Gouge out your eye

And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. – Matthew 18:9

People take this verse in Matthew metaphorically. But should we? If the wages of sin are death, and something is causing you to sin, I think literally is the only way to take this verse.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

I have not gouged out my eye yet, but I think it’s important to think about the importance here. Something like There is no sin in heaven, so if you can’t stop sinning, what will you do? Don’t introduce yourself to God saying, I would have stopped, but I could stop doing this one thing. This verse to me, is saying, what can you do to remove that thing? If you can’t delete the app, can you disable it. Can you get rid of your phone? Or do you need to gouge out your eye?

This is uncomfortable, but I don’t see a way around it. Let me know if you disagree.

Rethinking Old Experiments: Reading the Lobotomist

Mental illness is not a new thing. I started reading the Lobotomist, which is the story of the founder of lobotomies, and I think there are some really interesting findings. This is likely not new ground, but I think it’s important.

What actually got me started reading this book was some simple discoveries that I thought were important to explore. Namely, that some lobotomies were successful in helping patients. But others seriously harmed patients. I don’t think my previous model successfully accounted for this result. So while this was clearly bad science, something was proven here. If the mind was elastic and resilient, how could such a puncture permanently ruin the lives of so many. On the other hand, if the brain is only a physical conduit of software, how could we account for the cures and improvements of some patients. My previous model was flawed.

Walter Freeman, the lobotomist, essentially at one part in the book started sampling the brains of corpses of the mentally ill. The biggest takeaway from this study was that the schizophrenic patients’ brains looked normal according to Freeman. You’d think that such a serious malady would be something you could observe physically, like so many other brain disorders. But not this one.

So if the brain is appearing to function properly, is it? If these brains are functioning properly, what is going on? The terrifying possibility is that these symptoms may be real.

Perhaps this is the bridge between the hardware and software, the real and mental. Clearly the physical can affect the mental. And we know that the mental can affect the physical. Why these psychological surgeries are certainly not the answer, they show us something important: the brain can be influenced by physical trauma.

And if this is true, I think that we must conclude that there is no reason to conclude that these conditions that could be caused by physical trauma must have been caused by spiritual or psychological trauma.

There is more to the story.

‘Dad, Is Santa Real?’

We know the answer, but our kids likely don’t. I have a two-year-old and a four year-old, so they certainly do not. They are smart, and like any kids, they ask tons of questions. I took a personal oath early to tell them the truth. That’s why this issue has been so difficult for me.

Santa doesn’t add up. Our narrative gives us more questions than answers. Kids are supposed to simply accept this story, with very little evidence. Except perhaps the most important of all: presents. So we take these young people who are most vulnerable and moldable, and indoctrinate them in a lie. Why?

I want my kids to think. I want them to ask questions. And I want to be able to tell them the truth.

But they could tell their friends. Yes, they could. It sounds terrible, but is it? Is it bad that your child would learn that a fairy tale was a fairy tale from my child? I think the faster we are to sort out the part where people’s feelings matter more than the truth, we get to the bottom, and our kids begin to grow.

I have no doubt that my four year-old would play along knowing Santa is ‘pretend.’ They imagine all the time. Is it so ludicrous to think that they could deal with this simple truth?

The silver lining is the belief in something you cannot see. In the Christian worldview, this is what we call faith. But I simply do not what my kids to have faith in something that they have no reason to believe.

What if my kid tells your kid Jesus exists? It’s something that she and I believe is true, but you don’t necessarily believe. The point here is to have a discussion. To figure out which is more justified, belief or non-belief. If we can’t discuss what we believe and why we believe it, what are we doing?

I’ll hold off telling her for now. But I don’t know how long I’ll last.

Keep Worse Records

  1. God is love.  1 John 4:16
  2. It [love] keeps no record of wrongs.  I Corinthians 13:1
  3. So God keeps no record of wrongs. Fair enough. But what about loving myself? 

We’re supposed to ‘love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:31)’ Thus, part of loving ourselves is keeping no record of wrongs.

I think this is one of the things separating me from true happiness. I live in a delicate place in between worry and regret. As soon as I’m done worrying about what the right thing to do is, I start either regretting what I decided or doubting that what I did was right. It’s a no-win situation.

But if I try to love myself, I must keep no record of wrongs. I have to know that my sins are forgiven. This, there is no reason to worry about making a mistake. It’s not that we shouldn’t avoid paths that lead us away from God, quite the opposite.

So not only does God keep no record of wrongs, I shouldn’t either. For my own sanity, and because I think the Bible alludes to this as well.

Electric Thoughts

I have some personal experience with intrusive thoughts. There were times in my life where I have been overcome with thoughts that were not my own. It’s terrifying, especially when the advisors at my disposal just believed that I was completely losing touch with reality. But wait…in the Christian worldview, spirits exist. And Paul even says that we should ‘test the spirits.’ So not only do they exist, but we should communicate with them, and figure out whether they come from God or not. In short, the spirit world can communicate with us.

Neurologists can stimulate different areas of the brain and trigger thoughts. My only thought here is that if a doctor can do this with a probe why couldn’t spirits? If the brain is so altered, surely God [or spirits] could plant thoughts. (A Thousand Brains, p. 37)

And honestly, I think this is how the spirit world works, in part. A spirit would be an entity with a probe of sorts. The inception of thoughts would be plausible.

I say this to say that the statement that ‘thoughts are simply electric activity of the brain’ may very well be true, but the source of that electric activity is the question. If a doctor can simulate thoughts during surgery, surely an all-knowing creator could simulate thoughts as well.

