Re: "Theistic action" and psychology

Adrian Teo (
Wed, 24 Jun 1998 10:40:57 -0700

Loren Haarsma wrote:
> Our relationship to God affects our mental states. If our mental states
> have physical brain-state correlates, then it would seem that Christian
> theology does require "theistic action" in human psychology and in human
> brains -- "normal appearing" theistic action at a minimum, and possibly
> (in some cases) miraculous action.
> In what ways could this "theistic action in human psychology" take
> place? Probably it is too gross a thing to say that God accomplishes
> this by causing action potentials to fire in neurons which would
> otherwise be silent (although he could, of course, do this).
> Neuroscientists are a long way from developing working models of the
> physical basis of memory and consciousness; so naturally, we will have
> to be extremely cautious in any speculations about possible physical
> bases of God's influence on our mental lives. But it may not be
> premature to discuss a variety of possibilities. We could, for example,
> discuss the variety of religious experiences which people have: from
> ecstatic experience, to the "still, small voice," to a simple sense of
> God's presence, to a godly wisdom growing throughout one's life.
> There's a remarkable variety of ways God can relate to us, which in turn
> suggests a remarkable variety of mechanisms by which "theistic action in
> human psychology" can happen.

You've raised questions that I have been pondering over for a while. A
related question is how tightly connected is the brain and the spirit.
At this point, I tend to see us as a total whole, with both physical and
spiritual elements tightly integrated. Changes in the physical system
affect the spritual components and vice-versa. However, I don't know
what to make of the event of death - when in some traditions, the spirit
is separated from the body. It leads me to wonder if consciousness can
be maintained at and beyond that point, since my premise is that both
spirit and the physical body (including the brain) are both necessary.
Or are we unconscious from the point of death until we are restored to
wholeness again?