Christian conversion linked to changes in psychological symptoms and personal values
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
PsyPost – New longitudinal research provides evidence that converting to Christianity is associated with some psychological changes.
“Religious conversion is a major life event that some people claim would bring big psychological changes,” said C. Harry Hui of The University of Hong Kong. “However, no research has systematically looked at it with a rigorous, longitudinal research design.”
The study, which was published in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, tracked 711 Chinese individuals from 2009 to 2012.
At the beginning of the study, there were 455 participants who were not Christians. But by the end, 46 of these non-Christians had converted to Christianity.
The researchers failed to find evidence that personality, social axioms, personal values, or psychological symptoms predicted conversion.
However, they did find that converts’ levels of anxiety and stress dropped over the 3-year period. The researchers also found evidence that converts’ personal values changed as well. In particular, they were more likely to endorse values like helpfulness, honesty, and forgiveness after converting.
“There are indeed important changes in one’s psychological symptoms and personal values as the person goes through the conversion process,” Hui told PsyPost.
The study — like all research — has limitations. It is still unclear if the findings can be generalized to other cultures and other religions.
“Our research team looked at only conversion to one particular religion. Would the same psychological changes occur if a person is converted to another religion, a cult, or a non-religion (e.g., atheism)?” Hui said. “More research is needed in this direction.” Source: PsyPost
Romans 1:19-25 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
The Spirit of God is what draws Man to HIM!
The clearest verse on God’s drawing to salvation is John 6:44 where Jesus declares that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo, which means “to drag” (literally or figuratively). Clearly, this drawing is a one-sided affair. God does the drawing to salvation; we who are drawn have a passive role in the process. There is no doubt that we respond to His drawing us, but the drawing itself is all on His part.
Helkuo is used in John 21:6 to refer to a heavy net full of fish being dragged to the shore. In John 18:10 we see Peter drawing his sword, and in Acts 16:19 helkuo is used to describe Paul and Silas being dragged into the marketplace before the rulers. Clearly, the net had no part in its being drawn to the shore, Peter’s sword had no part in being drawn, and Paul and Silas did not drag themselves to the marketplace. The same can be said of God’s drawing of some to salvation. Some come willingly, and some are dragged unwillingly, but all eventually come, although we have no part in the drawing.
Why does God need to draw us to salvation? Simply put, if He didn’t, we would never come. Jesus explains that no man can come unless the Father draws him (John 6:65). The natural man has no ability to come to God, nor does he even have the desire to come. Because his heart is hard and his mind is darkened, the unregenerate person doesn’t desire God and is actually an enemy of God (Romans 5:10). When Jesus says that no man can come without God’s drawing him, He is making a statement about the total depravity of the sinner and the universality of that condition. So darkened is the unsaved person’s heart that he doesn’t even realize it: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, it is only by the merciful and gracious drawing of God that we are saved. In the conversion of the sinner, God enlightens the mind (Ephesians 1:18), inclines the will toward Himself, and influences the soul, without which influence the soul remains darkened and rebellious against God. All of this is involved in the drawing process.
There is a sense in which God draws all men. This is known as the “general call” and is distinguished from the “effectual call” of God’s elect. Passages such as Psalm 19:1-4 and Romans 1:20 attest to the fact that God’s eternal power and divine nature are “clearly seen” and “understood” from what has been made, “so that people are without excuse.” But men still do deny God, and those who acknowledge His existence still do not come to a saving knowledge of Him outside of His drawing them. Only those who have been drawn through special revelation—by the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God—will come to Christ.
1st Corinthians 16:22 “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.”
Anathema - a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.
Maranatha - the Lord is coming” or “come, O Lord.
