Thursday, September 18, 2008

Believing in the Miraculous

I took a course this summer on the miraculous in the New Testament. We looked particularly at the miracles of Jesus and what the gospel authors wanted to convey through these miracles. The miracles included healings, exorcisms, feedings, and nature miracles. What became evident was that Jesus himself understood his miracles not as a validation of his ministry but as an essential part of what he was doing. In other words, the Kingdom of God was the miracles. Jesus, who ushered in this kingdom, did so by performing miracles of healing and exorcism.

Why is this significant? Well, for a number of reasons. If miracles are the Kingdom of God, then being followers of Jesus means that we are expected to bring miracles to the world as well. We are to bring healing and we are to expel Satan from the world. We cannot assume that we cannot perform miracles. We ought to have faith in our ability to perform miracles in the name of Jesus. We can't believe that salvation means that we convert people to a belief system alone. Salvation, entering into the Kingdom of God, means that we bring earthly good to our fellows as well as showing them the truth of Jesus' identity.

So where does that fit with psychology? I think that as a counselor, I would not perform any ritualistic exorcism on a client. But I would try to expel Satan, the fountain of evil, from their lives. This means leading them to make better choices in their lives and restoring them to the sanity of a life well-lived. I would also bring healing by allowing their minds to work more effectively. Can I not believe that it is miraculous to perform effective psychotherapy? Jesus wasn't the only one performing miracles in his time. And so we shouldn't be surprised in finding that non-Christian therapists are making miraculous changes in people's lives.

A talking cure? Come on, you've got to admit that it does seem a little bit like a miracle.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's Inside that Noggin of Yours?

This year I will be working as a neuropsychology clerk at a rehabilitation hospital as part of my clinical training as a psychologist. I will be administering various tests to patients, primarily with traumatic brain injury but also a wide variety of other issues. Traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain receives a significant jolt, for example from a car accident, that causes memory and attention deficits, as well as personality changes. These changes are typically temporary but they can often persist long enough and be severe enough to cause great concern.

The real issue that I wish to bring up is that I have been reflecting on my difficulty in understanding mental issues to be caused by problems with the brain. I simply find it difficult to attribute behavioral problems to physiological causes. Not to say that I do not believe it, I just find it difficult to incorporate that knowledge into how I conceptualize others.

The trouble is that people with brain damage or chemical imbalances can often look healthy. While many of the patients at the hospital are still recovering from their wounds, there are also plenty who appear to be healthy but nevertheless behave in bizarre manners. So when we see them acting strangely, we are tempted to disassociate from them and label them as odd.

What we must remember is that we have a common bond with all of humanity, and we may be just one car crash away from being severely changed. We must remember that we can have so much taken away from us, even our personality. And we must show great love for all others, including those who have been changed by physiological problems.