by Al Maxey

Issue #324 ------- November 2, 2007
Minds are like parachutes:
they only function when open.

Sir James Dewar {1842-1923}

The Divine Brain Child
Is God a Creation of the Mind?

Baruch Spinoza [1632-1677], a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin, one of the great rationalists and ethicists of 17th century philosophy, who also demonstrated considerable scientific aptitude well ahead of his time, observed, "The human mind is part of the infinite intellect of God." One of the great aspirations of man is not only to better understand the infinite mind of our God, but actually to merge with it in some mysterious way; to feel His presence, think His thoughts, know as He knows. Meister Eckhart [1260-1328], a German theologian and one of the great Christian mystics, declared, "God expects but one thing of you, and that is that you let God be God in you." We are to assimilate God into our very being, and thereby to be transformed into His likeness.

This concept of seeking to become much more than we are, of that which is finite being absorbed into the infinite, is universal among mankind. All cultures, whether primitive or advanced, ancient or modern, have some sense of awareness of something greater than themselves and a need to, in some way, lay hold of and partake of this vast Resource. Scripture informs us that the Creator Himself has placed within mankind an awareness of the eternal [Eccl. 3:11], and yet our minds are seemingly incapable of fully grasping that which is so far above us. But, men strain toward it nevertheless. Such intense longing is inherent within our very nature. This has led some to believe that the ultimate truth is: it is not so much that there is a God, as there is a need within man for there to be a God. François-Marie Arouet [1694-1778], better known to us by his pen name Voltaire, a French philosopher of the Enlightenment era, phrased the thought this way: "If God did not exist, then it would be necessary to invent Him." Voltaire, who was considered to be quite a wit during his day, wrote that he was rather fond of that observation. "I am rarely satisfied with my lines, but I own that I have a father's tenderness for that one."

There is a concerted effort being made within the scientific community at present to do the above (i.e., attempt to prove that God is simply a creation of the human brain). This is nothing new. Some scholars have long sought to suggest that the notion of a Supreme Being is just an aberration of the mind. Such efforts are clearly intensifying, though, and they're being coated with a veneer of "scientific respectability," which makes them doubly dangerous to those with a faltering faith. One of the most recent studies in this specific genre is documented in the current issue of a marvelous periodical to which I subscribe (in its hard-copy, snail-mailed form): Scientific American Mind. This is really a very good publication, and has had some excellent articles in the past. David Biello, one of the Associate Editors of this magazine, has put together a truly fascinating article titled Searching for God in the Brain [Oct/Nov, 2007, p. 38-45]. I do not know anything about Biello's personal theological convictions, but he's at least made a couple of comments toward the end of his piece that led me to believe he may not have been completely sold on the concept about which he was commenting. I would urge the reader to take some time to read this article. It is somewhat technical in nature, but I think you will find the theory fascinating, and also not a little troubling. (NOTE -- As a good companion article, I would recommend the fascinating study of memory in the November 2007 issue of National Geographic [p. 32-57]. Especially beneficial to this present Reflections will be the beautifully illustrated mapping of the brain's processing of memory found on pages 42-43.)

The basic premise of the research is actually quite valid, in my view. Employing various highly advanced tools and techniques, such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), SPECT (single-photon-emission computed tomography), and a specialized EEG known as quantitative electroencephalography, "researchers are attempting to pin down what happens in the brain when people experience mystical awakenings during prayer and meditation or spontaneous utterances inspired by religious fervor" [p. 39]. These are attempts to isolate and investigate "the neural correlates of the divine" [ibid], a field of study that has come to be known by a couple of terms: Neurotheology and/or Spiritual Neuroscience. I doubt that many would argue with the view that our spiritual experience is centered within the human brain. Although we may speak of loving with all our heart, or of compassion being bowel-based (as the Greek term signifies), or of experiencing something within our "soul," nevertheless the reality is that these emotions/feelings flow from the brain. The heart and the bowels are not the source of our feelings, though such emotions may physically affect them (a reaction known as a psychosomatic response), which understandably led more primitive peoples to assume these were the physical seats of these feelings. And the "soul" [see: Reflections #32] is not some immortal spirit-being trapped within our physical bodies, to be released to fuller life upon physical death, but is rather, according to the holistic view of man within the OT writings, simply a reference to the fact that we are "living beings." Thus, I applaud the efforts of these scientists to come to a greater understanding of the functional aspects of spirituality within the human brain. It's a fascinating study. The danger, of course, is that some may be tempted to conclude that the totality of spiritual experience is simply "neural commotion" [ibid], and that God is little more than "a neural quirk" -- "the result of electrical anomalies in the human brain" [p. 41]. In layman's terms, this would reduce our Lord God to a mere figment of our imagination; the Creator, then, becomes the creation of the created. There is, therefore, no objective reality (God), but merely a projected subjectivism.

