In the interest of mental exercise, and for the benefit of his readers who may not have the background or experience of this kind of investigation, I offer my observations of Ron Fields’ Amygdala’s Memory (Auburn Oaks Printing Service: 2003). Fields’ critique of capitalism included a lot of historical information that I found interesting if not something of a diversion, and he accurately notes the often sad conditions of sinful mankind – showing that indeed the moral law of God is written on the hearts even of non-Christians. It is not, it should be noted, these observations that I am disagreeing with, rather Fields’ theory of how things got to this point and his solution to them.
The central thesis of Amygdala’s Memory is that “amygdala” (note the odd lack of the definite article, “the”, Fields does the same with “heart”), the “non-thinking stimulus-response organ of the primitive brain stem,” is sensitized -in varying degrees- to fear as it is evolution’s leftover from the reptilian fight or flight function. At birth, amygdala overloads the left brain with fear which affects the development of that hemisphere resulting in the formation of the aggressive selfish ego that eventually overrides the right brain [9-10]. This effectively dooms the mind to functioning through a brain that is programmed for hostility, selfishness, and aggression while relegating the right brain functions (compassion, intuition, imagination, “heart”) to a less useful level [1-4]. Eventually, through disuse, the right brain functions become lost  and the mind is trapped in a “sensate” mentality that only sees things as they are [10-12]. This “pathology,” Fields believes, is the root of evil [3/5].
With this foundation Fields goes on to attack the various evils he sees in the world. His attack is primarily two-pronged. However there is a third attack which he does not address specifically, but which is implicit in his evolution-based theory. The three are:
- Conservative Politics and Capitalism [primarily 19-57]
- Christianity [primarily 58-87]
- Creation [throughout, as a necessary result of affirming evolution]
I will say that Fields certainly seems to have good intentions and is sensitive to the many evils in the world today. While we disagree on how those evils are to be dealt with I certainly do not wish to attack his valid observations about the sad state of humanity in many respects. In many cases debates center more on particular instances than universal truths. For example, Fields sees poverty as a huge problem. He is correct; it is a problem, as any sane and half-hearted human will agree. Thus, that poverty should be alleviated is a universal truth, but how poverty is to be alleviated is a matter for debate and is therefore a particular that we can disagree upon. The important thing to note is that one can deny a particular without giving up the universal.
Invalid or Unsound Arguments
There is one consideration that should be noted here because it applies to several of his arguments. Many times those untrained in logic will miss an invalid argument simply because they agree with the conclusion or one of the premises. Here is an example that is close to how Fields argues:
We must help the poor by giving them money.
Conservatives do not want to give the poor money.
Therefore conservatives do not want to help the poor.
This argument packs a lot of unstated assumptions into itself. Primarily, it assumes that giving money to the poor is the only manner of helping them available and so to not do so must be due to selfishness. But this is not the case. There are other, possibly better, ways to help the poor such as providing them with jobs or job training that might help. Thus, it may be the case that conservatives also desire to help the poor, just not in the manner that liberals prefer. If this is not the case then evidence must be given to show that it is not, but Fields only asserts these things and does not back them up. (Note: quoting one or two 18th century political theorists is not enough – for he is blaming today’s conservatives for the evils he sees in American Politics today).
Fields leaves no doubt as to his belief that conservative politics is a system based on the selfish-ego and built to facilitate its survival. He says that ego denies corporate responsibility in order to elevate the aggressors. Anyone familiar with the socialist contention will find few surprises here. He points to any disparity in living conditions as an attack on human equality (as if this meant that all humans were to own equal goods and not have equal opportunity). He calls for re-distribution of wealth (a euphemism for stealing from one to raise another), and even berates the social service system for keeping the poor down (although in reality it elevates them to a financial status higher than 90% of the planet).
I am not a political theorist, but I do have first hand knowledge of the welfare state. Granted, reform is needed and is being made (mostly by conservatives!), but if free or almost free food, clothing, rent, education, job training plus an additional $16,000 (for a three person family as of 2003) on top of all that over the course of five years is not enough to help someone out, what is? Further, scholarly rebuttals of Fields’ socialist agenda have been written that do not, as he alleges, simply attack “bleeding heart liberals.” Rather than duplicating them here I would refer anyone interested to Dr. J. Budziszewski’s: Written on the Heart.
