“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. . . I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
(Romans 7:23, 25)
According to modern materialistic atheism, man is nothing more than a concatenation of atoms. He is merely a material object, a bag of biochemical stuff governed and controlled entirely by the laws of physics and chemistry. On this view, there is no real, enduring “self” that persists over time. Personal identity is an illusion. The author of a science journal article I read seemed to balk at this a bit. Following our shared intuition that we really are personal agents whose identities persist over time, he suggested that we may be identified as brains. “We have bodies,” he declared confidently, “but we are our brains.” Despite his self assured confidence, the author’s claim doesn’t really address the issue of how there could be a persistent “self” when everything that makes up that “self” is constantly changing. Moment by moment and atom for atom, even physical brains are undergoing change over time. Furthermore, we all feel like we are distinct from our bodies. I, for example, can say that I have made up my mind to wear a motorcycle helmet in order to protect my brain. Though my mind and my brain are somehow working together, our shared intuition on the matter is that they are not the same. The Neuroscientist believes there is a “right” way for brains to function. The philosopher believes there is a “right” way for minds to function. Neither could be the case, however, if materialistic atheism were true. Remember that on that view, physical laws determine literally everything that happens. It makes no sense to talk about the “right” way when there is no possibility of there being any other way! The Bible slashes through all of this nonsense, providing us with the truth about who and what we are and how we ought to function. The unchanging God created us and gave us identities that we retain despite physical change over time (1 Corinthians 4:7). Our minds are not our brains. Our brains are physical objects whereas our minds are spiritual, non-material entities. As non-believers, every part of our being was tainted with sin. Even in our minds we were enemies of God (Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 1:21). By God’s grace, when we trusted in Christ for salvation we were granted new, born-again minds (1 Corinthians 2:16). As today’s verse passage reminds us, the born-again believer in Jesus is now locked in a battle between his regenerated mind and the desires of the flesh. The brain, it seems, still has its old neural firing patterns associated with wrong kinds of thought. Nevertheless, we can make real progress in forcing our brains to function properly (Romans 12:2; 1 Timothy 4:7) even as we look ahead to our future guaranteed perfection (Romans 8:16-23; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3).
God bless and encourage us all today, even as we strive to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5)!