Flip Wilson's much repeated excuse, "The devil made me do it" is not far from accurate. Not that the devil can make you do anythng, but the force that influences you to obey God or be "bad" may run deeper than we evangelicals realize. A recent book, "INCONITO: THE SECRET LIVES OF THE BRAIN" by David Eagleman, reveals how something lying deep within our being motivates our behavior. Eagleman is head of Baylor's Laboratory for Perception and Action and has studied how the brain functions. He writes that we most often are controlled by the brain as it plots the course for our life without our awareness or input.
Eagleman says that the part of the brain we control is the long term planner for our lives, but the day to day operations are controlled by parts of the brain over which we have little access or control. In Christian terminology that would sound like, "After we have made a committment to be a faithful follower of Christ we often slip up daily and do things that seem to be incongruent with that desire." Or as Paul said it,
Romans 7:19-20 (NKJV)
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Eagleman says we are not blank slates when we are born. For example it seems babies expect to see faces and respond positively to smiles and pleasant voices. They are not taught this, or make up their mind to behave this way, it is just that way. The author explains this intuitive behavior by declaring we are products of our evolutionary pasts. He says we are not so much responsible for who we are as we are a result of who our ancestors were and their behavior patterns have been hard wired into the circuitry of our brain.
Before you discount what he writes as a result of being a misguded derelict who just needs to get saved, let me point out some things we may learn from what he says. I don't think he knows how close his findings are to historic Christian teachings. It is just that he is using the vocabulary of a scientist and not a preacher. We do suffer from the effects of a past that is not of our own making. It is not evolution, but original sin. We inherit a bias toward doing wrong and not right because it has been passsed down to us by our ancestors, Adam and Eve. Paul wrote two thousand years ago,
Romans 5:12 (NKJV)
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--
We are also influenced by our immediate heritage. We know that children who are raised in Christian homes are much more likely to grow up with strong faith and to live lives that are a benefit to society. That is not evolution, but the result of being obedient to God and being blessed. According to Eagleman, the battle between the conscious mind and our behavior is most often won by behavior we have trouble bringing under control. I say AMEN to that. Only I would say it is a battle between my flesh and my spirit; between that within me that has been redeemed and that which is waiting for the rapture to be reborn immortal and incorruptible.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (NKJV)
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Eagleman writes, "We are not the ones driving the boat of our behavior, at least not nearly as much as we believe. Who we are runs well below the surface of our conscious access, and the details reach back in time before our birth." That is true, but it is no excuse for sin. It is a daily dying to self that God calls us to so that we might rise above what come naturally and do what may only occur "supernaturally!"
1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NKJV)
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.