The more I study the brain, the more awed, humbled, and worshipful I become.  As Tim Challies said a week or so ago, it truly is God’s Masterpiece. So relatively unexplored and understood is it, that some scientists are calling it “the last frontier.”

Recently the BBC published photos and a video of the most recent scientific research on the brain. The scanner that produced the pictures needs 22MW of electricity – enough to power a nuclear submarine! Not sure I’d subject my brain to that, but a brave BBC journalist did and the results are staggeringly beautiful. I’ve attached a few photos to this post but I’d highly recommend the video here.

When we look at these images, we must surely bow down and worship the God who created this galaxy within each one of us. But as Christians who believe that the divine curse on sin has impacted every part of the human body, we should surely also be more open to accepting that many people’s emotional or cognitive problems may also have a physical component.

Look at the complexity of these fibers and connections and consider how the fall has inevitably damaged and confused them. Add to that the evidence that our brain wiring is not fixed, but is changed by different experiences we pass through, especially the traumas of abuse, deprivation, and loss. What was once a pristine perfect electrical superhighway is now a tangled confusion of short-circuits, overloads, disconnections, and fuse blowouts. As our thoughts and emotions are processed, they sometimes come to dead-ends, they go round in circles, get diverted, and lost, etc.

That knowledge and understanding should make us more patient, more sympathetic, and more gracious in our dealings with those who suffer with depression and some other mental illnesses. There may well be a physical cause at times. There are almost certainly physical consequences.

But there is also hope in this science. Just as the brain’s wiring can be damaged by sin and painful experiences outside our control, so we must believe that the Gospel can begin to rewire us, repair us and renew our minds. It may take more than the Gospel (e.g. medications and cognitive training might help to rebuild the superhighways within) but the Gospel can surely play a large part in this physical healing too.

  • Foppe VanderZwaag

    Thanks, David. This is awe-inspiring. Reminds me of two things.

    1. In 1980 a National Geographic issue was devoted to the brain & computers (I will see if I can dig it up). In it it was stated that by the year 2000 they’d have computers catch up to the brain in capacity. The opposite happened. Though computer technology exploded, so did the research on the brain. Instead of catching up, scientists have to acknowledge they get further behind all the time.

    2. Though we now say that we forget things, etc. we really have a retrieval problem (apart from an honesty problem), because it still all there. On the great Day of Christ’s return this is one of the books that will be opened. Nothing needs to be added then. It will be perfect recall, for ever. Both for good and for eternal praise of God in heaven as well as for ill and for eternal woe in hell.

    • David Murray

      Great points! I was thinking about that retrieval issue as well. It’s weird isn’t it, that somewhere in there are all these “files.”