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Working on The Art of Dying, I was over and over again struck by the fact that Christians used to take their physical bodies really, really seriously. Part of what has made modern dying more difficult than it was in previous generations is that we do not give our due to our physical selves. Instead, we say things like, “This body is just a shell.” And we tell people their loved ones haven’t gone anywhere; they’re still with us in spirit. And we do things like hold funeral services without the object of our memory, the body of our deceased loved one.

It used to be different. People washed the bodies of their dead loved ones. They journeyed with them from the home to the church to the grave. They buried bodies in certain ways and refused things like embalming because they believed a person’s body was really important. After death it would await the resurrection to be reformed and reconstituted as that person.

Christians did this because they knew that the body was created in the image of God. The body itself–not the soul or the idea of the person–was sacred. These bodies, these temples of the living God, are due honor and reverence.

I came away from writing The Art of Dying with the question: What would it mean today if we better understood our bodies to be created in the image of God, as sacred?

I started reading about spirituality and the body, and I discovered God has endowed our bodies–not just our minds or souls–with spiritual significance. Especially interesting to me was the neuroscience of spiritual experiences. I learned that our brains seem to be equipped to experience God. Through a specific brain system, we commune with God. When we have powerful moments of prayer or even mystical experiences, the sense of closeness with God or even unity with him, is the function of a brain system. That system seems designed to experience God. Neuroscientists don’t say it this way, but to me, God has designed us with the equipment needed to commune with him.

But there is more than simply a brain system for prayer. When we do practice deep prayer (mediation and contemplation in the Christian tradition) or have a profound spiritual experience, we are also stimulating areas of the brain involved with practicing empathy and compassion for others. We are more socially attuned, and we are more caring for the needs of others when we practice regular prayer, especially when that prayer leads us to deep experiences of the divine.

My research following The Art of Dying led me to a profound conclusion. We have been designed to experience God and to respond to that by loving other people. In other words, we were created to fulfill the two great commandments, to love God with our whole hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That is the subject of my new book, What Your Body Knows About God. How we have been physically designed to love God and serve others.

Please share your thoughts. What do you think about the body and spirituality?

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15 thoughts on “New Book: What Your Body Knows About God

  1. I’m anxious to read this book. We are made in the image of God, so the body is communicating. To read a book just exploring this will be very interesting and enjoyable.

  2. Looking forward to reading this book. I have been struck recently regarding the physical and the biochemical side of our physical bodies and their relationship to who we are and the eternal/ immortal component of soul or spirit.

    I was looking at an MRI brain scan of a patient with an advanced brain tumor who could no longer communicate and yet is still very much alive in the now and in the life to come. I have heard and seen very interesting information about how parts of the brain respond with neurotransmitters to certain situations and leaves me with questions surrounding the biochemistry of hope and faith.

    This leaves me with more questions than answers, it shows me that the more we look often the less we understand. Mystery is a component of who God is and science helps us peel back the layers of who we are and how we were created. What does it truly mean to be made in the image of God? In it’s simplest sense maybe it means that we are like him and not created to live without him.

  3. Rob,

    Thanks for exploring this issue. It occurs to me that Western Christianity (as a result of Augustine’s “original sin” doctrine) influences many to believe that we can ultimately do no good in this body and that we’ll have to wait until the next life to obey God in loving Him and others.

    However, this ignores Jesus’ teaching and it makes death our savior instead of Jesus. He was similarly confronted with this kind of “just wait until the next life” mentality. In John 11, Martha said of Lazarus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” Jesus responded by stating, “I am the resurrection and the life.” As new creations (1Cor 5:17), we can and must do good in this body, in this life (Titus 2:11-12) because Jesus has not only saved us from the guilt and punishment of sin, but also its power (1John 1:9).

    May the Lord Jesus bless you as you follow Him.

  4. Pingback: Gracenote Project – What the body knows about God

  5. Sounds like a great book. What you said seems to line up with the studies of Dr. Caroline Leaf, who is a brain scientist. drleaf.com

    I’m going out to see if I can find your book on Amazon.com.

    Thanks,
    Debra

  6. Well it’s not on Amazon yet…is it out yet?

    I agree completely about the body and spirit. Christianity is the only religion (if you want to call it a religion) that believes our bodies will be resurrected with us. Since the discovery of DNA, I am not sure if we need the entire body intact and un-embalmed to be resurrected. We may just need a single hair left behind that has the pattern of the whole. Maybe,..but just thoughts.

    • I’m writing it now so it’s not available yet.
      I’ll have to look up dr Leaf.
      I do think that Jesus is our model for the resurrection. How can we say whether God used his DNA or not? But he did make it happen!

      • Makes sense…except that he was only in there three days. 🙂

        Yeah, I hope you check out Dr. Leaf. Her books and videos are amazing.

        God bless, Debra

  7. This is very interesting information. Here is something to add that may fit in with our relationship to God and how the made us. The article in part is from Spread the Fire, Issue 4, 1999. “The brain God gave you is ideally equipped to form habits of thinking which become hardwired into the subconscious region of your brain forming “neural pathways”.

    The more negative and life-controlling a neural pathway is the more likely that it is what scripture calls a “stronghold.” Strongholds can actually be seen in the brain through modern technology known as the PET scan, (positron emission technology). Resembling well-traveled trails, they are not mere thoughts to be overcome. They are not normally dismissed instantly by the born-again, Spirit-filled experience or deliverance. Rather they are actually deeply imbedded impressions formed by the chemicals released when the traumatic experiences occurred.”

    With God’s help, these pathways can change as we draw closer to Him. It takes our will linked up with His will in a journey of love and commitment . Hope this helps someone.

  8. Cannot the God who created Adam from the dust of the ground, and an army from a valley of dry bones resurrect us no matter what? Is anything too hard for Him?

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