Author: Ron Graham
Is our Mind our Brain?
—The answer is no
In this study, we look at a second false idea about the spirit or soul of man. This is the belief that the human mind and soul is the fleshly brain.
It is a common idea (in today’s western world) that the mind consists of nothing more than electro-chemical processes in a physical organ of the body.
In other words, an idea or memory originates from nerve signals transmitted to the brain or from within the brain itself. This stimulates activity and change in the brain.
In this view, mind is only physical; thought is only a bodily process; sentience is a state that only the physical sciences have the potential to explain.
When exhorting someone to think, we say, “Use your brains!” or “Use your head!” We acknowledge the brain as an apparatus for thinking; but who or what is the user and thinker?
Throughout the ages, philosophers have discussed the different natures of mind and body (“mind-body dualism”) and the question of their interaction and union (“the mind-body problem”).
The Bible does not address the mind-body problem —how the spiritual and eternal mind unites and interacts with the physical and temporal body.
However, the Bible clearly takes the dualistic position. It distinguishes the mind from the flesh, and considers the human being to have two distinct natures, spiritual and physical.
According to the Bible, the mind is not an organ of the body, or a result of bodily functions; the mind interacts with the body but is distinct from the body and superior to the body.
1 The Apostle Paul’s Mind-Body View
Paul regards the fleshly body as subordinate to the spiritual mind, and he distinguishes the spiritual mind from the fleshly members of the body, as the following instances show:
Paul says, "I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law which is in my members" (Romans 7:23).
Paul goes on to show that, through Christ, the mind can conquer the flesh. This sort of talk would hardly make any sense if Paul believed his mind to be a fleshly member of his body.
Paul says that he was once "caught up into the third heaven... whether in the body or out of the body I do not know... I heard inexpressible words..." (2Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul allows here the possibility of an “out of body experience” requiring “mind-body dualism”.
2 Jesus Christ’s Dualistic View
Jesus once asked the rhetorical question, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37).
Jesus is evidently talking about a part of a human that is spiritual and eternal, and should not be lost. By contrast, the brain is lost at death, and this loss cannot be helped.
Jesus was asked to select the greatest commandment. He chose, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:36-37).
It is hardly likely that Jesus quoted the words “heart”, “soul”, and “mind”, believing that the passage meant, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your brains."
Jesus also said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Worship is primarily an act of the mind, but it's hard to see how a mind made of flesh and blood could worship in spirit.
3 Luke’s Understanding of the Mind
Luke, in his writings indicates a belief in a spiritual part of human makeup as opposed to a solely physical makeup. Luke, being a physician, would have to consider the nature and relationship of body and mind.
"Then Jesus opened their mind so they could understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:45). "And the Lord opened Lydia's heart to respond to what Paul said" (Acts 16:14)
Luke’s language hardly indicates that Luke thought the Lord was doing something to people’s physical brains.
One comment in closing: The Bible often speaks of the “thoughts of the heart”, but never (as far as I know) the “thoughts of the head.”
Note:— Visions of My Head The nearest I could come to ‘thoughts of the head’ was Daniel’s statement, “I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.” (Daniel 4:5). We know that the brain can produce visions and hallucinations.
In this lesson I have made no distinction between “heart”, “soul”, “mind”, “spirit”, and “inner being”.
In the Bible, the spiritual nature of man is referred to by various terms which are pretty much interchangeable as you can see by comparing the following scriptures
- "...the inner man..." (2Corinthians 4:16)
- "...the hidden person of the heart..." (IPe 3:4)
- "...heart... soul... mind..." (Matthew 22:37)
- "...soul... spirit... heart..." (Hebrews 4:12)