A Testimony of Grace and the Plasticity of the Brain

I wanted to share an article from Touchstone magazine by Denyse O’Leary, a Toronto-based journalist and author whose writing and perspective I greatly respect.

The link to the article is here:

“There Is a Country for Old Men” by Denyse O’Leary


To offer a little context:

During my days of writing and reading radio programs, I wrote a program on a book O’Leary co-authored called The Spiritual Brain.  Christian bioethicists would appreciate the book’s approach. The pervading worldview in neuroscience is materialism. Materialism says that whatever we perceive to be our personality, a spiritual experience, conviction, love, or any type of immaterial sense is just the result of neurons firing in the brain. O’Leary’s book looks at examples from neuroscience that cannot be explained from a materialist perspective, but can be explained if one assumes that people are both material and immaterial (i.e. body and soul; physical and spiritual).

The Spiritual Brain is the type of writing that I am used to reading from O’Leary. She tends to cover hot-button science and culture issues. She will often write about the implications of materialism or Darwinism. Her Touchstone article, “There Is a Country for Old Men,” provides a glimpse of what it means to live those views out. This article is about a ninety-year-old man’s journey back to God after trying to rebuild his brain after a stroke, staving off Alzheimer’s for as long as possible, and facing some long-held guilt from his World War II days.

We never know how God is working in someone’s life, even as they are in the twilight of their lives or in a coma or navigating through the fog of Alzheimer’s. We know so little about how the brain actually works, and to say that someone is as good as dead when he or she is in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s or in a coma is short-sighted. There are still many mysteries about the mind/brain connection and just how plastic the brain is. Mr. O’Leary’s testimony reminds us that no matter what our culture may say about someone’s “usefulness,” or “quality of life” God sees people differently. Neither Mr. O’Leary’s brain nor his spiritual state was nearly as “set” as some may think.

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