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"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." Romans 7:15-20

Welcome to the most schizophrenic passage in all of the Bible.

I can't answer this question for Paul but I'm going to attempt to answer, through scientific research, why we do what we don't want to in these modern times - aside from the fact that sin is within us.

This is a long article but if you want better understanding of why you do certain stupid things that you regret afterwards then you will want to follow through on this article.

But first, some Scripture.

“It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.” Exodus 13:16

“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 6:8

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Deuteronomy 11:18

In regards to two different occasions, that being God’s people remembering their salvation and the other being about the Laws of God, God said to write them as frontlets between your eye and to bind them on your hand.

Some may have seen orthodox Jews with leather strapping on their hands and a box on their forehead but this is not what God was talking about.

In binding them on the hand, it was a use of words that told us to act like we’ve been saved and understand the Laws of God. On the hand is a sign of our actions.

Contrary to hands being actions, frontlets between our eyes means thoughts. There was not a Hebrew word for brain and this is why you see Biblical text refer to the heart as in a manner of thought. Yet, God referred to the frontlets between our eyes.

If we think about them (frontlets) and act upon them (hands) we are good to keep them.

The interesting thing is how the Bible supports some science that was never discovered during the penning of the Scriptures. There’s a reason God used “frontlets between the eyes” and science tells us what this is.

There are two portions of the brain that control most of our mental life and this is the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system.

The limbic system is what many call the “animal brain”. This is the fast acting portion of the brain that controls the “fight or flight” reactions. The limbic system is responsible for motivation and emotion concentrating on fear and anger. The limbic system is located in the core of the brain, near the brain stem at the back of the neck. 

The prefrontal cortex is the slower operating portion of the brain because it determines fiction from reality, self-control, logical analysis, and morality. This portion of the brain is located in the frontlets, between the eyes. That's the reason why God said to bind His laws here and remember how He saved us.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for cognition that is analytical, conceptual, interpretive, and complex. It’s the part of the brain that is firing when we need to think things through, understand reasons for evens, understand meanings, and even think about our actions and their implication for the future. (1)

Some of you reading this are already starting to see where this is going. This means your prefrontal cortex is active.

There are literal electrical impulses that travel through the sections of the brain that are active. Depending on the activity you are doing depends on which portions of the brain are active and sometimes portions become inactive. This is important in this article.

Several industries study these effects in order to manipulate their services to better engage us. Entertainment companies for television have long been conducting these studies and it’s why we see certain things like cliffhangers in show before a commercial or an episode end. Video gaming companies have been conducting these studies as well. Their target brain responses is not what portion is active more so than is dopamine being released. The dopamine release tells them how addictive their game is. We will not worry about that part here.

There’s been a lot of study on the brain and portions that are active during different activities. The results are very interesting.

During video game play, the prefrontal cortex shuts down while the limbic system is highly active (2) If the video game is violent, the prefrontal cortex shuts down within about 30 minutes which is quicker than non-violent games (3). This means that during video game play the moral and cognitive functions of the brain are not active while the fight or flight and emotional side of the brain is highly active. We're feeding our brains the games we are playing.

"Individuals who watched, on average, about an hour and a half more daily television than their peers throughout mid-to-late adulthood saw their brain volume reduced by approximately .5% ,” John Hopkins Magazine - Winter 2021 (4)

Likewise, studies show that the prefrontal cortex shuts down during TV and movies, especially those which produce stress as in action or horror (11). What are we feeding our fight and flight system depends on the movies and TV shows we watch.

Why are we seeing so much depression lately? When we look at the study on depression and the brain we see that patients with depression have lower prefrontal cortex activation (5). This is why we often see suicides with extreme depression. The ability to rationalize and think things through is deactivated in the most important part of the brain and the portion controlling fear and anxiety is doing all the firing.

What about social media? Well, an article by Lee Health states that social media can lead to physical and psychological addiction because it triggers the brain’s reward system (6). These compulsive activities seeking rewards (people who can’t stay off the social media) is associated with abnormalities of the prefrontal cortex (7).

