The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

My Brain Made Me Do It

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Can machines, either organic or inorganic, be “guilty” of performing any wrongs or praised for doing what is “right”?[1] If there is no mind independent of the brain, then man is at the mercy of an uncontrollable brain that emits charges of energy indiscriminately. How can man be held responsible for his actions under these circumstances? Such a question leads to an ethical impasse.

The impasse is an impasse. Are we thus not the doers of our deeds? Yet we feel responsible for them, we are punished or praised for them, as the case may be. It is a horrible antinomy. I maintain that it cannot be solved on the level of present-day science which is still entirely engulfed in the “exclusion principle” (i.e., the exclusion of all forces save physical ones) . . . . The scientific attitude would have to be rebuilt; science must be made anew.[2]

Maybe man the organic machine should be evaluated in utilitarian terms like all other machines. Outdated computers are replaced with the latest models as are automobiles. If we begin with the presuppositional foundation of the materialist, there is no good reason not to evaluate man in this way. The ethical implications are nothing short of ominous.

The Christian states emphatically, boldly, and unreservedly that there are no real answers to life’s most fundamental questions if a person’s thinking does not begin with the God of the Bible. We could not think nor express true meaning if we abandoned biblical presuppositions.

But it’s not enough to have presuppositions. We must have the correct presuppositions. If we are wrong about our presuppositions—the grid through which we evaluate life — then all our facts will be misaligned. What we believe to be real could in fact be an illusion, a distortion, or a lie. So then, presuppositions must be more than mere opinion.

Let’s reconsider the mind-brain dilemma using biblical presuppositions. Man is inescapably related to God in a way that separates him from the rest of the created order. Man is more valuable than the “birds of the air” (Matt. 6:26) and the “lilies of the field” (6:28–30). Man is a special creation, not because he has a mind, but rather, man has a mind because he is a special creation. Man has been made “a little lower than God” (Ps. 8:5). Such a ranking puts man in a position of rulership over the rest of the created order, including, but not limited to, “all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas” (Prov. 8:7–8).

In biblical terms, animals do not have a mind; thus, they are motivated to act by rewards and punishments instead of by reason: “A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey” (Prov. 26:3a). God never says to the animals, “Come, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). Image bearers are instructed not to “be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check” (Ps. 32:9).

As an image bearer of God, man has a mind because God has a mind (Rom. 11:34). While the mind has been affected by sin—being “crooked” (Prov. 17:20) and “depraved” (Rom. 1:28)—through the redemptive work of Christ the mind is always in the process of renewal (Rom. 12:2). The mind is distinct from the “flesh,” therefore, the mind is not the brain (Eph. 2:3; Phil. 3:4). The mind acts on the brain as an independent force. The brain is a conduit for the mind. If the brain is damaged, the mind cannot get through. This is similar to a broken water pipe. There is nothing wrong with the reservoir where the water is held. The problem is with the system that transports and delivers the water to homes.

Without presuppositions, thinking is impossible. Rejecting the presupposition that the God of the Bible exists and that the Bible ought to serve as the starting point in all in all thinking, does not mean that presuppositions are rejected. The rejection of one ultimate presupposition only means that some other ultimate presupposition has been chosen to replace it. For example, the Bible, without apology, describes man’s origin and his place in the created order. This is the Christian’s presuppositional starting point. Those who reject this ultimate starting point are not neutral in their rejection. They simply postulate a different explanation for man’s origin and meaning in the cosmos. This is equally presuppositional. Consider this example. “Modern thinkers have held that, after the innumerable fruitless attempts of former times, they have definitely succeeded in accounting for organic life as a mere product of chance. The accidental changes that take place in the life of every organism are sufficient to explain the gradual transformation that leads us from the simplest forms of life in a protozoon to the highest and most complicated forms.”[3] Moreover, without the starting point of the existence of the God of the Bible, the explanation for the origin and maintenance of the universe degenerates into chaos, chance, unpredictability, impersonalism, and meaninglessness. Some philosophers understand this and have been content to live with its implications.

Endnotes:

[1] Richard M. Restak, The Mind (New York: Bantam, 1988), 309.
[2] Erwin Schrödinger, What Is Life? and Mind and Matter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 131–32.
[3] Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1944), p. 19.

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