Sunday, May 22, 2005

Escaping The Matrix by Gregory A. Boyd & Al Larson

Escaping The Matrix
Originally uploaded by Randy Kirk.
Morpheus: "What is real? How do you define real? If your talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then "real" is simply the electrical signals interpreted by your brain. This is the world you know." Escaping the Matrix p. 27

Gregory Boyd and Al Larson have totally bought in to the Matrix paradigm. They believe that it explains everything, and that it does so in a way that is also in agreement with the Bible. "For as he thinks within himself, so he is." Proverbs 23:7 At times in the first few chapters of the book, you may feel like you are in a first year philosophy class discussing the meaning of "be" for 10 weeks. Plato, Socrates, Sartre, Hume, Kierkegaard, and so many others have taken a shot at defining reality. So will our generation be famous for Andy and Larry Wachowski's view of what is real and what is only in our mind.

I actually found the first portion of the book, the part about philosophy, science of the mind and brain, and its theological counterparts to be quite interesting and sometimes very compelling. "Every mental image and every internal voice that disagrees with the fact that we are full of God's love, joy, and peace is part of the Matrix." (p. 20) Our experiences, the culture, our peers, and even our predispositions and chemistry conspire with the Devil to keep us in the Matrix.

Assuming that one agrees that the "world" is not as it seems, and that the "truth" is something that we must seek through Christ by altering our impressions of what we believe, then how do we do that. The transitional concepts advanced by Boyd and Larson also make sense to this reviewer. "Its all about the content of our faith. The information we consciously believe is not nearly as important to the quality of our lives as the faith we hold as a substantial reality in our minds. . .
We are transformed by the renewing of our minds and transformed by our faith . . . . We don't create who we are by thinking a certain way; that is what pop psychology tries to do. Instead we are simply aligning our minds with truth to experience who we really are in Christ." (p. 128-9)

My problems arise with the second half of this work. When it comes time to apply the theory, the methods they have created don't fit into my matrix at all.

First there is the question of theology. The method for Escaping the Matrix requires a person to remember certain past experiences that might have caused them to believe the lies of the Matrix today and thereby experience emotional, spiritual, or even mental problems because of the experience. So far it fits within standard practice in the world of psychology, and I think Jesus would be ok with us reflecting back on our own sinful behavior and also circumstances that might cause us to feel ill will towards others. However, now we are told to freeze the memory or play it like a movie, to alter the picture in our memory by making it black and white instead of color or really small. I don't want to trivialize the complexity of the work of these men, but this is the short version of what they want us to do.

While we are attempting to alter these "incorrect" ideas from our past, examples are presented of counseling sessions that have the counselor working through these experiences with the patient. With or without the visualization elements, we are back to standard fare in most psychiatrists office. I don't find the visualization idea, or the working through idea in scripture, nor do the authors make any real effort to give scriptural backing for these two elements.

At least as troubling, there is no data with regard to how their own patients have done with this approach. Do half do better one week later? 70%? Have other counselors been able to get good results? How are the patients doing one year later? Without this data, it is very hard to contemplate using the approach.

Finally, this book is written with the clear idea of its being a self help book. I would highly recommend against anyone trying this at home. Professionals screw this up all the time. I am a firm believer in Neil Anderson's Bondage Breaker approach to moving folks out of the Matrix. He has tons of date on the effectiveness of his Biblically supported method. However, I am very careful to suggest that those who could use a round of spiritual cleansing find a competent counselor to walk them through it.

This book, while very well written, is not written for the masses. I suspect many college level readers will have some difficulty understanding where the authors want to go with Escaping the Matrix. There is substantial use of terms of craft that are not defined fully for those not advanced in psychology or theology.

In summary, those with special interest in philosophy, psychology, or counseling will find the book interesting, useful, and well worth the read. Be careful regarding the "new methods" offered. Don't try "Escaping the Matrix" without Morpheus to help you.

Baker Books provided this copy of Escaping the Matrix: Getting Your Mind Free to Experience Real Life in Christ as a gift through Mind & Media for the purpose of doing a review.

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