Science, Health, Faith - Conflict or Harmony?

Conflict or Harmony?

For the first time in recent history, we are experiencing a reverse in life expectancy even while medical science is advancing at a furious pace.

According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the overall life expectancy in the U.S. was 78.6 years, down .1 from the previous year. Men can expect to live 76.1 years, down from 76.3. Women held steady at 81.1 years.

But the real question is what is the cause of this downturn? According to Dr. Caroline Leaf, noted research Psychologist, there are two main causes for this reversal in American life expectancy. The first is the American diet which consists of highly processed and nutritionally inadequate foods which simply do not supply the nutrients that are needed to maintain the body’s health. The second reason is the mental state of our nation. We have become a nation of relationships without intimacy, information without wisdom and activity without purpose which has left us more depressed, anxious and stressed. These mental/emotional disorders have been proven to be contributors to a number of serious health problems including, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer.

Dr. Leaf’s conclusions are supported by recent studies of the general state of unhappiness in our society. During the last decade, the state of happiness in the USA has been steadily declining.

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“I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless …”
— Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University

One more correlation is significant here – that is the state of interpersonal relationships.

The symptoms of hopelessness are drug abuse, suicide and a host of stress-induced diseases that our medical advances can not treat for what we are experiencing is a sickness of the soul. However, this has not stopped medicine from making an attempt.

The current response to these ailments has prompted an increase in psychoactive drugs, both legal and illegal, in an attempt to alleviate this suffering. This has led to a 446 billion dollar psychopharmaceutical industry which is clearly not addressing the core issues of the problem.

Finding novel treatments for mental illness has become so discouraging that several pharmaceutical companies have shut down or reduced neuroscience research.
— Edmund S. Higgins in his January 1, 2017 article in Scientific American

Mental health experts must make major changes in their strategies to address this crisis. Simply applying the same ineffective remedies to this current crisis will not curb the downturn in mental health or produce greater well being. There must be a commitment to using every healthy and empirically proven tool to bring wholeness to those who need help. That quest leads us to the crossroads of science and faith. Merely seeing the body as a predetermined biological mechanism that is genetically predisposed to mental and emotional illness is not the answer. Clearly, there is another dimension to humans that reside in our thoughts and beliefs and this area has profound consequences upon our mental, emotional and even physical wellness. Study after study has affirmed that when the spiritual aspect of humanity is attended to it increases the overall health of individuals. It may indeed seem strange to some that scientific studies have validated the spiritual dimension of humanity. But we are seeing with ever-increasing clarity that it is a false dichotomy that makes science and faith opponents.

The argument between faith and science

For centuries a competition has existed between science and religion for the hearts and minds of the people. There has been a long-standing feud over who will wear the mantle of the prophet to our society. Some atheistic scientists have contempt for faith write it off as mere fantasies of undisciplined minds, while at the same time many religious leaders find the devil in every new scientific discovery and are deeply suspicious of any who advocates a science-based approach to mental health.

Physicist Stephen Hawking famously pronounced himself an atheist in 2014 and went on to describe his rationale.

Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe, but now science offers a more convincing explanation.
— Stephen Hawking

Does it need to be this way? Or did Augustine speak correctly when he said: “all truth is God’s truth”. We can also turn this phrase around to say – All truth is a revelation of God. To this end, We need to lay to rest this false dichotomy and find incredible synergy when we both acknowledge God as the source of all truth and purpose to pursue this truth in every area of our experience.

An example of how faith and science coexist is a foundation for all scientific inquiry. Understanding the cohesiveness of the universe allows scientists to connect each piece of research to the other so as to form a unified whole. In order for this to happen, there must be a basic ontological belief that the universe has a logical order and consistent regularity. In other words, the laws of science are always in effect unless superseded by another law. For example, this principle is the basis for airplane travel – where the law of gravity is superseded by the law of aerodynamics. This metaphysical foundation for science creates the framework for all scientific discovery.

Likewise, the foundation for theology is that God has certain unaltering attributes that never change. It is this fundamental belief in the immutability of God that allows us to trust in his promises and rely upon his goodness.

I the Lord do not change
— Malachi 3:6

Another area where God’s immutable character is seen is in the area of his desire to communicate. God is love and the true definition of love is to seek the best for the object of that love. No greater good can come to a creature than to meet and experience its creator and that is exactly what God has offered us. These are the words of Jesus in the prayer to his Heavenly Father.

I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
— John 17:26

Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, believes that scientific inquiry and faith in the personal God of the Scriptures are mutually compatible and in fact can produce the same awe-inspiring connection.

The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome, God can be found in the cathedral or in the laboratory … science can be a means of worship.
— Francis Collins

As W. Mark Richardson of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences says, "Science may not serve as an eyewitness of God the creator, but it can serve as a character witness."

Marian Westley in her Newsweek article entitled “Science Finds God” said;

Once, science and religion were viewed as two fundamentally different, even antagonistic, ways of pursuing that quest, and science stood accused of smothering faith and killing God. Now, it may strengthen belief. And although it cannot prove God’s existence, science might whisper to believers where to seek the divine.
— Marian Westley

What is God’s truth and what is scientific truth?

