A New Apologetics

You can now explore the chapters within my most recent book The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience using Amazon's Look Inside function. (Apologies for those of you outside the US. The Press tells me they are still working to get the book overseas.)

One of the arguments of the book is that the landscape of Christian apologetics has been dramatically altered in the face of functional accounts of religious belief. The first paragraph of the book:

The goal of this book is to answer a question: Why do people believe in God? More specifically, this book is aimed at answering a particular form of this question, a nuance that emerged in the modern period through the work of thinkers such as Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and, of particular importance for this book, Sigmund Freud. The shift in emphasis in “the God question” occasioned by these thinkers has rendered much of Christian theology and apologetics effectively useless in addressing many contemporary criticisms of religious faith. The playing field has shifted. And a new kind of apologetics is needed.
Traditional apologetics has focused on the reasonableness of faith. This is a defense of faith based upon logic, philosophical argumentation, and evidence. However, this project has been rendered impotent in the face of arguments like those of Freud and Marx.

How so?

By talking about the functions rather than the contents of religious belief thinkers like Freud and Marx have effectively changed the subject. I illuminate this distinction a little later in the Prelude:
Let me give an example of the relevant contrast here, albeit somewhat crudely. In classical apologetics a Christian might have been asked to justify her belief that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead. What justifies that belief? By contrast, in the wake of the work of thinkers such as Freud, the question morphs and becomes something a bit different, something like this: Why would someone be attracted to the idea of life after death? That is a different kind of question, a question that moves past the propositional contents of faith and begins to investigate the underlying, often subterranean, motivations behind belief-formation itself. These questions are highly destabilizing because few of us are able to plumb the depths of our unconscious motivations. Is it possible that I believe in the resurrection because I am motivated by a deep and unconscious fear of death? Honest people admit that this may be a very real possibility. If so, hasn’t my faith been rendered to be an illusion, a psychological system that helps me cope with an unsettling reality? Suddenly, we are no longer talking about evidence, argument, and reasonableness. We are talking about psychological motivations, often unconscious motivations. And if those motivations are called into question (plausibly so, for who does not want to live forever?) how are we to respond? The tools of classical apologetics are impotent here. Nor is the bible or theology of any help.
So how are we to approach the argument of a person like Freud? If theology and the bible are of no help what are we to do? My assessment from the book:
[I]ssues related to human motivation, particularly unconscious motivation, cannot be settled with armchair speculation or biblical analysis. Nor will introspection, even erudite and sophisticated introspection, move us forward. These issues, ultimately, boil down to human psychology. To make any headway with these new criticisms of faith, to show, for example, that faith is more than “wishful thinking,” a person is going to need to know a bit about how religious belief functions in the mind of believers. Apologetics has shifted to the social sciences.
When my publisher asked me to write a book description I wrote that the book was attempting a "New Apologetics." He emailed back wondering, "Isn't that sort of a bold claim?"

I replied, yes, yes it is.

Why write a book if you're not being bold?

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57 thoughts on “A New Apologetics”

  1. Perhaps part of what is happening is people are asking the questions their hearts have always asked, which opens up dialogue which potentially has more impact. There is nothing new under the sun. Jesus was able to get to the heart of what someone was asking often before they consciously realised it. Some may have genuinely believed they were asking for reasonable and logical proof and explanations but he realized what they needed and were actually struggling with.
    It seems to me in certain circles, like universities there hasn't been sufficient language to bridge the gap between traditional apologetics and appeals to emotional response. Or at least there haven't been enough christian voices. So it does sound like new apologetics definitely has its place. Ultimately Christ must capture our whole being and speak into all areas of thoughtlife.

  2. I think there is a difference between trying to understand why people believe, and arguing that God is real.  When someone knows that there is a God, it is absurd to embark upon a psychological analysis to try to understand why they believe in God.  It's like someone trying to investigate the reasons for my psychological belief that I have a body.  Apologetics is best off pointing to the evidence for God.  There is much of it!  Psychology in relation to belief is an unnecessary distraction.

