Friday, June 5, 2009

Gracepoint Berkeley: Truth Project

Hello everyone,

Very much like how Gracepoint Forum did with SET 2008, I wanted to open up a post thread for our Sunday's material, the Truth Project.

You can ask questions and have discussions regarding the Truth Project by responding to this post.


Anonymous said...

Question & opinion re: Maslow's hierarchy of needs (1 of 2):

Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs topic, what if a person's idea of self-actualization is to genuinely to help other people/some other equivalent of non-selfishness?

The reason I ask this question is because many of my friends, as does the rest of the world but I can vouch for those I know, believe in this "follow your heart" path. Yet, they are not ruthlessly competitive, isolated, or egocentric. I know that they really do care about their family, friends, etc. and their goal in life is to somehow be a benefit to the world. They strive to serve others because they know this makes their lives richer. I feel like, and I'm sure they do too, that they are basically good, but obviously not perfect, people. They are the ideal stereotype of people who believe they are "good" people (Yes, I do understand that they are still sinners, and we cannot point to our works to be saved in the presence of a holy God, but salvation is a different issue!) Still Maslow's hierarchy would apply because Maslow simply states that people aim for self-actualization, and they would be inherently, generally, good people.

First, I think Daniel brought up an honorable mention point that I thought addressed my question as well. We usually always create a hypothetical person who really is "just good," but we place this person as "very far away" because this person just does not exist.

Anonymous said...

Question and opinions re: Maslow's Hierarchy of needs (2 of 2):

2) This sparks another question: Where do we (as Christians) stand on the validity of Maslow's Hierarchy? (aka: Aren’t Christians loving God because they want to avoid hell and go to heaven?)

I feel that Maslow's hierarchy can also be applied to redeemed sinners. Once a person recognizes the sin in his life and the enormous debt that he can never repay to God, he seeks to rectify the situation. As Paul says, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Yes, I realize that without divine revelation, many of us would never come to the conclusion that we need God's grace, and perhaps this is where Maslow's theory strays because he does not account for the supernatural, but rather defines self-actualization in the regular course of human nature. Still, a man seeking salvation is following his inner desire to save himself in the afterlife, and thus, he turns to Christianity because he knows it to be true. The fear of hell is often a selfish motive for repentance. Many choose Christianity because they believe it is the more fulfilling life. The redeemed Christian realizes that in order to live a worthy life, he must serve God. In this sense, this man is still trying to self-actualize because he understands that by truly living for another, he is most satisfied with himself. Christians merely have long-term vision if that is what we are calling "transcendent"; we are still captured in this cycle of selfishness. Much in the same way, Christians aim for self-actualization by aiming to be like Christ. According to this train of thought, Maslow's hierarchy still applies, but humans can be inherently evil.

What do you think?

Daniel Kim said...

The above two questions are excellent questions that are quite thoughtful, and they need to be addressed carefully and answered thoughtfully. Hopefully we can address them one at a time.

As for your question about "What if a person's idea of self-actualization is to genuinely help other people?"

Here's a short answer to that, which I will follow up with supporting points: If a person's overall goal in life (not just temporary, fleeting goals, but THE overarching goal in life) is indeed to selflessly and genuinely help others, then yes, that person would prove to be an exception to what Tackett is saying.. although the existence of such an extraordinarily saintly person would not disprove the general point that Tackett is making. In other words, even if such a person exists, if we're only talking about a very rare person, I think Tackett's point would still hold that following Maslow's hierarchy of needs leads to a selfish life generally in the world.

Having said that, maybe we can try to discuss what we mean by saying that their idea of self-actualization is to genuinely help others.

First, when Maslow is talking about this highest need for human beings, he's talking about THE highest goal for your entire life. He's not talking about a mere sentiment that a person has about wanting to help others. He's talking about the very thing that really drives a person, the top goal of his life. And if there is a person whose highest goal is to not fulfill his own selfish desires but to actually help others... then I would say that person is a very saintly person indeed.. and it would show. That person's life would be characterized by sacrificial love, where his own needs and agenda would not be placed first. That person would prioritize others. I'm not saying that such a person cannot exist. I'm just laying out the picture of what that would look like.

For me personally, I do know that I'm not naturally such a person. I did have sentiments about helping others. I did genuinely "want" to be good to others. But one day, when I looked at my actual life, when I looked at how I spend my actual time and money and energy, I realized that my actions told a different story than my sentiments. Someone said that our checkbook tells us where our heart is better than our lips. Kind of crude way of putting it, but I think there is wisdom in that. Anyway, one day I came to realize that I gave way too much credit to sentiments that never get carried out. So I just have to wonder if we're talking about sentiments here. Sentiments are not nothing, though.. they are important things, and I'm sure that people who feel good sentiments do end up sometimes doing good things. But for me, I thought it more accurate to take an overview of my actions and life rather than just subjective sentiments. Well, that's just my story. Not sure if you can relate. (continued in the comment below)

Daniel Kim said...

