Over the past decade of working with people to help them find freedom from addiction and shame, I’ve found that among Christians (specifically) there often is a deep distrust of science and/or psychology.
This of course can serve as a major obstacle to recovery when someone refuses to pursue counseling, or insists that if they just pray hard enough and love Jesus enough they’ll be set free.
Why is that?
Well, for one it is true that many of the most renowned proponents of psychology were also atheists or humanists who completely rejected the idea of God and (our) Christian faith. It’s not hard to imagine why one would be skeptical of a scientific discipline when its leaders seem to be inherently anti-God.
Beyond that, many well known Christian leaders have further stoked the flames of Christian mistrust by labeling psychology, as a whole, atheistic and pro-evolution. For instance, one of the most well known Christians who openly opposes the value of psychology (especially for Christians) is pastor John Mcarthur.
Here are just a few of his comments as it relates to psychology and Christianity.
“Psychology is no more a science than the atheistic evolutionary theory upon which it is based. Like theistic evolution, “Christian psychology” is an attempt to harmonize two inherently contradictory systems of thought. Modern psychology and the Bible cannot be blended without serious compromise to or utter abandonment of the principle of Scripture’s sufficiency.”
“Many pastors, feeling inadequate and perhaps afraid of possible malpractice litigation, are perfectly willing to let “professionals” take over what used to be seen as a vital pastoral responsibility. Too many have bought the lie that a crucial realm of wisdom exists outside Scripture and one’s relationship to Jesus Christ, and that some idea or technique from that extrabiblical realm holds the real key to helping people with their deep problems.”
“‘Christian psychology’ as the expression is used today is an oxymoron. The word psychology no longer speaks of studying the soul. Instead it describes a diverse menagerie of therapies and theories that are fundamentally humanistic.”
“Since the secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations, it is capable of dealing with people only superficially and only on the temporal level. . . . If one is a truly Christian psychologist, he must be doing soul work in the realm of the deep things of the Word and the Spirit—not fooling around in the shallows of behavior modification.”
And admittedly, there are many instances of psychological theory that are indeed inherently atheistic, humanistic, and anti intelligent design. But does that mean psychology as a scientific discipline or pursuit is something we should utterly and blindly reject?
I would argue no.
Merriam Webster defines psychology as follows: the science of mind and behavior.
Notice that absent from that simple definition is the requirement to reject God, or the blanket assertion that all humanity’s problems can be solved by behavior modification.
In fact, I can tell you from my own personal experience with a licensed counselor, that my therapist wasn’t concerned with neutering my Christian values or modifying my behavior, but rather was focused on helping me understand the psychological underpinnings of my behavior and how to alter my decision making processes to better reflect what I claimed to believe and value as a Christian.
The truth is this: The Bible is our ultimate authority, because it is God’s word. It does contain the keys to true life transformation and healing.
But the Bible does not explain…
- How trauma impacts our emotional maturity.
- How fight and flight instincts work and impact our decision making.
- How moments of acute stress can shut down the prefrontal cortex of our brain inducing mental paralysis and panic.
- How shame drives us to seek out sexual pleasure as an escape mechanism.
- How dopamine bursts released through orgasm can rewire our brain’s rewards system.
However, God reveals himself through His works too. And so any study of those works (His creation) can better help us connect the dots between our theology and biology.
See, what many Christian leaders seem to forget is that the mind and heart are connected. That we are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings and so all these aspects of our humanity are interconnected and deeply impact one another. And so any effort to understand our brains and how they operate is not anti-biblical but rather a wise pursuit.
Again, there is no arguing that many in the scientific community mock the idea of an all powerful God and/or intelligent design. But that does not mean the pursuit of scientific understanding is inherently anti biblical. It just means we as Christians need to exercise wisdom and learn how to separate the meat from the bones.
There is plenty one can learn from quality therapy and counseling. But that doesn’t mean we need to swallow every psychological theory we run into. It just means we need to evaluate what we are told and taught in the light of Scripture and, if there is no conflict or debate, pursue a deeper understanding of how and why we think the way we do. This allows us to better align our choices with what we claim to believe.
At the end of the day, true science will not conflict with the Bible. And a proper understanding of the Bible should not conflict with true science. Because the author of both is not in the business or habit of self-contradiction.
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