  3. I understand, but the criticism goes this way. If you already have a prior conviction then, yes, "the evidence" is perfectly clear and there much of it. If I believe in bigfoot I see lots of evidence for bigfoot. The trouble is with the prior conviction and how it creates an epistemological filter, literally creates the evidence you want to see. It's called confirmation bias. And to suggest that Christians, alone, are unaffected by this universal feature of human psychology confirms what atheists already think, that we are naive and afraid of critical analysis.

  4. I'm plugging right along in the book...made it to p. 208 yesterday.  :-)  "Apologetics" -- the word itself irritates me, but that has a lot to do with the way I have witnessed (pun intended) abuse in the sport of defending the faith.  Having said that, it makes perfect sense to me that reason alone cannot explain what we believe, and why.  Intellectual gymnastics, proof-texting, and skill in the art of argument/debate doesn't get to the heart of a person's motives.  I have never found that "method" to be effective in persuading a person to believe what I believe.  To my knowledge, I couldn't add a whole lot of notches to my soul-winning belt.

    I think our witness for Christ is more about our actions, and others' experiences with us; planting seeds of love, that we may not see sprout.  The Spirit works to change hearts, imho, on God's time.  Not ours.  As Eli commented, Jesus knew how to get to the heart of a person's deeper motives and needs.  But that was Jesus, the Son of God.  I think, Holy Spirit-filled or not, we need to work a lot harder than Jesus to understand one another and speak into each others' faith journeys with any degree of accuracy and effectiveness, anyway.  All gentle and gracious-like.  Attempting to yank someone out of their existential consolation, abruptly, and without the commitment to be there to support them through the confrontation with certain disturbing truths, seems harsh and even cruel.  Am I too wimpy about evangelism and apologetics in saying that?  I think I have already committed enough sins in my former zeal and ignorance, KWIM?  I don't feel good about asserting the "truth" if a person will be crushed as a result.  Do we console ourselves with the belief that it is our Great Commission to make disciples, precipitate conversions, etc., and that the end justifies any and all means?  We'll let God be big enough to put the pieces of a person back together, once they're converted?

    One other thought that has occurred to me over the past few days...  And it goes to a recurring experience I have had within evangelicalism.  If an error in thinking/belief/practice has been pointed out to me in such a way that the genuineness of my faith and/or my intelligence has been questioned, then what viable "in" does that give me for accepting the apologist's POV and aligning with him?  Unless I am a glutton for punishment, or, plan to be in a submissive posture to that individual, I don't see how I, in my right mind, would go to join "with" that other?  I wish I could articulate this in more sophisticated terms.  I betray my lack of intelligence, no doubt!  Hopefully, you all can make sense of my thoughts.

    The psychological terror management techniques and worldview defenses that tend to lock us into patterns of thinking that prevent us from understanding ourselves, or from having the capacity to open ourselves to true dialogue with others, and, from moving forward in our spiritual maturity make perfect sense to me.  Admitting the problem (and that we all wrestle with these things to varying degrees) is an important first step to overcoming.  "Work out your own salvation with reverence and awe..."  "Confess your faults one to another..."  Both seem quite appropriate exhortations in light of the thesis of 'The Authenticity of Faith."

    I really liked the study cited in the book between the Christian and the Buddhist.  Interesting but not surprising outcome.  I was impressed with the Buddhist, needless to say!  ~Peace~

  5. I agree that this poses quite a conundrum, but at the same time, I have to wonder: even if belief in life after death fulfills some inner need, does that dismiss evidence already collected? Say, for instance, if we knew with 100% certainty that God exists, but we know that we have an inner need for him to exist, does that cancel out the truth of his existence?

    Anyway, I'm with you in that there seems to be a shift in the apologetic world, so I can't wait to read your book!

  6.  Hi Susan,

    What study (Christianity/Buddhism) are you referencing, if I may inquire?

    I think your approach to this works for those who believe, for those who have faith.  Your way seems very practical.  The problem for people like me (and *Cole* above) is when you have become convinced that all religion and belief is imaginary or magical thinking.  Worst of all, in the service of the subconscious it demands removal of conscious self-control and places it elsewhere. 

