I recently read an article by Valerie Tarico, a psychologist and writer who describes herself as having “a passion for personal and social evolution.” It was written for people she describes as having left biblical Christianity behind. She suggested “that popular Christian versions of heaven would actually be hellish.” I must admit, I have never really liked the idea of sitting on a damp cloud strumming on a four string harp. But, I also never entertained such childish notions with respect to the afterlife.
Tarico refers to her intended readers as “recovering believers” and, while the article zeroes in on Bible-belief and fundie culture, it never ventures beyond the secular context. It’s one thing to rail against the control freakery characters that enjoy excessive prominence within the context of religious authoritarianism. It’s quite another to understand the larger reality that may not have even been discerned by those who have traded the Word made flesh for the Word made book. Jesus never promised more holy books or more layers of hierarchical ecclesiastical authority. In fact, the Promised Helper Jesus spoke of is not material but rather The Spirit of Truth that will lead us into all truth.
Psychology is also not pseudo-science. Although the most disciplined working within the hard sciences, consider psychology to be the softest of the soft sciences. This is likely because of subjective interpretations by the observer, together with selectivity as it relates to relevant facts. There is no denying that the Tarico article carries a lot of her personal experience, with fundamentalism, into the analysis. And, to be sure, she has also shared valuable insights from which we can all learn.
The outgrown and outmoded conceptions of God, as an offended monarch whose chief delight is to detect his subjects in wrongdoing, does support her contention that the God described in the Bible can be a jerk. But such a notion would be forever dispelled by just a closer walk with Thee. And that’s the rub. We’ve largely outgrown the elemental religions that worship the sun, the stones, the trees, the wind, the rain, and the gold. Ok, well, some of us still worship the gold.
Shaking the fundamentalist world view, whereby the Spirit of the Living God gets reduced to – and contained in – a material record and effectively circumscribed by human language, can be a positive thing. This is because the only thing that really matters in the long run is the extent to which our religion is personally experiential. Nothing short of the wholehearted embrace of God through what Jesus taught and exemplified, will take us beyond subjective gratification to objective satisfaction.
Psychologists and even neurologists have, for too long, held that the mind exists within, or is somehow subordinated to the brain. And, there is good evidence for this because, as any mental health professional can tell you, chemical imbalances can surely impair the mind’s function. Religious fanatics and science fiction writers alike have even compared the mind/brain capability as something analogous to a dumb terminal as they were used in the early days of client/server computing.
That having been said, those considering the problem, from a more spiritual vantage point, see the mind as an endowment. It is bestowed as the mediator between material and spiritual realities. The brain is thus seen as an electrochemical subsystem upon which the mind gently rests. Add to this the fact that truth seeking Christians have long been fascinated by the statement Paul made in 1stCorinthians where he wrote: “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
Trying to make sense of the Bible through authoritarian personality cults, has always been problematic. But ours is a religion of the Spirit. Since the Enlightenment, the intellectual disciplines have been trifurcated. Science is to facts, what Philosophy is to meanings, and what Religion is to values. It’s not a competition, they are complementary, especially when they are truly commensurate with the intellectual, societal, and spiritual development of humankind. The Spirit’s workings, within the superconscious realms of the mind, are where evolution meets and becomes augmented by revelation.
While the Bible may indeed be a fragmentary record, it still represents the highest and best understanding of God that a variety of people held in accordance with the light of their day. In our day, those who remain teachable walk a path illuminated by physical light, intellectual insight, and spirit luminosity. The Spirit that leads into all truth is not bound by books, incantations, or even prayerful recitations. Prayer is not about getting our way. It is rather about taking God’s way. This means that no one knows more about our highest and best destiny than our Divine Parent. We are entirely free to accept or reject any or all of it.
It is the Father’s plan that you learn about love. So, since we know from personal experience that the God of reality is not a jerk, we can freely choose to say ”It is my will that your will be done.”