HOLISTIC FAITH: Faith & Mind
What is the mind? For many, the mind is that ineffable part of us that thinks and feels and represents the very essence of our being. Or in the words of the French philosopher Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” Recently, however, neuroscience has reduced the mind to nothing more than brain function as constituted by electrical impulses and neurotransmitters which, when modified and controlled, influence and shape who we are. Neither view provides a complete picture, but rather the mind seems to be a delicate balance between the two.
What, then, is faith? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition includes a “firm belief in something for which there is not proof.” In the book of Hebrews, we read that faith from a Christian perspective is “…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen … By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:1 & 3, ESV). In the same chapter we also read, “… without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV). In these verses, we see what faith is, how it operates, and its object. In essence, faith is fueled by belief which holds that there is a God who can be trusted and who seeks an intimate connection with us.
Our mind—“fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by a God who desires relationship with us—has the capacity for profound and transformative thought. We are created in His image so it would stand to reason that we are tailor-made for faith. This, however, is not so. Our instinctive human nature often overpowers the desire to mirror Jesus, diminishing our trust in God and therefore our sense of worth and the worth of others.
In his book, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson, MD indicates the core cause of his distrust reaches back to Adam and Eve, when the disease of shame was initially injected into the human race.
In Genesis 3—with the words, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’ ”—the serpent planted the seeds of doubt in Eve’s mind: doubt about God and her trust in Him. This distrust further infected her relationship with Adam as she convinced him to eat of the forbidden fruit. Consequently, the pandemic of doubt and shame was unleashed in the minds of all humankind, even reaching us in the 21st century.
Dr. Thompson notes that shame causes us to attempt to hide from God as Adam and Eve did. Shame, then, is “the emotional feature out of which all that we call sin emerges” … [and that shame] … “ruptures relational connections” (p. 99, 102). Much like viruses today, one small germ can grow and multiply, affecting every area of our physical health. Think of the flu, for example: the impact it has on our bodies is massive—muscular pain, loss of temperature control, inability to focus, fatigue. So it is with shame, which may seem like such a small thing but impacts us completely—our body image, our value in the world, how we perceive others, how we view God.
The antidote? Vulnerability before God and others. Because of Jesus, we can come before the Father and others unafraid and unashamed. Dr. Thompson writes: “The vulnerability of nakedness is the antithesis of shame. We are maximally creative when we are simultaneously maximally vulnerable and intimately connected, and evil knows this” (p. 99). Why? Because, as Paul writes, “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; … the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV). Therefore, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2, ESV).
So we can start again, this time as a new creation, unashamed before the Father and others. And in so doing, we can love as He loves, completely and unconditionally.
by Dr. Al Barrow, Director – Spiritual Development
Curt Thompson, MD, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About
Ourselves, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015