Is Christianity real or just a helpful myth? Is it just another way to help people cope with life and become better people? 2 Peter 1.16-18 answers this question:
…we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
The Apostle Peter wanted his readers, and he wants us to know, that whatever the psychological benefits or explanations that one may give for the existence of Christianity, these things really did happen in history, in time and in space. He himself witnessed these things with his own eyes, ears, and heart.
In his book, Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud, described what he believed to be the psychological foundation for believing in a God. It begins in early childhood. We experience feelings of helplessness. This long drawn out helplessness causes us to want the protection of our parents. These feelings carry over into our adulthood where we find ourselves confronted by the great forces of life. Freud writes, “He knows to be sure that he is in possession of greater strength, but his insight into the perils of life has also grown greater, and he rightly concludes that fundamentally he still remains just as helpless and unprotected as he was in his childhood, that faced by the world he is still a child.” Thus “he cannot do without the protection which he enjoyed as a child. …He exalts the image [of the father] into a deity and makes it into something contemporary and real.” In Freud’s thinking God is an idea we create to answer to our need for parental protection. He is simply an exalted father and this explains why young people lose their religious beliefs as soon as their father’s authority breaks down.
There is much about which Sigmon Freud was right in his description of the unconscious process of transference- a tendency to displace feelings from authority figures in our childhood onto those in the present, thus distorting and causing conflict with present authority. These ideas has been proven helpful in clinical work. But what Freud never acknowledged was the possibility that he himself might be suffering from how much he had distorted the Ultimate Authority. He did not consider that his own view of God was not based on the God of history and Christianity, but his own neurotic distortion.
Regarding the false teachers of Peter’s time, some were frauds, others might have been the Freuds of their time. They rejected the truth and replaced it with their own ideas. But Peter and his fellow apostles saw and heard the truth so that whatever neurosis we might have to suffer on this earth, we might not suffer the ultimate distortion of God. Christ’s power to equip us to live for him, the coming kingdom and the glorious future that awaits us, are all truths rooted in his historic appearance and the Father’s approval of him. As Peter says in Acts 4.20 …we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.