Did you know that there is such a thing as bibliotherapy, in which counselors will prescribe a course of books to read as a way of working through emotional or mental problems? [Read more…]
Justin Taylor posts a startling quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together, about what a Christian “who lives beneath the cross of Jesus” knows about sin, himself, and other sinners. And how this knowledge of the human heart, as revealed by the Cross, goes deeper than that of any psychologist. [Read more…]
As you have probably heard, Rick Warren’s 27-year-old son committed suicide. That’s about the saddest thing I can imagine, both that someone would take his own life and that those who love him would have to go through that sorrow. I pray for the Warrens and for others who have gone through this. But that’s not what I want to post about.
The Washington Post published a follow-up story on Christians’ reactions to the suicide, focusing on the stigma often attached in evangelical circles to seeking psychological help. Various church leaders are quoted, saying as how Christians in mental distress should, in fact, seek professional help and that churches should support them in that. But that’s not what I want to post about either.
I was struck by this quotation:
“Part of our belief system is that God changes everything, and that because Christ lives in us, everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed,” said Ed Stetzer, a prominent pastor and writer who advises evangelical churches. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need medical help and community help to do those things.”
Is that true, that “everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed”? That we should expect either Christ or doctors or some combination of the two to “fix” every aspect of our lives that is out of whack? Not just our moral failings but “everything in our hearts and minds”?
Economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson says that the reason economic recovery is so slow in coming and the unemployment rate so high is a shift in the national psychology:
We have gone from being an expansive, risk-taking society to a skittish, risk-averse one. [Read more…]
A key Lutheran teaching is that infants can have faith. This is why Lutherans see no contradiction between infant baptism and justification by faith. Lutherans see faith not just in terms of intellectual knowledge or conscious volition, but as trust, dependence, and relationship with a Person. Infants can trust, depend on, and have a relationship with their parents and also with their Heavenly Father. The faith that begins with baptism then grows and matures, fed by the “milk” of God’s Word, as the child grows into adulthood, and continuing thereafter. (That faith can also die if it is not nourished, which is why someone can have been baptized as an infant but then reject the faith and become an unbeliever in need of conversion.)
Anyway, a new book explores, from the vantage point of scientific research, the way infants and extremely young children seemed to be wired for religious belief.
Wheaton provost Stanton L. Jones reviews Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief by psychologist Justin L. Barrett:
He summarizes creative, sophisticated research establishing that in infancy, babies understand distinctions between mere objects and agents (human and non-human, visible and invisible) which initiate actions that are not predictable and yet are goal-directed or purposeful. Only agents act to bring order out of disorder.
Children over three begin to discern and attribute purpose to much of what happens around them, which they in turn are inclined to attribute to human and superhuman agents. When children are old enough to actually discuss their intuitive concepts of god(s), they seem normatively disposed to believe in a (or many) divine agent(s) possessing “superknowledge, superperception, creative power, and immortality,” as well as to believe in a purposeful design to creation, in some sort of basic universal morality, and in the persistence of human identity after death.
Roughly the first 40 percent of Born Believers summarizes this research, while the remaining portion fleshes out its implications. Barrett’s view of religious development is that “children are naturally drawn to some basic religious ideas and related practices (natural religion), and then the meat of a religious and theological tradition as taught by parents grows on this skeleton.” He discusses trends in the research that might foster effective religious education.