    Christianity requires me to turn my total being over to someone or something else, or else it falls apart.  This is why I am so attracted to C.S. Lewis as an "apologist".  He was a master of mythology while he was still an atheist.  And then he "reasoned" his way to Faith.  I still see only the mythology of the Bible.  I have now accepted that I may never find the Faith.  As many here have said -- "It's a gift".

    In this regard, I think that Dr. Beck is hitting the nail squarely on the head.  My only problem with his analysis is when he asks the question -- "Who does not want to live forever?"  Ummm, plenty of people.  Perhaps *Cole*.  My own sister.  Certainly me.

  7. Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he
    does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give
    the best, and man will not take it. 
    George MacDonald



    Maybe apologetics on some level is trying to convince ourselves that what we want to be true, is. If I can convince another person that what I believe is true, then it must be. Maybe the skeptic is one who is looking for God but whose mind is clouded by those who are trying to prove that God exists. What if God can prove Himself.

  8. There is a distinction between wish and ontology, about what we wish for and what actually exists. And you're right, pointing out my wish for, say, life after death doesn't mean it isn't so. But, as Freud points out in The Future of an Illusion it is suspicious that our ontology fits our wishes so well, that what we wish was the case we believe to be the case. That correspondence is not a refutation, but it casts a pall of suspicion over the whole deal. And it's hard to remove that suspicion by protestation to the contrary, the preferred mode of Christian response. I think we can do better and break through this he-said-she-said impasse between believers and skeptics by actually assessing religious motivations in the laboratory. My research is a early step in this direction.

  9. "I think our witness for Christ is more about our actions, and others'
    experiences with us; planting seeds of love, that we may not see sprout."

    I think you'll like the way the book ends. But don't jump ahead!

  10. I think you're right on the money there. I've often wondered why it is SO gosh darn important to us as humans (not just christians) to convince others that what we believe is true. Your statement certainly seems like at least part of the answer to that. Certainly makes sense to me at least.

  11. I'm beginning to suspect that if there is a god, and if I ever do come to terms with he/she/it (or more likely if god ever comes to terms with me) it will be after I have come completely to the end of belief. I keep thinking I've come to the end of belief, but like an onion there seem to always be more layers. I suspect that one thing that keeps me from coming to the end of belief is that I have such a strong desire for life after death to be true (fear of death?).

    I really resonate with what Cole said, and certainly envy him in a way (and Sam too in that regard). This endless attempt to find, and be comfortable in, a "belief system" is a form of psychosis (or at least I suspect it is for me).

    I, like Cole, have had those mystical experiences with beauty, and I'll take those over anything I've experienced in "church" any day. But I've always tried to reconcile those experiences with belief systems, theologies, the bible, etc. and in the process they have been tainted, poisoned and robbed of their innate value.

    So I do hope that I can come to the end of belief at some point before I die. For if this life is all I get, it sure would be nice to experience more of the joy and beauty of it. And if there is more, I guess I have to assume that God, being God, is probably not nearly as worried about my confusion as I am.

  12. I've kind of sworn off christian books for awhile since they mostly have a tendency to exacerbate my dilemmas. But I do think I need to read this book. Seems like it could be helpful in the "new pair of glasses" department.

  13. I wonder if you've ever read Ken Wilber's stuff on this subject.  I see some parallels between what you're getting at here and what he hits on in quite a bit of his writings.  

  14. I'm kind of young so I might be in over my head, but theology and psychology are the degrees I want to pursue after high school so I'll throw my thoughts out there. 

    Doesn't the question "Why would someone be attracted to the idea of life after death?" have a little hint of relativism to it? A persons attraction to the idea of life after death doesn't have much sway on whether there actually is life after death, it only determines if they are going to believe it. My attraction to the idea of there being oxygen in outer space so I can float around out there doesn't have much sway on the fact there there is not breathable oxygen in outer space. The safe feeling a person gets in thinking there is more after this life is a bonus, but shouldn't the main reason be that the real life person of Jesus Christ said there was, and then He rose from the dead to affirm it. Then it's back to the argument of whether Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead.