Fields somewhat correctly notes that “All arguments begin with assumptions, explicit or not.” . Fields himself assumes Darwinian evolutionary theory from the beginning yet provides not one shred of support for this assumption [throughout, but 42, 50-51 for example]. Now, it would be unfair in some instances to fault an author for not backing up every single assertion he makes – for that would make every book on any topic require thousands of pages devoted to evidential support of all kinds. However, when an entire thesis rests on a highly disputed theory (disputed by both evolutionists and creationists), then to simply assume its truth is very dangerous. Simply put, if evolution is false then his entire thesis is as well.
Now, Fields devotes not one word of defense for this evolutionary view and there is no burden upon the reader to provide proof against his view in order to level this criticism. However, should one wish to do so there is an abundant body of literature on the subject showing the inexcusable mistakes(?) made with regard to the alleged “ape-men,” the unbelievable odds against evolution’s explanatory power, and the embarrassing fossil record that Darwin wrongly predicted would vindicate his theory. Evolutionists themselves have largely abandoned Darwinian theory for these and other reasons. Further, Intelligent Design theorists have undercut even the newest forms (e.g. punctuated equilibrium) quite effectively (see Dembski “Mere Creation,” or Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box”). To say the least Fields’ theory rests on very shaky grounds.
It is important to note that Fields might wish to simply abandon the evolutionary components of his theory and assert his amygdala theory from a creationist standpoint. This will not do, however, for his theory also requires that the birth process be an unnatural event that the human brain is not capable of dealing with properly. However, an intelligent creator would not have made this mistake in design. Further, there would be no means to explain how the first humans (created perfect) ever sinned in the first place since sin, according to Fields, is caused by the selfish-ego that is caused by the amygdala / birth problem that the first human couple would not have experienced.
There is also a major philosophical problem to deal with. If it is the case that human minds are “made” by the brain [2, 91] then no one would be able to combat the form their brain has taken mentally, yet this is exactly what Fields wishes people to do. If my mind is merely the byproduct of my brain then there is no way to intellectually or willfully override the flaws in my brain. Fields practically admits this in his epilogue – begging the question by lumping all who disagree with him in the category of those he is physically unable to help.
This also leads to a major ethical problem. Fields’ view is largely mechanistic – the brain makes the mind and the mind is, at least somewhat, enslaved by the brain’s function. The problem with a mechanistic view is it does not allow for moral judgment.
This may require a bit of explanation. There are two senses of the word “law.” One is descriptive, and the other is prescriptive. The former describes the physical world; it simply describes what is true of physical things (for example the “law of gravity” is really a description of the fact that bodies of varying size attract one another). The latter prescribes what one ought to do; it concerns morality (for example the “law of love” is a prescription to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself).
The problem is that one cannot derive a prescriptive moral law from a descriptive physical law. The physical fact that “rocks are hard and clay is soft” does not lead to “rocks should be hard and clay should be soft.” It is not the case that “softness” is good and therefore rocks are bad-that makes no sense for we are only describing what is true of the physical world.
The ramifications of this view should now be more evident. If the mind is just an emerging property of the brain (like wetness is an emerging property of water) then no moral judgment may be attached to it. Thus, even if it were the case that amygdala birth trauma fixed people into a left-brain pathology no moral value can be made. One could just as easily come up with a counter-theory that accepts all of Fields’ assumptions but then says that because evolution is the way it is then we ought to be left-brain egoists, we ought to be as selfish as possible and then the strongest would survive. There is no way to adjudicate between the two because if that’s just how it is then it is neither good nor bad to be left or right-brained.
Now a lot fewer people would accept such a view because they know “in their heart” that it is wrong to be selfish (and I agree). The problem is not that the conclusion is wrong, but that the view used to arrive at such a conclusion cannot account for it. Moral law presupposes a higher standard that two or more things may be judged against. But Fields’ view cannot explain how it is that we may judge the rightness or wrongness of our actions, for we are merely driven by physical chemical reactions in our brain. If that really is the case then all we can do is say, “I, personally, do not think people should be selfish.” What we cannot say is that “people ought not be selfish.”
