American Association of Christian Counselors
American Association of Christian Counselors

God, the Brain, and What Went Wrong

Tim Jennings, M.D.

This week, we’re excited to feature a blog series by Dr. Tim Jennings, author of the newly-released title, The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life. Whether you work in a clinical, pastoral, or lay care-giving setting, Dr. Jennings’ insights about spirituality and neurobiology have both personal and professional application.

According to a 2006 Baylor University survey, Americans are confused about who God is. Only 23% of the population viewed God as a being full of love or beneficence, while 32% saw the Almighty as authoritarian, 24% as critical, 16% as distant and 5% identified themselves as atheists.

In part one of our four-part series on The God-Shaped Brain, we introduced the Integrative Evidence-Based approach to pursuing the truth about God. This approach requires three threads of evidence (Scripture, science and experience) to harmonize on each major point. Today, we will use this method to determine which view of God is most accurate.

According to Scripture, “God is love” (1 John 3:8). And love is not a mere feeling, but a principle of action: “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5). In other words, love, rather than seeking self, seeks others, is giving, is outward moving, is beneficent. “No one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends” (John 15:3).

The Bible further tells us that God’s “invisible qualities and divine nature are seen in what he has made so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, emphasis mine). Finally, the Scripture clarifies that God’s law (the law of love) is perfect, reviving, or giving life to the soul (Psalm 19:7).

In other words, the Scripture is teaching that God, who is love, when He built His universe, designed it to operate in harmony with Himself, upon the principle of love – the protocol of giving. The law of love then, is the design parameter upon which life is constructed to operate. Let’s examine a couple of examples from nature to determine if the thread of science supports Scripture on this point.

“The oceans give their waters to the clouds, which rain over the land, giving their waters to form the lakes, rivers and streams, which in turn give their waters to the plants and animals, ultimately giving back to the oceans to start the circle again.

The law of love is the circle of giving that is the law of life. All life is built on this principle because all life originates with God. If a body of water separates from the circle and ceases to flow, it stagnates and everything in it dies. God gave us a powerful illustration in the body of water called the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea takes from the Jordan River but gives nothing in return. What happens in that body of water? The name says it all.

We see the circle of love, the law of life, in everything God creates. In every breath we demonstrate giving: we give away carbon dioxide to the plants, and the plants give back oxygen to us. Imagine if you were to decide, ‘I don’t want to be a part of the circle of giving. If my body makes carbon dioxide, it’s mine; I have the right to it. You can’t have it.’

“The only way to do that is to stop breathing—to die. If we hoard the product of our breathing, maybe by putting a bag over our heads, the carbon dioxide becomes the poisoning agent that kills us. In all life we see this circle of giving, which is the law of love” (The God-Shaped Brain, p. 24, 25).

God’s character of love, of giving, is the design for life seen throughout all living systems. Scripture and science harmonize perfectly on this point. What about experience, does it also harmonize on this point?

Multiple epidemiological studies have documented that those who volunteer, who give their time helping others (after accounting for variables such as education, baseline health, smoking, etc.), have less illness, less disability, less depression, less dementia and live independently longer than those who did not. Clearly, giving is living!

All three threads, Scripture, science and experience, agree that God’s design for life is love. And brain science gives further evidence demonstrating that the worship of a God of love has a positive impact upon our brain circuitry. What we believe about God actually changes us.

But, with 77% of the population believing God is a being other than love, something has gone terribly wrong. And brain science demonstrates that believing God concepts other than love cause disease and damage the brain. Ideas about God that incite fear actually activate stress pathways, resulting in inflammation and illness.

Only a God of love is healing the brain!

If God’s design for life and health is the protocol of love, if the evidence of Scripture, science and experience document this, then what happened? Why does so much of the world believe in a god who is other than supreme love personified?

In The God-Shaped Brain How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life, I expose how God’s design has been broken and the devastating consequences that result. I explore multiple divergent God concepts and examine the marked difference the various views have upon mental, physical and relational health. And then, I provide the reader with credible evidence for the reality of God and His methods that bring health and life. Throughout the book, I provide application sections to assist the reader in growing in an ever-deepening love relationship with God, while simultaneously developing a healthier brain. I invite you to get a copy and examine the evidence for yourself.

 

Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a Christian psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, author, international speaker, radio personality, President-Elect of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association, adjunct faculty at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Chairman Board of Regents Southern Psychiatric Association, and has a private practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dr. Jennings obtained his M.D. degree in 1990 from the University of Tennessee, College of Medicine in Memphis and completed psychiatric residency at D.D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia. He is board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and is licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee, Georgia and Washington. Dr. Jennings was named one of America’s Top Psychiatrists by the Consumer Research Institute of America in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Many of Dr. Jennings’ lectures and written material can be found on his Web site, www.comeandreason.com.

 

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