New brain research reveals your habits are passed onto your children and grandchildren.Have you ever wondered why some patterns in your family history seem to be recurring in your own life? Strongholds such as anxiety, poverty, illnesses and addictions to name a few. The Bible refers to these as generational curses, which the church has long believed was purely spiritual. But according to new brain research, this biblical principle is far more scientific than we realize.
The concept of generational curses is presented in Exodus 20:5. In the King James Version it says that God will “visit” the sins of the fathers down to the third and fourth generation. The term “visit” makes more sense in light of this new study which shows that generational curses can, indeed, be scientifically traced back from one generation to another.
Pioneering studies in epigenetics reveals that our life experiences and choices do change us, including our brains, down to the DNA level. And these changes can be passed onto our children and further down the hereditary line. Epigenetics gives insight to how our diets, work environment – even one-off traumatic events – can change the genetic legacy we pass onto our children and grandchildren.
WHAT IS EPIGENETICS?
Epigenetics is information that sits above the genome, which controls the programming of DNA, instructing different cells how to express themselves. In an interview from the Conquer Series, a new men’s DVD-based teaching series, neuropsychologist, Dr. Jes Montgomery explains, “Sensations we put into the brain will use the DNA to change how the cell responds. And those genes are turned ‘off’ or ‘on’ based on what that response is. While the DNA doesn’t change, the expression does.” What’s fascinating about this new study is that it reveals that our DNA is not immutable, which was the former notion, but that environment markedly affects our gene expressions and the ways we function and behave.
A BLOW TO EVOLUTION
This quiet scientific revolution could be a paradigm shift for evolutionary biology, as it pretty much refutes Darwin’s central premise. Neuropsychologist, Dr. Tim Jennings said, “Which is more scientifically accurate – the Bible or Charles Darwin? Well guess what? It’s the Bible. Darwin hypothesized that it was mutation over millions of years that caused finches to have different beaks. Science has actually now proved, it’s epigenetic modification. This is big, because science is now confirming Scripture.”
Epigenetics reveals that not only do we pass along the DNA sequence to our children, but we also pass along the epigenetic instructions to them. In other words, information can be inherited and transmitted through generations. In an experiment on ‘transgenerational epigenetic inheritance’, researchers at Emory University, trained mice to fear a fruity odor by pairing it with a mild electric shock to the foot. Ten days later, the mice were allowed to mate. Incredibly, their pups feared the odor even without having encountered the smell before. But even more fascinating is that the offspring of those pups – the grandchildren – were born with the same specific memory. We see the mice study apply to humans. One example were the attacks of 9/11. Among the thousands of people directly exposed to the attack were 1,700 pregnant women. Some of these women developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Their children reacted with high levels of fear and stress around loud noises, unfamiliar people, or new foods. It seems the infants inherited the nightmare that their mothers experienced on that day.
SINS OF THE FATHER
It’s cathartic when you can literally put the concept of generational curses under the microscope. Suddenly your habits and experiences have far greater social implications, because you no longer live life just for yourself but for your descendants too. As Jennings points out, “The choices we make – the foods that we eat, the things that we watch – can affect how the DNA is expressed. When we have kids, we pass on the sequence to them. So if we become addicted to stuff, we can pass along to our children gene instructions that make them more vulnerable to addictions.” So take pornography addiction, for instance, since it’s the fastest growing epidemic in today’s church. According to a recent study, 68 percent of Christian men are addicted to porn. Most likely, they are unaware of the hereditary ramifications of viewing porn. “It doesn’t happen generally with one exposure to pornography. It’s the repetitive volitional exposure to pornography that will cause this type of gene expression change to happen”, explains Jennings.
These staggering statistics make you wonder what implications porn addiction will have on the church’s future. Pastor James Reeves of City On A Hill DFW, who has successfully tackled porn addiction in his church, warns, “We are raising a generation of sex addicts in the church. Young Christian men who are so exposed to pornography. What’s going to happen is as this generation gets married and has children, the spiral of their addiction will get tighter and tighter. It’s going to really sweep through the church like a tsunami wave of destruction of the family. And the church is absolutely not prepared for it.”
Dr. Ted Roberts, a sex addiction therapist and the host of the Conquer Series, said, “Probably the most devastating consequence is that God guarantees you – His Word is very clear: ‘the curse will be visited to the third and fourth generation.’ If you are in sexual bondage or you are struggling with that and don’t get an effective dealing with it, it will be passed on to your kids.”
BREAKING THE CURSE
The good news is that even if epigenetic modifications are passed onto your offspring, they are reversible. In other words, it is possible to break the curse. “You can go either way. we can pass along both positive things in our life and or negative, depending on the choices we make in life”, said Jennings.
In another experiment with mice, the notion of breaking generational curses is clearly demonstrated. Scientists bred mice to have a memory impairment. In short, they were bred to be stupid. Then they took the mice and for two weeks, during their adolescence, the mice were placed in an enriched environment with lots of toys. Not surprisingly, the mice developed better memory despite their bad genes. The enriched environment caused an epigenetic modification, switching off the bad gene. But here’s where it gets interesting: the pups of the mice from the enriched environment were also born with the gene defect, but had the epigenetic modification such that the bad gene was shut off. Instead, they were born with good memory despite their bad genes.
But here’s the million Dollar question: If a Christian is set free from his past after being born-again, why are there so many believers who still see the effects of generational curses in their lives? Could it be because so many of us still live under the law? The law tells us that God’s blessings are conditional, depending on how good we are, which is based on our works, whereas grace tells us that Christ took the curse upon himself on the Cross: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’, Galatians 3:13). The law condemns us, but grace gives us the gift of non-condemnation. Once we are gripped by grace, we can truly have the mind of Christ which transforms our behavior and that infuses all our relationships. Suddenly, we are empowered to break the curses, knowing that the blood of Christ covers us. This transformation is physically revealed in the genetic changes in our bodies, but also on the legacy we will be leaving behind.
Having an understanding of epigenetics, we no longer have to be victims of predetermined genetic codes. Spiritually speaking – we don’t have to live under the curse and subject our children to it. Because of the Cross, the generational curses in our family can be broken. Science is merely discovering these powerful biblical truths. Being under grace, we can choose to turn the tide of generational curses to blessings. As Dr. Doug Weiss, a marriage counselor, said, “Don’t think of it as a battle you’re just fighting for yourself. You’re fighting for the very lineage that God gave you. And if you will break this curse, then your sons and your daughters have a better shot and your grandchildren have a better shot. My son’s name is Jubilee, because his dad took the courage to break the curses off of him. I want to invite you to do the very same thing for those you love.”
Weiss, Jennings, Montgomery, Reeves and Roberts are just several of the many experts featured in the Conquer Series 6-disc DVD set (http://www.conquerseries.com/shop/conquer-series-6-dvd), who provide amazing insight that help set men free from sexual sin, while providing practical steps to live in purity.
Dias, B. G., & Ressler, K. J. (2013). Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations. Nature Neuroscience, advance online publication. DOI:10.1038/nn.3594
Yehuda, R et al (2005). Transgenerational Effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Babies of Mothers Exposed to the World Trade Center Attacks during Pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, DOI: 10.1210/jc.2005-0550