“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

“Religious Experiences”: Quirks of the Nervous System?

…In the last post, I explained how evolution can be thought of as God’s design – his means for making human beings in his image. This idea can be generalized: God uses the physical world, which he made and which is also, in a sense, “in his image,” as a means to reveal things to human beings, who are both physical and spiritual creatures. This is not to say that God made the universe only for this purpose. Rather, the emphasis is on the fact that the universe was made by God and is therefore not just matter and spacetime and physical things, but physical things that belong to God, who may use it for many purposes, one of which is revelation to human beings.

Allow me to offer three examples of this idea. First, “religious experiences.” Last year in my Psychology 101 class, the professor described how scientists have discovered how to control the nervous system in such a way as to produce in the mind “visions” or “religious experiences.” One might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that this discovery shows that all religious experiences in history are nothing more than events inside the brain just as many have jumped to the conclusion that humans are nothing more than biological byproducts of primordial slime. But our professor stressed that these discoveries have no such implications. Rather, just as one would expect God to use a mechanism like evolution to create humans, one would expect him to use the physical human brain in order to reveal himself. And just as our existence in physical bodies does not contradict the fact that as beings we have spiritual significance, the physical brain as a means of visions does not imply that such visions are devoid of spiritual meaning.

Assuming God wants a given person to see a vision, one would not expect him to halt the laws of nature and bestow the glorious vision from outside the universe right into the person’s brain. Rather, one would expect him to make use of the brain as a means of revelation, just as evolution is a means of creation...

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