Review: What Your Body Knows about God

What Your Body Knows about God: How We Are Designed to Connect, Serve and Thrive

By Rob Moll

Rob Moll, a former colleague at Christianity Today, has written a fascinating and important exposition of the observation by the Psalmist that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In What Your Body Knows about God, Rob examines a raft of studies that show how our brain has been wired to allow us to connect with God and with others.

“Today,” Rob writes in this 2014 volume, “scientists are suggesting that the brain is designed for spiritual experience.” Then he demonstrates that design via the latest research on prayer, intimacy, community, and service.

“We can often be tempted to think of our spiritual lives as something external–a collection of things we do: church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, service,” Rob says. “Or it is a set of beliefs that we hold. However, our relationship with God is profoundly connected to what is happening inside of us, in our bodies. Experiences of God, ranging from typical feelings of devotion while singing praises to God to the ultimate transcendent union with God, have an impact on the rest of our bodies. These experiences can affect everything from our health to our relationships.”

Rob notes that prayer, for example, engages many brain systems at once: the frontal lobe for rational thinking; the limbic system for emotion; the amygdala to be calmed; the anterior cingulate to produce compassion. His book makes clear that our spiritual experiences are both mediated to us and interpreted for us by our bodies. This can be, at least for me, both disconcerting and encouraging.

It is disconcerting to realize that a lot of the feelings I have when engaged in worship or prayer may come from a chemical produced in my brain called dopamine. Can my fellowship with the mysterious Trinity who created the universe and me be boiled down to a chemical reaction? And, if so, does that make it less real? Are the secular evolutionists right that religion is simply an evolved response to the challenges of human existence … and nothing more? I wish Rob had grappled a little more with such philosophical questions arising from the research he discusses so ably in What Your Body Knows about God.

For myself, as someone whose first response to scientific skepticism is usually to tremble, perhaps I need to remind myself that God created matter and took on our flesh, the dust of which we are made. He was not embarrassed by it but hallowed it and worked within its limits and possibilities even as we do.

The encouragement comes as we realize the graciousness of God, who has so wired us physically that we work best, and enjoy life most, when we do what He says. God expects us to pray and worship and serve, and when we do, as a general rule, we are blessed with health, happiness, and connection. As many have said, what God requires, He supplies. And as Rob says, “Science shows we can indeed become people who do the good we would like to do by shaping the habits of our bodies and even the cells of our brains.”

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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