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Is double-mindedness "an earthly spirit from the devil" as The Shepherd of Hermas says?

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  • Is double-mindedness "an earthly spirit from the devil" as The Shepherd of Hermas says?

    The Greek word for "Double-mindedness" is δίψυχος (pronounced "dipsuchos") from Di (two) + Psuchos (Soul), It is synonymous with the terms "of two minds" or "wavering".
    The only places in the Bible that use the Greek word are James 1:8 & 4:8. First in Chapter 1, James discusses how to make prayer requests:
    6. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
    7. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
    8. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
    Here James is making a character description, saying that a person who is double-minded is unstable about everything. He doesn't actually say that the person won't receive anything, but rather that you shouldn't let him think that he will.
    Next in Chapter 4, James says that people's prayers aren't answered because they make requests out of their "lusts" (meaning natural, sensual pleasures). He says that "friendship of the world is enmity with God", and that the "spirit (in Greek: pneuma) that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy". Finally, he gives an exhortation that includes: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you", and "purify your hearts, ye double minded".
    1. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
    2. Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
    3. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
    4. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
    5. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
    6. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
    7. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
    8. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
    9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
    10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
    While James opposes a "spirit that lusts to envy", he doesn't seem to specify that this lustful "spirit" includes a wavering personality or double-mindedness. In contrast, The Shepherd of Hermas seems to put these ideas together and conclude that "double-mindedness is an earthly spirit from the devil".
    The Shepherd was a once-widespread, late 1st-early 2nd c. Christian narrative presenting itself as Hermas of Rome's meetings with Christ in the form of a Shepherd. One could say that collectively, the early Church was double-minded about The Shepherd. It was included in some early Bibles, and Clement of Alexandria used it respectfully as a writing source, but he noted that "many despise" it. Eusebius listed it among the books that were "notha" (spurious, false). Rutherford Platt Jr., in The Lost Books of the Bible, writes that "Jerome... applauded it in his catalogue of writers, [but] in his comments upon it afterwards, terms it apocryphal and foolish."
    A good reason to be "double-minded" about the document is that while on one hand it advocates faith, it also has the "Shepherd" tell "Maximus" that persecution is coming on and to deny the faith again if it seems good because, "The Lord is near those that turn to him". Ironically, this instruction arguably encourages double-mindedness (Maximus' loyalty + open denial under persecution), and does so in a way that few Christians would consider to be holy instructions from Christ.

    In Mandate IX, the Shepherd says to "purify your heart from double-mindedness" because those who are perfect in faith "are double-minded in nothing." He says both to despise double-mindedness and that "double-mindedness is an earthly spirit, from the devil, and has no power" because:
    (A) "the double-mindedness which has no full faith in itself fails in all deeds which it undertakes",
    (B) a person who becomes double-minded because they only slowly receive the answer to their prayer should blame themselves for the lack of an answer, and
    (C) this double-mindedness from the slowness in receiving an answer is wicked, foolish, destroys faith, is the daughter of the devil, and wickedly harms God's servants.
    1. And he said to me : "Remove from yourself double-mindedness, and be not at all double-minded about asking anything from God, saying in yourself, How can I ask anything from the Lord and receive it after having sinned so greatly against him?
    2. Do not have these thoughts but 'turn to the Lord with all your heart,' and ask from him without doubting, and you shall know his great mercifulness, that he will not desert you, but will fulfil the petition of your soul. 3. For God is not as men who bear malice, but is himself without malice, and has mercy on that which he made.
    4. Therefore purify your heart from all the vanities of this world, and from the words which were spoken to you before-hand, and ask from the Lord, and you shall receive all things, and shall not fail to obtain any of your petitions, if you ask from the Lord without doubting.
    5. But if you doubt in your heart, you shall receive none of your petitions. For those who have doubts towards God, these are the double-minded, and they shall not in any wise obtain any of their petitions.
    6. But they who are perfect in faith ask for all things, 'trusting in the Lord' and they receive them, because they ask without doubting, and are double-minded in nothing. For every double-minded man, unless he repent, shall with difficulty be saved.
    7. Therefore purify your heart from double-mindedness, but put on faith, because it is mighty, and believe God, that you shall obtain all your requests which you make. And if ever you make any petition from the Lord, and receive it but slowly, do not be double-minded because you have not received the request of your soul speedily, for in every case it is because of some temptation or some transgression, of which you are ignorant, that you receive your request slowly.
    8. Do not therefore cease from making the request of your soul, and you shall receive it. But if you grow weary, and are double-minded in your request, blame yourself and not him who gives to you.
    9. Consider this double-mindedness; for it is wicked and foolish, and uproots many from the faith, yes, even those who are very faithful and strong. For this double-mindedness is the daughter of the devil, and commits much wickedness against the servants of God.
    10. Despise therefore double-mindedness, and master it in every act, putting on the faith which is strong and powerful. For faith promises all things, perfects all things. But the double-mindedness which has no
    full faith in itself fails in all deeds which it undertakes.
    11. You see, then," said he, "that faith is from above, from the Lord, and has great power; but double-mindedness is an earthly spirit, from the devil, and has no power. Do you, therefore, serve the faith which has power, and refrain from the double-mindedness which has no power, and you shall live to God, and all who have this mind shall live to God.
    (Question) Do you agree with the document's claim that "double-mindedness is an earthly spirit from the devil"?
    It looks like the statement that it comes from the devil refers to double-mindedness in general, because the Shepherd says that "they who are perfect in faith... are double-minded in nothing." This creates a difference from James' position: James severely criticized double-minded personalities and double-mindedness in prayer, but he did not criticize double-mindedness per se.
    I think that while the Bible and the Church encourage faith and discourages doubt about the basics of the faith, many issues in the world are complex, and that a double-minded or wavering attitude might apply helpfully to some situations. Discernment and skepticism are useful in addressing potential false preachers and false prophets. The Shepherd himself in Mandate XI warned against false prophets with a false spirit that "speaks according to the lusts of man", and "is earthly and light". But there are times when a person has not yet discerned whether a spirit or preacher is good or not, along with preachers that have both good and bad views, and so it seems that double-mindedness is better than either credulity or total rejection of everything that the preacher says.
    Eastern Orthodox with a dash of Holy Doubt

  • #2
    I think that the answer to the question is that in some situations, like complex problems with inner conflicts, or situations where a judge has incomplete information or recognizes his own weaknesses in problem solving, a Double-minded condition or approach can be best and morally correct. I gave some examples of this in my post above.
    Eastern Orthodox with a dash of Holy Doubt

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