Sunday, May 06, 2018

Be Prepared To Be Profoundly Challenged

The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life
Author: Timothy R. Jennings, MD
Publisher: IVP Books, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2013


Be Prepared To Be Profoundly Challenged
Any book that connects our brains, anatomy, and God automatically gets my attention. Such was the case with Timothy Jennings’ The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life. The author’s credentials are impressive: board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, lecturer, international speaker and author. He is a Christian and voted one of America’s Top Psychiatrists by the Consumers’ Research Council of America in 2008, 2010, and 2011.
I was ready to learn and learn I did. Jennings sets out to show us how our beliefs change us mentally, physically and spiritually.
Early in the book, he shares an incredible technique for gaining insight into the relationship between the creation of “inanimate nature” or a time before humanity, and Love. That got me hooked.
In chapter 2, he compares Watson, IBM’s supercomputer synthetic creation that in 2011 beat the top two all-time Jeopardywinners, to the human brain. Some fascinating data is provided.
Jennings introduces us to fear and its origin, and ties that in with “believed lies” and then “broken love”. For those that like to gain some ‘medical’ knowledge, he does not disappoint. He shows us how we cannot ‘think’ clearly when we are ‘guilt-ridden’, and then reminds us that “We are not born guilty; we are born terminal.”
The book helped me to better understand some people that I know and love. Using science, he helps us understand, as an example, how “a child born to a high-stress mother will have a brain less capable of calming itself and turning off the alarm circuitry (when faced with danger that eventually subsides).
Chapter 4 deals with our Freedom to Love. In it, Jennings shows us that if we violate liberty, we damage, and eventually destroy, love.
Some readers may be tempted, as I was, to part ways with him when it comes to some of his theology, but I assure you that if you hang in there, you’ll see that he’s not that outrageous at all – but rather, someone who has given a lot of thought and study (in Scripture and in research) to support almost all of his contentions. One such idea is that “to God, death is when the intelligent being is eternally destroyed.”
The author provides some good answers to the question, “What is God doing?” and gives us three ways God intercedes in the world and in each of us today.  You’ll find them on page 82 of his book and they’re well worth the cost of buying it.
Because of God’s interceding, Jennings says, two antagonistic principles are at war on planet Earth – love and survival of the fittest. In chapter 6, he tells us how we engage in that battle, and has one of the best approaches I have ever read to those who feel they’re just too “bad” to be worthy of God’s love.  His real counselling examples are very telling and very easily applicable to people we may know in our own lives.
The book is filled with great quotes and some of Jennings’ own adages, like “Insight does not equal change.”You’ll need to read the book to figure out how that plays into what he’s trying to get across. Jennings points us to the many lies many of us may have learned right in our own churches.  And he does it very well.
In one story, in dealing with a woman who feels badly about her sin, claiming she had “a choice when it comes to sin”, Jennings replies, “Not without Jesus. Not without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In our own human strength, we don’t have a choice. We are born into sin . . . a terminal condition that, if not cured, will result in death.” Each time, Jennings tells us how the various counselling cases ended. He doesn’t leave us hanging.
He also tackles the accusation of “How can a loving God be sending people to hell?” And he does it the best I’ve read or heard.  Again, well worth buying the book just to get this answer or to be able to respond to your friends who ask the same question.
And Jennings does not stop there.  He takes on the issue of “faith and miracles” responding to those who argue that miracles (e.g. of healing) are dependent on a person’s faith.  Read the book. Find out what Jennings considers “genuine faith” to really be.  The answer is something I’ve always maintained, but never ever able to formulate so well.
The author has an uncanny way of utilizing many great illustrations that we can all identify with to explain God’s love for us and how death enters the equation. He looks to history to explain how Constantine’s conversion and military successes resulted in the imposing of laws which gradually infected Christianity. As a result, he writes, “Christians lost sight of God’s (natural) law of love (a major theme of his book) and instead accepted an imposed law by a powerful potentate.” Ultimately, this negatively impacted our understanding of God.
The last part of his book addresses how we can “Embrace the Goodness of God”. Jennings reminds us that “biblical justice is delivering the oppressed, not punishing the oppressor!” And with that, he takes us into a great discussion on two views of punishment, namely utilitarianism and retributivism. He certainly made me reconsider some ideas that I hold near and dear.  He very carefully explains, with considerable success, why “an eye for an eye” is not what God expects today. He also answers very extensively the question many ask, “If a crackhead broke into my house and was threatening my wife and daughter, and I had a gun, should I shoot him?” You’ll be surprised at his answer. I’m still reeling from it.
Before concluding his book, Jennings takes on the issue of why Christ may not have returned yet. Again, his answer caught me off guard – but he may very well be right. And finally, he addresses the issue of “hell” and what that may really be. In his mind, it may have more to do with our ‘brains’ than with our ‘bodies’ and, in my view, his Bible research goes a long way to support his thinking.
In his addendum, the doctor provides us with 17 practical actions we can take to have “a healthy brain andrelationship with God.
I found Timothy Jennings to be an accomplished author and medical/human scientist, as well as a serious student of God’s Word. His ability to bring these strengths together is a great asset to his readers.  Highly recommended.
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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, May 6, 2018, www.accordconsulting.com

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