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The detrimental effects of an incorrect perception of God

A Baylor University Survey studying the “Views of God in America” found that 32% of Americans viewed the God of the Bible as authoritarian, 24% distant and uninvolved, 23% benevolent, and 16% critical.  However, over 63% of Americans still identify themselves as Christians. This made me question: do Christians genuinely have a correct perception of the God they serve, and how does this view impact the mind? In any group of people, this study reveals people are worshiping a variety of different ideas about God . 

Infographic by Evelyn Lubben

Sometimes I believe we create false realities of our creator. Have you ever felt like God was not near you? Or maybe you felt like God was angry with you? How did these feelings influence your understanding of God? I have been in this position of feelings and outside commentary, triumphing my knowledge of God instead of the Bible. 

I believe this is a common trap believers can fall into because today’s society is strictly feelings-based. We are taught to act on the impulse of our feelings 24/7 without ever taking a moment to ask where truth is found.  What is your source of truth? I was surprised by how much an inaccurate idea of God affects the physical brain, personal mindset, and daily attitude because a wrong perception of the Author of the Bible not only changes how you “feel” but completely alters the neural pathways in your brain. 

A study by Dr. Tim Jennings, a certified psychiatrist by the American Psychiatric Association, psychopharmacologist and international speaker, found that test subjects asked to reflect and meditate daily for 13 minutes on an authoritarian dictator, "God '' seen as the punisher of wrongdoing, had heightened activation in their brain's fear circuits. This resulted in the growth of neural pathways to the amygdala (the brain's fear control center), which caused activation of the body's immune system, increased inflammation, and heart rate. Alternately, test subjects with a correct understanding of God meditated on a loving, forgiving, benevolent God for 13 minutes daily. This group of subjects showcased physical growth in neural pathways to the hypothalamus (the processing center of positive emotion in the brain), which in turn lowered overall heart rate and blood pressure and, thus, significantly depleted anxiety.

Truth about God is not based on how we think God views us, but how the Bible tells us God views us. This truth can only be found in the Bible, not just the Old or New Testament alone, but the entire Bible. Reading it from beginning to end, the theme is evident: humanity could never save themselves from sin or earn our own salvation. In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites the Mosaic covenant as a foreshadowing of His plan to come. Building obsolescence into the Mosaic Law, he promised the coming one who would accomplish this law and all that the law could not do. He knew we could never be good enough; that is why He came from the perfection of heaven to the filthy earth to live and die for you and me. The creator of the universe became our salvation when nothing else could save us.

Yes, there is a necessary, healthy fear of God, and yes, God is just and the punisher of iniquity, but we have been given a new covenant–a covenant of grace. And this new promise gives our minds and bodies physical freedom. 

The study by Dr. Jennings was eye-opening to me. An accurate vision of God changes the mind. It literally grows physical pathways in the brain toward the feelings of love, peace, joy and contentment. The truth changes how you physically and mentally feel. How you feel cannot change the truth. The God who designed us knows this and longs to give us the physical and emotional freedom found in reflecting on His love and what He has done. 

“I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away, and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-2


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