In the Christian worldview there is an account given for the moral law. God has impressed His moral law on the conscience of each human being (Romans 2). The problem, contra-Fields, is not that we lose our right-brain capabilities [4,13], but that we choose to suppress what we know because of our imperfection. It is not a physical disability, it is a willful disability. That is why we can be judged by our actions whether we know the Bible or not. If, however, our moral choices are reducible to physical laws then we may not be judged by them for we are not exercising moral choice-we are simply following physical laws (this would be like being judged for the way gravity acts upon us) and that would be absurd.
Besides his reliance on a questionable theory of human origin that would automatically nullify the biblical account of creation, Fields attacks Christianity itself.
This being more my area of knowledge I can say without hesitation that his presentation and critique of Christianity is flawed beyond repair. While it is true that a person is entitled to his own opinions, this is no excuse for misrepresenting objective facts. To quote Fields himself: “Arguments for truth are not political. They are not opposed to any person or community. They are opposed to falsehood” . He is correct in this, and had he followed through with this dictum he might have avoided the fatal errors in his arguments against a religion he clearly misunderstands. There are several different mistakes that he repeats throughout his writing and these will be summarized below.
One need not read very far before he will encounter Fields’ difficulty with accurate quotes. Before the reader even gets past the prologue he is confronted with no less than three misquotes. It is important to note that these are not merely general allusions – Fields claims that these “are the words of this man Jesus” [ii]. He will get away with this more often than not because he conveniently leaves out biblical references to these “quotes” (while he carefully cites Adams, Einstein, and even Braveheart throughout the rest of the book).
“I came that you might know the truth and be made free”
This first is from John 8:32 where Jesus actually says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This might at first seem to be a minor error, but what Jesus is saying here not that knowing true things will make one free- rather that it is Jesus Himself that will set people free. Note the context: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“Be not too much of this world”
This quote does not appear anywhere in the gospels. The closest might be:
John 15:19 – If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
1 John 2:15 – Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Col 3:1-2 – If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
John 17:16 actually contradicts Fields’ misquote: “they [the disciples] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.”
“Seek first the kingdom within”
This misquote of Matthew 6:33 (which is repeated on page 58) is inexcusable. A look at the context (or simply quoting the statement correctly) shows clearly that Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God here – not some “kingdom within.” Jesus’ words are: “seek first His [God's] kingdom and His righteousness.” Luke (12:31) records it this way: “seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
“I will tear down this temple made by hands”
This misquote, from page 71, is simply false. Jesus never said that He would tear down any temple, much less one “made by hands.” He was falsely accused of saying something like this in Matthew 26:61, and again in Matthew 27:40 by His enemies while He hung on the cross. Mark 14:57-59 makes it clear that these were made-up stories. In fact in John 2:18-22 Jesus said the exact opposite: “Then the Jews demanded of him, ‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.”
“Leave me not in temptation, but deliver me from evil”
The actual words are: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” A few things to note: one, it is not that we are in temptation and God just leaves us there- the prayer is a request to be kept from it in the first place. Second, it is not “evil” in general (as many Christians think due to a few poor translations) but “the evil one” (i.e. Satan). This has nothing to do with “ego.”
On page 80 Fields asserts that “when Jesus was asked who he was he replied, ‘A servant.’” This does not occur anywhere in Scripture. The problem here is not that Jesus was not a servant (He was), but that is not who He was. Who Jesus is was recorded in Matthew 16:13-17 – “He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus affirmed His identity as the Son of God at His trial in Matthew 26:63-64 – “And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see The son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
In Mark 15:2 Jesus was asked the question again: “‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered him, ‘It is as you say.’” In none of these, nor any other, instances did Jesus answer “a servant.” Fields is playing fast and loose with the word of God- and in doing so he is playing a dangerous game (Rev 22:18-19 cf. Dt. 4:2).
