Moreland, J. P. Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought me Peace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019.
This is JP Moreland’s memoir of how he overcame debilitating anxiety. It’s more than that. It explains–in a way that the ancient Christians had long known–how formative practices can rewire the brain to combat anxiety. It deserves widest possible readership.
Some fundamentalists say we can’t go to the outside world to learn about the soul or medicine, but Scripture does exactly that: Isaiah 19:11; Jeremiah 49:7; Zech. 9:2; Job 28:1-11).
Moreland begins with his well-known insights on the soul. “The soul is an immaterial substance or thing that contains consciousness and animates/enlivens the body” (Moreland 31). The soul has sensations that reside in the soul, not the brain. However, given certain “triggers,” they can obtain during physical moments. The soul also contains faculties, capacities that are not currently “being actualized” (32). When these capacities are properly grouped, they are called “faculties.”
The spirit is the faculty of the soul that relates to God (33).
Moreland’s key point, which I believe unanswerable, is that the body and the soul, while not the same thing, interact with each other. The body “traduces” the soul, as it were. The soul has the faculty of sight, but without working eyes it cannot see. The body traduces the soul.
Then there are habits. These are ingrained bodily practices. Moreland argues, and I think it makes sense, that “anxiety is a learned habit that, through repeated flesh-forming activities (e.g., engaging in ‘what if?’ thinking about the future and exaggerating what might happen if the ‘what if?’ actually happens), forms grooves in the brain, the heart muscle, and nervous system that trigger uncontrollable anxiety” (43).
Let’s Sum Up
- Our habits form grooves in the brain. If these grooves are triggered (e.g., by a memory), “the conscious state will obtain in the soulish aspect of the body” (45).