I admire Ed Welch, a great brother in Christ and counselor who received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. I first encountered him by reading his book When People Are Big and God Is Small. Below is a great blog he wrote that deals with some recent scientific findings. I hope it gives you great perspective!
My Brain Made Me Do It?
Today’s technology is providing new windows into brain functioning.
Now we can volunteer to have our brains digitally observed by laying in a scanning device and thinking about something. Meanwhile, a researcher watches our brain in action. Think about a math problem and one part of the brain goes into a frenzy while other parts are dormant. Think about sex and a different area of the brain lights up while the logical, executive functions of the frontal lobe fall asleep. This research is fascinating, and it drives me crazy. It is being used to suggest that morality—sin and obedience—is ultimately caused by our brains.
It's Not Me, It's My Brain
This is most apparent in discussions about addiction. If your behavior releases endorphins, and you really like that endorphin high, then your endorphins made you addicted. If your behavior excites a pleasure circuit in the brain, then who are you to be able to say no to those neuronal reverberations? This is hogwash.
This Does Not Necessarily Equal That
Statistics 101 teaches there is a difference between discovering how two things might be related and discovering what causes what effect. For example, height and weight are related. Taller people tend to weigh more than shorter people. But that doesn’t mean if you gain weight you will get taller. A direct relationship between two things is not the same as a causal correlation. That’s why it took so long to put warnings on cigarette packages. Early on, the relationship was obvious, but it took years of research to demonstrate conclusively that cigarette smoking could actually cause lung caner.
Your Actions Are More Than Brain Synapses
We are taught there is a connection between brain activity and thoughts. This, of course, we knew all along. From a biblical view of a person, we can predict that every thought can be observed biologically. We are created by God as embodied. Given enough technological sophistication, we could find neurons connected to every thought, every memory, every desire. That, however, does not mean, "my brain made me do it".
“ Since our culture doesn’t understand both prongs of sin, it must look to the brain in order to make sense of being out-of-control and dominated by passions. ”
When you read articles and books that attribute moral behavior to the brain, the writer is looking for a definitive proof—text to make his or her point. The writer is not citing any credible science.
Your Brain on Sin
Of course, there is a legitimate message in this literature. People who struggle with addiction have always said they feel out-of-control. The popular diagnosis of sin is that it is deliberate and intentional. Sin, however, is intentional and enslaving. Sin says that addicts do what they want, but they are also tragically bound to their despotic desires. Since our culture doesn’t understand both prongs of sin, it must look to the brain in order to make sense of being out-of-control and dominated by passions.