Monthly Archives: February 2015

Christianity as applied psychology

The word ‘psychology’ comes from two Greek roots, ‘psyche’ meaning soul or spirit and ‘logia’ meaning the study of. Christianity can be thought to come from an historical, personal study of the soul, starting with Jesus of Nazareth and then continuing over the last 2,000 years.

If the description of Jesus in the Gospel accounts is somewhere near accurate, he spoke with ‘authority, unlike the scribes’ – which is to say, he had a firsthand understanding of various aspects and practices related to the soul or spirit. His study was not academic but practical and personal. Nowadays, the equivalent of ‘scribes’ could perhaps best be academics, such as philosophers and theologians, who engage in logic chopping with little personal experience of the issues at hand. Since then, various practices have developed within Christianity which have also been based on firsthand experience related to the spirit.

If Christianity is essentially psychology derived from firsthand experiences and then applied to various practices, then you can see why defining Christianity doctrinally or theologically is misleading, and why arguing about whether Christianity is true or not based on abstract, derivative theological arguments is to a significant degree beside the point of what Christianity is.

How to respond to arguments based on the problem of (natural) evil?

How does one respond to arguments based on the problem of (natural) evil?

In responding to Stephen Fry, here, Robert Barron makes various (relevant, good) points.

Yet, I think any response misses the point if it doesn’t start with this. Namely, a personal, experienced relationship with God.

If you have that – an experience of providence (including non-chance coincidences) attributable to God, of the indwelling Holy Spirit (‘grace’) as a transformative agent, or the ‘Divine Presence’, and so on – then the problem of natural evil becomes a problem, because one feels one knows there is something like God, and that this being’s essence is to be Good. This problem can be investigated and perhaps resolved.

If you don’t have a living relationship as a starting point, then it doesn’t seem like there is actually a problem, Rather, there’s just a theological exercise.

So, if the basis of Christianity is a lived (experiential) relationship with God, and someone doesn’t have that, then it’s mostly just logic chopping debating theological issues. Therefore, my response to someone like Fry would be, first seek a (lived, experiential) relationship with the Christian God. Once you have some of the experiences that many Christians have (which may or may not happen, of course), then it makes sense to start talking about things like the problem of (natural) evil. Until then, I don’t think you actually have a problem of (natural) evil, but rather just an observation – which of course anyone would be aware of from the beginnings of Christianity (indeed, probably moreso).

An aspect of water and Christianity

A friend has a beautiful lotus pond. A natural basin on his estate— his farm as he always calls it—is supplied with water from a reservoir in the foothills some distance away. A gate regulates the flow of the water from the main that conducts it from the reservoir to the pond. It is a spot of transcendent beauty. There, through the days of the perfect summer weather, the lotus flowers lie full blown upon the surface of the clear, transparent water. The June roses and other wild flowers are continually blooming upon its banks. The birds come here to drink and to bathe, and from early until late one can hear the melody of their song. The bees are continually at work in this garden of wild flowers. A beautiful grove, in which many kinds of wild berries and many varieties of brakes and ferns grow, stretches back of the pond as far as the eye can reach.

[…] The gate of the pond is always open wide enough to admit a supply of water so abundant that it continually overflows a quantity sufficient to feed a stream that runs through the fields below, giving the pure mountain water in drink to the cattle and flocks that are grazing there. The stream then flows on through the neighbors’ fields.

[…] In the degree that we recognize our oneness , our connection with the Infinite Spirit which is the life of all, and in the degree that we open ourselves to this divine inflow, do we come into harmony with the highest, the most powerful, and the most beautiful everywhere. And in the degree that we do this do we overflow, so that all who come in contact with us receive the effects of this realization on our part.

(Ralph Waldo Trine, In Tune with the Infinite)

A good way of making concrete what could be expressed in abstract theological language.