Delusions and Devotion to Doctrinal Positions
What is true of delusional people tends to be true of all of us, just not so much.
One of the first things that is taught clinicians who will be working with delusion disorders is critical: do not argue with people about their delusions: it only causes them to become more committed to and invested in the delusion.
So-called normal people are prone to such defensive commitment, too, but not to the point of psychosis. For Christians, the threat is not a loss of touch with reality but a loss of touch with truth. Or at least the loss of the possibility of discerning a different perspective on truth. Think Occam’s Razor.
Like the delusional person, the more we argue in defense of our own position – and the more we argue against the opposing positions of others – the more emotionally invested we become in our position. The more persecuted we feel, the more convinced we are of the truth of our stance. And, sometimes, the more superior we feel to the Neanderthals who stand against us.
The questions surrounding Gen 1-2 have brought this to mind. My discussion post – now dying and suffering the indignity of nary a comment – was an attempt to see if people would change their own position if they were to find that a different, even more satisfying position were available. The different perspective or approach would preserve the essence of each of the existing positions.
Some might say I’m too negative about the nature of man but sixty-three years of life, thirty-eight years of being a believer, and twenty-eight years of doing clinical work with believers and unbelievers alike – has led me to a position I call realism.
Christians are good about the “list” sins but not always so good about the subtle and insidious sins that attach themselves to our best intentions. This happens with doctrinal beliefs. Like hobbits, we enjoy books and articles clearly laid out that tell us what we already know and believe. Arguments and beliefs that are contrary to our own are usually brushed aside with some type of ad hominem fallacy: s/he is a Calvinist or not a Calvinist, a Dispensationalist or not, Orthodox or not. This allows us to dismiss the arguments without giving them a fair and open-minded hearing first.
I sometimes tell people that when I first went to seminary, I held my beliefs and positions in a clenched fist. When I finished, however, I held the same beliefs in an open hand. I was still firmly committed but I had also learned to entertain – daily – the very real possibility that I could be mistaken.
Not exactly wrong but mistaken. I was right but I didn’t have all the information that might allow me to come to a similar but broader conclusion. I’ve spent years studying in order to understand the arguments of other positions – e.g., Covenant Theology or Young Earth Creationism – and respect those who have studied the matter and come to a reasoned conclusion that is different than my own. I also understand the weaknesses of my own beliefs and the arguments that can be brought against them.
Personally, I hold to a literal reading and interpretation of Gen 1-2 but also accept and incorporate findings from the sciences that posit a very old earth and an expanding (or is it contracting now?) universe. I did this through a lot of reading but primarily I was able to do it because I wasn’t married to my understanding of any particular position – even though I had thought some of my earlier positions were “God’s Truth.” With a capital “T.”
There could be a lot more peace and harmony, a lot less conflict and division, if we would accept positions that are tenable from both a literal reading of Scripture as well as the findings of science at its current state. It would require some humility and backtracking, perhaps, along with some apologies where needed, but it would also allow us to be done with peripheral and tangential disputes and to get on with the business of making disciples and spreading shalom throughout the earth.