Yesterday, in part I of this discussion I blogged about a recent study whose findings suggested religious or spiritual belief suffers under the light of analytical thinking. In other words, the more thinking you do the less likely you are to believe in the supernatural. Hopefully, I was able to demonstrate that within a Christian framework there is no cause for disagreement. Further to this is another study published just days ago in which scientists identified specific regions in the brain where the spiritual interface is thought to occur.
All fun stuff, but the underlying inference is that God is simply a product of our evolutionary progression. Many news organizations covered the story but I always enjoy reading the CBC’s take on things, as they never cease to entertain:
But if we accept the implied argument here that, as a function of our evolutionary heritage, our brains have evolved to respond to the presence of God as a real, concrete person, then many of those people struggling to believe in an abstract deity are working against their very natures.
The evidence from this group in Denmark suggests that the more abstract the concept of God, the more unreal the experience is to the human brain.
That’s why the idea of a divine intermediary, as Christians and Hindus believe, is such a powerful invention — for those who accept it, that is.
Once again, apart from the evolutionary component, Christian belief is in accordance with the study’s findings. In other words, simply as a means of comprehending God intellectually, we are required to use our brains. Personally, I believe in a tripartite construction of the human being. Those parts consisting of spirit, soul, and body.
Fortunately, the comprehension of God transcends the limits of the soul wherein lies our intellect, rationalization, emotions, and will. God can be apprehended by spirit and connected with on a transcendent level. That is why the mentally infirm, and the comatose are able to commune with God despite their physical challenges. Christianity transcends the inherent limitations of our brains.
Of course, Christians and their scientific critics do view things differently, and this unfortunately is a critical impasse.
For the Christian the thought that we are created in the image of God resonates with us and for the secularist the opposite holds sway; or as the CBC article put it:
God may be incomprehensible, the true and ultimate “other.” But in the end, we seem to turn Him into a person. Perhaps that’s only human.
The problem with humanistic interpretations of spirituality is that you are left with a shell or a gutted husk of spirituality one lacking the transformative power to change lives. Citing again from the CBC article:
As well, in this Ideas series, we hear James Carse, a religion writer and former history professor at New York University, tell us that belief is “the enemy of religion.”
“Beliefs come and go,” he says. They are disposable. And he’s disposed of his, pretty much.
What Carse appreciates is “tradition.” By this he means that when someone experiences God, it isn’t via some woozy, mystical event, but through participating in a community, along with other congregants.
Carse may appreciate his tradition but as the Bible recognizes:
Thus have you made the commandment of God void by your tradition. (Mathew 15:6 King James version 2000)
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (2 Timothy 3:5 King James version 2000)
To me, that’s the end result of such thinking—all the outward trappings of religion but none of its life-changing power.
And worse, traditional practices historically promote the destruction of indigenous cultures by imposing upon them rituals and religious forms alien to their native culture. Stained glass windows and wooden pews archaic rituals steeped in Euro-centric cultural traditions bearing little or no relevance at all to the subjugated populations.
What a turn-off for young people seeking real meaning and purpose in their lives. Pipe organs, Latin liturgical addresses, and Gregorian chants may inspire some but far more people will relate to a vibrant message of hope adaptable, malleable, and meaningful within the confines of any given culture.
A spirituality that will resonate with or without the availability of Bibles, manifesting uniquely whether you are an African bushman, a Ganzu fisherman, or a Seoul housewife and mother.
As Jesus said:
The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 New Living Translation 2007)
Pretty hard to put a box and steeple around that kind of thinking, folks—and honestly, who would want to?