I was reading one of my text books and the author describes a particular view in psychotherapy that caused me to go exclaim, “You can’t seriously believe that!” Not only did it fly in the face of Scripture, its claims directly contradicted the past century of world history, and thousands of years worth of human experience. Can you pick out what I’m talking about?
In psychotherapy, clients are enormously reassured by the belief that their chaotic inner world, their suffering, and their tortuous interpersonal relationships are all explicable and thereby governable. Maslow, in fact, views the increase of knowledge as having transformative effects far beyond the realms of safety, anxiety reduction, and mastery. He views psychiatric illness as a disease caused by knowledge deficiency. In this way he would support the moral philosophic contention that if we know the good, we will always act for the good. Presumably it follows that if we know what is ultimately good for us we will act in our own best interests (The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom; p 94).
Did you catch it? “In this way he would support the moral philosophic contention that if we know the good, we will always act for the good”. If the statement was that an “knowing the good can help a person act for the good” I would be less shocked. It is not uncommon for a person to err, offend, or not act for the good out of ignorance. With the removal of ignorance comes the increased chances that a person will not do the same thing, but it by no means results in a person henceforth always acting for the good.
Individual and human history testifies to the fact that an increase in knowledge can and has acted for the evil rather than the good. We have just emerged from the bloodiest century in human history. Some of the greatest evils were propagated by some of the most educated and technologically advanced nations in the world. If anything, history has demonstrated that humanity tends find ways to use any advancement in knowledge to promote evil rather than good. Yes, there have been many advances of knowledge that have resulted in better medicine and other humanitarian efforts; but it does not take a genius to see that an increase in knowledge will not always lead to people acting for good. Too often it is the exact opposite response.
Human experience simply backs up the Bible’s clear portrayal of humanity in its fallen condition. The Apostle Paul clearly lays out the struggle between knowing what is right and doing what is wrong in the book of Romans. “I am of flesh, sold under sin…For I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate…For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:14-15, 19).
The reality of this experience resonates within all humanity. If we confront our situation with honest we will eventually be brought to exclaim with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) Thankfully there is an answer. Paul provides it in the very next verse in his gleeful proclamation, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)