Neuroscience and the Bible

Be afraid. Be very afraid. 

Or not.

When it comes to advances in science regarding the brain and our understanding of where our thoughts, emotions, consciousness, perceptions, choices, and more come from, some of our religious notions like the idea of the immaterial soul, or free-will, or sin might be shaken.  That shaking however, so far seems to involve religious traditions and a few interpretations of the Bible, but not the Bible itself.  Turns out the actual Scripture is holding up just fine.

Neuroscience, thanks to the use of brain scan technology, is a rapidly growing field of science that is in the process of revolutionizing psychology and our understanding of ourselves, but ironically Jesus and the Bible seem to have been saying similar types of things.

Some logical premise building first: If God is real, and the Bible was truly inspired by him, then it stands to reason that it would remain consistent with much of our own science.  That’s not the case with church traditions or some interpretations of the Bible. Those things change all the time. In fact, discovering the truth about most anything, means also discovering what was not true.  So while Christians may have to wait until reaching heaven before some arguments over interpretations are settled, it may be that some new scientific discoveries could actually help resolve some long standing debates.

Yeah, that’s probably wishful thinking, but at least the discoveries make the debates more interesting.

For instance, if neuroscience could prove (and some research makes a strong case) that our brain makes a decision BEFORE we are conscious of it, that seems to take away our ability to have free will over our own actions.  If we have no real choice, then what about sin? How could God judge us? Continue reading

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How Does the Whole Miracle Thing Work?

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. -James 5:14-15 (NIV)

The mere suggestion that God may not work a miracle, or does not very often, would rock many people’s faith. “Pentecostals believe in religious experience the way electricians believe in electricity,” writes Earl Creps in his book Off-Road Disciplines -Spiritual Adventures with Missional Leaders, “without it, we have no reason to show up for work. The Spirit moves in profound and observable ways, and our heritage teaches that most everything else just takes care of itself.” A very open and honest admission by a guy who has taught in the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and I’m told pastors a church these days.

He follows that with something akin to a bombshell when he speaks about his experience pastoring a church: “Our congregation’s story failed to line up with what our movement’s culture taught us to expect. At one public rally, for example, the only ‘testimony’ from two years of renewal came from one person who thought he might have quit smoking.” (p.12)

As this account shows, miracles haven’t always happened when we expected them to. Let’s admit it. People have had their faith rocked. Why didn’t God always come through? Why do miracles seem random? Continue reading