We had the great pleasure last night of attending the birthday party for one of our neighbours. The whole evening was a lot of fun, but particularly because of my dinner conversation partner, a man named Peter Burow. Peter is director of a business called “NeuroPower” and the author of a book with the same name. Peter’s work (and obvious passion) in the integration of modern discoveries about  psychology and the associated  neuro-physiology into a model which allows leaders to understand themselves, their style, how they interact with others and how to progress in that field. His model operates under a number of basic maxims,

Maxim #1 – Know Your Six Intelligence Centres and When and How to Use Them. Maxim #1 explores the development of the six neurobiological functional systems or building blocks of personality.

Maxim #2 – Know How to Manage Your Emotional Reactivity. Maxim #2 explores the psychopathology of the nine Neuro-Limbic types. These Types provide us with our emotional fuel and are critical to our sense of motivation and engagement. Read more about Emotional Reactivity in the Core Beliefs book >>.

Maxim #3 – Know Your Genius (Strength) and When and How to Use It. Maxim #3 explores each of the Neuro-Rational Types in detail, including their area of mastery, wealth habits, individual processes of integration and disintegration and journey through the levels of consciousness

Maxim #4 – Know How to Hardwire Character into Your Leadership Style. Maxim #4 takes an in-depth look at the next stage of integration which results in the manifestation of the four NeuroPower Leaders. It describes how NeuroPower Leaders use their neocortex to convert internal tension, both theirs and others, into nobility.

I find this sort of stuff fascinating. I have done ever since beginning to explore basic psychology at theological college as part of our pastoral training and so I’m naturally looking forward to reading Peter’s book.

Having been in ministry for quite a few years I’ve really benefited from using the cognitive behaviour models underlying our Prepare-Enrich marriage preparation tool and other associate models. In addition at St Augustine’s we have the joy of having Jenny Brown as one of our members. Jenny is a highly-regarded clinical therapist specialising in a particular model called Bowen Family Systems Theory. Jenny is the author of a tremendous book “Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life’s relationships” (kindle edition linked) which, again, seeks to integrate all this wealth of knowledge into a helpful system for individuals wanting to, in Jenny’s words, “grow themselves up”.

On top of this is my own experience of counselling and learning the direct relationship between my neural physiology and my mental health and activity. So, as just one classic example, the well-tested principle of taking a couple of deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed isn’t just to “calm yourself down” but allows your hypothalamus (the bit that, amongst other things, over-rides your gut emotional responses when properly engaged) to re-oxygenate and, indeed,  just calm everything down. It’s basic physiology. I also learned about neuroplasticity and how you can “train” your brain to begin to respond in different ways. Your brain literally rewires itself if you consciously (or unconsciously) begin responding in the same way to repeated stimuli.

All of this is a longer way of saying that besides all the psycho-babble out there there are also some very solid behavioural theories that mesh up well with what know of the brains physiology and those of us who operate in a Christian thought-world ought to have some awareness of them.

Peter and Jenny are both, in their own ways, interested in exploring how the knowledge built up in these professions might inform and be informed by a Christian world-view – something which others may be nervous about but which I would suggest bears a far more generous response. The more we discover about the brain, just as in any other area of life, the more we ought to expect our discoveries to match up to the Bible’s own assessment of our lives and thinking. While the Scriptures are obviously not a psychology textbook, they do speak often of our emotions regard humans as complex creatures, in every sense of the word. The thought world of the Bible knows of internal conflict, a distinction between our mind and our emotions, and so on. The Christian minister (whether ordained or lay – all of us who seek to minister to others are ministers) cannot help but become involved in these things because that’s what it means when we deal with other people – we will be dealing with their thoughts and emotions.

So I’m a firm advocate for any attempt to integrate these two fields. What are your own thoughts on the subject?

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5 comments on “The Interplay between a Christian World-View and Modern Psychology and Neurology

  1. Very interesting post David. You’ve touched on an area that fascinates me frankly. I completely agree that the Christian world view should be informed by developments in the psychological and neuro-physiology world.

    The role of the Amygdala is of special interest to me right now and neuroplasticity demonsstrates to me what a wonderful versatile design our brain really is.

    Thanks for this.

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