It’s not often that a philosopher and theologian admits to personal issues like anxiety and depression. But Biola University’s Moreland has written a book about how he coped by learning more about the nature of our immaterial minds.
[Anxiety and depression] happened to me again 10 years later in 2013. It just hit me out of nowhere and lasted five months. And so, guys, I kind of purposed in my heart that I wanted to do everything I could for this not to happen again. And there are never any guarantees on this but I did a tremendous amount of research and study and practical application. And given that I knew that anxiety and depression are the number one psychological mental health problem in America today, and that I know what it’s like to be wracked with anxiety and depression, that I thought that I would share with my brothers and sisters some of the things that helped me. But that’s what motivated me. Scott, I think it was those two nervous breakdowns that I had that lasted seven and five months respectively.J.P. Moreland, “Dealing with Anxiety and Depression (transcript)” at Think Biblically
To find peace, he had to think carefully about the difference between the evolutionary materialist account of the human being and what he was actually experiencing. A partial transcript follows:
Evolutionary theory implies that we should be completely material beings. Darwin himself saw that to be true and the reason is because evolution is a purely physical story about how purely physical processes such as mutation and natural selection and genetic drift changed purely physical characteristics for reproductive advantage.
So if evolution is how we got here, then we are extremely complicated bodies with very complicated organs and brains. You can’t get mind from matter by simply rearranging matter into a new structure. If you rearrange matter, what you are going to end up with is rearranged matter …
Since we’re conscious beings and consciousness is distinctively non-physical, then we can actually choose to direct our thinking in a different way and that will change the structure of the brain. So neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain’s structure is not frozen but can change over time, and one of the main ways it can be changed is by choosing to think positive thoughts instead of thinking in the negative, fearful self-talk. If that’s practiced in a certain way, it shows that mind can change matter.
And if that’s true, and there’s no doubt that it is, then you’ve got to acknowledge that there are free agents that have the power to resist their anxiety episodes enough to think certain thoughts while they’re having the anxiety and that will eventually change their brain.
That is not a set of facts that can be explained by evolutionary theory. Because if you say: In the beginning were the particles and the history of the world is just the rearrangement of the particles according to natural law, there’s not going to be any consciousness or any self.
If you say in the beginning was the Logos [Word] then you have an explanation for how souls, with consciousness, could come about because your fundamental entity is not a particle but a divine conscious self or soul or spirit.J.P. Moreland, “J. P. Moreland on mental health and the reality of the soul June 12, 2019, ” at ID The Future
Moreland has tried to capture both his experience and the approach that strengthened him in his new book, Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace (May 2019).
See also: Can physics prove there is no free will? (neurosurgeon Michael Egnor)