Give the Gift of Spiritual Formation and Neuroscience for Christmas

I admit it.  I like to go Christmas shopping.  I really enjoy finding a special gift for someone else.  Some years, my Christmas shopping goes exceedingly well.  But, like many others in academia, end-of-the-semester festivities such as writing exams, grading essays, marking papers, entering grades, etc. too often derail my plans for shopping and other holiday merriment.  Most years, I feel like I am caught between Arnold and Sinbad in Jingle All the Way.  If you feel the same way, I would like to help you out.

So, as a service to you (and an effort to get my blog post finished on time when I have a pile of papers to grade), I offer a solid gift recommendation for the ministers and ministry leaders on your gift list.

Earlier this year, I had a chance to preview Rob Moll’s recently released What Your Body Knows About God (IVP, 2014).  IVP generously printed a portion of my endorsement as a blurb in the book, but I have included a (slightly) longer version here, in order to help  you round out your Christmas shopping.

We have all seen stories and read about recent research that links developments in brain science to religious practice.  Rob Moll goes beyond individual studies, merging scientific analysis, biblical teaching, a host of interviews, and anecdotal accounts to pen What Your Body Knows About God.  In it, Moll draws on the work of neurologists, anthropologists, philosophers, evolutionary and cognitive psychologists, sociologists, and molecular biologists to affirm the orthodox Christian understanding that we are designed to connect with God and others.  In the same vein, he effectively demonstrates the power of classic Christian practices to affect change in practitioners, employing scientific discoveries in the field of neuroplasticity, for example, to explain how spiritual disciplines lead to transformation.  Moll’s knack for presenting thought-provoking material in easy-going conversational style makes What Your Body Knows About God a pleasure to read.  Further, although replete with scientific information, discussions such as the “neurological costs” of worship as performance and the transformative benefits of multisensory liturgy leave little doubt that Moll’s concern is practical, not theoretical.  As such, it is a must read for pastors, ministers, small group leaders and anyone else concerned with the transformation of people.

Thus, if  you are looking for something to buy for someone who serves in ministry, buy him/her a copy of What Your Body Knows About God.  It is one of a rare handful of books that is simultaneously ministry-shaping and enjoyable.

Don’t tell him, but my pastor is going to get a copy from me. If I can find one.  As of today, Amazon had run out of stock. So you better hurry!

Merry Christmas!

~Miles

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  • Danny

    The recent discoveries in neuroscience explain how our brains naturally concoct religion and gives possible understanding in how these “made-up” ideas have shaped the evolution of our sociology. The jump to claim this means our minds are setup to connect with a God is silly pseudo-science malarkey. What the research shows is that our brains naturally create religious assertions. In other words, it is repeating the old sentiment that religion and God are man made mythologies, and nothing more.

  • s k

    Danny, at issue, I think, is the offensive Christian religious filter on an otherwise spiritual subject; hence your expected skeptical digression into ‘pseudo-science malarkey’. The neuro subject is indeed misunderstood when seen through the rosy glasses of theology or even the pedantic view of cognitive neuroscientists, whom you say ‘explain how our brains work’. Well, there are contending views here, in the land of the brain/mind.
    I must concur there is a Yogic, spiritual relationship in consideration of our distributed neural network…meaning neuron cells in the stomach, heart, and the different brains in the cranium, neurotransmitter inhibitions in the blood, etc.
    There are also the intrinsic issues of consciousness and awareness, which is considered a ‘hard problem’ by folks in your neck of the neuro-woods. How these all work together, in the minds of a select few, constitutes integrated neural energy…which A. Bastion and J. Campbell called ‘elemental’ energy…a very, very real potent force in each of us…well, excepting the skeptics and the analytic boo-hoo’ers, hmmmm?, who have a different type of mental left-brained energy, which changes their personality view as well. These two respected gentleman also discuss the ad nauseum; the Folk-culture filter sets in each and every culture…as filters that psychologically cause every known diversity in man’s cultures, including religiosity, which you abhor. That being said, the gist here…is that the integrated neural energy is indeed very real, its just that no one knows much about it anymore. There’s too much scientism quackery, which suffocates opposing views (a left brain ‘denial’ attribute).
    As Noble prize laureate Dr. R. Sperry once noted; the human race is 90% left brain dominant..and that means we are all awash with such mental leanings in every large and small corporation, goverment and instituiton that you can name. It has a somewhat scary ubiquity, with so many analytic machine-heads around, especially since they do not realize, respect, or understand the notion. Read Iain McGilchrists ‘The Master and his Emmisary; the Divided Brain and the making of the Western World’…and you will get more respect for brain hemisperic science, which is currently shunned by the mainstream neuro-folk.
    How about you? Where is your mind? Check out Jill bolte Taylor (Ted.com) for another poignant view of a Harvard Neuroscientist…who experienced Nirvana. You might just learn something…I did. Thanks for listening.