  15. Hi Cole,

    So then, it seems that your comment to me on the "Parable of the Lost Sheep: Calvinist Version" article, where you said:

    "Religion was given birth out of the fear of death. There is no evidence for your loving God. He does not express His love to us. We see this when children get their faces burned off by the universe that He supposedly designed. The universe breaks babies arms, cripples them, pops their eyeballs out of their sockets, peels the skin off their bodies. If God wanted to bring these children up to heaven why not go about it in a more humane and gentleman-like way? Maybe send down some chariots from heaven and escort the children there since He loves them so much."

    ... is just your attempt to get me to "grow up" and stop letting God manage my life for me? Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate your desire to save me from what you see as my delusions about God... really, I do appreciate it. And I do completely understand the road you have traveled through this whole mess of God, religion, personal accountability, self-confidence, etc., etc. I have walked it - am walking it - on a continual basis.

    But please, rather than try to point out that I have somehow missed the atrocities in the world as proof that God does NOT exist, why not assume that I am at least *almost* as smart, and as self-reflecting, and self-examining, and aware of what is going on around me, as you are; and that I am as perfectly able to come to my own conclusions as you are. I do not need you to enlighten me with graphic images of burning children. I do appreciate your concern, but I'm a big boy Cole.

    And please do not respond to my heartfelt response to your comment to me on that other blog. And do not think for a moment that I don't have a pretty good understanding of your mindset, its development and conclusions, and the need you feel to save me from mine. I forgive you for your sincere, yet misguided attempts at saving me from myself, just as I hope you will forgive me for my sincere, yet misguided attempts at giving you some hope that there might actually be a God. 

    Now, in the words of Mother Theresa, "Go home and love your family." That's God enough for all of us.

  16. Dan G,  Your struggle is much a mirror of my own, and I know how you feel.  I would suggest to you a good book (it will not throw more theological darts at you), and a video from the series "Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman"  that have helped me.  First is "The Spiritual Brain", by Mario Beauregard and Denise O'Leary, with whom I briefly corresponded after completing their tome.  The second is a summary of the work in Canada on "the God Helmet".  Best of luck!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y02UlkYjSi0

  17. Thanks, Dr. Beck.  I won't!  I hardly ever read the ending first.  I like to be a little surprised.  :-)  (Not *too* much, though -- existential anxieties and all...)

    I am living in the joy of just being today.  Visited with a sweet, elderly shut-in friend this morning for a few hours.  And I'm expecting a dear old (long-lasting) kindred-spirit friend from our previous city/home to come through town at any minute for a visit.  The blessings are over-the-top today!  I apologize for commenting and then going missing.  I'll have to catch up with all of my friends here at ET tomorrow.  Please forgive me the delay...

  18. There are experiences from my own life that I wish had some way of being assessed, confirmed or refuted. I don't trust even my own perception in them to tell me what's true, and I don't really know if anyone else can either.  One was the evening after my first child was born, and unknown to doctors until it was almost too late, I was bleeding out internally. They worked on me for two hours to stabilize me. The other was when we lost a pregnancy two years later, and I was alone in the ER room. I question whether what I saw, felt, and experienced was real, or just a trick of the mind. The first case was the first inclination I had after the fact of it that perhaps the theology I'd embraced so wholistically was not accurate. It started me on the search that got me to where I am today. And I've talked to only one other person who has had occasion to experience anything similar, but the similarities were pretty stunning.

  19. My responses to your posts, Richard, usually take the form of saying, "Though I know you know this, just to make clear . . ." (I.e, it's usually for general readerly clarification than assuming you don't already agree.)

    So: Though I know you know this, just to make clear, I take it the point isn't to shift the epistemological foundation of apologetics *from* logic/universal rationality *to* psychology/the social sciences. Rather, *if* we think that apologetics -- understood as the disciplined attempt to demonstrate that religious conviction and praxis is *not* a priori irrational compared to other, supposedly non-religious forms of life -- is one among many worthwhile scholarly conversations, the discourse has itself already shifted from sheer logic to the social sciences, and *therefore* if Christians want to participate, they/we should join that new, existing conversation rather than hole up and defend the notion that universal rationality is the only legitimate home for apologetics. Because to do the latter is at once to engage in a monologue, to confirm the skeptics' suspicions, and to prop up a dying and disproved epistemology, namely, the Enlightenment's idea of the bar of universal reason.