While Fields’ misquotes might pass unnoticed by those biblically unversed, he does not stop there. When he quotes (however loosely) a passage correctly he will often insert his own ideas into the passage as if this were a legitimate way to understand the passage. Ignoring all standard rules of good exegesis Fields comes up with “interpretations” that vary from strained to impossible. Take for example his treatment of Jesus’ words on page 58. Not only does he string together a series of unrelated partial quotes, he inserts his own misunderstandings in parenthesis (for no serious reader would ever guess that this is what Jesus had in mind when these words were spoken):
“Jesus taught to seek first the kingdom within and to lose your [sensate] life in order to save your [intuitive] life…..to die the the world (of materialism), and be born anew of spirit (the heart’s passions).” (All insertions and ellipses in original)
We have already noted the problem with statement one above. The second comes from Matthew 16:25 which reads: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Note well where Fields leaves off . . . “for My sake.” This is not Jesus way of pointing out the problems man has with selfish-ego, it is that our lives must be given wholly to Him or we will die in our sins. The third part, an error which is repeated on page 72, apparently refers to John 3:3-5 where Jesus, talking to a Pharisee states: “‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.’” Fields ignores the context once again trying to make being born of God equate to reviving the heart’s passions.
On page 79 we read: “‘leave me not in temptation, but deliver me from evil (ego)’ that I may do no harm and injustice to others.” Here we need only note the “ego” reference that Fields inserts (as if Jesus were referring to 19th century psychological theories). Further, Fields’ explanation of evil as “harm and injustice to others” misses the whole point – in this prayer we are to pray for deliverance from Satan – not evil in general, nor evil personal actions in particular.
Fields’ interpretation of “your room” (Mt. 6:6) is that it refers to “the right brain’s inner place of listening” . The context clearly indicates that Jesus is contrasting public prayer for notice with private prayer for intimacy with God. Examples of Fields’ tortured interpretations may be multiplied, but if the point has not been made obvious by now I fear that it cannot be!
Up to this point Fields might have been considered merely ignorant or imprecise. But his true colors do not remain hidden for long-his assertions are deliberate. In chapter ten Fields begins his rant against what he perceives to be Christian teaching and belief (which he calls “a religion for the unrepentant” ). He even attempts to pit Jesus’ teaching against that of Paul (and by extension all of the Christian church).
If someone is going to accept Christianity then he must do so according to its own terms, not by simply using the same vocabulary with one’s own ideas poured into it. Conversely, if someone is going to reject or critique Christianity he should reject or critique what Christianity actually teaches and not his own ideas. Jesus and Paul both warned that there is such a thing as a false Christ (Mt. 24:4-5; 2 Cor. 11:4), therefore simply using the name or title does not place one-or one’s theory- in the category of “Christian.”
Throughout Amygdala’s Memory Fields gives lip-service to “God” and “Jesus,” but redefines each to suit his world view. For example of “God” he writes: “the only God possible….[is] the spirit of love building human kinship . . .” . Thus, he reduces God to “a spirit of love,” hardly a fitting description of the infinite, personal God of the Bible (see: http://www.souldevice.org/christian_godsattributes.html). His twisting of Jesus’ words has already been noted, and he does the same with regard to Jesus’ purpose and nature.
There are several notable problems with Fields’ approach and understanding of Christian doctrine (for example he seems to think that Christians believe that Jesus was “a God”  rather than God Himself). As will be shown, Fields projects his own mistaken thoughts onto the Bible or biblical persons and then blames them for his own mistakes. Among other less-notable falsehoods (such as Jesus being a follower of John the Baptist  which is clearly false (see Lk. 3:16)), he asserts the following:
- Jesus was not God [73, 76, 84, 86]
- Jesus was not resurrected [73/83]
- Jesus’ substitutionary death was an irrational abomination 
- There is no original sin 
- Paul changed Jesus’ teachings [69-70]
- Paul taught antinomianism 
- Paul was a pagan mystic 
Each will be briefly dealt with in this order.
Jesus was not God
Fields clearly does not believe that Christ was God [see 72-73 for example] but sees Him only as an enlightened, right brain man. Fields makes this unsupported assertion both implicitly and explicitly. But this contradicts Jesus’ claims and the biblical record. First, Jesus is called God by Himself and others (John 10:30; Matt 26:63-64 “son of” means “in the order of” -see 1 Kings 20:35-; Luke 1:72 -see Mal 3:1-; John 1:1). He is called God by God the Father(!) (Heb 1:8). He possessed attributes that only God can have: eternality (John 8:58), omnipresence (Matt 18:20, 28:20), omniscience (Matt 16:21), omnipotence (John 11:38-44), creation (Col 3:16), ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12), to raise the dead (John 11:43), and to judge all people (John 5:22-27). Further, He proved that He was God by His resurrection – which will be dealt with below.
