Evangelical pastor Steve Cornell writes on the worrying dilemma that many Christian counselors and therapists find themselves in when faced with the increasingly reductionist findings of neuroscience:

With this view of human responsibility, it should not be too surprising that evangelicals (particularly in the fields of counseling) have been reticent to accept the findings of medical research that attribute moods and behaviors to neuro-physiological conditions. As neurochemical deficiencies became a widely accepted cause for a host of personal problems ranging from depression and anxiety, to learning deficiencies, suspicion of these findings only increased. Some evangelical leaders felt that the findings of neuroscience conflicted with Biblically based theological conclusions about humanity, sin and perhaps even salvation.

While Cornell is correct that science has no monopoly on the truth, history has shown that religious opposition to the discoveries of science has often been preemptively hostile. Fear and ignorance of evolution, for example, still colors many believers’ ideas about anthropology, and it is still thought by some to be incompatible with a Judeo-Christian understanding of the human person. Alvin Plantinga seems to be devoting his retirement to correcting this well-intended but misinformed impulse.

What can be rejected on principle are the sweeping, reductionist conclusions that some do make, appealing to evolution and, more recently, neuroscience. The purpose of neuroscience is not to show that human beings are only amalgamations of neural states, and those who use it for that end hardly succeed: That a particular mood is associated with a chemical imbalance does not necessarily prove the impossibility of free will, nor does it follow that because observable brain states correspond to physical and psychological experiences, there is nothing transcendent about human existence.

Articles by Mark Misulia

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