Speaking of a "Temporal Tempest," the author of the article under review noted that there are some scientists who are of the opinion that "intense religious feelings arise from unusual electrical activity in the brain's temporal lobe, in some cases connecting spirituality with temporal lobe epilepsy" [p. 40]. Such a connection has long been theorized. "In 1892 textbooks on mental illness noted a link between 'religious emotionalism' and epilepsy" [ibid]. Such "obsession with religious or moral issues," speculates Dr. David Bear, a neuropsychiatrist at Vanderbilt University, could very well be the result of "localized electrical storms in the brain's temporal lobe" [ibid]. This leads some scholars to the inevitable conclusion that "epileptic electrical activity may spark religious feeling" [ibid]. Thus, Dr. Michael Persinger, who works out of Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, declares that "religious experience and belief in God are merely the results of electrical anomalies in the human brain" [p. 41]. He even goes so far as to suggest that the spiritual fervor of such notable biblical figures as Moses and the apostle Paul is simply the result of "neural quirks." Michael Persinger, by the way, is the creator of the so-called "God helmet," which is a cranial device that, when worn, stimulates certain parts of the brain in order to simulate a "state of cosmic bliss" brought about by spirituality. If indeed spirituality, and the positive feelings resulting from such, is produced by an "electrical storm" inside of the brain, then the reasoning is that such positive feelings can be produced in those who may have no spiritual consciousness at all, but who would nevertheless like to experience the joy and peace of the devoted believer. Therefore, for a price, one can have their brain stimulated so as to enjoy the by-products of "knowing God." The feeling of unconditional love, for example, may well be nothing more than "increased activity in the caudate nucleus," which is a small region in the central part of the human brain [p. 43]. Hey, picture this: the day may soon be upon us when, like Simon in Acts 8, we can "obtain the gift of God with money" [vs. 20]. Or, so say some!

I was impressed that near the conclusion of his article David Biello made a number of statements that led me to believe that perhaps, just perhaps, he had not totally bought into the extremes to which this scientific research might lead (i.e., reducing God to an anomaly of the human brain). Although there is clearly some correlation between brain activity and emotions (few would argue against that), yet trying to prove conclusively that this is the cause of spirituality, and even the source of God Himself, may well be, in the words of this author, "a fool's errand" [p. 44]. Speaking of several Roman Catholic nuns (of the Carmelite order) who participated in this study, Biello observed, "For the nuns, serenity does not come from a sense of God in their brains but from an awareness of God with them in the world" [p. 45]. Spirituality was for these devoted Christian women far more than a mere perception of God, but the experience of the presence of God. Their faith was not in the least undermined by the link of brain activity to their feelings. Indeed, they saw this as the working of God, and the very tool God used to communicate with them and impress His presence upon them. The brain, in their view, would be much like a complex receiver that is capable of receiving communication from the Throne Occupant Himself.

