When I was in Seminary I participated in a quite dynamic and bold course called “Neuroscience and Theology.” The class consisted of seminary students, theologians and scientists who sincerely believed science and religion could interface.
Each participant/student chose from a list of topics to report on. I chose the topic “metaphor.” It seems that there was an intellectual openness to the idea that many statements from the Bible are to be interpreted symbolically. This form of exegesis could be the key to removing many conflicts between scientific discovery and the authority and inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.
Thankfully. Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (whom I study) developed a complete system of theology based on such an insight. He claimed that God’s Holy Word makes use of the science of correspondences. This allows God’s true Word to consist of three main levels of meaning, which correspond to each other. For instance, there is the lowest or literal level of meaning, which portrays physical events. Above this is a more abstract, spiritual level, which conveys a mental meaning. Highest of all, the narratives of Scripture contain a Divine level of meaning which addresses the Lord God alone.
This three-tiered storytelling can embrace nature, the Human Mind (heart and intellect) and God because all three levels of meaning can correspond, symbolize or be a metaphor for the two others. On top of this, Swedenborg maintained that this three-tiered communication system has four different “literary” styles. There are: 1) Harmonic Correspondence (where nature can represent spiritual qualities), 2) Parabolic or Allegorical Correspondence (such as the Lord’s parables), 3) Typical Correspondence (as morning can symbolize a new beginning), and 4) Fantastic Correspondence (as in some fantastical dreams).
When the class heard all that from my report, I saw backs suddenly straighten and heads snap back as though they had just experienced whiplash! I then further suggested that these higher levels of meaning were connate and decipherable within different levels of the human brain—if we could tap into them.
One of the scientists in the room then asked me “What does one do to get access to these higher levels or cognitive substrates of the human mind? “
I was stumped by this question—not because I did not have an answer—but because I knew the answer transcended academia and mere scholarly study. This was more a matter of revelation and eternal salvation. I did not have the heart to tell this scientist that he could only access these deeper operations of the human mind by adopting a higher principle of love while removing his evils and character flaws. This would be taken as an attack on his inner integrity if I were to imply there was “housecleaning” to do.
So I “punted.”
Well, the subject of higher mind (and how to get there) needs to be explored and set forth. So I spent seven years writing my second book Proving God, which includes a chapter entitled “Love, Neuroscience and Hierarchical Design.” I now believe I have satisfactorily answered that scientist’s question—even within a rational, scientific framework!