I used to make myself finish a book before I started a new one. Somewhere during the last year or two, I picked up a second book and before a hot minute, it quickly spiraled.
My currently-reading shelf is almost competing with my to-be-read shelf and I feel like I need to rein it in. It might have something to do with getting into books above my pay grade. I’m still picking through The God Shaped Brain by Timothy R. Jennings, M.D. He says in that video (link above/video below) they used to believe a placebo effect meant that pain was in your head, but modern brain science has shown that what you believe can create physiological responses. It’s not in your head—but your head affects it physiologically.
You have different chemical and physical consequences based on what you believe. (More than just believing there is danger and then producing adrenaline.)
One intriguing thing he writes is, “love cannot exist without freedom.” I knew a Buddhist who’d gone to a catholic school in Asia. Based on his colonized understanding of Christianity, he ridiculed the idea that there was a deity puppet master watching to see if we chose correctly. I can still hear his maniacal-pseudo laugh pretending to watch humanity fail. Why would a God give freedom?
I’m sure everyone wrestles with the question of agency, “Why is there a choice?” Not just the first choice in the garden, whether or not to eat the fruit, but every day since. He allows people to walk away from him. He allows us to choose sin (as believers who want to follow him.) And he let us commit harm against each other.
I’ve always thought that having the choice meant he gave us dignity. It isn’t reaching to believe he grants dignity to undeserving. In Exodus 28:2 God deemed the design of the priest’s garments to give both dignity and honor. Why? It’s what he does. When I first read that, it contradicted my previous philosophy of “God is good. You are not. Try harder.” He just clothes us in dignity and honor, and it made me love him even more.
But it isn’t just dignity that free agency offers. Jennings described two marriages in the book’s section about the law of liberty. One marriage with a complaining, critical wife and another of a jealous, intimidating husband. He described how in these relationships without free choice, not only was love diminished or eroded, both of the spouses became shadows of themselves. It’s why an abused partner looses the ability to make decisions or know individual preferences. If you can prevent someone from displeasing you or betraying you through your own power, you are erasing them.
And if you want to rescue someone, from domestic violence or a controlling relationship for example, so you remove them from the situation and begin making all their decisions for them—you’ve actually just taken the place of the abuser.
If God didn’t give you a choice, it would actually prevent sincere love and it take away all that is uniquely, beautifully you. It would be abusive. And he wants you the way he designed you.
This video is almost an hour and you can’t see the slides–but I still thought it was well worth my time. He talks about verifying truth with a combination of science & nature, scripture and experience that I can’t stop thinking about.