Will Salvation Heal Brain Damage?
This was post was prompted by a conversation Dorothy started here, answering a great question posed by one of her readers.
What can we expect upon the effectual salvation of kids with brain damage? God has no limits. Because he is God we can expect nothing less than the complete transformation of a child’s soul. But before heaven we cannot expect the complete transformation of the child’s body.
Let me make this concrete. Joy has brain damage that causes the physical, developmental and behavioral symptoms known as cerebral palsy. Joy, like all of us, was born a sinner in desperate need of Jesus. Someday, we pray, God will call her soul to himself. Spiritually, at salvation, Joy will become a new person and for the rest of her life on earth, we pray, she will grow to know and love God more and more.
But unless God also chooses to heal her brain damage –which is a temporal issue completely separate from her eternal salvation –she will have the symptoms of cerebral palsy until she dies. Her physical body will not be transformed until heaven.
FASD is the name for the physical, developmental and behavioral symptoms which arise from brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Kids with FASD are “ruled” by both sin and FASD. Salvation transforms the soul. But it does not transform the brain –until heaven.
This does not mean that children who have brain damage –if God has given them the cognitive capacity to reason, which is a completely different subject –are not accountable for their actions.
Joy, for example, has the capacity to walk. I could hold her accountable for walking. But Joy cannot walk –she cannot exercise that capacity –without supports. Lots of supports.
Joy needs to wear braces on her legs to hold her feet in stepping position. For the braces to not chafe, she needs special socks under the braces. For the braces to not slip, she needs special shoes over the braces.
Even wearing her braces, Joy cannot walk without weight-bearing support. There are a number of ways to do this and all of them work, more or less. But without something outside of herself helping bear her weight, she cannot move her legs.
Even with weight-bearing support, she cannot walk without physical help. At the beginning of every walking session, we have to physically move her legs. After a few minutes of warming up, we can reduce our prompts to physical cues (a touch). On good days, after a few more minutes we can drop the physical cues and she can alternate legs in a stepping pattern with verbal cues alone.
An alien from outer space (someone who had no idea that most people can walk without the paraphernalia) might behold her 20 minutes into a walking session and see her independently moving her legs to cross twelve inches of floor and observe,”This child can walk!”
Joy can walk, after a fashion. But take away her braces, the harness and frame, the hands that help her brain warm up, and the only way she can move her body through space is by army crawling. Compared to walking, army-crawling behavior falls pretty short.
Kids who have FASD, if we support their specific needs the same way we support Joy’s, have the capacity to “walk” after a fashion. But if and when they do walk –display behaviors and actions we’ve culturally determined are acceptable (as opposed to sinful) –it is because they are being supported, not because they no longer sin.
Joy with a heart transformed by Jesus, on her own, is still only going to be able to crawl. But it is not because she is “ruled by sin.” To the contrary, her eternity is secure because it is dependent on God, not Joy. But she will crawl or use a wheel chair, or be dependent upon someone to carry her until she gets to heaven because on earth she lives in a body that we might say is “ruled by brain damage.”
In the same way, kids with FASD will not emotionally mature at salvation, gain impulse control at salvation, become sensory- and auditory-integrated at salvation, or have short-term memory deficits healed by salvation. Not any more than Joy will be able to walk or I was (not) made to see in 3-D.
Why does that matter? Because if Christian parents do not make any distinctions between the temporal and temporary (a brain-damaged body) and the eternal soul, we will be quick to judge and slow to offer supports, expecting Jesus will make it all better.
He will. Just not all this side of heaven.