Baptist Brethren

Elevating the Word of God and defending eternal truths!

Cognitive Decline and a Biblical Decree

Posted by Chris Cline on September 5, 2008

Elderly people without dementia show patterns of cognitive decline in the years prior to death, a new study published in Neurology magazine indicates.1 This sheds some interesting light on a particular passage in Genesis.

Two hundred eighty-eight people without dementia who were born between the years of 1901 and 1902 participated in the study, and the results did not demonstrate the kinds of generalized decay that are usually associated with aging. “We found accelerated changes in people’s mental skills that indicated a terminal decline phase years before death,” said Valgeir Thorvaldsson of Göteberg University in Sweden.2 He and his colleagues found that spatial perception declines around eight years prior to death, and verbal ability begins fading six-and-a-half years before the end of a person’s life.

Scripture tells why we have death. According to Genesis, doubt of God’s word led the first humans to the direct disobedience of God’s command, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”3

The Hebrew verbs translated “shalt surely die” can be transcribed as môt tamût. The verb môt is in the infinitive form, and tamût is imperfect, indicating an act not yet completed. A closer English translation might then be, “to die, you will be dying.” Therefore when mankind rebelled against God’s command, God was compelled by His holy and true-to-His-word nature to execute an appropriate consequence: a process of dying that would eventually lead to death.

The study on cognitive decline in the elderly adds another layer of understanding to a physical phenomenon that the Bible describes precisely in its very first depiction of death. This further confirmation of the scientific and physical accuracy of the text provides another reason to rely on the spiritual phenomena described in the text as also being accurate. Just as the tragic process of death is real, so is the spiritual reason behind it: sin. Likewise, just as the miracle of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead was real, so is the spiritual reason behind that: life. Disbelief of God’s Word brought death, but “he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.”4

References

  1. Thorvaldsson,V. et al. 2008. Onset of terminal decline in cognitive abilities in individuals without dementia. Neurology. Published online before print August 27, 2008.
  2. Even Without Dementia, Mental Skills Decline Years Before Death. American Academy of Neurology press release, August 27, 2008.
  3. Genesis 2:17.
  4. John 5:24.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

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One Response to “Cognitive Decline and a Biblical Decree”

  1. As human beings get older, one of the inevitabilities of life is that the memory starts to fade. However, the Lord God, although He is ageless, infinite, and eternal, without beginning or end, has no trouble remembering.

    We would do well to keep this in mind when we pray. There are two people in Scripture who had very little in common aside from the fact that they both called upon the Lord to remember them in their time of trouble. These are: (1) Hannah, the eventual mother of the prophet Samuel; and (2) one of the thieves who was crucified next to Christ Jesus.

    This was Hannah’s prayer: “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” (I Samuel 1:11)

    This was the dying thief’s prayer: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

    Both of these prayers acknowledged the power of God to deliver. They both acknowledged the supplicant’s submission, and God’s deity, calling Him Lord. They both were made in desperate circumstances. Both called upon the Lord to remember. And both prayers were answered.

    It is easier for some to remember the Lord in times of great distress, for then they are forced to see Him as their only hope. It is easier for others to remember the Lord when things are going well, and to rely on their own faculties when things turn dire. The former situation is a problem of ingratitude, and the latter is a problem of faithlessness. Thankfully, His remembrance of His children is not as variable as our remembrance of Him. Perhaps the solution is to resolve to emulate Hannah, and repay the Lord’s remembrance of us by dedicating to His service the gifts He gives us, and to imitate the thief on the cross by setting our sights on God’s kingdom, and not our own.

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