By Allen E. Bergin
Allen E. Bergin is a celebrated clinical psychologist specializing in psychotherapy outcomes and widely honored for pioneering the integration of religion and values in therapeutic settings. He has been received many awards, including the “Distinguished Professional Contribution to Knowledge Award” (1989) from the American Psychological Association, and the “Oskar Pfister Award in Religion and Mental Health” (1998) from the American Psychiatric Association. The following is excerpted from the book Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars (Deseret Book and FARMS, 1996).
Despite . . . powerful manifestations of the sacred world, I was so steeped in a secular way of looking at things that I frequently reverted to it and questioned everything I had experienced. Conversion, for me, would eventually require a thousand checks and double checks on whether I was engaging in wish-fulfilling self-deception, which I believed most of humanity was duped by. . . .
I . . . held perspectives that made religious belief difficult, if not impossible. The conversion process became a self-study, a jockeying between opinions—all in my own head. . . .
The decisive moment came when I realized that I had not given God a full and complete test. I had never totally given myself, entirely and consistently, to spiritual inquiry comparable to my intellectual devotion. . . . As I began to sincerely pursue this . . . the scales of secularism fell daily from my eyes. A whole new way of seeing the world was being grafted into my intellect. Unlike my previously analytical outlook, this one was accompanied by warmth and hope, and it colored all relationships and aspects of life. . . .
Spiritual knowledge is multi-dimensional. It touches everything and is touched by everything. Detached intellectual knowing is one-dimensional and incomplete: such inquiry cannot reach into the godly realm, and its effects upon relationships, lifestyle, and values are often negative. The eternal principles of living and the values that guide their application are learned by a composite of studious examination, careful life testing, critical ratiocination, and opening of self to the intuitive free-flow of spiritual communion. There is a balance among these ingredients that leads to the good, the true, and the beautiful. Omitting one of these factors from (or entering too much or too little of a given factor into) the equation for one’s life orientation results in a failure to equate . . . .
I have never found my hard-won new faith to be wanting. I only find myself wanting in my ability to keep up with its momentum as it courses forward into a new millennium. . . . Naturally, like others, I see some defects in the culture of church and university that cause me a measure of consternation. I believe that, despite its imperfections, this religious culture is the embryo of the kingdom of God on earth. The deficiencies are part of the human condition and not fundamental. The cure is not to make a career out of criticism. The cure is to do our own duty well—creatively, with compassion and inspiration.
The key for me, as I look back to my conversion, . . . has been to give the revealing will and Spirit of God top priority in the ways of knowing. Research and reason are essential allies in the search for truth, but if either of them becomes dominant, God’s natural order is upset. We become, to paraphrase Emerson, professional monsters—a good analyst or thinker, a great methodologist, or a penetrating writer, but never a whole human being.
At the same time, I glory in the academic. Universities, research centers, writing, study, and publication are my world. But I have discovered . . . it is possible to contain spiritual conviction and academic excellence in the same mind. . . . To the extent that our inquiries are absolutely penetrating, they can become absolutely revealing. . . .
Albert Einstein said, “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon. . . . I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” Becoming attuned to the mysteries of God opens the way for discoveries that transcend ordinary inquiry. I hope for such . . . among the community of faithful scholars everywhere. May we conduct our inquiries with an eternal vision that embraces whatever is honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous. Then, we shall know by personal experience that “to be learned is good if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29).