The Crucified God: Moltmann, the Psychologists, and Me

In my post about Jurgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God, I did not talk about Moltmann’s discussion of psychology in that particular book.  I just felt like ending the post where I did!  In this post, however, I will talk about it, since it has caused me to think since I finished my post on The Crucified God.

What I got out of Moltmann’s discussion was that a genuine Christianity can heal the problems that psychologists like Freud have claimed to identify.  We’re beset with feelings of guilt?  Christ’s death brings us forgiveness of sins!  Freud said human males have an innate hatred of their father?  Christ brings together fathers and sons!

Moltmann addresses the charge of some psychologists that Christianity promotes immaturity by encouraging people to take refuge in a nice story rather than dealing with their pain.  For one, Moltmann seems to wonder why people shouldn’t have hope, and what good negativity will do for them.  Second, according to Moltmann, the notion of the crucified God does not allow for one to ignore pain and suffering, for the God of Christianity himself suffered.

On page 292, Moltmann makes a very provocative statement: “Theologians who go over to psychology and give up theology…often corrupt psychology with their repressed and unconscious theological expectations of the substitute.”  What’s that mean?  That the theologians-turned-psychologists are treating psychology as a sort of savior, or are looking to it to bring the change to human beings that God allegedly brings, or see themselves in the role of God, in relation to their patients?  I don’t know.

I think that Moltmann makes good points, especially when he takes on the charge that Christianity is a crutch that keeps people immature.  I have doubts accepting, however, that belief in Christianity is the end-all, be-all, cure-all for everyone.  I don’t think that belief in it automatically heals people of their guilt, or that it automatically reconciles people.  If one can truly internalize it and make it his or her worldview, perhaps it could work.  It depends on what kind of Christianity it is: if it is the type that believes in God’s love and grace, or the type that does not.  (I should note that Moltmann may be a Christian universalist: see here and here.)  But, even if it professes grace, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one who tries to believe in it will be reconciled with others, for there are plenty of people who believe in God’s love and grace who aren’t reconciled with everyone.

There are a variety of reasons that Christianity doesn’t work its magic on me.  I have doubts about its truth-value.  I question whether the God of love and grace whom many evangelicals like to profess is really the God of Scripture, or is rather the product of them believing in some biblical texts, while ignoring or downplaying others.  I’m not even sure if I want to believe it!  I’d like to believe in a higher power who loves me and has a redemptive plan for myself and the rest of the world.  But I have problems believing in a God who conditions his forgiveness of me on my forgiveness of others (which is how I understand what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount), who makes me fear that I will go to hell if I can’t push my grudge out of my system or love everyone on the face of the earth.

There was a time when I was looking to therapy for answers.  Was I looking to it as a savior?  Well, I didn’t see it the same way that I saw religion—-at least not exactly.  I saw religion as a belief system that barked out inflexible commands that I could not follow, whereas I looked to therapy as a forum in which I could talk with someone, get feedback, and receive suggestions (as opposed to commands).  But I think that I was also looking for an authoritative voice to tell me that I was all right, and I looked to therapy for that, as I searched for it in religion before.  My problem with therapy is that, well, I didn’t always like the feedback that I received!  What can I say?  I suppose that I would like a middle-ground between the inflexibility of Christianity (as I understand it), and my tendency to take the easier (yet not particularly pleasant) path, because I’m afraid to take the harder, possibly fruitful path, or I don’t think that I have what it takes to travel it.

But there were times when I got helpful advice from therapy, or constructive ways to look at situations.

I’m leaving the comments on, but I won’t publish snarky or negative comments.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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