Monday, September 13, 2010

Christian Psychology

I quote the aforementioned Pastor Cole of Flagstaff regarding Christian psychology:

“As this elder and I were discussing Cloud’s approach, he told me that people like his wife who were from dysfunctional homes could not relate to my preaching because I emphasize obedience to God’s Word. Because they had strict, cold, authoritarian fathers, they don’t relate well to authority. I replied that I thought that I also put a strong emphasis on God’s grace as the motivation for obedience. But he responded that his wife couldn’t even relate to God’s grace — it went right by her. I was a bit taken aback, and so I said, ‘You mean that the many times I have spoken on God’s grace, she didn’t hear me?’ He said yes, in her 20 years on Crusade staff, never once had she felt God’s grace and love on a personal level.

“I thought about what he had said and asked some clarifying questions to make sure I understood him. Then I responded, ‘If your wife has never felt God’s love and grace, she is not converted!’ I had been reading Jonathan Edwards’ classic, A Treatise on Religious Affections, in which he makes a strong biblical case that saving faith is not mere intellectual assent to the gospel, but that it affects the heart.”

Pastor Cole reaches the conclusion that this woman is not saved. It fits in well with his Reformed theology, which holds that one must be drawn to salvation by the Father and that this grace is irresistible. However, this observation fits in well with a non-Reformed view of salvation as well, at least until you add in Christian Psychology.
Ultimately, the point is that Christian Psychology makes the claim that some people who have certain psychological issues can’t experience God fully. If they could, they wouldn’t have psychological issues. Pastor Cole is correct in labeling Christian Psychology as heresy, at least from the standpoint of traditional, Biblical, Christian doctrine.

However, Pastor Cole’s treatment of the subject misses another solution to this problem. Admittedly, it is a solution totally antithetical to Christianity, more so than the Christian Psychology he despises. It is this—what humans perceive as an experience with God is really no more than a psychological construct. The exact nature of that construct differs between religions. Christianity is an authoritarian religion, so its psychological construct requires a certain level of comfort with authority. Even grace itself is a gift bestowed on either the chosen ones (Reformed) or the properly yielded ones (non-Reformed) at God’s discretion.
In this view of the problem we find that Christian Psychology, if true in its assertions, makes our concept of God to be a human invention. Christian Psychology has ended up disproving God.

This troubles me because I can relate to the elder’s wife. My choice then, is between one of two conclusions. If I uphold the Reformed view, God has not chosen me. If I do not subscribe to Reformed theology, God does not exist.
Additionally, the concept that God is a psychological construct finds support in the numerous experiences of God we find in other religions. If Christianity is the one true way, they are not, but then what differentiates their communion with the divine from ours? The alternative is the idea that there are many ways to God.

I have always taken some solace in the concept that we must rely on the Word of God and not feelings. However, if Jonathan Edwards (and Pastor Cole) is correct, I'm in a pickle.

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