There are tangible ways in which those who are being drawn to salvation experience that drawing. First, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinful state and our need for a Savior (John 16:8). Second, He awakens in us a previously unknown interest in spiritual things and creates a desire for them that was never there before. Suddenly our ears are open, our hearts are inclined toward Him, and His Word begins to hold a new and exciting fascination for us. Our spirits begin to discern spiritual truth that never made sense to us before: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Finally, we begin to have new desires. He places within us a new heart that inclines toward Him, a heart that desires to know Him, obey Him, and walk in the “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) that He has promised. Source: Got Questions
Columbia and Yale scientists found the spiritual part of our brains—religion not required
By Ephrat Livni | QZ – Scientists seek to quantify everything—even the ineffable. And so the human search for meaning recently took a physical turn as Columbia and Yale University researchers isolated the place in our brains that processes spiritual experiences.
In a new study, published in Cerebral Cortex (paywall) on May 29, neuroscientists explain how they generated “personally relevant” spiritual experiences in a diverse group of subjects and scanned their brains while these experiences were happening. The results indicate that there is a “neurobiological home” for spirituality. When we feel a sense of connection with something greater than the self—whether transcendence involves communion with God, nature, or humanity—a certain part of the brain appears to activate.
The study suggests that there is universal, cognitive basis for spirituality, as opposed to a cultural grounding for such states. This new discovery, researchers say, could help improve mental health treatment down the line.
Previous studies have examined the brain activity of Buddhist monks or Catholic nuns, say—people who are already spiritually inclined and familiar with the practice of cultivating transcendent states. But this research analyzed subjects from different backgrounds with varying degrees of religiosity, and totally different individual notions of what constitutes a spiritual experience.
“Although studies have linked specific brain measures to aspects of spirituality, none have sought to directly examine spiritual experiences, particularly when using a broader, modern definition of spirituality that may be independent of religiousness,” the study explains. Because there are many types of transcendent moments with varying degrees of meaning to different people, it’s been difficult to test the general effects of spirituality, as opposed to religiosity. So for this study, the researchers generated individual scripts that put each subject in their own relevant transcendent state.
With each of the 27 subjects—all healthy young adults—the researchers created a personal script based on each person’s self-reported previous spiritual experiences. The scientists then scanned brain activity when generating such a state in the subjects.
During their varied transcendent states, all subjects showed similar activity patterns in the parietal cortex, which processes sensation, spatial orientation, and language, and is thought to influence attention, among other functions. In other words, whether the thing that makes a person feel connected to something greater involves church, trees, or a stadium full of sports fans, it appears to have the same effect on the brain.
The effect on the brain is distinct from the effect of other forms of relaxation, according to researchers. “We observed in the spiritual condition, as compared with the neutral-relaxing condition, reduced activity in the left inferior parietal lobule (IPL), a result that suggests the IPL may contribute importantly to perceptual processing and self-other representations during spiritual experiences,” the study explains.
These changes in the brain may help explain why, during spiritual experiences, the barrier between the self and others can be reduced or even eliminated altogether. Although we need some separation between ourselves and everyone else for protection and to manage reality, removing the barrier every so often is also valuable.
“Spiritual experiences are robust states that may have profound impacts on people’s lives,” explains Yale psychiatry and neuroscience professor Marc Potenza, in a statement about the work. “Understanding the neural bases of spiritual experiences may help us better understand their roles in resilience and recovery from mental health and addictive disorders.”
Spiritual experiences involve “pronounced shifts in perception [that] buffer the effects of stress,” the study says. The findings suggest that those experiences can be accessed by everyone, and that transcendence isn’t dependent upon religiosity. That makes studying spiritual experiences and figuring out how to use such states for improved mental health easier for scientists. Next, the researchers hope to test a bigger group of subjects of all ages.
Beyond mental health, scientists study spirituality because the human quest for meaning is timeless and universal. By cultivating spiritual experiences in addition to strengthening our intellectual abilities, people can lead emotionally richer lives and develop more open minds, scientists say.
As Tony Jack, director of the Brain, Mind and Consciousness lab at Case Western Reserve University—who was not involved in this study—explains to WKSU, analytical thinking and spiritual, empathic thinking rely on different neural pathways and processes. They don’t happen simultaneously in the brain, but both modes are necessary, like breathing in and breathing out. “You can’t do both at the same time, but you need both to stay healthy and well,” he says.
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