Book Review: On the Neurobiology of Sin (Lazar Puhalo)

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo presents us with what is really a pastoral book on the care of sinners. He tells us the reason for helping ministers make the connection between sin and the mind (or more specifically the brain) is to ensure that confessors are not neglected, mistreated, or exorcised when they might need a referral to a psychiatrist.

Before there was a deep understanding of synapses and neurons, many behaviours resulting from mental illnesses could be attributed to demonic possession. But early Christian Fathers made it clear that not all sinful behaviour was the result of possession, in fact they made it clear that the whole person be considered, not just the spiritual aspects. To this end, Puhalo spends some brief but necessary chapters defining the person (soul + body), sin (the breaking of relationship with God, or the antonym of faith), and the neurology’s (the body part) impact on the spiritual.

The book then focuses on a few particular issues. Multiple personality disorder seems to fascinate Puhalo a bit too much, though he does rope in other neurological disorders (schizophrenia, compulsive disorders). There is a thoughtful discussion on addictions and another which he promises to be controversial regarding gender issues.

Over all, I found it a helpful little book on clarifying once again the stunting and damaging power of sin but also the redemptive purposes of God.

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