Saturday, February 6, 2010

From philosophy to pastoral care

A couple of years ago Ben Myers and I published a paper in the journal, Science and Christian Belief with the heady title, Dialectic critical realism in science and theology: Quantum physics and Karl Barth.

Although the subject of the paper is subtle intellectual issues associated with the relationship between science and theology, I find it interesting to consider some related issues relevant to everyday life. I wonder whether the issue of idealism versus critical realism is actually relevant to personal relationships, church life, and mental health. I submit that the natural mode of operation of the sinful mind is one of idealism, i.e, we impose an order on the world to support our preconceived notions and prejudices. The data we perceive is interpreted in terms of our framework and values. We are not objective about our own limitations and shortcomings but are well aware of those of others. We look for specks in the eyes of others when there are logs in our own. The regenerate mind, that is being renewed by Christ, acknowledges its limitations and is willing to stand corrected and see other points of view.

How much church and family discord is caused by an unwillingness to see other points of views or an unwillingness or inability to not assign negative motives and interpretations to the words and actions of others?
How much counselling and pastoral care is based on helping people realign their individual expectations with reality?

Church is composed of a diverse group of personalities with a multitude of personal histories, expectations, relational styles, and perceptions.
Do the following statements usually reflect critical realism or idealism?
``No one at church cares about me.''
``Church is unfriendly.''
``The pastor is authoritarian.''
``There is nothing new in the sermon each week.''
``My spouse does not love me. If they did they would ...''
``I am never going to get married."

Jon Kabat-Zinn developed a highly successful stress reduction program in a secular hospital. A major emphasis is on learning to perceive and accept the world as it is, rather than as we wish it would be, and on focusing on present realities rather than on the past or future events on which the mind tends to dwell.

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