Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hardwired for Faith

The PBS Nova show was about chimpanzees and how they learn. Through demonstrations of experiments we saw that chimps can solve problems, work together, use tools and copy the actions of a human, but they do not learn. They may work together accidentally, but they cannot coordinate their efforts. They can copy what they see but are not hardwired to learn. They don't look to each other or to humans as a source of learning. But humans do. In fact, the earliest example we see of this is a baby pointing at something he wants a parent to pay attention to. The baby expects the parent to look and give a response. And the baby will understand when her parent points. A baby chimp will ignore pointing, because its brain does not look to another chimp or human for the purpose of learning. This explains how chimpanzees have developed differently from humans. Of course, according to the scientists, this was all planned and designed by evolution. Funny, I always thought evolution was a theory about a process; I didn't realize it could "plan" or "design."

The experiment was fascinating to watch. The chimpanzees would copy the humans when the answer to solving the puzzle, that resulted in a piece of candy, was not readily apparent. As soon as the answer was made obvious, the chimps stopped copying the humans. When the same activity was tried with children, they followed the directions of the scientists even if they didn't need to. They were learning from the scientists, and they had faith that these adults knew best even if their actions did not match what the eyes observed.

Once our brains and our faith reach a level of maturity that allows us to understand things at a more abstract level, our lives become a constant journey of reclaiming our child-like faith. We see evidence all around us that the world is a sinful, evil place and we are sinners amongst the rest. We know the world is dangerous and possibilities of disaster loom, always, just ahead. The only way we can survive the mess we create, and the mess in which we live, is to cling to the faith given to us. That faith must be the faith of a child. We must be able to hold on to God in spite of what our senses tell us, not because of what they tell us.

We can see evidence of God's love and care, all around us. We experience His healing; we are spared many trials and helped through many troubles. We can see God everywhere, but, we cannot prove Him. Still, He is more than a theory. He is our Designer, Savior, and Comforter. He has hardwired us for faith and learning.

Hold on to instruction; do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Proverbs 4:13

Often our lives take an unexpected turn. Our human side may think we know the wisest course of action, but, through our faith, God tells us otherwise. This is when God helps us to look to Him for learning and direction, in spite of what we see around us. This is when He blesses us with childlike faith. This, I can confidently say, is part of His design!

My youngest child suddenly looks so much older as he asks to borrow the car to run an errand. Then he comes back from a youth choir servant event to show me the 5 pound jawbreaker he got at the Mall. Sigh, he is still my little boy. Likewise, his sister has grown into a fine adult who handles a budget and makes plans for her future. I must admit that I still treasure the times she comes back to me and figuratively sits in my lap asking for a small piece of advice. No matter how big they get, no matter how mature, no matter what adventures await them, I pray they are always blessed with a childlike faith in the Savior who loves them dearly.

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 17: 3-4


Walquist said...

Thanks Kim, I needed to read that and hear about God's love even through our doubts. Andrew & I went to Maine this weekend and went to a Baptist church. Needless to say, this was my sermon this week. (we're still looking for a lutheran church in New England) :)
Lots of love!

Jaimie McGowan said...

What a great reminder when we get bogged down in the day-to-day. Thanks!