Jesus was not resurrected
Fields even goes so far as to attack the very capstone of Christianity – the resurrection of Christ. If Fields is correct then we may as well trash our Bibles, party-down, and die–for without the resurrection there is no Christianity. This is not just my opinion, the Bible itself affirms that this is the case:
Now if there is no resurrection, . . . If the dead are not raised at all, . . . why do we endanger ourselves every hour? . . . If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor 15:29-32)
Once again, Fields provides no evidence to support his claims and therefore none is needed to refute them. But for those who might think he has a chance at doing so, he will need to deal with, at minimum, the following evidences:
1. No one from Jesus’ day ever produced Jesus’ body.
2. No one from Jesus’ day ever explained the empty tomb, nor denied it.
3. The disciples were not expecting a resurrection – it was not part of Jewish belief and so would have been ridiculous to fabricate as it would have had no evidential value to them.
4. The resurrection was central to the disciple’s message.
5. The disciples went from hiding to bold proclamation only after the resurrection
6. All but one apostle died as martyrs for this truth. Now, many will die for what they think is true but no one will die for what he knows is false.
7. The story itself lacks any traces of legendary development and there was not even remotely enough time for one to begin (legends take at least two generations to grow because those who can falsify them are still alive).
8. There were well over 500 eyewitnesses to this event still alive when the New Testament was being written.
Considering the number of eyewitnesses, the immediacy of its acceptance, the lack of early challenge, the complete lack of contrary evidence, and the quality and quantity of historical support for the resurrection it must be conceded that to deny it on evidential grounds would mean denying all of ancient history-for we accept most of what we know about history with far less support. For a good presentation of the difficulty of objecting to this historical view, see Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Antony Flew: Did Jesus Rise form the Dead? – The Resurrection Debate.
Jesus’ substitutionary death was an irrational abomination
This is one of the more sickening statements of Fields, going against the witness of every Old and New Testament writer (as if they were mistaken and required Fields’ enlightened right brain to explain the truth). A small sampling of each will suffice to show that this is the case.
One of the strongest messianic strands of thought in the Old testament is that of the Rejected Messiah/Persecuted Messiah/Pierced God. Isaiah 53; Zech 12.10; Psalm 110, and Psalm 2 form the core of this expectation of a rejected Messiah. The actual death of the messiah was also explicit in the messianic hope of the Jews of Jesus’ day. Isaiah 53 said specifically that the messiah would be killed, and the early apostles (not Paul!) used Psalm 16 about David’s ‘not seeing decay’ as prediction of both the death and the resurrection of the messiah. The aspect of an executed messiah was pre-Pauline. Further, Jesus clearly expected this to occur – but not for the reasons Fields thinks (see Mt. 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 20:17-19, 26:1-2; Lk. 24:6).
Let us now turn to New Testament writers.
Peter: knowing that you were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your “futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a “lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-20). . . and He Himself “bore our sins in His body on the “cross, that we might die to “sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24-25).
John: But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 Jn 1:1-2) . . . if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:7)
John the Baptist: The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
The Author of Hebrews: For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:13-14) . . . For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. (Heb 13.11)
Jesus: And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:27-28) . . . And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” ( Matthew 26:39)
NOTE: Jesus asked God the Father to provide another way for people to be saved and there was none.
What is amazing is that Fields directly contradicts the very bible that reports these things and claims to have found the truth that followers of the Bible have apparently missed for 2,000 years. He states, “I came to understand why this man hung on the cross high above the truly dedicated worshippers. They told themselves he died for their sin. But in truth he died because of their sin….” . Apparently Fields has “come to understand” that the very Gospel itself is in error and has “come to understand” something even Jesus’ disciples did not, for their testimony exactly contradicts Fields’:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3)
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18)
If Fields’ “understanding” is correct then both Paul and Peter were wrong about Christ’s death, the Gospel is wrong, and no one may be saved. In fact, Fields has provided another gospel – and thus falls under Paul’s condemnation:
Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal.1:7-8).
