Part 1 Whose Court Should We Play Ball In?
Psychology has become a very important factor in the lives of all of us, even in ways we are not aware of. Teachers are required to take psychology classes for their teaching degree. Ministers take psychology courses in order to help their congregations. At work we are given personality tests to determine what kind of employee we will be.
But can modern psychology and the Bible co-exist in the lives of todays Christians? Throughout all of Christian History, the popular theology of the day has moved like a pendulum, swinging away from what the Bible teaches and then back with equal passion, burying itself in the pages of the written word of God. The question then becomes, where on the pendulum swing does psychology lie? Is it for God? Against God? Or is it found somewhere in the middle of the two extremes?
In order to compare the compatibility of psychology with biblical teachings, we must first determine our method of measuring this. OAIM, as a fundamental Christian organization, chooses to measure any teachings according to the infallible written word of God, the Bible. Men can change, and society may waver from side to side, but Gods word remains true and steady, an unchangeable ruler by which to accurately measure truth and error in todays world.
Psychology permeates much of our culture in such a way that it has become as common to place our minds in the hands of a professional psychologist as it is to place our bodies in the hands of a professional doctor. Yet in our spirit we hear 1 Thessalonians 5:21 constantly ringing, Test everything. Hold on to the good. Lets take a look at what the basics of psychology are and compare them to the unchanging standard of what God has to say and see if it can measure up.
The word psychology comes from two Greek words, psuche, which means soul, and the word logos, which means word or teaching. Putting these two together, we have the Greek meaning of psychology as teaching about the soul. The first thing to ask ourselves is, To whom does the area of teaching about the soul belong? If psychology teaches us about our souls, we need to make certain that the professional we go to is skilled in the care of, and knowledgeable about, the soul. When we have a broken ankle, we do not go to the dentist. When we need a good haircut, we do not go to an electrician. And for the care of the soul, we should certainly make sure we have the right professional for the job.
Maybe we need to take a moment and define soul in order to be all on the same page. On the page soul is linked to, you can read the shades of meaning that the word has in Greek. After reading through this definition, what type of professional does it seem best to go to for help with your soul? What type of qualifications should you look for when you are wanting to have help dealing with your soul?
Basically, the soul is the seat of our mind, will, and emotions. Until the 17th century, the only professional who was considered qualified to help people deal with their mind, will and emotions was the local clergy. In fact, this was an integral part of the Churchs responsibility. However, the 17th century ushered in a tremendous change in the way people thought about the role of religion in their lives.
René Descartes, famous for his quote, I think therefore I am, was one of the first to begin the separation of mind, will, and emotions from the territory of the Church. He advocated the nativist view, which tells us that our intellect, what our will chooses and does not choose, and even what we feel, are products of nature (heredity, genetics).
This view, however, opposes the Bible in two key factors. First, it snatches our creation out of the hands of God and places it in the hands of a nebulous being called, nature. It places nature on the throne, crowning it king of kings, empowering it to move our lives around like life-sized chess pieces, robots who can only do what we have been pre-programmed to do. This view exalts the creation yet denigrates the Creator. It is born out of the heart of paganism. But the Bible tells us that we are creations of Almighty God (Genesis 1-3) and have been created in His likeness. We have been given the incredible gift of free will by our Creator so we can choose whether or not we will love Him.
This leads us into the second way this nativist view contradicts what the Bible has to say. If we believe that our heredity and genetics direct our mind, will and emotions, then we become incapable of making choices, and changing our pre-programmed behavior turns into an impossibility.
However, God tells us that there most certainly is a way of altering our mind, will and emotions. Hebrews 4:12-13 is very plain: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Why would we have to give an account to God if our soul was determined by heredity, a factor we cannot change? Surely the Creator of the human soul would see no reason to judge our thoughts and attitudes if those thoughts and attitudes were merely part of our genetic makeup, formed on the day we were conceived.
If our behavior cannot be changed, how can 2 Corinthians 5:17 be true? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! God is in the business of making new creations of people; this is His very nature. God is a change-maker.
Also during the 17th century, John Locke promulgated his view of tabula rasa. These Latin words for blank slate tell us that Locke believed that men were born amoral (morally neither bad nor good), and it is society and experiences that shape the morality of any given individual. This view is much like the basis of Buddhism.
Its a pleasant thought to say that we cant be blamed if we dont know what is right and what is wrong in life because weve never been taught or our experiences have shown us differently than someone else. This type of belief eases our consciences and assuages our guilt. How can we be held responsible for knowing something weve never been taught? How can we know God unless He shows Himself to us?
Romans 1:18-20 tells us that none of us have an excuse in this. Being created in the image of God, He has stamped the knowledge of His very essence into all of humankind, and since we know Him, we know what moral good really is. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
The idea of our morality being shaped by society and our experiences is called an empiricist view. The observable nature of this, watching as moralities are shaped, lead to the word empiricism taking on a more in-depth meaning, which has become the heart of modern science. Empirical science must have observable facts, experiences and information to back up their claims.
But can the soul be observed? Can one soul be compared to another equally? Are the only valid subjects ones that can be observed or experienced? What does a soul look like? What human being can see into someones soul? It is God alone who sees our souls. My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. Psalm 62:1 Since the soul is not something we can see, touch, or experience in any way with our senses, the study of the soul has nothing to do with empirical science. The realm of the soul belongs to God, and only someone who is trained in Gods written word can give you adequate insight into your soul.
Because of this, we believe that a secular person, one who does not believe in God or who has not committed his or her life to God and has not studied Gods written word, has very little to offer the souls of people. However, one who understands Gods plan for mankind, who is familiar with Gods character and nature, who has an intimate knowledge of Gods written word, will have the qualifications we need to direct us to the real, life-changing Source of help to heal our souls.
If you look at the theories above, you will see that they all have one thing in common. They are trying to explain mans soul without having to acknowledge the God who created that soul. As we turn down different paths in studying psychology, the same conclusion is met each time. Its as if they were willing to try anything they could think of as long as they didnt have to come face to face with God their Creator.
In part two of this article, we will examine the three major forces of psychology and continue to compare them to Gods written word, our only true ruler of what is right and what is wrong.
See our article called, "The Right Pair of Glasses" for more on psychology.
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