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Thread: Religious Fervor

  1. #11
    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    Nathaniel P. Morris (resident physician in psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine), wrote a blog entry for Scientific American a while back wherein he discusses some challenges in distinguishing religious fervor from mental illness.

    When interacting with believers displaying religious fervor, what criterion do you utilize to ensure that the individuals' religiosity is rooted in a genuine faith experience as opposed to mental illness? Please read the article and share your thoughts. Thank you.
    This is a bit of a tricky subject because what I might consider religious fervor bordering on mental illness, and what the good doctor might consider religious fervor that's indistinguishable from mental illness is likely going to be pretty far a part. After all (assuming he's not a Christian), "natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." That said, I've had plenty of run-ins with people who I consider excessively...fervored (is that a word?). Some of those people were right here on Theologyweb. Distinguishing between the two usually requires simply listening to them talk or rant for a bit. Being around them for awhile. Do they appear to be clear-minded on other topics? Does their religious zeal seem to be well ordered, healthy, and robust. Is their logical connective tissue between their beliefs and behavior? Does their zeal produce fruit in their lives, and the lives of others (specifically peace, patience, and self-control)? Does their behavior border on mania, especially outside of church or worship services? Are they the type of person who routinely goes 0 to 100 on topics they're passionate about?

    It's been my experience that there are a few categories of people whose religious fervor moves past healthy Christian zeal, and over time I've been able to more or less get an idea of the warning signs using some of the criteria I listed above. And of course, I think the Holy Spirit can help give us intuition on these matters as well. Some of these categories include: The Christian who is super on fire for Christ... It's not at all uncommon for someone relatively new to the faith, maybe less than 3 years or so, to be extremely passionate about the faith, and that's fantastic, but over time most Christians temper that passion with wisdom and peacefulness. They are still as passionate as they were day one, but their passion moves from the external to the internal. I'm always a bit on guard when I run into someone who still acts as passionate as they were the first couple years they were a Christian. Experience has taught me that often these people burn so bright they burn themselves out, or worse, those same intense impulses lead them to rashly reject Christianity (for whatever reason), and become the John Loftus' of the world, being just as zealous, but now as persecutors and adversaries of the faith. Another category type is the person who holds tightly to irrational views on scripture or theology. There are plenty of popular views that I disagree with, but usually I can see the rationale in holding to them. But those who hold to illogical views like British Israelism, or KJV-Onlyism are beyond the pale. I've found that those who hold tightly to these irrational views typically hold other conspiracy minded views even outside of Christianity (they might be flat-earthers, believe in the moon-landing hoax, 9/11 was an inside job, pizza-gate, etc.). Another category-type is the person who, like the slave girl with a demonic spirit that Paul cast out, seem to move in manic circles about their faith, or the faith of others, to the point that it's a disturbing turn-off or distraction from others receiving the faith. I've seen these sorts of people, especially in some charismatic churches disrupting services with yelps of praise, or where they can't contain themselves emotionally, that were completely out of order. Now, I've been to charismatic churches long enough to know that they can get boisterous and emotional, and I'm not talking about that. Nor am I talking about the person who occasionally yells hallelujah, or "preach, pastor!," or whatever (though people not used to that type of service might ironically find that behavior nutty), no I'm talking about the types of people who are either mentally ill or spiritually demonized who cause enough commotion that the pastor or long time congregants who've seen everything raise their eyebrows at. I've seen people literally taken out of service by ushers because they lost control of their minds in a service where the pastor was simply reading out of the Bible in an otherwise silent room. I have no doubt that there's sometimes overlap in these categories, or that I'm missing a number of other categories, but as you mature in Christ you kinda know it when you see it, I suppose.
    Last edited by Adrift; 06-04-2019 at 08:35 AM.

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  3. #12
    tWebber Rushing Jaws's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    Nathaniel P. Morris (resident physician in psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine), wrote a blog entry for Scientific American a while back wherein he discusses some challenges in distinguishing religious fervor from mental illness.

    When interacting with believers displaying religious fervor, what criterion do you utilize to ensure that the individuals' religiosity is rooted in a genuine faith experience as opposed to mental illness? Please read the article and share your thoughts. Thank you.
    There is no “objective”, quantifiable test of these things, empirically available to all comers. Communion with God, however genuine, *cannot* be tested in the way one can test for the presence of an electric current or oxygen.

    And if Christianity is true, that is what I would expect: tests applicable to this-worldly, quantitative entities don’t & can’t apply, because heavenly realities are not this-worldly. This elision of the sheer difference between two unlike kinds of experience is as naive (to put it nicely) as thinking one find Heaven by means of space-travel. The pure in heart, not the cosmonauts, shall see God. What people see, and how, depends largely on what sort of people they are.

    Perhaps the only test applicable is that of the fruits of the alleged experience. And it gives moral certainty, not a certainty so solid that no possible counter-argument can prevail against it. Christ saves by the “folly” of the Cross which is wiser than men’s wisdom - not by dialectical brilliance, reason, or debate.

  4. #13
    tWebber lee_merrill's Avatar
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    I agree with others here that "by their fruits you will know them" (Mt. 7:20), meaning fruit as in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Though for some experiences, other tests might be good, let's say I think I can feel when other people are looking at me. Then I might close my eyes and have someone alternately look at me and look away, and tell them when I thought they were looking. Or if I hear a voice in my head, I can ask "Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh?" (re 1 John 4:2-3). And so forth...

    Blessings,
    Lee
    "What I pray of you is, to keep your eye upon Him, for that is everything. Do you say, 'How am I to keep my eye on Him?' I reply, keep your eye off everything else, and you will soon see Him. All depends on the eye of faith being kept on Him. How simple it is!" (J.B. Stoney)

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