The Psychology Of Christian Experience -- By: A. A. Berle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 060:237 (Jan 1903)
Article: The Psychology Of Christian Experience
Author: A. A. Berle


The Psychology Of Christian Experience

Rev. A. A. Berle

The interpretation of religious experience has always been the great and baffling problem in the study of man. Religion has always been a necessary and integral portion of his daily life,—sometimes expressed, sometimes unexpressed,—and has, on the whole, probably been the largest determinative factor in his existence. He has made his religion, and then unmade it. He has explained it, and then thrown away the explanation. He has erected institutions to perpetuate it, and then destroyed those institutions and created others. He has at various times determined to get along without it, but in doing this has merely given it another form. In a thousand ways he has been working at the question of finding out what this inner spirit in him which made for religion and the religious life was like and whence it came. Sometimes he has thought that he could find out by withdrawing from the world and leading a monastic existence. At other times, as in our day, a large number of men under the influence of a genuinely religious motive have determined that they would, so to speak, utterly unfrock themselves, and in the turmoil

and turbulence of the world catch the elusive thing. But neither in the world or out of it, neither in building new institutions or tearing down old ones, neither in breaking down old creeds or formulating new ones, neither in talking to himself or talking with others, has any one yet given us a decisive and satisfactory answer to the quest which is as universal as man and as endless as his existence.

Nor is the expectation of finding a suitable interpretation of religious experience by the methods which in our time are called psychological entirely new. It is perfectly clear, from the careful study of the older evangelists, that they knew the physical aspects of religious demonstration quite as well as some of our modern psychologists. There are still portions of our land remote from the centers of knowledge and civilization where the thing can be seen in operation to-day where psychology has not been heard of, and where there is the utmost innocency in respect to neurology or any other of the scientific terms which are now used to express certain forms of mental life and action. The revivalist of the former day, by a law which was as true in its way as any other law known to us, gravitated naturally to the forms of speech, the physical exaltation, and the passionate magnetism which produced conviction and conversion. And he did not do this utterly without knowledge. Frequent repetition taught him the value of certain modes of address. He was led unconsciously to discriminate as to the state of mind of the hearers whom he addressed. He knew, speaking ...

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