Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sundry Thoughts On Experience, Psychology and Theology

Does experience have to "form" our understanding or thinking? Some believe that it does, as we are bound within cultural contexts that define or determine meaning. This view does not allow for development of reason, or individual uniqueness in personality or gifting. Cultural contexts are "group" forming "groupthink".

Although experience does influence our understanding, it cannot determine what or how we understand life, unless we allow it to. This view takes into account another way of "seeing" or coming to terms with reality. Those who have experienced trauma are helped by counselors to see or understand reality differently and not allow their experience to "interpret" the present.

Science does give us clues as how experience affects us. Mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress, neurosis or anxiety disorders have been understood to have begun through a "conditioning experience". These disorders can be overcome through means of medication, behavior modification, and coping mechanisms.

"How do we paint reality"? Many paint their reality through their experiences of childhood. Bad parents breed bad behavior and bad thinking. The child's self-concept is damaged to such an extent that the child cannot grow emotionally, or finds it difficult to attian their potential. These ways of "painting reality" must be rectified, so that these young adults will become and accomplish.

Today's sermon was given by a youth leader. His message was about "conviction" and power of the Holy Spirit and how we live "Christian" lives. What do people outside our church say about our church. Do we only say what we feel or do we live what we feel, as a testimony to our faith?

It seemed he was basing faith on feeling. That was interesting, as feeling is a common "identifier" in man. But, this "feeling of conviction" was also the identifier of the radical Islamic that killed our soldiers last week. And then, when he said that we don't "feel the power of conviction" because we are affluent or prosperous, he lost me. He said, we cannot understand (or feel) the "power of conviction" because of our experience of prosperity!?

Although I do agree that we cannot enter into another's pain of "poverty" in the same way when we have no experience to identify with, does this mean that one MUST experience pain to have "compassion"? And is compassion only toward "the poor"? That is ridiculous.

Some experiences cannot be "formative" for another, as was Job's experiences. Job did not need anyone to analyze his situation, but to "be there". Theological dogmatics do not lend themselves to compassionate understanding, but "demanding" obedience, or repentance, or justification of "God". Was Job more compassionate after his experience with the religious? Was Job more compassionate after his rebuke from Elihu? No, but he was more humble in understanding that there are some questions that are unanswerable. So, is compassion the only necessary ingredient to faith?

I find that those who have "agendas" that are unacknowledged, or deceptive are prime culprits of using persuasion to influence others. And theology is a useful "tool" for those who are unreflective and disregarding of another's situational "contexts" to manipulate or control. Influence and agendas are not the problem, but deception is, whether that be one's own personal unreflectiveness, or attitudes toward another.

Fortunately, our government is based on "the rule of law", where the "real world" trumps the "transcentdental one".

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