Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Brain is Like...


Imagine with me…. First, there is the telephone itself, not to mention the network of telephone poles and wires spreading across the world. There are the electrical signals that transmit calls to the individual phones in each home that ring when a call comes through. Then there are the operators, who monitor and direct the calls that come and go. Now think about the human brain, and how it’s connected to the rest of the body, just like the all the telecommunications are centered at the operator’s office. Let’s look at this analogy more closely, applying the different parts of the brain to the different areas of telecommunications.

The Brainstem: This is the cord that connects and sends signals from the rest of the body to the brain and back again. We can apply this part of the brain to the telephone wires strung on telephone poles (a.k.a. the spinal cord) that connect the telephones to the main operator’s office.

The Medulla: The control center for heartbeat and breathing. It is similar to the electrical signals traveling down the telephone wires (a.k.a. the brainstem) that control in which home the telephone rings (like the rhythmic heartbeat and breathing).

The Thalamus: This is the area on top of the brainstem that directs sensory messages to the cortex and transmits the replies to the cerebellum and medulla. It is very similar to a telephone operator’s switchboard or call forwarding.

The Reticular Formation: This is a nerve network running through the brainstem and thalamus that plays an important role in awakening arousal. It could be compared to the actual startling ring of the telephone that alerts people to answer the phone.

The Cerebellum: This “little brain” resides at the rear of the brainstem. It processes sensory input and coordinates movement output and balance of the body. It is very much like the actual telephone operator, who handles the calls, does the brain work, and coordinates where each call should be forwarded.

Amygdala: These two seemingly insignificant neural clusters have been found to be very importantly linked to our emotions. They can be compared to two important factors that determine the emotional reaction of the person who answers a telephone call. Those two factors are whether the call brings good news or bad news.

Hypothalamus: This part of the brain monitors the state that the body is in and keeps regulates bodily maintenances, such as hunger and thirst and hormonal drives. It could be compared to our drives to use telecommunications—our need to hear from friends, to generate business, to get emergency assistance, and so on.

Hippocampus: An area of the brain associated with memory. It is our brain’s equivalent of a “save” button. It can be compared to our modern telephones’ ability to save recently used phone numbers, use speed dial, and save messages for us to listen to later.

All in all, one can make several interesting associations between the brain and telecommunications. But we must remember that this analogy does not even come close to illustrating the beautiful, complex, and yet orderly designed structure that God created.

Not only that, our brains can think! I’d like to see a telephone try that….


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Psychology Class Reflection Essay

Here is my Psychology class's question-of-the-week: Many of us wonder whether or not our dreams have meaning. Read Genesis 40:8, Daniel 2:28, Ecclesiastes 5:7, and Jeremiah 23:25-32. What is the biblical position when it comes to the interpretation of dreams? (250 words)

In the following 833 words, I gave my answer:

While reading through the verses above, one seems to encounter two different Biblical viewpoints regarding dreams and the interpretations thereof. Daniel 2:28 informs us that King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was indeed from God, who was revealing to the king what would erelong come to pass. Furthermore, Genesis 40:8 shows that the interpretations of dreams also belong to God. However, Ecclesiastes 5:7 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 seems to tell us that there is vanity and lies in dreams. How shall we reconcile this seeming contradiction?

Before I answer that question, I would like to point out that the above verses make up only a tiny droplet of water in the vast ocean of Biblical references, Old and New Testament, to dreams and those to whom they are sent. I would like to mention the names of Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, Joseph (father of Jesus), and Peter as a few of the many who received divine dreams or visions. Other references to dreams are as follows:

"For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings" (Job 33:14-16).

"Then He said, 'Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream'" (Numbers 12:6). How much more clearly could this be stated? Not only that, but it is also quoted directly from the Lord Himself!

Last but not least,

"And it shall come to pass in the last days that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.... Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). It appears that this gift of dreaming God-given dreams was not just an ancient occurrence, but will also be present in the last days of this earth's history.

Now let's turn back to the verses that seem to say that dreams are false and full of vanity. The best explanation of them comes from Matthew 7:22, 23, which says, "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" Merely saying that we can cast our demons in the Lord's name, prophesy in His name, or dream dreams sent from Him does not mean anything! If it did, then anyone could claim they had a vision or dream from the Lord.

So what is the criterion for knowing whether a dream has actually come from God? I quote from the book of Deuteronomy, where God is giving His people instructions as to how to adhere to His law: "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst" (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

So here is the answer: If someone claims to have had a dream from the Lord, don't just brush them off as a mental case, because we know from God's Word that He does speak to His people through dreams. However, you must carefully examine what the interpretation of that dream is. If it is telling you to go against the words and commandments of God, then you can assuredly know it is not of God--even if that dream makes predictions that come true (Ibid. vrs. 2). Whenever someone tries to entice you to turn away from the Lord, you know that God is not speaking through them or their dreams.

"The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully" (Jeremiah 23:28).

Psychology Class Discussion Forum

My first week's Psychology Discussion Forum's question was as follows:

Some Christians believe that as long as you have the Bible, you don’t need psychology. Based on your reading of the first chapter and viewing the video, explain three ways in which you believe psychology could be helpful in dealing with some of the challenges in one’s life.

My answer? Here it is:

Knowing how the mind works is very important. When we understand our brain work and thought processes, we will be better equipped in the three following ways:

1. Our ability to see Satan's subtle working on our minds, and to resist his disguised temptations. Sin starts in the mind. For example, Christ told us in Matthew 6 that by even lusting after a woman in your heart it's as if you have already comitted adultery with her. Also, Satan often plants seeds of doubt and depression in the mind. So, if by the study of Psychology we can gain a better knowledge of how our thoughts affect our behaviors, we will be better equipt to guard against Satan's tempting suggestions and will know how to see symptoms of depression or doubt before they have fully affected us. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2) "Your Word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against You." (Psalms 119:11)

2. Our ability to better understand and help those of other faiths or opinions, and to lead them to the truth of the Bible. Many times people are held in bondage to error because of their culture, their upbringing, and sometimes just their own preconceived ideas. If Psychology can give us a better understanding of how these things affect people's thinking, then we will know better how to reach them with the truth of God's Word. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.... For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

3. Our ability to gain a deeper knowledge of God and His Word. Psychology can help us to think critically, to examine for ourselves whether things our true. We can apply this to our Bible Study. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, and verse with verse, until we know for ourselves that God's Word is true and reliable. Also, we were made in the image of God. He created us with minds, and if we learn about our minds, it should give us a deeper knowledge of the mind of Christ. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

However, I also feel that we should be wary of worldly Psychology. For, as Paul states in Colossians 2:8, "Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ."

1 Samuel 16:7, Matthew 9:4, and Luke 11:17 all show that the Lord can read the hearts and minds of men. Wouldn't it stand to reason that the God who made us and fashioned our minds and can see our very thoughts would tell us all that we need to know about them in His Word? Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and powerful... and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Human theories and theologies that are not grounded in God's Word will soon pass away and fade from the minds of men, as newer and more exciting "discoveries" override them year after year. But God's Word and the principles found in it, including those pertaining to the workings of the mind, are principles that we can forever trust in, as they will stand tried and true through countless ages. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)

Now it's your turn. What do you think?