(continued from above)
But on the second level, let's think about what we mean when we say we genuinely want to help others. I noticed that in your description of your friends, you said that they really care for their family, friends, etc.
I have no idea who your friends are, and from the sound of it, they seem like really really nice people who would not hurt anyone. So I'm not saying anything negative about your friends here... All I want to do is carefully challenge the notion that if someone is good to their family and friends, then that makes them good/selfless. Is that the case? That seemed like a good definition of "goodness" to me at a time.. After all, that's what I heard from the world... that such-and-such a person was a good man because he loved his family and his friends.

In my Christian apologetics program, I heard my professor address this very issue, and he asked, "Do you think a KKK member really really cares for her family? Do you think she lovingly bakes cookies for her children and grandchildren? Of course she does. And I can tell you that she is absolutely sincere in her love for her kids and friends." I'm not saying that your friends are actually like the KKK members, or that they have this secret evil life. That's not what I'm suggesting at all. But my point is this: EVERYONE (well, almost everyone) cares for their own family and friends. I mean, we see even ducks do that. :) So it seems to me that if we define selflessness in terms of how we treat our family and friends, it's not sufficient.. I'm not knocking love for family, it's a very precious and important thing. All I'm saying is that it's not a very helpful measure for measuring goodness, because even Hitler would be characterized as good, by that standard.

Now, if it was actually the case that your friends' selfless sacrificial love extended out beyond their family and friends, and their lives and actions atually visibly showed that their highest goal was indeed the selfless goal of helping others, then I would have to take my hat off to them and be in awe. Because that would be a true rarity in our world... and the world WILL take notice of such people, because they really stand out.

I'm not sure what you think about what I've said above.. So I'll just stop here and not move onto the second question until we sort of work through the first question.. Any further questions or clarification or issues with what I've said?

Anonymous said...

Yes, that makes sense so far, thanks!

Daniel Kim said...

Okay, I'm glad that I made some sense..

Regarding your second question.. that Christians are also looking for self-actualization, except that Christians have a longer-term goal..

I think in a sense, that's true. And I do agree that many people choose Christianity in order to avoid hell and choose heaven... at least that's how many people might have entered into accepting Christianity. However, I don't think it's fair to characterize Christians in all maturity levels in that way. Many children learn to be moral and share their toys because otherwise, they get in trouble. But after that child grows up, hopefully her morality and compassion are not simply driven by fear of punishment.. Her moral reasoning also matures, hopefully. I think that's the case for Christians as well. Perhaps some of us entered into Christianity at an immature level of just wanting to avoid hell or something. (I'm not knocking that as illegitimate, by the way... it's like teaching kids to be moral.. kids don't respond to moral teachings without some understanding of reward or punishment.. Consequential teaching is a perfectly legitimate way of helping kids understand).

But as we grow, I think the whole idea of self-fulfillment start to blur and merge... so that it becomes a mixture of self-interest and losing oneself (which are quite opposite things). If you think about it, this paradoxical mixture of self-interest and losing onself can be seen in love. In love of friends, love of spouses, love of parent-child.. It's hard to draw a line on whether or not it's driven by self-interest or losing oneself. As the parent completely loses herself in sacrificial love for her child, she, in a way, finds the most satisfaction. Definitely, there is some self-actualization that is involved there.. But would it be fair to characterize that entire thing as "selfish", then? I don't think it'd be fair to do so. In fact, Jesus himself expressed this ironic secret to happiness: "one who tries to save his life will lose it, but one who loses his life for my sake will find it." The Bible teaches that we can find self-actualization not by going for self-actualization, but by losing ourselves in love for God, and serving God.

Perhaps the fault in Maslow's hierarchy is that it simply states the twisted version of the truth: that we should go for self-actualization by going for it.. preaching the message, "one who tries to save his life will save it, the one who lives for himself will find happiness." It's in this light that I believe we can see how a twisted truth can be the most insidious lie.

Hope that helps.

joongwlee said...

Hi Daniel,
I heard that Gracepoint Berkeley just finished the Truth Project and I was wondering if you could continue to respond to these questions. We at Waypoint Davis might be going through the material one of these days and would appreciate these blog posts to remain up.

Pastor Jonathan