    Yes?

  20. I think so. That was hard to digest. :-)

    Yes, this "new apologetics" isn't replacing the old. For example, belief systems need to be intellectually coherent, faith seeking understanding and all that. So that whole project remains ongoing. More, historical and archaeological research also keeps going and adds to the conversation.

    So when I speak of the "impotence" of theology in face of Freud I'm speaking about how philosophical and theological argument can't address his core claim: that belief is, at root, motivated by existential fear. To get at the validity of that claim you'd need to actually examine how existential fear affects belief formation and adoption. And only laboratory work in the social sciences can do that.

  21. Hey Jim!  I hoe I didn't make you mad. Those are judt the conclusions I have come to. I guess I should have refrained from responding on the Calvinism thingy. Anyway, don't wory about giving me hope. I've found a solution to the "existential problem."

  22. I like C.S.Lewis on this, especially in A Pilgrim's Regress. Reason asks the young character--"So, all along, all of these people in the world are really WISHING for a Master who will give them laws, and who will hold them accountable in this world and the next, but they are bravely resisting this psychological desire?" The young character just starts laughing at the notion.

    In some sense Freud's argument seems to me to be laughable. In other senses it is a truism. Of COURSE we Christians (and all other sane humans) pursue a way of making meaning out of the world that is not totally repugnant to human wishes. The alternative is to claim that the "truth" is something we couldn't desire, hope for, or enjoy. I find this possibility frightening plausible, but not (in the end) compelling.

  23. Thanks--well put. I think specific thinks we think about the world (or about God) need to be examined in terms of confirmation bias, and I'm glad you're doing this. I'll have to check out the book.

  24. No worries my friend, I was not mad in the least. Just wondering what your point was in commenting over there. As far as I am concerned I don't care if anybody believes in God or not, but I do care if they love their neighbors. By all means - embrace life! 

    Take care.

  25. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was a little ticked off at first. But I have learned to laugh at what can be my own hyper-sensitivity to certain things. All this heart and brain stuff is both amusing and intensely serious to me. But again, I harbor no ill well towards you. Be good.

  26. Hi Patricia,
    "There are experiences from my own life that I wish had some way of being assessed, confirmed or refuted. I don't trust even my own perception in them to tell me what's true, and I don't really know if anyone else can either."
     
    What you say here is very profound with regard to how we approach this game of "faith".  How we reference our experiences in this journey sets a tone for the approach we apply to "faith".   Many have an experience and use it to leverage their dogmatic certitude - and that spills over to how they behave in everyday life.  Hopefully (like you express here) we remain humble about the experience and use it to search, learn, and grow.  For you, your compassion and articulation makes for very sweet fruit (we will know them by their fruits). 
     
    I'm sure you've seen this - we seem to live in  a parallel universe with others we know - others who buy into the man-
    manufactured theology without reservation appear to be spared of life events that might force them to question it.   Their prayers (will my sermon get airtime on radio, will my CD be sold at that mega-church's bookstore, can we go on a two-week tour of Israel) seem answered, thus making it appear God endorses/validates their theological position and attitude.  Experiencing the things you described (and my wild guess is any sense or presence of God ... wasn't) excaberated that perplexity when you were alone in that ER.  All is to say, it seems we know Christians around us who appear to be given the liberty NOT to experience a life crisis that would put them in a situation to question their "faith".  At times I envy them, other times I wonder if God really is partial (even though He claims not to be).  Then deep inside, in a very weird quiet way, I'm glad not to be insulated in that kind of bubble - you know what I mean?
    Thanks again Patricia!
    Gary Y

  27. Yeah, I guess the old Calvinist was comming out in me when I responded to that post. I'm getting better though. I do slip every now and then.

