Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Examined Christian Faith 'Christianity vs Psychoanalysis' 3.2 - What is Christianity

Since I have now taken us into the area of morality, and since Christian morality claims to be a technique for putting the human right again, I think we should compare how it is related to another technique that makes similar claims – namely psychoanalysis.

When a person makes a moral choice two things are involved.  The first is the act of choosing, the second is the various feelings, impulses which his psychological makeup presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice.  That material can either be one that we would call normal, in other words a feeling or emotion that are common to most people; or it is a feeling that is unnatural due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious.   The fear of things that are really dangerous would be an example of the first, while an irrational fear of cats would be an example of the second.  Heterosexual feelings would be the first type, while homosexual feelings would be of the second; and so forth.  

Where psychoanalysis is designed to remove the abnormal feelings (to give the person better raw material for his acts of choice); morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.   Regardless of how much you improve the person’s raw material, you are left with something else: the free choice of the person, on the material presented to him or her, either to put his own self interest first or to put it last.  It is this free choice that morality is concerned with. 

What is important to realize is that human beings judge one another by their external actions; God judges them by their moral choices.  When a person who has been abused and perverted from his youth and taught that acts of violence is acceptable, does some tiny little act of kindness, or refrains from some violent retaliation against another, and thereby risks being insulted and ridiculed by his peers, he may, in God’s eyes, be doing more than I would do if I gave up my life for my daughter.

Put another way, some of us who seem to be very nice people may, in fact have done so little with a good upbringing and a godly heritage that we are really worst in God’s eyes, then those whom we regard as beneath us.   How certain are you of how you would behave if you had been saddled with  a horrible childhood, and thus  psychological scars, and then one day found yourself with the power of Stalin?  That is why Christians are instructed not to judge.

We see only the results that a person makes out of his raw material.  However God does not judge him on the raw material at all, only on what he has done with it.  When the body dies, and all that is left is that central core, that part of us that chose, that made the best or the worst of our material will be left standing before God, and we see everyone for who they really were.  There will be surprises.

Christian morality is not a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of the rules, I will reward you, and if you fail to, then I will punish you.”  Instead, it is more a matter of every time you make a choice you are turning that part of you that chooses into something a little different from what it was before.  If you take your life as a whole, with all your uncountable choices, all your life you are slowly turning into either a heavenly creature, or a hellish one; either into a creature that is in harmony with God or one that is in a state of war with Him.  Each of us at each moment of our lives is progressing in one direction or the other.

This then makes sense, when Christians talk about the importance of all sins, what Christians mean is that it is the action that leaves a mark on the tiny central self which none of us will see in this life, but each of us will have to endure forever.  One person may so misplace his anger that he kills another, while another misplaces his anger in such a manner that he only gets laughed at and scorned.  But the little mark on the soul may be nearly identical to both.  Each has done something to himself, which left unrepented will make it harder for him the next time, and so the cycle goes on forever.  Both of them if they turn to God and with Godly sorrow repent, can have that twist made straight, each of them is doomed if they will not.  The size of the thing as seen from the outside is not what really matters. 

That leaves me with one last point, the right direction leads not only to peace, but to knowledge.  When a person is getting better he understands more and sees more clearly the evil that is still in him.  When a person is getting worst, he understands his own wickedness less and less, a modernly bad man knows he is not very good, a truly wicked person thinks they are all right.  You see this played out in America  all the time,  the person who commits one act of adultery and repents from it knows they are wrong, the person who lives in a continuous state of adultery thinks there is nothing wrong with themselves.    

You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk.  Good people know about both good and evil; Immoral people do not know about either. 

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