Anatomy of the Soul, by Curt Thompson, M.D., (Tyndale: 2010). 282 pp., paper $14.99
The subtitle explains what Curt Thompson, a psychiatrist, is attempting to do in this volume: “Surprising connection between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships.” The author believes that life can be transformed by the renewing of your mind that can lead to the wholeness God intends. This includes a new way of understanding and experiencing life with God, using the language of neuroscience and attachment (pp. XVI, 2). With this thesis undergirding Thompson’s approach to renewing the mind, he subsequently offers a variety of ideas, theories and methods to accomplish his goal. They include Scripture, science, psychiatry, spiritual disciplines, exercise, and theology. Sadly, at every turn Thompson’s offerings are questionable at best and completely off-base and unbiblical much of the time. Below is a quick overview:
· Science, especially neuroscience: While Thompson is providing the latest research dealing with the brain, he overreaches when he promises that new findings in neuroscience offer fresh means to experiencing the abundant life (pp. 4, 9, 46, 242). The author recognizes that understandings concerning the brain are constantly changing, and what scientists believe today will be passe҆ in a few years. Still, he insists on developing the Christian life upon unstable modern research rather than unchanging Scripture.
· Psychology: Thompson promotes a variety of psychological means to understand and deal with life and its problems. For example, he makes much of what he calls the right brain/left brain divide and how the East and the West make use of one side or the other (with the Western approach being on the receiving end of much criticism, pp. 8, 16-17, 99, 106, 133, 170, 261). He also claims that only when we are known are we positioned to become conduits of love (pp. 3, 13, 16, 24-260); he often speaks of the supposed need of “feeling felt” (pp. 98, 106-107, 134, 139, 176, 217); he accepts the Freudian concept of our conscience controlling our lives (p. 86), and Thompson also recommends yoga and tai chi (p. 171).
· Scripture: While the author uses a fair amount of scripture he often takes it out of context (cf. pp. 16, 59, 100, 107, 178, 180, 195, 241, 246), or mutilates it. Perhaps the worst example is his imaginative misunderstanding of the Fall in Genesis 3, including the possibility that had Adam confessed his sin to God the corruption of sin and death might have been immediately reversed (pp. 207-229).
· Theology: Thompson fails on many fronts theologically. He strongly promotes a postmillennial, “kingdom now” view (pp. 7, 13-14, 99, 182, 225, 234, 242, 253, 257, 266). He believes in at least some elements of Open Theism (pp. 18, 142, 214, 219), has a distorted understanding of Jesus (pp. 142, 180-181), and accepts N. T. Wright’s teaching on the New Perspective on Paul (pp. 221, 262-263, 271). Strangely, the author apparently sees sexual orientation as something that needs to be honored and protected (see p. 244).
· Christian living: Thompson follows the spiritual formation approach as taught by Dallas Willard and Richard Foster (pp. 175-182, 196-198, 269-270). He also recommends the writings and ministries of Lesslie Newbigin (pp. 260, 268), Donald Miller (p. 271), Rob Bell (pp. 263-264, 269, 271), and Henri Nouwen (p.60). The author is a believer in visualization (pp. 139, 143, 147-148), and teaches that God speaks to us, virtually infallibly, through emotions (pp. 41, 57-59, 91, 96, 104, 133, 164, 198). Thompson also accepts postmodernism (pp. 17, 133, 138, 259, 260). He believes that we should never begin with the fact that we are sinners but with the concept that God is pleased with us (pp. 147, 149), effectively ignoring that God is righteously angry toward both sin and sinners.
Bottom line, the Anatomy of the Soul is a hodgepodge of numerous, mostly unbiblical, understandings of God, Scripture and the Christian life. The book will find interest among many Christians who have been conditioned to develop their walk with God according to psychological principles and the latest fads rumbling about in the evangelical community, rather than according to Scripture. It is no surprise that Christian leaders such as Ruth Haley Barton and Tony Campolo endorse this book, but it is a bit shocking to see the endorsement of former president of Moody Bible Institute, Michael Easley. My advice is to avoid.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher, Southern View Chapel