R.C. Sproul said: “you will not find the circulatory system in the Bible”, but neither will you find the incarnation of Christ in Science.” Science can help us explain how God made the universe but science will never lead to the why. And it is the “why” that is causing such an existential crisis in our culture. We were created for a purpose and when we lose that purpose we no longer can put in context the experiences we have nor can we find healing for our trauma. Our health (emotional and physical) is directly tied to our spiritual beliefs. We are like meaning-making machines and when we no longer can make meaning out of our circumstances we break down and cease to function properly. In other words, when we lose our purpose we also lose our happiness. In our practice, we have seen many examples of those who have what the world would consider a great life (ie. money, possessions, family, health etc.) only to be in an existential crisis because they have found that none of those things can provide them with the meaning they desire.

Why is this? Simply because we were not meant to live outside the purposes and plan of our God. This means that our physical, social and emotional lives function best when they are in harmony with God’s truth. Likewise, when we learn how our body functions at its optimal level (scientific truth) we are able to integrate these truths into our daily lives. Therefore, the study of nutrition, the brain, and behavioral science are all able to help us develop healing strategies that can bring about total wellness.

Practical ways of deepening your spiritual vitality and improving your overall wellbeing

Toxic, fear-based thoughts are at the center of producing negative effects upon health. Therefore the most effective way to being growing spiritually is to replace these thoughts with those that will promote wellbeing. The brain has neuroplasticity which allows us to shape it with the very thoughts we think. Therefore, carefully monitoring our what we are ruminating on is essential to developing sound health. Is it no wonder that Scripture specifically address our thoughts as a means of growing spiritually?

… Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things
— Philippians 4:8

Our thoughts is where the battle is found. When we are able to grow in our ability to set our thoughts upon what will build healthy structures in our brain we will increase all the beneficial properties a healthy brain can produce. This is not easy, for some of us we have spent many years teaching our brains to focus on negative, unhealthy thoughts. Trauma, broken relationships and other events in our lives have produced default neuro networks that lead to anxiety, depression and fear. But the good news is that we can create new networks that produce peace, joy, hope and joy. Dr. Leaf has outlined this process in her book “Switch on Your Brain” which I encourage you to read for those who desire to see real and lasting change.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are committed to offering the very best empirically proven science-based methods that are informed by our commitment to our true purpose found in God’s revelation of truth through the Bible. We will not compromise either for in them both we find a successful strategy for providing healing and hope for our clients that touches every area of their lives and produces the discovery of true success.

If we can be a resource for you on your journey please don’t hesitate to reach out.

The Total Wellness Team

Is Gratitude the Cure for Anxiety?

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It is a fact that gratitude is a powerful way of reprograming our brains to enhance our emotions and improve our overall physical health. It is one of the keys to longevity and is creates powerful, life affirming relationships. When we are in a state of active gratitude we are less likely to be anxious, fearful, depressed or hopeless. We are also open to new perspectives and possibilities that are otherwise closed doors to us.

All this is a fact – proven over and over again through empirical studies. But still many of us find that gratitude eludes us. We struggle to remain positive in the face of so much that is negative in our world.

That is why I am here to say if you are waiting to be grateful until you “see” things to be grateful for then you will never experience the life altering effects of gratitude.

Gratitude is a discipline we must learn – it does not happen naturally. If you want the positive properties of gratitude you are going to need to work at it. And make no mistake, it is work because your brain is trained to focus upon whatever it perceives as danger – even when the danger is not even a remote possibility. That riot in the south, that shooting in New York, that famine in North Africa are all terrible events but they pose no danger to you – but a part of your brain doesn’t know that. So it directs you to those news stories because it is trying to protect you, and in the process, you are being filled with worry, fear, and anxiety.  In fact, anxiety becomes our cultural norm. And we wonder why our lives are so unsettled and we carry this a vague sense of apprehension wherever we go.

The first step to developing a life of gratitude is to turn off the flood of negativity that you expose yourself to everyday. This does not mean that you become uninformed or ignorant of the world around you, but that you recognize the effect this information is having on you. Put the news in perspective and don’t let it become your reality. Did you know that according to all governmental measurements incidences of violence is down over the past years? In fact, there has been less killing and mayhem in the world than in previous generations. But you would never know that  by watching the news. That is because mayhem sells advertising. Media producers know your brain is constantly scanning for anything that could be remotely dangerous and given the choice of watching a video of riots in the streets or puppies playing in the water, guess what the vast majority of viewers will watch?

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Be careful what you focus on for it is what you will become.

So limit your exposure to horrid, evil, vile and cruel information. You cannot change the situation but exposure to it will change you. If you must watch it then be aware of how it will affect you and determine to do something to engage in the situation in a positive way. In that way, you become active in bringing hope and healing to a situation rather than it bringing anxiety and fear into your life.   

Second Step: Learn to focus on what is good in your life and express thankfulness for it. This may be in the form of a gratitude list or just deciding periodically to find 10 things to be thankful for. Remember it is a discipline – it may be hard to turn your brain from the negative but you can do it if you want to. The benefits are amazing!

For the past couple of years, I have made it a habit of keeping a positive life-affirming journal. It has transformed my life and been part of the healing process from a lifelong tendency toward depression. I encourage you to try it. But even if journaling is not your thing find a way to make gratitude a daily discipline.

As always if there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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