I’ve seen a lot has been written lately on the unique design of the brain. That the case could be made that the human brain was designed by God to be receptive to God’s guiding. The point is also made that the human brain is very elastic, very malleable. This means that the brain was made one way and intended by God for His guidance. Because the brain is so elastic, though, it is very subject to being changed from its intended purpose and to our human thoughts and deeds. Meaning, by our sin, by our lusts, obsessions, hatreds, substance abuse, lack of exercise, poor diet, anger, bitterness, we change our brains to be very different from what God intended them to be.
The research I’ve seen has shown that damage to the brain either physical or psychic can impact the brain very negatively. The “prefrontal regions” of the human brain is responsible for what is referred to as the “executive functions of the brain”. This part of the human brain is vastly different than any other animal brain. As Gary Sibcy PhD points out: “Spirituality is not some separate part of our functioning, but refers to how well all the different components work together in a synchronized and coherent fashion. Just as the term ‘team’ is about how well all the players work together, spirituality is about how well our thinking, feeling, behaving, relating, communicating and problem-solving operate in relation to others and God. Jesus’ life itself represents a living example of perfect harmony across all these domains.” (Christian Counseling Today Vol 20 No 3 p 42)
One thing that does come out in the research is that this part of the brain is rather vulnerable, subject to physical trauma and also psychic trauma (issues like bullying, sexual abuse, trauma, stress etc). I know that there are people who have been affected this way and have become bitter and anger, often against God and those who try to help them. But, it does seem to me, albeit my lay mind, that the elasticity of the brain can be used to shape the brain back to being receptive to God and away from anger and bitterness. Seems to me, that secular ways of dealing with this simply reinforces the anger and bitterness, trying to find a way to justify the anger and bitterness and resentfulness against Christians who are trying to help someone by adjusting their brain away from the bitterness and toward the love, care, compassion of Christ and Christians.
Well this doesn’t seem to play well into the secular. It frankly seems that the secular is much more interested in justifying the anger, justifying striking back and dispensing with any hope that they can come back into a healthy relationship with others.
Anyway, the prefrontal regions regulate/coordinate the higher functions of the brain. The claim seems to be that when the brain is operating properly, when we are allowing God to guide the Executive functions, instead of what people usually do and resort to the use of the lower functions of the brain. Sibcy writes: “…the prefrontal region … plays a critical role in spirituality because it provides the underlying biological platform that supports a wide number of neurocognitive processes and allows us to achieve ‘maturity in Christ’.
I’m not going to camp on this or bet the house, but it seems logical; God operates the higher functions of the human brain, we take our brain to the lower functions. It’s not to say someone is “smarter” because, I believe, there are other parts of the brain more engaged in just pure intelligence. But it seems that we are allowing God to manage and coordinate the brain when we rely on Him to guide us by our prefrontal regions and that does give us maturity, emotional depth, warmth, patience, humility etc. I’m sure you know someone who is quite brilliant but has little ability to effectively coordinate their brain between their brilliance and having emotional depth, empathy, humility etc., a great example is Sheldon the off the chart brilliant astro-physicist on the television program “Big Bang Theory”.
Again, I am a lay person, but for some reason, lately, I’ve been reading some very deep material in the elasticity of the brain. This is a rather new development in science and a factor that isn’t taken into account in secular psychological treatment. It seems as if secular treatment allows the mind to be hardened into the trauma by repeating the trauma, establishing who is the victim and villan and allowing the patient to be divided and enabled in their trauma, instead of trying to use the plasticity of the brain in order to overcome and move beyond the trauma.
As Christians we have to continue to pray and encourage those who are dealing with trauma, but we also need to challenge them to grow in maturity. We need to encourage them to trust healing in the Holy Spirit who, I have no doubt, will influence the patient, as He does with all of us, through the higher/executive functions of the brain. Through our encouragement and prayer I have no doubt that we are helping this person to use these executive functions in order to coordinate all the parts of the brain to rest and trust in God and follow His leading. It frankly seems that the secular says, “no you have to do everything by yourself, continually relive the trauma and let your brain harden into the bitterness and resentment of your trauma and you can simply sit and stew in your anger at the world and God.” We are called to a higher solution. God’s love, compassion, comfort, healing works through the prefrontal parts and heals, the world appeals to the lower parts of the brain and allows bitterness and anger to build. Obviously we are called to encourage, pray, include in community and turn from anger and bitterness to God in Christ.