There is no original sin
All of this venom against the crucifixion is understandable in light of Fields’ misrepresentation of sin as being “left brain selfishness compelled by fear”  (which he blames on psychological or biological pathology – see his note on terrorism on page 66). He blames evil on left brain selfish ego and fear produced by amygdala rather than the imperfection and sinful desires of man (Mt. 7:11; Jn. 7:7; Rom. 7:21; Col. 1:21; James 3:8; for example). Romans 1-8 makes it perfectly clear that the human problem is sin – evil – not desiring God or good. It is not, as Fields believes, simply rooted in selfish fear caused by a bio-chemical reaction during birth trauma (of course this also cannot explain how the first human pair, who never experienced “birth trauma,” ever began to sin).
What is ultimately devastating to Fields’ position is that Jesus Himself (who Fields claims to be so enamored with) directly contradicts Fields’ thesis in Matthew 15:19 when He states: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Note well: Out of the heart (the very thing Fields thinks can save us ) comes evil – not the right brain or amygdala! Thus Salvation by Grace is not a “cynical” reaction to original sin as Fields believes , rather it is the only possible way sinful humanity has of approaching God (Jn. 14:6; Rom. 5).
Paul changed Jesus’ teachings
Fields charges Paul with replacing Jesus’ gospel of repentance (e.g. works) with his own version of salvation by belief. Yet this is exactly what Jesus taught. Jesus repeatedly called people to believe in Him, and people during his lifetime were evaluated on that basis! Consider this small sampling from John’s gospel alone:
- Jn 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
- Jn 3:18 – “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
- Jn 3:36 – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
- Jn 6:35 – ” he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
- Jn 6:40 – “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life”
- Jn 6:47 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”
- Jn 8:24 – “unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.”
- Jn 11:26 – ” everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
- Jn 12:46 – “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.
- Jn 20:31 – “but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Note well: throughout the gospels Jesus says that at the instant of belief one has (present tense) eternal life – not after doing good works. Thus, justification by faith was taught by Jesus, so Paul’s statements are nothing new.
As far as Pauline doctrine is concerned Fields seems to think that Paul just went his own way. This charge is often leveled against Paul by people who want to have their views justified by their alleged belief in Jesus so they try to blame the parts of Christianity that they do not like on Paul. For example Fields also states that Jesus never would have said what Paul said in Romans 13:1 . I wonder how he came to know this? Paul’s teaching on this subject lines up with Jesus’ other followers [see "Paul and Governing Authority" in the appendices]. However, there is tremendous continuity between the Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles (including Paul). How different were their teachings? Without stacking the deck in favor of one’s view and ignoring the mountain of evidence to the contrary, they are often difficult to distinguish (see “Jesus vs. Paul?” in the appendices).
The nail in the coffin for Fields’ view, however, is from 2 Peter 3:15-16 -
“Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Peter here refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture! Now Peter was not only a disciple, but he was in Jesus’ inner circle . . . if anyone was in a position to judge Paul’s writings it was him! Apparently Fields thinks he knows more about Jesus than one of His closest disciples.
Paul taught antinomianism
Antinomianism is “lawlessness,” or the belief that one can be as sinful as they like (unrepentant) because they are saved by God . Well, repentance is part of what it means to believe as Jesus (Mk 1:15) and Paul teach. Paul could not be more clear on this point than he was in Romans 6:1-23 -
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In fact, Paul affirms good works in the very verse that Fields critiques for teaching unrepentance! Ephesians 2:8-10 reads: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
So people are saved by grace through faith for good works. Thus, all true believers will manifest good works (for that is what they are saved for), but they are not saved by them. Fields, like many others, puts the cart before the horse and confuses cause (salvation) with effect (good works).
The fact is Paul was not anti-law nor anti-repentance, he was anti-legalism-just like Christ. This is made even more evident in Romans 3:8 where Paul says that those who accuse him of this are slanderers: “And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), ‘Let us do evil that good may come’? Their condemnation is just.”
