Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Addiction to ungodliness

If you pay any attention to the mainstream news media, you've no doubt heard the occasional reports of studies that have (allegedly) found a relationship between behavior and brain chemistry. In one recent report, we are told that the brains of women and homosexual men respond the same to the smell of a man's sweat. When these reports come out, it's common to read that the study's results suggest that the difference in brain chemistry may be a cause of the observed behavior.

However, let me suggest a different theory: rather than the brain's chemistry being the cause of the behavior, how about the reverse? Could it be that the brain's chemical balance changes as a result of behavior? With drug addiction, it's already known that the brain "rewires" itself in response to the incoming flood of chemicals--lest the brain be overwhelmed by a huge surfeit of this or that chemical--thus conditioning the brain to crave an ongoing supply of the chemical in order to feel normal.

Although it seems clear that drug addiction can cause changes in the operation of the brain--after all, drugs are themselves chemicals--the idea that there may be a cause-and-effect relationship between non-drug-related behavior and brain chemistry may seem less clear. It seems a stretch to compare homosexuality or other forms of sexual promiscuity with drug addiction, but think about it for a moment. Consider the common observation that homosexuals tend to persist in their sexual behavior. Very, very few homosexuals manage to change their behavior to conform to a heterosexual or celibate pattern. Also, what of those who practice heterosexual promiscuity? Isn't that lifestyle just as persistent as homosexuality? What of child molestors? Why do we force them to be registered for a lifetime even after they serve their sentences? How many, once they begin to practice any form of sexual promiscuity, ever manage to give it up?

In a nutshell, my observation is this: sexual promiscuity, whether homosexual or otherwise, not to mention all forms of what the Bible calls "sin", is just as addictive as drugs, if not more so. Also, it causes changes in the brain's chemical makeup in such a way as to reinforce the behavior and make it difficult to impossible to give it up. Rather than the brain's chemistry causing the behavior, the behavior causes the brain's chemistry to change, which in turn helps to perpetuate the behavior.

As support for my theory, I appeal to Romans 1. In this chapter, Paul explains how the wicked and ungodly choose their sinful behavior. In turn, God gives them over to their behavior, in effect saying, "If this is the way you choose to live, have at it!" In other words, God allows the behavior that began as a choice to become an all-consuming lifestyle. Additionally, consider how the whole of Scripture--preeminently Paul in Romans--demonstrates how the unregenerate man or woman is a slave to his sin.

Although science has done much good in studying the operation of the human body, in the process developing cures for many once-fatal sicknesses, I fear that by and large it fails to consider the very real effect that the depravity of the human heart has upon the physical body. We are not slaves to chemistry, but slaves to sin, and we drag our bodies into the muck and mire right along with our wicked hearts. Our only hope--and a blessed hope it is!--is that we find mercy before God through Christ's imputed righteousness, for it is only in Christ that we can be delivered from our slavery to sin and become the kind of slaves we ought to be: slaves to righteousness!

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