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Blame it on the Brain | A Book Review

Have you ever wondered how to think through chemical imbalances with a biblical worldview? Have you longed to understand why your alcoholic uncle never became fully sober? Have you struggled to guide your child who was diagnosed with ADDHave you believed Scripture is sufficient, but doubted its influence on the “big issues” of lifeBlame it on the Brain, written by Edward T. Welch, answers these questions. Blame it on the Brain teaches individuals how biblically think through relevant issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)depression, alcoholism and homosexuality in the modern world 

Welch commences his book by establishing a biblical foundation. He teaches that Scripture is the ultimate authority on all matters of life. He defines the heart and explains how it interacts with the body. He writes, “the heart and body are both two and one. They are two in that body cannot be reduced to heart or spirit, and heart cannot be reduced to body. But they are both mutually interdependent. They need each other.” (47) Welch goes on to explain that “this unity suggests that the heart or spirit will always be represented or expressed in the brain’s chemical activity.” (47) As believers, we don’t have to run away from chemical imbalances. Instead we can expect the body to react to the heart. With confidence we can expect that Scripture will speak to these matters.  

The key concept that Welch addresses is that while the brain may express itself chemically, the brain cannot make an individual sin. The author writes, the biblical principle that the brain cannot make us sin may seem harsh and unsympathetic at first, but it actually is humanizing. It shows respect. It leads us to treat each other as people created in God’s image. It offers hope.” (51) There is hope because “the brain cannot keep a person from following Jesus in faith and obedience.” (51). The brain cannot limit us from hope or salvation. It may allow individuals to have weaknesses, but the brain cannot make someone sin. Mankind is still responsible for his actions.  

In the second half of the book Welch addresses how to think through psychiatric problems with a biblical worldviewThere are three principles to guide our thinking in this matterThe first principle addresses psychiatric issues that are a result of brain function. This section is entitled, “The Brain Did It: Brain Dysfunctions.” Brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and brain injuries fall under this category. The second principle includes psychiatric problems that may or may not be influenced by the brain. These fall under the description, “Maybe the Brain Did It: Psychiatric Problems.” Welch explains that Psychiatric problems are always spiritual problems and sometimes physical problems.” (106) Touching on chemical imbalances and medical research, Welch explains that the brain does “express differences in behavior at the chemical level” (110). Howeverthe brain does not cause these differences. Instead the brain reacts. The third principle Welch uses incorporates issues that are not influenced by brain chemicals. This section is entitled, “The Brain Didn’t Do It: New Trends in the Brain Sciences.” This section addresses issues such as homosexuality and alcoholism from a Scripture-saturated perspective. Although these are hot topics in Christianity, Welch addresses them with immense compassion and confidence in the Word of God.  

An important topic that must be considered when addressing chemical imbalances and is medication. Blame it on the Brain expresses biblical use of medication from a biblical counseling perspective. He teaches that Scripture does not prohibit medication (111). Instead Scripture urges every individual to use wisdom. Welch writes, Whether a person takes psychiatric medication or not is not the most important issue. Scripture is especially interested in why someone is taking medication or why someone is not taking medication. And it is clear that medication is never the source of our hope.” (112) 

Blame it on the Brain is filled with compassion and wisdom. It teaches the reader how to practically address the heart. It teaches us how to maximize strengths of an individual, remedy their weaknesses and address their physical needs (69, 87, 116)It teaches the reader how to think through how the body and heart interact with each other. It helps one consider medical research, medication and diagnosis all with a biblical worldview. Most importantly this book emphasizes the importance of taking time to know an individual and care for them with godly compassion. Reading this book will increase the reader’s confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture and increase their love for those suffering around them. 

Helpful Quotes  

“Everything in life should come under the authority of Scripture.” (22)  

“We want to listen to what people are saying about the brain, develop clear and powerful biblical categories, and bless both the sciences and the church in the process.” (26)  

“At the level of the brain, this unity suggests that the heart or spirit will always be represented or expressed in the brain’s chemical activity… knowing this we are more prepared for research suggesting that the brain of an angry person is different from the brain of the pacifist, or that the brain of the homosexual is different from the brain of the heterosexual. Instead of denying or arguing with these observations, we would expect them: the Bible predicts that what goes on in the heart is represented physically. But the Bible would clarify that such differences do not prove that the brain caused the thoughts and actions. It may very well be the opposite. Brain changes may be caused by these behaviors. (47-48)  

“First, understand the person. Second, distinguish between spiritual and physical symptoms. Third, address the heart issues. Fourth, if it is relevant, address the physical problems.” (152) 

“It is true that the brain can cause certain behaviors. It can cause hallucinations, disordered thinking, and speech difficulties – all behaviors that would be labeled as weaknesses. But it can’t cause sin.” (171)  

“One of the great benefits of dealing with addiction at its roots is that we can fight against the behavior and the inner desire. And, as we have seen, this gives us the privilege of growing in our relationship with God.” (196)  

“God is not like us. His forgiveness is not like ours. Don’t use your own weakness as the standard by which you understand God’s greatness!” (201) 

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Julie DeVore
Julie is a fourth-year student at the Master's University, and an intern for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
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