Jesus Himself was hardly a strict follower of the law. He certainly did not ‘keep the Law’ in the strict sense, but acted as its superior. Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant (law written on the heart vs. stone) by his death. Jesus added to, and subtracted from, the Mosaic code. Jesus concentrated on the ethical, spiritual, and inner aspects of obedience to the Law. Yet when Paul does this we are to think he is antinomian?
One further note. Fields says that Paul changed Jesus’ doctrine yet on page 70 he admits that “repentance by works could bring one into conflict with political authority (Rome in Paul’s case), whose defensive Conservatism often killed prophets of repentance…and which eventually did kill Paul, as well as Peter and James.” Well, which is it? If Paul did not preach repentance then why was he killed for preaching repentance?
Paul was a pagan mystic
Some assertions are so obviously false that they need only be stated to be refuted. It is difficult in a debate or critique to know what to do with such statements. Oftentimes a short quip requires a much longer refutation then it really deserves. An unsupported quip requires only an unsupported reply to “level the playing field.” Field offers no support for his statement, and because he is the originator of it the burden of proof is on him to show that it is true. But in the interest of demonstrating how absurd this statement is I offer the following points which even a surface reading of his writings will support:
- Paul was a very strong Jew – at this point in Israel’s history any kind of pagan influence was, shall we say, strongly looked down upon.
- Paul specifically denounces pagan practices in Romans chapter one.
- Paul constantly grounds his theology, practice, and self-understanding on the Old Testament as did Jesus.
In truth it is difficult to find a single paragraph where some sort of misunderstanding or misrepresentation is not made with regard to Christian teaching. What he calls “an erroneous ego-complex interpretation of Jesus”  is actually what Jesus’ very closest followers taught about him. If Fields wishes to invent a new religion then that is fine – he wouldn’t be the first. But it is simply dishonest to label this new religion “Christian” or to attribute it to Jesus.
Much more could be said of course-for it is much easier to write unsupported quips than to refute them rationally and with evidence. Overall I find Amygdala’s Memory to be an essentially socialist propaganda tool disguised by largely outdated pop-psychological terminology which, when stripped away, leave only his unsupported (and hotly disputed) evolutionary assumptions to back it up. His descriptions of sinful human actions are in many cases accurate (although their source is misunderstood), but these refer to self-evident social facts that any observant person would recognize. Facts about the human condition that all coherent views must acknowledge and explain cannot serve as evidence for any one of them.
If Fields’ evolutionary assumptions and anti-Christian anthropology are granted then his theory is probably just as good as any other. But he has certainly not earned the right to the former, and if his treatment of Christianity is any indication of his aptitude in the other critical areas he deals with in this work it is difficult to take it seriously.
I imagine that if Fields were to ever read this (or any other) critique he would probably be relatively un-phased by any of it. His system allows him to relegate dissenters to “left brain ego-complexes that are threatened by new truth,” or something to that effect . Thus, he has built into his view a self-perpetuating circular shield from critique – circular because of the circular argument upon which it is based. It is much like the attitude of religious cultists: only members of the cult are saved, only the saved can understand the Bible correctly, therefore anyone using the Bible to refute the cult cannot understand the Bible correctly because they are unsaved! In Fields’ case he can simply ignore all opposing evidence, no matter how objective, based on the challenger’s “left brain ego pathology.” Thus, disagreement with him will only prove his point.
Do I overstep my bounds by making this speculation? I do not think so. Fields says as much in his epilogue where he graciously “makes no charge” against those with “defeated, silenced hearts” [see 108]. The truth of the matter is that his charge is weak and not terribly threatening at all.
Jesus vs. Paul?
How much difference was there between Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s? Consider the following:
- (JESUS) Matt 5.24: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
- (PAUL) Romans 12.14: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse”
- (JESUS) Mark 7:15: “there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him
- (PAUL) Romans 14:14: ” I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is profane in itself”
- (JESUS) Matt 17:20: “if you have faith…you will say to this mountain, ‘Move’…”
- (PAUL) I Cor 13.2: “if I have all faith so as to move mountains…”
- (JESUS) Matt 19.21: “If you would be perfect, go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor…”
- (PAUL) I Cor 13.3: “if I give away all my possessions…”
- (JESUS) Matt 24.43: “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
- (PAUL) I Thess 5:2,4: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night…But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief;
- (JESUS) Mark 9.50: “live at peace with one another”
- (PAUL) I Thess 5.13: “live at peace among yourselves”
- (JESUS) Mark 4.22: “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light.