  28. All this great discussion and I'm going to ask a boring, administrative question: Will there be a Kindle edition of your book at some point?

  29. Isn't there a conflation between discussing motives and determining right or wrong, what is true or falsehood? This question is sparked by a recent reading of C.S. Lewis' essay on Bulverism. In it he makes this distinction and defines bulverism as the mechanism that "tries to show that the other man has causes and not reasons and that we have reasons and not causes."  He characterizes modern conversations in the following way: "In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly."

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Is your new kind of apologetics now more directly addressing "how he became so silly," one's motivations of belief rather than the traditional apologetic logic/reason based methods? Are you essentially taking "bulverism" to task?

  30. In my comment to Adrian I talk about the distinction between ontology and wish. Yes, there is no logical connection between what we wish were so and what is actually the case. We can wish for things that don't exist. We can wish for things that do exist. So, given that wish doesn't logically connect with ontology why don't we can move past wish and get back to the questions of evidence (the task of classical apologetics)?

    The problem with this line of argument is that we aren't talking about empirical phenomenon. The "evidence" for God is pretty subjective in nature. So the biases of those evaluating the "evidence" is very much an issue. That is, when a believer and a skeptic look at the evidence the believer posits a pretty radical metaphysical answer. More, it just so happens that that answer is the answer we wish to be the class. That looks fishy to the skeptic.

    So, yes, logically speaking there is no connection between wish and ontology. What we're dealing with isn't logical refutation but a hermanutics of suspicion. Religious belief looks suspicious. Again, that's no refuation but it tips the rheotical balance in favor of the skeptic.

    Regarding a "new apologetics," it's pretty straightforward. Freud is making a claim about human motivation. It's not a philosophical or theological claim. It's a claim about how human mind works. Thus, if you want to see if Freud is right you can't rely on philosophy or theology. You have to examine actual human minds and see if Freud's theory about how they are working is correct or not.
     

  31. Dr. Beck,

    I think Frued is right if he's saying that we develpe our belief systems out of fear and insecurity to comfort those fears. This is the conclusion I've come to because of my experience.

  32. 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that ithrough death he might jdestroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who lthrough fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

    I think that God was pretty sure that we would fear death.

  33. Richard,

    The book I sent you does Freud and Marx one better.  It argues that the Freudian and Marxian naturalistic critiques (i.e., unmasking) of religion as irrational wish fulfillment or as social opiate against socio-economic oppression originate in their latent (even passive-aggressive) status envy and hostility to modernization.  Sociology trumps economics and psychology.  One's family, tribe or "gemeinschaft" is prior to ego and shapes one's views.  Its not always about proletarian revolution (Marx himself was a shaggy bourgeois) or neurosis ("Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!") 

    Blessings!

  34. Hi Gary, my friend,
    It does seem like some Christians never have to travel a Via Dolorosa, or have many problems at all. Their lives are cheerful, fun, well provided, basking in limelight and kudos, and their biggest worries seem like luxuries. And then there are those who experience more horrors and sorrows than I could ever imagine.  And I don't understand it, or pretend to. I agree, on both counts: It would be so much less stressful to live in that safety bubble. But the kind of people you see there are just not the kind of person I want to be. ("...and the last shall be first"?) Job comes to mind. And Job's know-it-all "friends," who were so sure of their assessment of both Job and God., and apparently it made God pretty mad.

    Blessings,
    Patricia

  35. I use to go way up and way down like a roller coaster until I got some mood stabilizers. They help me out alot. Not that I don't ever feel down but it's smoothed out alot. I haven't suffered like Job with boils and having my whole family killed just because God wanted to make a bet with Satan and test me. I don't see things that way anymore. Neither do I believe in mind controling forces anymore. There's an old principle or saying I like to go by. When life hands you lemons make some lemonade.

  36. Jim Sire for years presented his speech and later book "Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?" His goal was to whittle away at wrong reasons people believe until we were left with one: we should believe because it's true. (duh!) Then he had a platform to move back to the old classical apologetics.

