Remember those ads:
“This is your brain on drugs.”
Today, we’re exploring:
“THIS is your brain on religion!”
This week, we’re welcoming evangelical pioneer Ken Wilson back to ReadTheSpirit. We last interviewed Ken in 2008 when he released “Jesus Brand Spirituality.” In recent years, Ken has tirelessly criss-crossed the continent working with leading scientists on closing the gap between faith and science. We just published a very popular series on religion and science, looking at the chasm largely from the perspective of science. Ken writes—and talks to us this week in ReadTheSpirit—from the flip side: the evangelical Christian world.
TODAY, below, we’ve got a short excerpt from “Mystically Wired,” so you’ll get a glimpse of how Ken articulates what he’s learning from top scientists to a Christian audience.
BUT, wait! There’s more news today:
FIRST, if you care about the Future of Religion, you’ll want to visit and bookmark a new website within www.Patheos.com. We’ve become good friends with the folks at Patheos and occasionally cross-post news. As Patheos editors launched their summer-long series on the state of religion globally, Patheos also invited me as Editor of ReadTheSpirit to write one of the final pieces in the series on “the future of faith.” So, read along with that great Patheos summer series.
SECOND, please help us encourage our important experiment in civil dialogue, OurValues.org, which starts its own summer series today. We’re beginning with a recap of “Great Discussion Starters” from OurValues.org. This two-year-old project is the brainchild of sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker to promote more constructive conversation among Americans about important issues.
And now, please enjoy …
Excerpt from “Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer,” by Ken Wilson
There is so much in our brains that is available for prayer: appreciating and sensing connections and tasting joy and recognizing beauty and feeling love, including romantic love and dutiful love and every form in between, all part of our mystical wiring. Along with the part of our brain that runs through names on a prayer list and the part of our brain that talks to God as though he were listening, the part that sings, that reads, and so on. …
This brain of yours, this body of yours, this being of yours is not, like you are prone to think, set in stone. Though I’ve borrowed the wiring metaphor, it breaks down here because your brain is not hardwired. You are alive because everything within you, down to the smallest quanta, is moving, vibrating, resonating with its neighbor.
Your brain is ever in the process of reprogramming itself, growing new neurons, making new connections between neurons, being shaped and influenced and changing, all the time! Yours may be changing without your even trying to help it along.
Just think what might be possible if we were more intentional about helping the change process along? Those stodgy old things called spiritual disciplines aren’t stodgy at all. They are sophisticated tools to shape the praying brain.
The apostle Paul, born in a different time and place, might hve been a neuroscientist! Centuries ago, he wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Paul understood by experience and observation and revelation what cognitive scientists have been trying to tell us over the last few years: The human brain is a work in progress and we, my friends, are renewable!
Start somewhere, anywhere, but start. … For once in your life, don’t make prayer more difficult than it is. Trust that seeking to live your life with God is filled with challenges enough that you don’t have to pile on ones of your own making. Stop focusing on what a lousy student you are in the school of prayer and start focusing on what a great teacher Jesus might be.
ENJOY OUR ENTIRE GREAT SUMMER READING AND VIEWING SERIES: (Our series so far: “Crown of Aleppo,” “Science Vs. Religion,” “Belief,” “Apparition,” “Burma VJ,” “Facets World Cup,” “Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth” “The Lonely Polygamist,” “Rise and Shine” and “Saints.”)
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