"Theistic action" and psychology

Loren Haarsma (lhaarsma@retina.anatomy.upenn.edu)
Mon, 22 Jun 1998 16:30:07 -0400 (EDT)

Craig Rusbult wrote:

> "The second question -- Does Christian theism require theistic action in
> human psychology? -- is rarely a focal point for science/religion
> discussions, but it is important, especially for daily living. In the
> Bible -- as described, for example, by Jesus and Paul -- God promises to
> provide believers with whatever they need (faith, love, strength, courage,
> mercy, wisdom,...) for life." p41

This is a question I would like to see discussed further.

Our relationship to God affects our mental states. If our mental states
have physical brain-state correlates, then it would seem that Christian
theology does require "theistic action" in human psychology and in human
brains -- "normal appearing" theistic action at a minimum, and possibly
(in some cases) miraculous action.

In what ways could this "theistic action in human psychology" take
place? Probably it is too gross a thing to say that God accomplishes
this by causing action potentials to fire in neurons which would
otherwise be silent (although he could, of course, do this).
Neuroscientists are a long way from developing working models of the
physical basis of memory and consciousness; so naturally, we will have
to be extremely cautious in any speculations about possible physical
bases of God's influence on our mental lives. But it may not be
premature to discuss a variety of possibilities. We could, for example,
discuss the variety of religious experiences which people have: from
ecstatic experience, to the "still, small voice," to a simple sense of
God's presence, to a godly wisdom growing throughout one's life.
There's a remarkable variety of ways God can relate to us, which in turn
suggests a remarkable variety of mechanisms by which "theistic action in
human psychology" can happen.

Loren Haarsma