The human brain is an extremely complex organ. I personally doubt if man will ever truly unlock all its countless mysteries. We are all, quite clearly, "remarkably and wonderfully made" [Psalm 139:14]. I also appreciate the efforts of scientists to explore the many wonders of God's handiwork, as with each new revelation into His creation we perceive anew just how awesome is our God. What saddens me, however, is when science and society join hands in seeking to diminish deity. Rather than elevating and exalting Him, there is a concerted effort to eradicate Him. The warning of the apostle Paul almost 2000 years ago is just as relevant today -- "Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception" [Col. 2:8]. The Message paraphrases this passage this way: "Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk." Regardless of how "intelligent" some teaching or theory may sound, if it leads one away from the reality of God, it is just high-falutin' foolishness.

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Readers' Reflections

Special Update from the Philippines --- The following encouraging email was received from the brother in the Republic of the Philippines for whom you have been fervently praying recently. You may remember that his rather difficult and troubling circumstances were featured in Reflections #322 -- Bereans in the Philippines: A Filipino Disciple Stands For Freedom. At the present time it appears that our merciful God has chosen to turn the tide in his favor, and he will continue to be a force for Grace and Freedom within his homeland. Prayer works, brethren!! Continue to keep him in your prayers, as he and his family will undoubtedly continue to be the focus of the forces of evil. Now is the time for the people of God to stand at the side of this dear brother who has boldly taken a stand for liberty over law. May we never abandon such courageous disciples of Jesus Christ. Special Offer --- In his email below, this brother mentions a written defense he had prepared for the leaders with whom he met. He has sent me a copy of this, which is titled: Response to Charges of "Liberalism" (a 9 page document in MS Word format). He has authorized me to release this document to any of you who request it. Just email me and I will send you a copy. He did an excellent job of responding to each of the charges leveled against him. I am very proud of this young man, and I know the Lord is as well. May God richly bless him and his precious family!! His following message is addressed to all of you who have been so supportive of his struggle. [As before, I have chosen to withhold his name and location to help protect this brother and his family. He authorized me to use his name, but I just don't feel comfortable doing so given the vicious nature of some who oppose his efforts to preach Truth. He has revealed his name and location to those of you who have written to him, and I shall continue to let him be the one to do so] --- Al Maxey

Readers, Check This Out!! --- There is a fairly short video on the Internet that is easily one of the most powerful, moving, awesome presentations I have ever witnessed in my entire life. Many thousands of people have already viewed it, and it almost always reduces the viewer to weeping. It is only five minutes and thirty-four seconds long, but has the power to literally change a person's entire life. It is really and truly that powerful. It is a skit called "Everything" performed by a Christian drama group known as Lifehouse. Please be sure your computer's sound is on, as it absolutely must be viewed with sound in order to be effective. It may be found at: [the actual URL was quite long, so I reduced it using the tool at a marvelous web site known as]. May God bless you as you view this spectacular video. It will touch your heart and life as few things ever have!! --- Al Maxey

From a Missionary in Peru:

Dear Brother Maxey, I have been appreciating your solid expositions on various subjects on your web site. I also, a number of years ago, started a deep study regarding the nature of man and everlasting punishment, and the Lord took away the scales from my eyes. It was evident from your debate on this subject -- The Maxey-Thrasher Debate -- that there was a willful refusal by Thomas Thrasher to look at the whole of biblical teaching on the subject. When they are willing to look at the evidence, as you have done, their whole system collapses before their eyes. But, instead of examining the evidence, they just throw out a few proof texts and resort to declaring others "heretics." Sadly, men would rather preserve their traditions and denominations than look with an open heart and mind to the whole revelation of God. Also, Bro. Maxey, I plan on getting your book Down, But Not Out to go along with another book I have ordered on the subject by David Instone Brewer. I am a missionary in Peru involved in a church planting, and am trying to "survive" as a Conditionalist in a Grace Baptist Church! I pray the Lord will be gracious and open the eyes of many to see the truth of the wonder and glory of bodily resurrection on that great day. May the Lord use you, brother, to reach many with the Truth of the Word of God.

