Could Sigmund Freud Have Made a Good Calvinist?

Most people who know who Sigmund Freud is tend to laugh at his theories. Stuff like the disturbing Oedipus complex and his obsession with libido being the driving element behind human behavior tends to put us off. From what I hear, most of Freud’s theories have been discredited (though I am not certain on this). However, a very heterodox friend of mine recently made an interesting point. Here’s the quote:

I am honestly surprised that more Christians are not accepting of the psychoanalytic tradition. It seems to me that monstrous state of our sexual drives uncovered by Sigmund Freud and the theology of original sin preached by St. Paul are quite congruent. Our modern sensibilities revolt against the idea that infants and children are sexual beings, but if we are truly born in original sin, then it is not so absurd to believe that infants and children are sexually perverse. I have always felt that psychoanalysis is the only psychology that takes original sin as a permanent feature of human existence.

Basically, according to him Freud’s ideas are a perfect match with original sin, especially in the form of total depravity, as we Calvinists believe.

What do you think? Could Freud have been a good Calvinist? Or, to put it less facetiously, do you think Freud’s ideas on psychoanalysis really make good sense in harmony with original sin?

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4 Thoughts to “Could Sigmund Freud Have Made a Good Calvinist?

  1. I have never found a source that thoroughly discredits Freud. Most critiques that I have seen merely assumes that he is wrong “a priori”. The primary criticism of Freud appears to be that psychoanalysis is not congruent with neuroscience — it is an interpretive approach. Since I am Christian and believe that Spirit is the fundamental ontology, I tend to prefer an interpretive-humanist tradition.

    You would be stretching your logic to equate psychoanalysis with the Calvinist notion of “total depravity”. The psychoanalytic idea is not that human beings are wholly depraved, but rather that Love and Death both exist within us. It is congruent with the Roman understanding of Original Sin as a wound, as being given over to Death in the sense that sin acts a tourniquet which cuts off our circulation. The difference between Roman theology and Freudianism is that in the former human nature is considered to be essentially good and holy, whereas in the latter human nature is understood to be dualistic (both life and death). Roman theology teaches that Death is a wound that is not a part of our essential nature.

    1. My dear John, could it be you misunderstand total depravity? Total depravity, fully explained, is about like this:
      (1) The fundamental nature of mankind is good, bearing the image of God and made to find communion with Him and life in Him. Mankind is quite a high and wonderful creature by nature, only barely beneath the angels.
      (2) Adam was upright and good, but because of the destructive influences of the serpent was deceived and chose to rebel against God, thus severing his natural connection to God.
      (3) Because all descend from Adam, all inherit this broken humanity. While the original human nature is quit excellent, only a trace remains because sin has corrupted each part of the man, not completely, but to such an extent that the man cannot bring himself to connect with God by any of his natural capacities, such as intellect, emotion, volition, or strength.

      Imagine, as an analogy, a strong, renowned soldier. He is top of his group, and easily the best of the best. However, in battle he receives deep wounds in his arms, legs, and abdomen, thus completely incapacitating him.

      1. I feel like you are preaching here a very innocuous form of “Total Depravity”. I am not an expert on Calvinism and perhaps there is some wiggle room. I have in mind the John Piper idea that in the state of total rebellion everything human beings do is sinful and mankind has an inability to actually perform good. Such a notion is wholly antithetical to the dualism of psychoanalysis, since it gives too much power to the death-drive and completely erases the validity Eros. That is why I said Roman theology is amenable, because it teaches that our good is actually and fully good.

        1. Total depravity centrals around one affirmation and one denial:

          * We affirm that man’s inherited sin leaves him morally incapable of seeking God at all.
          * We deny the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace as the solution.
          Beyond that, there is room for variety.
          John Piper’s position on the sinfulness of all unregenerate human activity is not a proper part of total depravity, but in his mind a logical extension of total depravity.
          Personally, I hold that man can do legitimate good before regeneration, but that even our most real good is tainted to some degree or another by our sin. So while we can certainly distinguish between good and bad actions for unbelievers, even their good actions “fall short of the glory of God.”

So what do you think?