In contrast, activities like reading actually fires the frontal lobe of the brain (8). This is the reason that psychologist combating depression without drugs will try to use reading and reduce screen time.

ADHD is running ramped through the country. Studies show that ADHD is associated with weaker function and structure of the prefrontal cortex (9). It would be safe to assume that the actives we are discussing, which shut down prefrontal cortex activity, are contributing to the ADHD pandemic today as parents use screen time as a babysitter at the youngest of ages.

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When looking at all these studies we need to look at the study of stress on the Brain. According to an article in the National Library of Medicine, the prefrontal cortex shuts down, even during mild stress (10). This means all the “food” being fed the limbic system has full reign to be executed as morality, self-control, and implications for the future are turned off.

Just because your limbic system is firing during an activity does not mean it’s bad. The limbic system is not a bad part of the brain. After all, God created it. The problem is when we engage in activities that shut down the prefrontal cortex that controls moral, self-control, logical analysis, and implications on our future. These activities usually include "entertainment" that is not good for Christians and the human race in general. Things like violent video games, violent movies, porn and sexual active shows, and even the sexual commercials on TV and social media, are actually feeding into our fight or flight system without any checks or balances of our prefrontal cortex. This means if or when we are presented with a like case scenario our quick response is less likely to be Godly and more likely to follow what we’ve been feeding the limbic system of our brain.

On that same note, when we are bored or a bit down or depressed for some reason, and our moral, self_control, logical analysis, and implication on our future portion of the brain is inactive, we will tend to follow through on the immoral actions we’ve been feeding the limbic system. This is why you tend to fall into a sinful act during a time of boredom and idleness.

If, when watching TV or movies, we were to watch ONLY wholesome movies and TV, we would at least be feeding the limbic system moral programing. If we read moral books and the Bible we will fire the morality portion of the brain and feed the brain a good moral compass, including the fight or flight portion.

In more studies, while sleep the whole brain is active but when a person enters REM sleep, the portion of sleep where dreams occur, the prefrontal cortex is less active (11). This would be why you may wake from a dream and it takes a moment to realize if it was real or fake. What this means is the limbic system is firing while the moral capacity of your brain is not.

That being said, for a few years I’ve used my dreams as goal posts in my life. For example: If I dream that a monster came out from under my bed (come on, you all have been there) and I run; then I’m not as tough as I thought.

On a more serious example: if I have a “wet dream” and I end up sleeping with that person that is not my spouse, I then realize my limbic system is out of balance from God’s desire. I pray for forgiveness, not from the dream, for the apparent mis-feeding of ungodly activities. I pray that God work with me to help reprogram this portion of my thought process.

My prayer is that you take this article to heart and understand what we are feeding our brains is VERY important to the life we desire to live for God.

In the society we live in today - God help us all in this.

  1. Psychology Today - Two Pars of the Brain Govern Much of Mental Life
  2. American Psychological Association - Decreased Prefrontal Activity During a Cognitive Inhibition Task Following Violent Video Game Play: A Multi-Week Randomized Trial
  3. Game Quitters - How Gaming Affects the Brain
  4. John Hopkins Magazine - New Study Suggest That Too Much TV Really Can Rot Your Brain
  5. National Library of Medicine - Neuroplasticity and Depression: Rewiring the Brain’s Networks through Pharmacological Therapy
  6. Lee Health - Are You Addicted to Social Media?
  7. Scholarworks - Role of the Prefrontal Cortex in Reward Seeking Behaviors
  8. Harvard Medical School - Reading and the Brain
  9. National Library of Medicine - The Emerging Neurobiology of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: The Key Role of the Prefrontal Association Cortex
  10. National Library of Medicine - Neural Circuits Responsible for Conscious Self_Control are Highly Vulnerable to Even Mild Stress. When They Shut Dow, Primal Impulses Go Unchecked and Mental paralysis Sets In.
  11. Muse - The Science of Dreams: What Happens in the Brain When We Dream