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Harvard professor to share faith

March 28, 2003

By Milani Arguelles

Dr. Armand Nicholi will outline Monday the perspectives of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud on God and the meaning of life.

Nicholi, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is the keynote speaker for the Psychology and Faith Conference and will speak on 'Christ Among Psychologists' at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Waco Hall for Chapel.

Nicholi has researched, compared and contrasted the views of Freud and Lewis for more than 25 years in his classes and is the author of The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and the Meaning of Life.

'Dr. Nicholi tackles some of the fundamental questions about human relationships and how humans think about God, questions at the intersection of psychology and faith,' Dr. Wade Rowatt, assistant professor of psychology, said.

Rowatt added that Nicholi explains how Lewis and Freud had similar life experiences that shaped their personal faiths in very different ways.

'Nicholi's book integrates Lewis' and Freud's positions on several psychological, philosophical and theological questions.' Rowatt said. 'In this book Nicholi doesn't say, 'Here are the answers. I know the meaning of life,' or 'Here's evidence for the existence of a higher power.' Instead, Nicholi draws the reader into the divergent lives of Lewis, an atheist who gradually converts, and Freud, an atheist who remains a disbeliever.'

Dr. Todd Lake, dean of university ministries, thinks Nicholi will encourage students to be honest about what they really believe and the difference it actually makes in their daily lives.

'It seems to me that his willingness to be absolutely evenhanded in the classroom is one good result of his conviction that the Christian faith is true,' Lake said. 'He doesn't feel the need to give any unfair advantage to Christian claims. Instead, he is free to teach in an unbiased manner about Freud and Lewis and trust that students will be persuaded on their own as to which worldview best coheres with reality.'

Although Lake is confident in the impact Nicholi's speech will have, some students think presenting a view that is not purely Christian will raise issues.

'I think his speech may cause controversy because some people think psychology is weird,' LaQuatre Rhodes, a Shreveport, La., freshman, said. 'Students should be open-minded and listen to what he has to say.'

Nicholi will also meet with faculty from 8:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. in the Reynolds Conference Suite in the west end of Alexander Residence Hall for a discussion on 'The Impact of Faith in America,' and he will address a noon luncheon on 'Why I'm Interested in God and Psychology' in Barfield Drawing Room in the Bill Daniel Student Center. He will attend a reception and sign copies of his book from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the White-Beckham Room. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Nicholi will speak on the Freud-Lewis debate at a banquet in the Piper Great Hall at George W. Truett Theological Seminary.