It is not unusual for a sensitive Christian student to be deeply troubled upon first exposure to psychological studies in religion. Religious experience is made to appear as either the result of some inward combination of feelings, urges and tensions, or as the product of social conditioning. Case histories and tables of statistics seem to support the contention that religious experience is merely another human experience upon which no claims can be made for the realities discussed.
Whether it be a study of adolescent crises and conversion, of fear and religious commitment, or of mania and religious delusion, the question must be asked: Can psychology determine truth in religious experience? Or the question may be put more simply: Can a psychologist completely explain religious experience as some sort of natural product of the human being, or is there something about religious experience which necessarily escapes the psychologist?
The Christian view to this matter is that although we learn much from studies of the psychology of religion, true religious experience cannot be explained as a completely human affair.
The Problem Of Truth
The first reason for our position is this: psychology cannot settle the problem of truth.
A psychologist proposes to make assertions which he deems as true, or at least provisionally true. But the procedure of determining the truth of a statement is not psychological but philosophical. The psychologist intends to make assertions which may be classed as knowledge-statements. But the criteria for discriminating knowledge-statements from false statements is again philosophical and not psychological.
Therefore, any and all psychologists have to presume a theory of truth and knowledge. Some do this critically ...1
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