On Religious Insight

Just a short excerpt from The Psychology of Religious Knowing by Fraser Watts and Mark […]

Bonnie / 1.14.11

Just a short excerpt from The Psychology of Religious Knowing by Fraser Watts and Mark Williams:

“The contrast is between insight that is merely intellectual or neutral and a second type of insight that has been variously described as true, effective, dynamic or emotional. … Religious insight that, like therapeutic insight, has been chiseled out of experience will have more personal consequences than merely intellectual or ‘notional’ religious insight. Emotional and behavioural reactions are more likely to be congruent with beliefs that have been formed in this way.” (p. 71, 74)

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6 responses to “On Religious Insight”

  1. Todd says:

    Thanks for this, Bonnie. Such a great quote (and true to my emotional history).

  2. JDK says:

    Unfortunately, this also explains the rise and success of Mormonism.

  3. Michael Cooper says:

    …and whirling dervish Sufi Islam. Although not as popular as the Mormons, at least they have Prince Charles 😉

  4. Todd says:

    Jady – I'm not quite sure that this the same as addressing 'felt needs' but it says that if a truth is to be active or effective it must impart a subjective reception on the part of the individual. Theologically, can intellectual ascent to something really be called faith?

    More broadly – and perhaps I'm misunderstanding something…, but I'm hesitant to separate objective reality from its subjective reception… i.e… it doesn't make sense to speak of faith as being wholly extra nos and beyond subjectivity. What is faith if not personally subjective? This is not to make faith a human possession or act, since it is always dependent on the word.

  5. JDK says:

    Hey Todd. . .

    Great questions!—no definite answers, but some thoughts.

    I don't think the Mormons are not arguing for "felt needs" as much as they are arguing that when the subjective witness of the spirit brings truth to their claims about the Book of Mormon, that is what makes it "true".

    It seems to me that with respect to what is true regarding "faith claims," then we have to have some sort of way to argue beyond personal experience, because there is a distinction (however tenuous) between what is real and what is true. How do we line up the truth of Christianity with the reality of our lives? Well, that is the question.

    We could argue that the Christian experience is "true-er" truth or something like that, but "chiseled out experience" of Molach (to name but one) seems to have been pretty gripping as well.

    Although this general anti-propositional(ism) can fall into the general category of "gnostic" (which may be, I admit, a bit of an anachronism) when so applied, I think that Bultmann overstepped when he detached faith from anything historically concrete. A non-incarnate faith can not support the blood,sweat and tears of everyday existence. In his Theologie, Bayer has a great critique of him, as does Jenson (to name a few). Neither of them are arguing from a "just the facts, ma'am" sort of way, and both are critically appreciative of Heidgger et al, but both come down on the entire enterprise of radicalizing faith outside of some sort of incarnate "world holds" as not consistent with, at least, the Christian claim to "faith."

    There is more to be said on this, of course, and I don't want to be arguing that there are somehow objective "truths" to which you have to assent intellectually–the Historica fides is also irreducibly wrapped up with notia and assensus in a way that people have tried to separate, but the incarnation (not to mention the creeds) prohibits. (Barth has something good on this C.D I, 235 ish ..I think:)

    All that being said, I think that we need to fight the temptation to set up a distinction between the two. When Jesus appeared (or revealed) himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they remarked when he disappeared, "didn't our hearts burn (subjective) within us when he opened up the scriptures (objective)?" That he is no longer here with us, but present only in faith, is clear, but this is why from almost the beginning of the tradition, the Bible has been appreciated as (in some ways) the logos as well.

    This, to me, is the unique Christian witness to "true" faith. . head and heart are not pitted against each other, nor are they transcended (chemically or otherwise:) but they are united into one witness. By faith, the world–"my history," as Luther like to say–becomes real and, as such, something that we can point to, objectively, outside ourselves.

    Historially, this is why the eucharist and baptism have been so important, because it is argued that there that the most visible presence of God's "truth through faith" is manifest. These two sacraments are like metaphysical anchors to the painfully non-subjective claim of the historical cross.

    Without these anchors (however conceived), we are left adrift in our own sea of subjective, indigestion-fueled pious speculation, where we might as easily find a unicorn as the "lamb of god."

    Of course, that's just my gut take on all of it:)


  6. Todd says:

    Jady – well said. (as a side observation it's somewhat fun to note the differences in how we think about the issue. I spoke in exegetical/hermeneutical language, while you spoke in systematic categories)

    I think we're moving the in same direction – trying to preserve the distinction and unity of personal subjectivity and objective event of Jesus' death/resurrection. The Emmaus story I think rightly illustrates your point.

    If I can indulge you once more, can you elaborate a bit on Luther's use of 'my history' becoming real and therefore objective outside of myself? Is this picking of on Paul's language of being crucified with christ where his history becomes my history, and thus, objective?

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