    I think there's a place for that, but I agree that there needs to be another approach where we look from within these new questions. Rather than avoiding them, we can create a new honesty about what they mean.

    Whether new or old, though, I will always be skeptical about how far apologetics can carry us. In the end, God meets us in a very un-apologetic way (philosophically and otherwise). Apologetics can at best only form honest questions, the answers to faith always need to come from God Himself. This is not to say that theology and the Bible will instantly answer our questions. These are only effective as God reveals Himself personally.

  37. Hi Sam,

    Beck, R. (2006b). Defensive versus existential religion:  Is religious defensiveness predictive of worldview defense?  Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 142-151.  The study was cited beginning on p. 184 (Ch. 8, Worldview Defense Revisited) of 'The Authenticity of Faith.'  Have you read the book yet?  Don't forget the subtitle:  "The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience."  Freud and his "blik" are only part of the analysis.

    C.S. Lewis is a beloved author of mine, too, Sam.  My favorites:  'A Grief Observed' and 'Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold' (Cupid and Psyche).  Have you read these two?  Especially in 'A Grief Observed,' I felt that Lewis's vulnerability (suffering, pain, doubts, wrestling with God) were laid bare, and that occurred *after* he had reasoned his way to Christian faith.  I was fortunate to read this personal account of loss and grief first; then later, the more reasoned defense of faith among Lewis's works.  Of course, I've read the entire Narnia series with my children.  And, I found beauty and meaning within the, at times, "far out" storyline of Lewis's Space Trilogy.  The man was a brilliant thinker, and a gifted writer, no doubt about that.  I admire him tremendously.  ~Peace~

  38. Hi Mbrown and Dan G,

    I tend to think that you're both onto something with this line of thought...  Our fiercest protestations and defensive arguments perhaps betray our deepest insecurities?  That's the psychological affectation.  Add to that the fact that we humans are social animals.  We yearn for connection and a sense of belonging.  Shared beliefs and values are huge, aren't they, in sorting out where, and with whom, we belong?

  39. "The problem with this line of argument is that we aren't talking about
    empirical phenomenon. The 'evidence' for God is pretty subjective in
    nature. So the biases of those evaluating the 'evidence' is very much an
    issue."

    Even among believers, Summer faith experience (healthy-minded) versus Winter faith experience (sick-soul) religious types will interpret the "evidence" differently.  For the purpose of analysis, distinguishing the psychological and experiential differences between these two extremes makes the case more clearly.  But, it seems to me that a given individual can move around on the continuum during his/her lifetime.  Experiences can certainly have a huge bearing on that.

  40. Cole, I appreciate the long and difficult struggle that you have experienced relative to your faith.  It is your journey, and you certainly don't need to prove to me that it's a valid one (or that your current conclusions are not right and necessary to your healing and growth).  The ability to care for yourself so that you can care about others is no small thing.  Whatever our beliefs, if they do not translate into active, practical *lived* expression, they are meaningless, imho.

    My friend Jim also has a story to tell, that is valuable -- both to him and to us, as we listen and understand, with compassion. Our differences aren't a cause to see one another as adversaries.  When each of us tells the truth about *ourselves* then we realize that we're all human and life, faith, relationships involve struggle.  No matter our differences, we all share some universal experiences of being human.  We all struggle; we all will suffer to varying degrees in this life.  No one is exempt.  The question is, what are we going to do about it?  Is the suffering of others our problem too, or are we only concerned with protecting ourselves?  ~Peace~

  41. Next to "perspective" in the dictionary it should say, "when keeping it in, see Susan N."

    I know that both Cole and I are able to do a better job of doing so because of the beautiful way that you are able to share your experiences, and the lessons you have learned from them, in passing on that wisdom as you do here.

    As always, thanks for that.

