Neuroscience and Violence

Our capacity for violence is partially found in the science of who we are. Your brain has been wired in such a way that when you feel triggered or threatened, you fight.

Derek Flood explains the neuroscience in his book, Disarming Scripture. When the amygdala goes into alarm mode it shuts down the part of your brain that is associated with relational connection, empathy, impulse control, self-reflection, moral judgment, conscience, and so on. It’s point in doing this is to help you survive in threatening situations, but its unfortunate side-effect is that it can make us less human towards each other.

So essentially, when you’re threatened you scientifically become a jerk. Your brain alters itself to protect you and in doing so, cares little for those you feel threatened by, making it very difficult to love your enemies—let alone someone you actually love.

“Well if that’s the case, why even talk about nonviolence?” you might say. “If that’s how God wired us than that’s how we should be.”

I have to disagree with that logic. There are lots of scientific things that make you, you. From my understanding the Bible was never really concerned with you living in the science of who you are, but was more adamant about stripping off your flesh and living by the Holy Spirit, who quite often does not want for you what your flesh wants.

As Christians we don’t let this logic of, “it’s just who we are,” get by in other ways. Do we say, “I have a sex drive so I’m just going to have sex with everyone I want to have sex with because it’s what my body wants to do”? No! Of course not! That’s the science that many of the other animals follow, but you were called to live a life above that—both as a human being made in the image of God and as a Christian—and commit to a monogamous marriage between a man and woman or to be single. You were called to save sex until you found that person and married them, not share it with everyone else until you found that person. To take on a sex life that is anything less than marriage is to put flesh above Spirit and science above the spiritual. There is no doubt that waiting for marriage will be difficult given our sex-soaked society, but this is the Christian standard to live up to, regardless of what society says. 

As Christians we are called to live by the Spirit, not the flesh (Ro 8:13); the supernatural, not the natural; by God, not solely by science.

Science, of course, is true and informs us well about ourselves, but it does not give us excuse to live solely by our instincts.

You’re not scientifically built to pursue peace in tough situations, but it is the Christian standard to live up to. We all struggle with different Christian themes in life, but this one is a bit more universal. It’s often difficult to live in peace with people, whether they’re our enemies or our spouse, so we need to learn to overcome our neurology and be peaceful.


This is an excerpt from my book A Taste of Jesus.

Flood, Derek. Disarming Scripture. p. 182.

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