an entirely human level (ψυχικὸς, 1 cor 2:14-16); he does this in order to point out the radical cognitive differences between these two opposites. Secondly, he compares the spiritual person with the person moved by entirely human drives (σαρκικὸς, 1 cor 3:1-3) to point out that the discernment of divine wisdom also relates to spiritual growth, which becomes perceptible in a person’s conduct.