Thursday, January 16, 2014
God and Mind
In both her book and this article, Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, describes how she spent time among evangelical Christians because of her interest “in the fact that people like me seemed to experience reality in a fundamentally different manner.” The piece at hand today describes how the evangelical churches help people deal with anxiety and stress in their lives through prayer.Mike reacts:
The author likens what happens in evangelical settings to cognitive-behavioral therapy, which its practitioners characterize like this:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change.Luhrmann cites the methodology of Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life, who, in her words, “spells out thoughts he thinks his readers have but don’t want, and then asks them to consider themselves from God’s point of view: not as the inadequate people they feel themselves to be, but as loved, as relevant and as having purpose.”
On the one hand, any increase in kindness, forbearance, and gentleness in the way our pastors and teachers encourage us to treat one another is welcome. Withholding judgment and pat answers, learning to listen, helping people recognize God and his love in the hidden places of suffering and pain, urging them to talk to him in prayer and to cast their burdens on him — these are salutary ways of walking with one another in love and compassion.I am not a big fan of a "therapuetic" view of Christianity in general, but this is unique. This, "...our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change," seems to describe precisely the transformative process that God has in mind for us. But Mike is right, as presented, this is shallow. The Lordship of Christ is the only way to hold this altered view. And this is true for two reasons.
On the other hand, I can’t help but suspect that this commendable activity that T.H. Luhrmann is describing may be rooted in shallow soil. For it is not just a “relationship with a Friend” that we need when it comes to knowing God, it is faith to embrace the mystery that he doesn’t always show up as my Friend.
For one, just putting on this altered view means we can take it off. There has to be more involved than merely adopting a point-of-view. But more importantly, no one can really do this without supernatural intervention. Have you ever tried to just change how you think? Doesn't really work without some sort of extra something.
And that is the problem with naturalistic views of what goes on at church. You only almost get it.
God therapy transformation