From a New Reader in Germany:

Bro. Al, Please subscribe me to your Reflections. I just recently heard of your Reflections and am very happy that I did. This kind of focus is something for which I have been praying for a long time, and now I feel my prayers have been answered. God is an awesome God! Thank you! I too believe that as members of Christ's Body we must show love to all our fellow members so that the world will know that we are His disciples. I too am a strong supporter of the reuniting of the Body of Christ. I embrace you and yours in my love, thoughts and prayers.

From an Elder in Illinois:

Brother Al, I know you are busy and my attached letter is rather long. However, I just had to send you my thoughts. Your writings are an inspiration to me! Having been in the church for about 50 years now, I grieve when I see the state we are in. I loved your Reflections article "Being the Church," as it brings to mind many of my own thoughts and those of my close brothers and sisters. The check-list mentality of my brethren lulls them into a false sense of security, due to their upbringing at the feet of good men who were at times just as misguided as they are, and just as unaware of, or frightened of, God's wonderful grace! I grieve for the church, and as an elder in the Lord's Body, I struggle daily with my role of helping my tradition-clinging, apathetic brethren to better see their situation and do something to rectify it. Please pray for me and help me in this struggle. I want so very badly to do God's will. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

To Al Maxey, My New Spiritual Mentor: I certainly agree with you that music within the Churches of Christ is a cappella by historical tradition. As you so aptly stated in Reflections #320, "Silence does not necessarily imply prohibition." As a retired Psychiatric Social Worker of 40 years, I think our problem is not lack of knowledge, but pure stubbornness that has been reinforced for far too many years. To put this situation in Freudian terms, we in Churches of Christ, at least with respect to the music issue, are known for our "anal retentiveness." Bro. Maxey, to just say "thank you" for the enlightenment you so capably give unto others seems so utterly inadequate!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Maxey, I have referred to your most recent Reflections article on my blog site: The article is titled: Stop "Going to Church." While it is not a review of your article, or even a point in opposition, I credited you with inspiring the thoughts about which I wrote. Thanks for your work.

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Brother Maxey, What a wonderful job you did on this Reflections ("Being the Church"). Oh, how it hurts to see people bringing legalistic politics into the church. May God continue to bless you in your ministry of reflection.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, Another masterpiece!! Thank you! Keep up the good work. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, I have just received your latest Reflections. A big Thank You for addressing this subject of "Being the Church." It is one that needs to be expounded upon over and over! People need to get out of this habit of calling a mere building the "church." The building just keeps "the church" from getting wet when it rains and providing shade when the sun beats down on us. The building is just where the church meets. This idea that the building is the "church" and thus "sacred" (can't eat in it, can't attach a fellowship hall to it, etc.) is just baloney. As you often point out, Al, we the people are the church. By the way, the critic from Alabama who wrote condemning you and your beliefs should read Matthew 7:1-6. Shame on him! I just pray that people like him will one day learn the Truth and cease with their judgments of their fellow Christians. Again, thank you for the fine work you do, and I pray you will keep it up for years to come! The fresh air that you provide is so refreshing. Soldier on, dear brother!

From a Reader in Florida:

Bro. Maxey, Thank you for your message about the struggling preacher in the Philippines. We help support an American missionary who has lived and preached over there for more than 20 years. He has been disowned by many brethren for his position on certain topics. Perhaps these two preachers can get together and encourage each other. This brother and his wife adopted and raised five Filipino children who were homeless, all of whom are adults now. He currently lives in the city of Manila, since it has become so dangerous to live in the rural area where he once lived. I'm sending along his name, address, and one of his recent reports to his supporters.

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, Your insights are always encouraging and are expressed in ways that mesh with my own understanding of God and His people. Maybe we're reading the same Book. Reckon?! Keep up the good studies, and thanks for sharing your wisdom with a wider fellowship.

