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Intro to General Psychology, Part Two
Transcript of Intro to General Psychology, Part Two
Freeman M. Chakara,
Professor, Clinical Neuropsychologist
Biblical Critique of Psychology
A. General Overview
A. Reactions to definitions
B. Positive Aspects of Psychology
1. Diligence: overall psychology is an enterprise that is invested in
the human experience in order to
the lives of its constituents.
Mental processes and behaviors are
worthwhile causes of study
; these components are evident from the beginning of creation (see Gen. 4:6-7) to the end of the biblical narrative (see Rev. 22:11).
In and of themselves, these components unfortunately keep focus on individual men and women. Christians would find such a focus inadequate as the Scriptures encourage a vision of God, one's neighbor, and healthy self-assessment.
What ensues is a critique of modern psychology.
Personally, I know numerous unbelievers who are psychologists and psychiatrists. Most of these individuals take their profession seriously; their dedication to ethics, in many cases, exceeds what I have observed among some Christian colleagues.
As with other medical professions,
psychology looks to do no harm
; rather, efforts remain front and center in the study of psychology to improve the human experience, no matter how misguided.
2. Destigmatizing illness: psychology has largely helped remove the
shame and myth
surrounding emotional illness (watch 2 minute clip from Mental Health Awareness Week).
Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of hearing someone, perhaps a friend or a family member, describe the mentally ill as "crazy" or some other pejorative term.
Many in the church report feeling uncomfortable around those with severe mental illness (listen to the following 1 minute recording concerning research).
Few would even consider a pastoral candidate who admits to suffering mild anxiety in the past, much less someone who reports low level depression.
Despite obvious deficits in contemporary psychology, stigmatizing mental illness is not one of them.
For these reasons, blanket dismissal of psychology seems silly.
C. Negative Aspects of Psychology
erroneous assumptions about the origins
of humanity & the universe.
Virtually all of contemporary psychology is
built on evolutionary theory
, an untenable proposition for most Christians.
link mankind to animals
Scripture emphasizes the image of God
in men and women - with implications for self worth.
A concern with
closed universe thinking
is that it is incompatible with biblical teachings of the afterlife.
If this is all there is, righteous living is all but futile.
2. Anthropology: limited descriptions of the
nature of humanity
(no talk of the soul).
For a field targeting the
study of the soul
, the field of psychology's
understanding of the immaterial is woefully inadequate.
Scriptures teach about the immaterial part to human nature
as it does the material aspects.
The vast majority of attempts at spirituality in contemporary psychology reflect glorified
Zen Buddhist and New Age ideas
(see 2 minute video clip on Mindfulness)
Graduate school programs often
fail to provide training in matters of the soul
; when they do, such teaching is
Any concept of self-care, divorced from a biblical understanding
of human nature, is limited from the outset.
3. Destiny: the future is in the hands of humanity -
no providence & no afterlife
If human beings are
self determining products
evolutionary materialism, the future depends
largely on one's efforts.
A non-theistic view of reality can only interpret events in light of a
(nature of truth) and
(nature of reality).
Unfortunate events (bad things), in such a view, are at worst accidents of nature or at best,
The Scriptures instead teach the
doctrine of providence within divine sovereignty
(e.g., Joseph, Job, Jesus and Paul's life
experiences reflect God's will working out through
the acts of man, which are sometimes evil)
4. Priesthood: therapists are now healers and
keepers of secret trust
As a licensed psychologist, I will readily admit
training is quite rigorous
; most clinicians are
quite capable at what they do.
As a Christian, I am
concerned about the veneration of therapists
that appears to have usurped rightful spiritual guidance.
While the doctrine of confidentiality is central to therapy, the
separation of church and couch is disturbing
. This point is even more poignant considering some of the assumptions informing therapies offered behind closed doors - even by some Christian professionals.
The confessions that once belonged with the priest are now the domain of therapists. Despite negative images associated with
the priesthood, the book of
the benefit of confession
Some folks could use soul-cleansing
confession not therapy.
Considerations for a Biblical Worldview of Psychology
A. Centrality of God's Word
B. Dynamic Faith
C. God''s handiwork: true
science confirms God''s work & principles
that govern it.
D. Destiny: self-actualization is the antithesis of Christ's message; St. Augustine captured it by emphasizing the
centrality of the glory of God
E. Sufficiency of Scripture: All we need is in God's Word;
synthesis is our weakness
Believers are mandated to
study and memorize
God's Word; Old Testament kings had the same mandate.
Knowledge of Scripture is imperative to all disciplines and to life in general.
It is important for psychology students to recognize that as a
textbook on life
all other texts on any given discipline of study.
Scripture provides solutions to all conceivable life problems, so
need to bear on the use of biblical principles to life's challenges.
Believers should recognize that in the least, the Christian faith entails what Carl Henry called
"head, heart, & hands"
A biblical worldview demands a
- cognitive persuasion to the propositions taught in the Scriptures.
A Christian mindset requires a
- emotional commitment to the teaching of Scripture & faithfully living out all that God's Word embodies.
Finally, the believer should live out her beliefs, serving others by being God's
to the needy.
Head, heart, and hands
are three crucial pillars to the Christian worldview; those who would undertake the study of psychology need to be anchored on these three points.
Well designed scientific research generally confirms known biblical teachings (see
Larzelere, Kuhn, & Johnson, 2004
- The intervention selection bias: An underrecognized confound in intervention research) related to physical discipline (click link below for EBSCO - will open in separate internet window).
Reflect on Proverbs 7 as it applies to compulsive, habitual tendencies (e.g., gambling or pornography).
Why Study Psychology?
: students are better equipped when referring others for mental health services.
: analysis of research and "new" findings requires it - a knowledge of the scientific method, for instance, should equip students to be a more sophisticated consumer of research findings; such skills might benefit the kingdom at large.
: psychology integrates knowledge beyond just therapeutic tips (e.g., biological vulnerability associated with disease processes).
The student who undertakes the study of psychology is advised to realize that the aches of the human heart cannot ultimately be answered by our discipline of study; rather, it is from the work of God that true help is derived.
Individuals with mental illnesses report that they feel estranged from the broader Christian community due to their perception of church members’ unspoken moral judgment and general lack of acceptance of mental disabilities…A recent online survey of Protestants and Catholics with mental illnesses assessed the quality of their experiences with the church (
). A majority of the participants described positive, accepting interactions. However, approximately one- third of participants indicated that the ‘‘church [made them] feel like the mental illness was the result of personal sin’’ (p. 447); another third reported that the ‘‘church suggest[ed] that [they or their loved ones] did not really have a mental illness, even though a mental health professional said that [they] did’’ (p. 447). Participants were also offered the opportunity to respond to open-ended questions about their church interactions. Of those negative interactions described, 21% involved events in which mental illness had been associated with demonic influence, and another 19% involved events in which mental illness had been associated with the sin of the afflicted person.
Webb, M., Stetz, K., & Hedden, K. (2008). Representation of mental illness In Christian self-help bestsellers.
Mental Health, Religion, & Culture