Psychiatrist Curt Thompson is certified by the Amercian Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is also a devout Christian who has written a fascinating new book called Anatomy of the Soul.
The book has a long subtitle, but I'll repeat it here because it sums up well what the book is all about: "Surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships."
On the one hand, Anatomy of the Soul is an excellent resource for laypeople (and by that I mean those who aren't physicians) on how the human brain works: right brain, left brain, neurons, brain function, how the brain develops as we grow and age. All of this is covered in an interesting and easily understandable way.
But what makes Anatomy of the Soul a great book is how Dr. Thompson takes the science of the brain and applies it to our spiritual well-being—all grounded in biblical Christianity.
For example, in his intriguingly titled chapter, "The prefrontal cortex and the mind of Christ," Dr. Thompson shows how the classic spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, fasting, confession, and study all foster the development of our minds; they help us to encounter God, relate to others, increase our attentiveness, deal with our own emotions and pasts, move us beyond guilt.
In other words, these disciplines actually re-shape the brain! They help make us—our minds, our brains—more receptive to the grace of God in our lives.
This is powerfully good news for those of us who struggle with our emotions, or addictions, or with painful pasts. And as Dr. Thompson writes, we are not too old to change the way our brain thinks and responds. "New data suggests," he writes, "that the brain can continue [even in old age] to develop new connections and networks of neurons, especially in those areas that correlate with...memory and emotion."
Another point that Dr. Thompson emphasizes over and over is that our brains were designed so we could relate to God and others. This is a point that we evangelicals need to hear again and again. We were not made to live in isolation. We're wired to connect. We were made to be integrated members of the Body of Christ.
Dr. Thompson writes, "While it is true we each have separate brains, our minds are interconnected in many complex and mysterious ways. I believe our lives will be abundant, joyful, and peaceful only to the degree that we are engaged, known, and understood by one another.
"I also believe," he continues, "we cannot separate what we do with our brains and our relationships from what we do with God. God has designed our minds, part of his good creation, to invite us into a deeper, more secure, more courageous relationship with him and with one another." That's what we talked about here at the Colson Center on Thinking Christianly.
I invite you to come to ColsonCenter.org today to read an excerpt of Anatomy of the Soul. If you like what you read—and I believe you will—you can purchase a copy at our online bookstore.
Also, when you visit ColsonCenter.org, you can read a great article Dr. Thompson wrote for us about the human mind—and how we love God with all of it.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: November 22, 2010