Part 23: The Physiology of Formation


The Physiology of Formation

This is article is part of a series of letters on spiritual growth and maturity. To read the previous letter in the series, click here.

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
— Proverbs 23:7

When God created, he did not create haphazardly 

He did not take what was in perfect order and create disarray. It was quite the opposite. God took what looked chaotic and brought forth order. The story of Genesis begins from the entire universe and moves down into the personal interaction of human with human.

First, the earth was formless and void and he calls light into being. Then he separates light from darkness and defines them as day and night. Then he divides the waters from the waters with a firmament, creating Heaven. He speaks the land into existence, he speaks vegetation into existence, he speaks the sun, moon and stars into existence, he speaks moving creatures into existence and defines the reproductive system, and lastly he makes man in his image. Every step brought greater definition and refined the created order. From the grandness of the universe down to the minute molecules that make up your body, he created. His divine intelligence permeates every created thing.

Romans 1:20 says,

“His invisible attributes are on display through what he made (paraphrased).” 

He even had a say in your physiology. And even more specifically he created your brain to function a certain way.

Everything that is to be said about the way our brains function has to be said after this point is clarified: we have much to learn about how the brain functions. Neuroscience has helped us understand some of the physiology of the brain, but only a very basic level. There are numerous theories as to why the brain does what it does, but no one can quite tell you why or how the brain does what it does. We simply know that it does.

The findings of neuroscience and scripture reveal a synchronicity that could only be expected when woven by an eternal, infinite being. Split personalities, fractured identities, wounded hearts, depression, and anxiety (any many more), all these and there outworkings can be found thoroughly explored in scripture. Neuroscience is now giving us physiological context for what the bible has said all along.

Consider James 1:8,

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” 

The term “double-minded” is a Greek conjunction between the word “dis” meaning twice, and “psuchos” meaning soul. The “double-minded” man is literally two-souled.  This is more than having conflicting thoughts, it is having conflicting identities. An individual with conflicting identities will lack a moral compass and the efficacy of their conscience will be hindered. They will be “tossed to and fro” as James also states. The unresolved pain and trauma of an individual’s history will effect the physical makeup of their brain and make personal stability very challenging. Absent healing in Christ, this person will lack a strong root within themselves to weather life’s storms. 

About a third of us have been traumatized as children in the form of physical or sexual abuse, many more suffer from the absences of good things that are necessary for emotional maturation, and help is not usually available.  School failure, depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, chronic physical illness, violent behavior, and disturbing sexual urges are some of the common after-effects of childhood traumas. When they go untreated, the children carry these effects along with them into adulthood. Woundedness, dividedness, isolation, and oppression are the result of leaving the trauma wounds unnoticed and unhealed.
— Friesen and Wilder, Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You

The general findings of neuroscience have proven to be very helpful in understanding why the bible says certain things about how we think. We can make some quality assumptions regarding why God would design the brain to function in the ways it does. The stages of brain development from conception to adulthood prove some fascinating correlations between scripture and neuroscience. These correlations can help us better understand and explore the answers to questions such as:

  • Why should I pray?

  • Why didn’t everything change when I became a Christian?

  • Why do I keep thinking the way I do about myself?

  • What does it mean to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind?”

  • What do I find myself repeating the same self-destructive cycles in my life?

  • Is it important that God is personal?

The basic principles for how the brain works legitimizes man’s need of God, and they directly correlate with how incredibly personal God is.

Everything in this universe relates to something else in this universe. As far as we have ever found there is not one thing in the entirety of creation that escapes being governed by what we would call a theory or rule for how that thing behaves. Nothing is without a relationship to something. Down to the simplest molecular structures and even to nano-particles, every last one of them will react to something in a specific way when they come into contact with each other. Nothing is autonomous. The only living thing that tries to feign autonomy is mankind.

God created this vast complexion of relationships throughout the universe. As a painter creates something from within himself, so when God creates his creation reflects aspects of himself. Perhaps this is part of what Paul meant in the previously mentioned verse, “His invisible attributes on display from creation.” As the bible states, mankind is the culmination of God’s creating. When man was created, his need to relate to something was birthed within him, for he was created in the image of a triune, consubstantial relationship. This need to relate became swiftly apparent and soon God created another for him to be in relationship with.

When God designed man as the pinnacle of his creative progress, he created man in such a way that even his physiology would reflect this need for relationship. 

If we’re lucky in our relationships, we also feel nourished, supported, and restored as we look into the face and eyes of the other. Our culture teaches us to focus on personal uniqueness, but at a deeper level we barely exist as individual organisms.
— Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

The way the brain functions, is formed, and is then reformed reflects this physiological need for relationship, especially that of relationship to the Divine source. We tend to find definition in a number of different ways, one of the most notable being in our relationships with others. In being seen and known an individual comes to fully appreciate his or herself. Finding yourself in relationship with others is the only way to truly flesh out the true nature of who you are.

“...for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34b

As we find definition in relation to others, we find fulfillment in definition in relation to God. God, who breathed definition, brings forth definition to the heart. As God created the physiology of mankind, so he created the brain in a way that would respond to the words and presence of others, and, by extension, the words and presence of God. His light, life, spirit and words have the potential to play an intricate part in developing who we are. And it does take our allowance, because, after all, God would not contravene his gift of free will, would he?

Continue Reading Part 24…