- (PAUL) I Cor 4.5: “who will bring to light the secrets of darkness and will make public the purposes of the heart”
- (PAUL) Rom 2.16: “God judges the secrets of people, according to my gospel through Jesus Christ”
- (PAUL) I Cor 14.25: “The secrets of his heart are made public”
- (JESUS) Mark 14:36: “And He was saying, “Abba! Father” (uncommon usage)
- (PAUL) Gal 4.6: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”"
- (PAUL) Rom 8.15: “you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
- (JESUS) Mark 14:22-23: “And while they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it; and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup, and given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
- (PAUL) I Cor 11:23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” [the whole thing!]
- (JESUS) Luke 10.7: “And stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages.
- (PAUL) I Tim 5.18: “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
- (JESUS) Mark 10.9f: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11 And He *said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
- (PAUL) I Cor 7.10-11: But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away
- (JESUS) Matt 22.21: “Then He *said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”
- (PAUL) Romans 13.7: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor”
- (JESUS) Mark 10.44: “and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
- (PAUL) I Cor 9.19: “I have made myself a slave to all…”
- (JESUS) Matt 5.33f: “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil.”
- (PAUL) 2 Cor 1.17-18: “Or that which I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yes, yes and no, no at the same time? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no.”
And these comparisons barely scratches the surface: the sending of the apostles (Matt 10:2, 5; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:2, 10:1; 1 Cor. 9:1, 5, etc.), their authority (Matt 10:1; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1; 1 Cor. 9:4, etc.), to preach the gospel (Matt 10:7; Luke 9:2; 10:9; 1 Cor. 9:14-16, etc.) and to cast out devils and heal (Matt 10:1; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1; Luke 10:9; 2 Cor. 12:12), their mission to Israel (Matt 10:5; Gal. 2:8, 9), “you received without payment; give without payment” (Matt 10:8; 2 Cor. 11:7; 1 Cor. 9:18), “eating and drinking . . .” (Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:4, etc.), “the laborer deserves to be paid” (Matt 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:14), “eat what is set before you” (Luke 10:8; 1 Cor. 10:27), “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16; Rom. 16:19), “whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Luke 10:16; 1 Thes. 4:8)
Not only did Paul know and repeat Jesus’ teaching–often almost verbatim!–he constantly pointed his readers to the life of Christ as an example to follow:
- Rom 15:1-3: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me.”
- Philp 2.5: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,”
- 1 Cor 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
- Eph 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us.”
Paul and Governing Authority
Paul’s so-called religion of accommodation to secular powers was specifically ordered by Yahweh in the prophets, exemplified by Jesus Christ, and supported by non-Pauline authorities in the church. The Jews in captivity (and even immediately before the captivity) were told to support the foreign, pagan authorities–because those authorities were ‘sent by God’. Some of these authorities were so evil as to provoke severe crises of faith for the Lord’s prophets (see also Jer. 29:1-7; 2 Kings 25:24). The LORD had ordered the nation of Judah to surrender to Babylon, through the prophet Jeremiah (27:1-12). In Dan 2:36, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that God ‘ordained him’ to power. Daniel himself had served the pagan government with strictest fidelity (Dan 6.4) and his attitude to his pagan king was one of support unless he commanded sin (4:19). Eventually, the pagan king Cyrus (of the Persians) would come to power. He did not ‘know the LORD, yet he was specifically called “the LORD’s Anointed” in Isaiah 41:2 [cf. 44:28, 45:1-5). Nehemiah also understood that God had placed the pagan kings over the Jews (Deut 28.47), because of covenant unfaithfulness (Neh 9.36).
What about the new Testament? Here are a few of Jesus’ comments on civil authority:
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” When Pilate therefore heard this statement, he was the more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore *said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:7-11)
“Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt 22:21)
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. (Matt 23:1-4)
Did Jesus’ closest disciples understand Him correctly? Let’s look at Peter:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (I Peter 2:13-17)
Of course Peter recognized that God’s law was highest and where the boundaries between right and wrong are in this arena:
“And when they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5.27-29)