Through Eyes of Faith – 3

David Myers and Malcolm Jeeves tackle the question, Should there be a Christian psychology? in the next chapter from Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith. (The timing is interesting; I just posted below a conference notice for the Society for Christian Psychology, and that organization in particular answers the question with a resounding “Yes.”)

The authors seem to concede that to the extent that psychology is focused on human nature, then a Christian psychology is warranted. However, since psychology is “much more modest and restricted” in its aims and scope, the authors suggest that it is no more necessary to speak of a Christian psychology than to speak of “Christian physics or a Christian chemistry” [p. 12]. In their words: “Psychology is morally and ethically neutral” [p. 12].

What is interesting to me is that the authors then go on to acknowledge the “hidden values and assumptions” in any scientific discipline, including psychology. They acknowledge the reality and impact of worldviews and note that psychologists are “among the most irreligious academics” in America [p. 13]. It makes one wonder where the gaps may be for academics developing an applied psychology that is relevant to an American public that has retained its regard for religion and spirituality.

In any case, Myers and Jeeves discuss two answers to the central question of a Christian psychology. No, there should not be, and Yes, there should be. According to the authors, those who answer “No” place more emphasis on being “faithful to reality” through the study of nature [p. 15]. Myers and Jeeves see themselves as in this group. Those who answer “Yes” place greater emphasis on the role of “prior beliefs and prejudices” [p. 17] on everything that is studied in psychology. (I should note that this group is given very limited space in this chapter; one paragraph or 5 sentences by my count.)

For reflection: How would others answer this question? Should there by a Christian psychology?

5 Comments

  1. I think there is definitely a need to integrate Christianity and psychology. Psychology alone is only half the story. I certainly believe a Christian can counsel unbelievers using the principles of God’s word, not to mention there is a great population of individuals searching for professionals that uphold Biblical truth in their practice. I think it is a great ministry opportunity for Christians and it should be pursued by those who are interested. I’m just starting my junior/senior level courses at Bryan College and it is so incredible to look at psychology through the lens of scripture and to have professors that encourage and direct the process.

    By the bye, I like the new look of your blog, Professor Yarhouse.

  2. I agree with you that psychology is only a part of the story. Many people request to see a psychologist or counselor who shares their perspective as a Christian, even if a direct discussion of their faith never comes up. But they seem to want to know that if they did discuss their faith, their psychologist/counselor would understand.

  3. Another thought on the book chapter: I think when the authors talk about psychology and human nature, they are right to point out the need to think as Christians about those claims. What troubles me is when we shift to discussions of a ‘limited’ psychology that does not need to reflect a Christian worldview. Of course it makes intuitive sense when we talk about very specific measurements of, say, behavior or neurochemistry. But these are rarely seen/interpreted in isolation, even if they are measured/studied that way. Rather, we fit our findings into a broader understanding of the person, and we are quickly back to a discussion of human nature.

  4. I have come to learn about how my basic beliefs of human nature and every thing else informs me and lends a bias towards how I behave.

    So my pursuit to know what God’s mind is on how He has created the soul and how sin has tarnish it, does make it important for Christian psychology. When I read the first chapter of Modern Psychopathologies, I was thrilled by the idea of re-defining psychopathologies based on biblical concepts rather than humanly defined ones.

    So, yes. and yet there can be a ‘no’ as well, for the practitioner whose role to non-Christian counselees is the express the Christ implicitly… (I think this is based on my bias from where I am, that many people have seen Christianity as irrelevant).
    Just my thoughts. 🙂

  5. airhole, I appreciate your thoughts! Your use of the word “implicitly” is an important distinction made by Siang Yang Tan in which he distinquishes between explicit Christian integration and implicit Christian integration. If I am reading Tan right, the former is the overt or explicit use of a Christian resource or referral or protocol (e.g., Christian forgiveness protocol, referral to a church-based support group), while the latter is the decision to use one secular resource or referral or protocol over another because it is more consistent with one’s Christian worldview.

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