The Wonders and Wanderings of Our Memory – Dr. N. Lanning

sb-logo-rfpaIn the July issue of the Standard Bearer Dr. Nathan Lanning pens another fascinating article for the rubric “All Thy Works Shall Praise Thee.” This one treats the amazing topic of “Memory.” Writing from the viewpoint of a believing scientist, Lanning describes the science behind our ability to remember. At the same time he writes from a biblical perspective, pointing out what the Christian Scriptures say about our minds and our calling to use memory in the service of God and His glory.

Tonight we give you a sampling of his article, drawing especially from the end. Let these thoughts amaze and humble you, as they direct us to the wonders and wanderings of our memory, and therefore, to the hope we have for the perfect day of our salvation.

Whether or not the sovereign God will permit man to completely understand the nature of memory formation, man does have clear commands to use memory for specific purposes. Throughout the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit urges people to remember. Man is called to use his memory specifically by the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8), and we are often called to remember the commandments themselves (Mal. 4:4). The Israelites were continually told to remember the LORD who brought them out of Egypt (e.g., Deut. 6:12; and consequently, we are commanded to remember Jehovah, who delivered us from the slavery of sin), and we are often called to remember all of the wonderful works that God has accomplished for our salvation (Deut. 4:9, Ps. 77:11, Ps. 143:5, II Tim. 2:8). If we become discouraged with how long we think the Lord is tarrying or begin to slip into unholy living in accordance with the world, we are encouraged to remember what Scripture plainly tells us about the last days (II Peter 3). Throughout the Scriptures, we are further instructed to remember the weak, such as the poor, the orphans, and the widows (e.g., Acts 20:35, Gal. 2:10, Heb. 13:2). The act of remembering is also an important component of our praise and prayers to God (I Chron. 3:12, Ps. 42: 4-11, Ps. 103:2, Ps. 119:55). Further, remembering is a key aspect of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19).

From these passages, we are encouraged to work on our memories for God’s glory. The act of Scripture memorization is not only for catechism and Christian school children. If we are to comply with God’s commands, adults will continue to memorize Scripture throughout their lives. Memorizing Scripture will allow us to call to mind all of God’s wonderful works guiding His Church throughout history and accomplishing salvation for His people. In order to properly prepare ourselves to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we also have to exercise our memories by looking back at our life and bringing to mind the evidence of God’s sanctifying graces in us. Memory is integral to the Christian life.

However, we also have to recognize the effects of the Fall on our memories. We all experience the deterioration of our memories. In fact, many of our earliest memories are likely creations of our minds based on facts that were told to us or pictures that we viewed and then integrated into a “memory” (perhaps after reading this article my mother will inform me that I never did visit my brother’s kindergarten class). Even our memories of relatively recent events suffer from obvious defects. …We all experience this in more mundane ways in our daily lives. For example, if I do not put my car keys in exactly the same location every day, I will be late to work the next day. Similarly, most of us have experienced the confusion of walking into a room with a purpose that has completely slipped our mind. As an exercise to prove the point of our fallible memories, have everyone in your family try to remember what you had for dinner going back as many evenings as possible, and then compare notes.

We also know that stress, distraction, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition can negatively affect our memories. These produce almost the opposite effects of the biological events described above. Additionally, many of us have experienced a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related memory loss. This too is an effect of the Fall on our memories. Disease and age can ravage the once-sharp memory of loved one until every last memory has seemingly been torn away.

Therefore, a careful consideration of memory also exposes the frailty of the human condition and will incite in us a desire that looks forward to the incorruptible bodies in which we will be raised upon Christ’s return. However, even now in our corruptible bodies the Scriptures provide us great comfort when meditating upon memory. Our God’s memory is incorruptible and active in our salvation. How many times does Jehovah remind us that He remembers His covenant with us (e.g., Gen. 9:14-16, Exodus 2:23-25, Ps. 105:8, Ps. 111:5). He also remembers individuals in their particular needs (Gen. 30:22, I Sam. 1:19, Is. 49:15-16), and even causes us to remember Him to our salvation and His glory (John 14:26-27). Our memories are a precious gift from above—let us remember to use them to the glory of God’s Name.