The God Explanation: Soul Or Brain?

December 27, 2008
by Gary Chiang

Acts 10:44-46a – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (NIV)

My class in Human Anatomy and Physiology studies how a small change in the membrane of nerve cells allows us to interact with the world around us. Our brains receive information as tiny electrical signals, and respond by sending out similar electrical signals to our muscles and organs. It has always amazed me that these minute events, occurring at the level of the cell, determine how we respond to others — even how we worship our God.

In today's passage, something happened to Cornelius and his household which made Peter and the rest of the "circumcised" take note. Whatever happened to them allowed them to become loud and incoherent. It affected their brains, causing their bodies to generate incomprehensible "gibberish".

On the one hand, biology has a naturalistic explanation for this. Cornelius' great desire to worship God was fuelled by Peter's motivational speech causing opiates (natural narcotics) to be released in the brain. These drugs created a sense of euphoria and caused the body to express itself, especially through the speech centres of the brain.

But what is the biblical explanation?

Acts 2:4 – And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (KJV)

The event is the same, but the explanations are quite different. It all depends on your point of view. Is your brain all that you are? Or does your mind or soul use the brain to interact with the physical world?

Although I am a biologist, I prefer the biblical explanation, because it actually makes more sense to me. My brain is the "control centre" through which my intangible soul can use my physical body to interact with the tangible universe. That's what's great about being a Christian in the world of science: we don't have to exclude God from our explanations!

Prayer: Lord, we thank You for the marvellous way we have been created. We thank You for our brains that allow us to detect the world around us. We thank You for our physical bodies that allow us to express Your love to others and to You. Fill us with Your Spirit. In Your name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Gary Chiang <ralemgarychiang@gmail.com>
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

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