I’d also like to reference the boy that Jesus cured of epilepsy in the New Testament. We are told that the cause of the epilepsy is a spirit. But does that jive with what we know about seizures?

We can induce seizures with electric brain stimulation. If seizures are simply electric charge on the brain, and the spirit world can manifest itself by way of electricity, I think it would follow that spirits could cause epilepsy. I am not saying that all epilepsy is caused by spirits. Or that all spirits cause epilepsy. What I do know is that both of these things are true, and this is how I reconcile them.

TLDR: Thoughts are electrical activity. Seizures are electrical activity. Spirits can plant thoughts, therefore, spirits can cause seizures. And if we can remove spirits in these cases, we can remove the seizures.

The Explanatory Power of the Christian Worldview in Mental Illness

Essentially we don’t know how the brain works. We can’t cure neurological diseases. We can’t cure all depression. We can’t really improve intelligence.

But what if a worldview has an untapped resource of explanation? Christian theism offers just that. Although it seems farfetched, and it is slightly terrifying.

Anyways, in Christianity humans are the battlefield. Constantly encountering spirits. And in this spiritual world, we are introduced to the explanatory power of the Christian worldview in the area of psychology.

We know that the chemical imbalance theory is likely false. What if depression is caused by a spirit of some sort? More importantly, what if Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are explained by the spirit world?

What’s more important is that in subscribing to this model, we no longer need explanations about miracle healings of Alzheimer’s, because we know that if the presence of a spirit is causing the malady, the absence of it would lead to a miracle healing.

Not to mention, probably the scariest part: schizophrenia. If there is a spirit world, people that hear voices are actually hearing spirits. And we know that spirits can be cast out. Thus, schizophrenia is curable. But not by any pill or treatment, by the sovereign grace of God. Thus, the unexpected mitigation of this disease becomes less farfetched and more realistic.

So everywhere we look at the world, Christianity has answers, including the human mind. Perhaps the best answer to some of the biggest questions of medicine and science have been right under our nose this whole time. Maybe our biggest problem was trying to reconcile the complete with the incomplete, trying to merge modern psychology and psychiatry with the Christian narrative.

The Covid Conundrum

One of the most mysterious symptoms of COVID-19 is the widespread anosmia. That is, people lose their sense of smell. The most interesting part about it is that we really don’t have a good mechanism to describe it. Here’s my take:

I’ve discussed time perception in great length in other posts. For the sake of this one, time is essentially either perceived quickly or slowly. In any given amount of time, a certain amount of particles travel up the nasal passages. The shorter this sampling rate, the fewer the particles that register per unit time. Thus, when time is slow, smell could suffer.

Taste is also something that seems to diminish with smell, especially with COVID-19. I think the same concept applies. If less information hits the tongue in a given amount of time, you will have less taste. So the slower time is perceived, the more information is needed to make up the difference. And since the amount of information is likely the same, taste may suffer,

Watery eyes also seem to correlate the loss of taste and smell. In an older post, I theorize about how time perception could explain crying. This is no different. When time is slow, if blinking does not increase, the eyes are essentially being held open for longer stretches of relative time. And when the eyes are held open for long stretches of time, they water.

In conclusion, some of the main symptoms seem to be pretty easily explained by looking at them through the lens of time perception. And according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is almost always the best.

You are not your thoughts

Living with depression, you hear this phrase a lot. Most of us accept it, perhaps after some hesitation. I want to break it down.

The fact that I have thoughts means that I am separate from my thoughts. To observe thoughts, whatever makes me me is separate from whatever makes these thoughts. I think a good analogy is looking at your reflection in the mirror. You can see your reflection, but it’s not exactly you. It’s an image of you.

thought thought

My thoughts are not part of the physical world. They exist only in my mind. While something may exist in my mind and the physical world, it is only necessary that they exist in my mind.

If thoughts exist, but not in the natural world, thoughts are evidence of the supernatural world. Not to mention, after we have a thought, we have the ability to act on the thought or not. This is the power of the will. To essentially say ‘no’ to a thought. That would make will power the ability to say ‘no.’ And I think that is a pretty good definition.

But if we have the power to say ‘no’ to a thought, we are not machines at all. The world cannot be deterministic because we have the ability not to act on a given thought. If we can say no, we are free. And if we are free, determinism is false.

Thus, because the mind produces thoughts and we can decline to act on them, both naturalism and determinism are false.

Highway to hell

So something I stressed here was finding our natural state. I called it the ground state and viewed it as something to strive for. The problem is that humanity is damned. That’s the easiest way to say it. No one left to their own devices goes anywhere but down.

So the question Why does God send people to hell? is an easy one to answer. He doesn’t. Humanity is doomed. God simply offered a lifeline: a path to righteousness. Humans, in their natural state, go to hell. It takes the supernatural to save us.

God is action

I recently wrote about love being kind, and what I think that means. There was an interesting application when you take that and apply it to what the Bible says about God.

God is love, and love is kind, therefore God is kind. And kindness is action. Therefore, God is action.

I think this is a powerful takeaway. God is not potency, but action. Think of the perfectly complete triune God prior to the creation of the universe. Why create anything? Because God is action. In his perfect holiness he leaves no stone unturned, no good action undone. He does not sit idly by and watch us suffer, he takes an active role in our lives.

Perhaps the ultimate act was when he became man to save the world from their sins. He did not simply sit and watch the world burn, he sent a perfect and living sacrifice to right the wrong from the fall and to give all who believe in him the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.