From a Reader in Nevada:

Dear Brother Al, I "discovered" you through one of your long-time Reflections readers here in Nevada about seven weeks ago. He sent me your information on the "law of silence," and also how to gain access to all your back issues. I have read many of them. I'm sending you a few of the books I have written (I've written 29 in all, many secular). I hope you enjoy them. [He sent me six of his books, and I look forward to reading them. I also thank him for his generosity! -- Al Maxey] I like Leroy Garrett's works, as well as the late Cecil Hook's stuff. Also, I have some essays myself on patternism, approachable love, one another religion, and a defense of instrumental music -- although I myself am a member of a non-instrumental, Non-Institutional Church of Christ (for that is my heritage). However, I truly regret that all the division over church co-operation ever took place. Being an "Anti-" I feel like a fish out of water, because I write in order to make people think (as you are doing). And yet, most members do not want to be challenged. So, thank you, Bro. Al, for challenging me! All the best to you!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Excellent, as usual. Keep up the good work, in spite of all the negative voices that yell out in your direction!

From a Reader in Texas:

What a wonderful article, Brother Al. Maybe if all of us who believe Jesus is Lord would quit fighting with each other over secondary issues (that God Himself did not even regard as important enough to address), and take a stand on being focused as "Being the Church," then more people would see the gospel and find the joy of Christ!

From a Minister in New Jersey:

Bro. Al, Another excellent issue of Reflections. I think you have addressed the real core of the problem. I also believe there are two other issues that complicate the situation. The first problem being man's desire for and quest for power. Throughout the history of the institutional church there has been the conflict of one man, or one group, with others for control. I believe the other problem that contributes to the continuation or repetition of history is language. The very word "church" is defined and understood today in a way that I believe differs from the understanding and usage of the first century. I can easily understand those who wish to have a relationship with their God, but feel they don't want to be involved with "the church." By today's definition of "church," and in view of the problems associated with today's religious institutions and their power trips and egomania, I have some degree of sympathy for those who opt out. Unfortunately, they miss the blessings that are to be gained from association with the "family of God." Why do we continue to involve ourselves in battles based on our desire for control and exaltation of our egos? Have a blessed day, brother!

From a Minister in Kansas:
---Special Update

Brother Al, One Cup man here! Great lesson on "Being the Church." I'm afraid that many in our brotherhood have become isolationists. We are called to be a light in the dark world in which we live, and yet it is so easy for us to just be a light in the assembly of the saints. We all need to live out our faith on a daily basis, having a positive impact on everyone we come into contact with. Al, a short time ago [Refer to the Readers' Reflections section in Reflections #315, the ninth letter down, second paragraph -- Al Maxey] I let you know that a revival would be held in West Plains, Missouri by the One Cup brethren who are promoting unity in the Body of Christ. I just wanted to let you know that this meeting/revival was a huge success! The building was full every night, and disciples came from Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas. The Lord is really blessing our efforts to promote unity and peace within the Body of Christ. Thanks so much for the helping hand that you have extended to us!! Brother, you have a very special place in all our hearts!! As for that person from Alabama who keeps attacking you, we will all be praying that the Lord will open his eyes. Please keep up the good work, and may God bless you, Bro. Al ... and may He bless all who are seeking unity!!

From a One Cup Minister in Missouri:

Brother Al, I really enjoyed your Reflections about the tyrants at the Old Paths Advocate [Issue #313]. You made great arguments, which I'm sure they totally dismissed. I was very glad to see that you invited them to discussion, but I'm sure their cowardice will keep them silent ... at least to your face!! Come to think of it, Billy Dickinson decided to give you yet another "plug" in the October issue of OPA. In the "Field Reports" section he wrote, "I appreciate the good response my article received about Al Maxey, as I exposed the extreme errors that 'unity in diversity' leads to. Brethren need to be aware of the consequences of such liberalism. That is why I wrote the article" [Old Paths Advocate, October, 2007]. He really believes that he has exposed you. In all reality, however, all he has actually done is introduce you to a fellowship of believers who are ready to hear the other side of the story -- a message of peace, love and unity. I have heard so many people in this One Cup fellowship say how much they enjoy reading your Reflections. Many had never even heard of you until Billy decided to "expose" you. Please continue to minister to this oppressed group of people, Bro. Al, and may God bless you!!

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