Monday, July 14, 2008

Eternity and the Brain

Skeptics frequently criticize Christianity (and other religions) for its views of eternity. Even believers, without a biblical understanding of what happens when we die and when this world passes away (eschatology), are a bit reluctant to grasp the concept wholeheartedly, thinking that eternity with God is sitting on cloud, strumming a harp. Forever.

Critics point to the observable world and rightly conclude that nothing in the created realm is eternal. Things here may last a very, very long time -- like diamonds, uranium, Styrofoam, plastic bottles. But even fruitcake is not forever. So, they ask, how can we believe anything is eternal?

But God gives us glimpses of eternal realities in the fading one in which we find ourselves.

Scientists know that during times of extreme stress, the human brain releases chemicals and hormones that enable it to process information much more quickly. Mere seconds of "real time" feel like much more, enabling the brain to better direct the body to react to the crisis. We've all had some experience like that. Mine was when I jumped a ten-speed bike off a five-foot ramp. As soon as the wheels left the ground, everything went "super slo-mo," and although I had no time to change the outcome, I did have time to count each click of the turning wheels, look at the saucer-shaped eyes of each of my bystanding "friends," mentally draft my Last Will & Testament, and imagine taking each bite of an entire pepperoni pizza before the bike and I inverted and I landed head first.

Scientists also maintain that we really use only a small percentage of our brain's capacity. One might imagine, then, a supercharged brain processing information so fast that one minute "feels like" five, five minutes feels like sixty, and so forth until time is virtually "standing still." In fact, that is how we frequently describes those instances of stress: "as if time stood still."

And, if time "stands still," it is no longer time, but eternity.

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