While far from a scientist but always a philosopher and theologian first, I would like to attempt to open dialogue and raise questions regarding the purpose of the brain and its relation to the body and the soul. I would also like to discuss issues of Near Death Experience as legitimate functions of the soul or merely physical reactions within the brain. While this is not completely a discussion found in Christian Counseling Courses, it still nevertheless an interesting theological subject relevant to Christian theology.
Secularists have attacked the nature of the soul, memory, and feelings as natural chemical reactions that can be interpreted as “abstract” but in reality exist within the material. Within the complex nature of the brain, emotions and memories arise but are merely an evolutionary adaptation from matter and nothing beyond the material. They further contend that the brain creates illusions of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) where the person actually believes his or her “soul” has left the confines of the body. The idea of depersonalization concerns the loss of emotion and the detached feelings people have upon the approach of death. This is why some explain why the person feels they are away from his or her body. The other element is hyperaltertness that deals with sharper hearing or vision and either dull or more vivid thoughts at the approach of death. Both these states help the person face dangerous situations. In times of crisis, if action is available, the natural defense mechanism is to act, however, according to secularists if no physical action is available the brain merely utilizes neural and spiritual imaging resources. In conclusion, the argument rests that the brain is merely a physical organ that via chemical processes can create altered states of consciousness and mimic spiritual existence beyond death.
Atheistic motivated psychology attempts to remove memory and abstract concepts as separate realities from the material world. It wants to divorce the idea that abstract ideals are beyond the physical and enforce a concept that through evolution, abstract concepts have sprung from the matter and clay of the brain. This is a huge jump without any empirical evidence. The reality is Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all
view the ideas of the abstract as superior and separate to the material world. Concepts cannot be sensed via touch, sight, scent, taste or audio, but are ideas that transcend the temporal sphere. Concepts of justice cannot be dissected on an operating table, but only understood via manifestation. They do not exist within nature physically. Furthermore concepts of love, ideas, or shapes all exist outside the actual object. For instance, the idea of “squareness” exists within itself without material representation. Again, the concept that one plus one equals two exists without representation. Plato referred to these ideas as the universals. The universals exist as abstract concepts that cannot be understood via the senses but only via the intellect. He concluded independent spiritual abstract ideals that are beyond the touch of one’s senses can only be comprehended by the same spiritual “stuff” of the soul. Aristotle tied these two elements together when he took basic “matter” and” form” concepts and found the forms or universals within matter and individualized; the physical world reflected the spiritual forms. Hence emotion, spiritual sight, or any other abstract notion that escapes the lens of science is real and is manifested via the material world. These ideas do not originate from matter but are expressed via matter. This is a very different concept than what atheistic psychology proposes in its attempt to put science and theology at odds.
The Brain is a Metaphysical Organ
The answer to this question is simple because the brain is the gateway to the soul. The brain is a metaphysical organ in many ways. It is capable of channeling the spiritual essence of man into physical or material coherence. In many ways it is an adapter that translates and shares the ideas of the soul into praxis with the body. This organ is metaphysical because it exists in both planes. No other organ can boast of such an ability. No other organ carries its responsibilities beyond the physical. While cliché phrases unite love with the heart, one cannot deny that the heart plays no spiritual or emotional role. The reality is the brain or the mind meets the soul half way and articulates its desires to the world. It is in this complex fusion of mind and body where the intellect and will of the soul shout to the world, “I am here”.
In this regard, the psychology of the mind is better understood within a prism of faith. Instead of proclaiming that certain chemical reactions in the brain create emotion, faith dictates that these abstract emotions are manifested via the brain through these chemical reactions. In pure sacramental form, the body manifests the soul, so why would it be any different at a more micro level? For science to proclaim that chemicals cause the emotion instead of vice versa is merely atheistic philosophy infused into science.
Rebutal of Atheistic Claims
With this deeper understanding of the brain as a metaphysical organ we can answer a few challenges posed by secularists. First, as noted, we can dismiss the notion that chemical reactions in the brain are the cause for human emotion. Second, we can challenge ideas of brain death. Secularists contend that if a piece of the brain is removed or a part of it is damaged then the emotion and memories associated with that part is forever loss. With the image of the brain as a metaphysical organ and gatekeeper of the soul one can easily contend with equal reason and intelligence that the memory is merely inaccessible to the physical element of man. The reality is that it still exists within the intellect of the soul, awaiting
healing or the final resurrection of the broken body with the soul. Finally, in regards to NDE, one can
accept that not every vision is spiritual, but if the brain is seen as a metaphysical organ with such capabilities, then one cannot dismiss NDE on all counts within reasonable grounds. Who is to say what vision is a true manifestation of near death and a mere evolutionary coping device. One cannot empirically prove this. Unlike science, theology can speculate via hope and faith, science must empirically show evidence. There is no physical evidence to disprove that these numerous and diverse experiences stem from a spiritual reality.
With these ideals in place the Christian or theist can with good reason accept scientific findings regarding the functions of the brain without fear that science is posing a threat to their faith. The reality is both the spiritual and the physical are in harmony with one another. This is the case especially with the brain which acts as a perfect gateway that reflects the harmony of the soul and body. In many ways, one could speculate that this proposes a Trinitarian design that reflects the image of God and his inner-workings of Father, Son and Holy Spirit via body, soul and mind; three units working as one.
During Christian Counseling sessions, a counselor should not dismiss the experiences that the brain and the soul experience during near death but instead be open to these ideas because they are part of the Christian faith and the reality of the soul and a metaphysical plane of existence.
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By Mark Moran , MA