  42. Jim, my dear friend, you must know that my experiences with you have healed and helped, giving me wisdom and courage to love others more truly and fully?  Next to "friend" in the dictionary, it should say, "see Jim."  I am so flawed, but you have loved me in faithful friendship anyway.  'Thank you' doesn't begin to express how much you have blessed me.  ~Peace~

  43. Just to be clear, the two experiences that I mentioned were not brought on by meds or lack thereof. I'd had nothing, and I don't have any conditions that require meds. When the nurse took my BP and it was 60/40 and dropping rapidly, and he realized something was wrong and they were losing me. He ran out of the room to alert the doctor on duty. She and a team came in, kicked out my family, and started working on me.And in the ER, I was still waiting on the doctor to arrive. Triage nurse had put me in a room to wait for the doctor to arrive, and my husband had left the room to find a nurse.  I did not experience anything like you describe.

  44. Oh I didn't mean to imply that Patricia. I was just responding to your comment about being dependent on medication. It works for me. Alot of people have problems with it. But I seem to be doing fine.

  45. We certainly share in these lessons together, don't we Susan. And it is such a blessing to do so.

    I choose *only* the flawed to love and befriend. That way I can love and be friends with everyone.I always imagined that when the Pharisees asked Jesus why he hung around with sinners, he would have said, "because that's the only kind of people there is.... I'm hanging around with you, aren't I?"I certainly don't compare myself to him, but if flawed sinners are good enough for him, then certainly I can do no better. I tried once, but I just couldn't find anyone that was. There are certainly some that claim to be, but they're just blind to their own flaws, and as such are just more in need of love and friendship.

  46. Susan,

    As a recovering drug addict I work with other recovering drug addicts. That's what I do. How about you?

  47. Hi Cole, your work must be especially meaningful and rewarding to you.  It's wonderful, I think, that you have been able to use your personal knowledge and experience to give back to others.  I admire those who pursue such vocations.

    I have been a full-time, stay-at-home mom since my 15yo daughter was born.   I also have an almost-12yo son.  Prior to that, I was employed in the insurance profession (commercial property/casualty, home office underwriting) for 11 years.  During that time, my first child (a son) died in a daycare accident at the age of 19 mos.

    When I re-enter the workforce, if it amounts to a choice between what's practical versus my "ideal" job, I'll do what's necessary to pay the bills.  That's how I ended up in the insurance profession to begin with!  But, even back then, I had given some thought and put forth some energy toward pursuing a career in social work.  Along those lines, I especially enjoy elderly people, and volunteer weekly (along with my kids) at a local nursing home.  Who knows if that passion will one day lead to work for which I am paid?  That, to me, would certainly align with my deepest sense of calling, while enabling me to earn a living.

    That's my story, in a nutshell.  :-)  Take care, Cole.  Have a restful weekend.  ~Peace~

  48. I just finished reading the book.  The ending was the perfect reconciliation of the "two lives" that you are leading, Dr. Beck.  I think that's the task for all of us...to lay it all on the table and live with honesty and integrity, before God and with one another.  Beautiful work.  Thank you.

  49.  Thanks!  I have read all of Lewis except his Narnia series.  I like The Great Divorce, Surprised by Joy, and Mere Christianity.  Lewis and I shared many similar experiences as children, including apparently physical disabilities.  Although an English major (and former teacher), I have always preferred non-fiction over fiction (in general).  I have not read Beck except as excerpted here, but have read "The Question of God" (three times!), by Armand Nicholi -- a comparison of worldviews -- Freud vs. Lewis.  Outstanding book.

  50. Hi Sam, I've read The Great Divorce and Mere Christianity.  The biographical details of Lewis's childhood, namely his mother's death and his subsequent loss of faith in God, made his apologetics a lot more approachable for me.  Same with the autobiographical A Grief Observed.

    I would encourage you to read Dr. Beck's books (both!).  Even as much quality, detailed content as Dr. Beck posts here on the ET blog, and including the discussions in which I/we have participated, I realized two things while reading 'The Authenticity of Faith':  1) I had become familiar with pieces of the puzzle through reading and discussing related blog posts over the past months; and 2) it was still fascinating to see so much of Dr. Beck's work come together.  ~Peace~

  51. But what does all of this say about whether God is real? You appear to have started from the assumption that He does not exist, then everything flowed from that. Also your personal bias against Dr. Craig is palpable.

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