God Does Not Have a Brain: time and the thought process of the Almighty

Chris Nye
8 min readJul 31, 2021
Dr. Michael Gazzaniga with one of the first tachistoscopes, which he built for his split-brain research subjects.

“Your thoughts are very deep!”

-Psalm 92:5b

“God doesn’t have a brain, and he has never missed it.”

-Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

If you are interrogated about any major decision (should I marry this person?) or minor decision (should I add cherry tomatoes to this salad?), it is probably pretty easy for you to tell someone your thought process: how, why, and when did you come to that decision? Human decision making is wrapped up in our experience of time: our thoughts take on a progression, and so we can often easily take people through that exact process. If asked, we can respond with a course of thoughts: “I saw the salad lacked color, and that it needed a pop of flavor, and I noticed I had cherry tomatoes in the fridge, so I just threw them in there.” Notice the sequence? That happens in your brain all the time, both consciously and unconsciously.

Does God think like this? Does the Creator of heaven and earth take things into consideration, sort them out, and then deliver on his decision-making? Does God think like we think? Just as automatic as our sequential thinking is our assumption that God’s brain is just like ours. That is, if he has one.

At the very start of Exodus, the people of Israel are crying out, suffering as the slaves of Egypt. They direct their cries to their God. The author describes a kind of sequential prayer like this:

Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.

-Exodus 2:23b-25

Here, at the very beginning of Israel’s most important story, is a little window in to the thought process of God. Notice the chronology: the cry “came up to God” (a metaphor we are quite comfortable with) and then God “heard” it, then “remembered his covenant,” then “saw the people of Israel” and then — strangely and mysteriously — at the end of the series: “God knew.”

What was going on in God’s mind during this time? And how might we think about the mind of God in relationship to time? Did the prayers operate…

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Chris Nye

Living in Portland, Oregon with my wife and son. Doctoral candidate at Duke University. Author of a few books: chrisnye.co/books