Alzheimer’s disease runs in my family. I have seen the members of my family lose their mental awareness, cognitive response, memory and ability to reason well in old age. If I am to be entirely honest, this is one of my greatest fears because I treasure my mental faculties. Though I am unsure of the relationship between the brain and the mind, I am convinced that the physical and spiritual person is interwoven by design: that by God’s design, the spirit and the body exist as one. This means that brain health would be essential to one’s ability to think critically, clearly and reasonably with the mind. I fear the day when I am no longer able to think well, remember or respond intelligently. I fear this more than my body breaking down. I fear this more than not being able to walk and I fear this more than not being able to hear or see.
Naturally, then, when I see an ad for a brain supplement like OptiMind, I am intrigued and drawn in. OptiMind advertises itself as a supplement that helps to enhance focus and energy. Before I share my thoughts about whether it is right or wrong to take a brain enhancer or supplement, I want to share a story that I hope will inspire you.
One year ago I weighed about 240 pounds. I ate what I wanted, did not have much energy. I had good focus and good mental awareness. I could think critically well enough. I went to camp with our students. Upon seeing some of the pictures I was in (where my belly poked out further than I’d like), I was motivated to lose weight. When we got back from camp I started trying to eat well. This one change helped me to lose 40 pounds! It provided me with more energy and greater focus when I am working on something. Though my mental awareness and ability to think critically was already good, I felt improvements in those areas as well. I wake up earlier and have energy longer. Shortly after this, I began exercising my mind. I already practice journaling in my Bible study each day, but I began journaling with my philosophical readings as well. I downloaded an app that exercises my brain and my mind by offering daily workouts in math, literature, memory, language and in listening. My mental capacities continued to increase. Now I have also added running (which I have never done seriously), and mild strength-training to my daily and weekly routine. I have even more energy, I am more positive, I am better at handling stress. I can think even more clearly and more critically. My mental response is quicker and more robust. I am much less irritable. I enjoy life more and I can do more in this life. I might even say that these changes I’ve made within the past year have been the best changes that I have made with respect to my life in ministry.
The other day I was listening to a lecture online where someone was teaching about the Trinitarian nature of God. His claim initially was that God was three persons connected by a unity of mind. He was teaching that Trinitarian belief was in a plurality of gods who were one in mind. Not only would this be heresy, but impossible. He went on to draw specific parallels between the plurality and human existence in the image of that plurality. That we are a plurality of creatures that should be, by design, one in mind both with each other and with what he described as the trinity. This would have some serious implications as we think about Adam and Eve’s ability to choose freely to rebel against God. In fact, it would make it impossible for them to choose outside of the oneness of mind which included the plurality of gods. There would be no choosing to eat from the tree. In fact, the implications when drawn to their conclusion would force us to believe that everything is God and God is everything. We would become pantheists and what was taught as a plurality is actually just one because everything is one. So, this simply cannot be true because we are obviously imperfect people: which he also brought up. There are sinners! Later in his lecture, this man stated that there was one God and only one God. Not only did he seem to play with ideas that were abiblical, but he also contradicted himself over and over again. While there were other things in his lecture that were incoherent and inconsistent with a true Biblical worldview, this suffices to serve as my example that it is so important for us to preserve our mental capacities on this earth and our ability to think well. Just as we have to protect our bodies from the effects of the Fall, we also have to protect our minds so that we can serve God well. After all, we were created by God and exist for God. Truly we are God’s prized creation. Surely we are temples of God. Why would we not protect our ability to function as much as we can?
One option for us is supplements. Most people do not oppose the use of supplements in daily life. I take a one-a-day for men’s health. The guys I know that work-out seriously take supplements that help their bodies to handle the stresses of working out. There are even people who need steroids. People take immune system boosters, metabolism boosters, and medicine to help them focus. What is so different about brain enhancers?
First we must differentiate between two types of drugs: those that self-proclaim to be brain enhancers and those that self-proclaim to be brain supplements. An enhancer would be something that changes the brain. A supplement would be something that helps the brain to work properly. In many cases, supplements are needed to help a fallen physical body to work according to the way it was designed. After all, this is one reason we must take vitamins in this life to remain healthy. If a drug is a brain enhancer, then, it offers to improve on what God has made according to His design. While I believe this to be impossible, I understand the temptation. People have been trying (and failing) to improve on what God has made since Adam and Eve tried the very first brain enhancer: fruit from the tree of knowledge. While God used that sin to broaden humanity’s capacity for types of knowledge (He accomplished what the fruit could not), the act actually made things worse for people on this earth because they rebelled against God. I believe that drugs proclaiming to be brain enhancers are making a promise that they cannot keep.
Brain supplements, however, may be necessary for some and may not be inherently sinful. For most, however, just a small amount of dedication and self-control can help to accomplish everything that these drugs promise and we get to make better use of the money we are blessed with on this earth. Instead of buying in to the promise of a better brain, strive to take care of the body God has given.
- Self-control helps us to eat well and have a balanced diet.
- This is the area that helped me to experience the greatest degree of change and progress.
- Exercise the brain regularly (it is a muscle). Read, journal, and practice mathematics, language, literature, memory, etc…
- Exercise the rest of the body. Run, crunch, push-up, walk, and be active!
These things will help us accomplish more than a drug will. A drug promises a quick fix to a problem that requires much more attention. Those who are lazier will revert first to the drug even when it is not needed. While the drug is not inherently a sin, there are sinful ways to partake of the drug. If we are motivated by laziness, getting ahead, or improving on God’s design; we have sinned against a pure and holy God. I implore you to think on these things before buying in to what may be a new branch of the tree of knowledge. If a supplement is needed, though, we should not be afraid. We should first make sure that it is absolutely needed. We would not take any other supplement without need. Why would this one be any different?