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Let’s Get Personal About Faith

December 19, 2010

I’ve been posting about these grand themes, forms of Christian faith and such.  I don’t want to cater just to the “philosophical” or scholarly crowd (not too big a crowd, either).  Religious faith or beliefs and practices of spirituality (for the “spiritual but not religious”) are actually very personal!

It’s pretty tough to be both comfortable and growing spiritually without understanding what you bring to the “faith” table.  What is your personal “psychology of religion”? Important aside: I’ve just jumbled together “religion,” “faith,” “beliefs” and “spirituality.” Ideally, I’d define each, but then many would stop reading…. So suffice it for now to let context do the job and say I basically mean your orientation to the meaning of life, and to whoever/whatever you see guiding or impeding you toward well-being in this life and in whatever you conceive as the life to come (if any–which I am convinced there is).

I will develop this theme in many posts, over time (and in a book or two), but let me tie it quickly now, to my recent posts and get personal about myself to lead the way for many reader’s participation…  I want a lively, fun (if sometimes challenging)  interchange here, that is of real benefit to your own curiosities, growth, and perhaps struggles, via reading others’ experiences and perspectives and sometimes sharing your own. 

So, in my own case, my posts here come out of my life-long history in churches and religious institutions, ministries, etc.  (None of which I’ve been a leader or even much of a participant in for a number of years…but I’ve continued to study and “practice” spiritual disciplines and principles, including much about the Bible, early and contemporary Christianity). 

My long (about 45-year) Evangelical (or conservative Protestant) experience involved pretty narrow conceptions of spiritual truth, particularly the means, or “plan,” of salvation (mainly but not only as admission to heaven).  When I perceived the fatal foundational flaws in that about 15 years ago, I began to take a broader look at what religion was about, including the psychological aspects.  Now, this was not new to me in one sense, as I’d received a Master’s in counseling (tho from the evangelical Biola University) and done counseling/therapy for a decade, for both Christians and nonchristians.  I’d studied cults and cult behavior/psychology, and eventually studied psychology and theology jointly in an interdisciplinary PhD program at a liberal school of theology (Claremont).  The latter was the beginning of a significant change of views, or change of theology, or change of “paradigm” that was broader than just theology. 

So the “new” part was the way of putting it all together.  Psych-wise, we all have a need (in varying intensities) to have some coherence, unity in our view of how things are, how they work, where we are headed.  I say “some,” as we never can have it all coherent, unified; and those who think they do, have major blind spots because of the need to think/feel they see it all correctly. 

Now, I had the “good fortune” of basic trust underlying both my traditional Christian faith, and the later and broader “spiritual universe” concepts I’ve grown into.  So I’d not feared “losing my salvation,” or not really being “saved,” as some Evangelicals/Fundamentalists do.  And I currently rest easy about transitioning to whatever is next… I expect it to be at least as good as present life, though probably quite different. 

Many people, for various in-born and/or experience-based reasons, have trust difficulties.  So their personal “psychology of religion” will look quite different than mine.  This is just one example of how each of our personal religious/spiritual issues will vary.  I pick it, however, as it may well be getting at the most core or important area.  

This is enough for one day/one reading…  I’d love it (and other readers I’m sure would too) if you’d share your musings on this, and maybe a slice of your own pilgrimage or current questions.    I will yet tie this closer to my recent posts about where Christianity is going, and my watching of the various strands of Christian faith in the US.

Oh… and if you should want to read my story in more detail, one chapter of my book, “Figuring Out Your Faith: Discovering Truth Among Conflicting Claims,” covers it particulary.  Indirectly, the rest of the book does too.  There is a link to the right that will take you to this short, inexpensive  ebook.

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