Posted by: ramonamom | May 7, 2008

Actions Beyond Their Control? Part I

We have been presented with a very good question regarding whether a child with a possible neurological condition may not be in control of their own behavior.  This is a struggle we have recently been working through on our own, regarding our son who has FAS and I have finally found some biblically sound answers to my questions in Edward Welch’s book, _Blame it on the Brain_. 

Mr. Welch states that the heart and the body are mutually interdependent.  That is, human life cannot be imagined without both the inner (heart) and outer (body) person. 

At the level of the brain, this unity suggests that the heart or spirit will always be represented or expressed in the brain’s chemical activity. When we choose good or evil, such decisions will be accompanied by changes in brain activity.  When we think how to disciple our children, there will be unique brain activity.  This does not mean that the brain causes these decisions.  It simply means that the brain renders the desires of the heart in a physcial medium.  It is as if the heart always leaves its footprints on the brain.

I have also heard this described as laying down neural pathways.  The more times you do a specific task, the deeper that particular neural pathway “rut” will be.  For instance, think about a time when you moved into a new home.  At first, each time you drove into the neighborhood, it was unfamiliar to you.  However, as time went on, the neural pathway “ruts” became deeper and deeper as you saw the same scene over and over.  After a number of years, your neighborhood was very familiar to you, even comforting.   Coming home from a long trip could bring warm and fuzzy feelings when you drove into your neighborhood, as those scenes were so familiar and comfortable. 

Continuing to quote Mr. Welch:

Knowing this, we are more prepared for research suggesting that the brain of the angry person is different from the brain of the pacifist… The Bible predicts that  what goes on in the heart is represented physically.  But the Bible would clarify that such differences do not prove that the brain caused the thoughts and actions.  It may very well be the opposite.  Brain changes may be caused by these behaviors

Whoa!!  One of the subtitles in Chapter 3 of this book just about blew me away and it eventually answered one big question I had been asking myself regarding our own son who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  This subtitle states, “The Brain Cannot Make a Person Sin.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but I was eager to discover the biblical basis for that statement! 

To begin with, consider that the brain is a physiological part of the body, just like an arm, leg, or internal organ.  Most people would agree that a broken arm or leg could not make us sin, but for some reason the brain is considered a different entity when we regard the body’s ability to sin.  Take PMS for example – a brain problem that most folks are familiar with from one perspective or another.  If a woman broke the law and blamed it on PMS, is that a valid claim?  What if she killed her own child while in the middle of a PMS rage?  Although we will all most likely agree that PMS makes life more difficult, this woman is still responsible for her moral behavior and the choices that she makes during the PMS.  Consider Lev. 5:17: “If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.”   According to Romans 2:15, we all have “the requirements of the law written in our hearts” and therefore will not be allowed to plead ignorance before the holy God of the universe. 

Some of you may not know that I have a brain disease called dystonia.  This disease causes my body to move involuntarily all of the time.  If my brain were to cause my arm to fling out and hit my husband across the face, causing a bloody nose, would that be an example of my brain causing my body to sin?  No, that would be an accident for which my husband would certainly forgive me.  However, if I purposefully committed the same act and blamed it on my brain disease, that would be a heart issue and thus a sinful action on my part. 

Stayed tuned for Part 2…

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Responses

  1. I would have to agree totally with that assessment and it makes so much sense! That explains a lot! Thanks for that info!


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