Psychology for the (Christian) Masses

So, the other night I had woke up with thistitle in my head that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Its an academic’s kind of dream/wake state–a book idea. I wondering if you have ideas to flesh this out a bit after reading some of mine.

The title came, I think, as a result of a Miroslav Volf’s comment that consumerism, not religion, was the opiate of the people. Lightbearer provided us with the context of Karl Marx’s quote. And many of summarize his point but saying that something (religion, psychology, anything) is for “the masses.”

So, I got to thinking about the tendency among evangelicals to fall into one of two trap about psychology. Either they use it unthinkingly (cut and paste bible verses on theories without much thought) OR they reject it because psychology is unbiblical and only rank secular humanism. But, I can’t tell you the amount of conversations I’ve had about the benefits of psychological study–whether about medication, therapeutic interventions, professional ethics, etc. where it was clear that few had ever drilled down below pop psychology to understand both its value and presuppositional foundation.

So, here’s my thought. What if we developed a resource for Christians to come to that would give thoughtful, sometimes lighthearted, but always honest answers (and nonanswers when they are better) about psychology, psychotherapy, medications, psychological testing, etc.

Here’s some of the questions that tend to come up most frequently (from my memory of the last 2 months)

1. Is it wrong to take psychiatric medications for my depression? Shouldn’t I be able to either handle it or get over it using spiritual resources?

2. How do you know if the problem is demonic or psychiatric?

3. Should I ever go see a secular therapist?

4. Isn’t Mindfulness really just a Buddhist form of meditation?

5. Should I go for healing prayer for my mental health problem?

6. Isn’t ADD/ADHD just a fad?

7. Can I divorce my spouse because they refuse treatment?

8. Can pedophiles ever return to the church in a safe manner?

9. Can leaders who abuse their roles ever be restored to leadership?

I’m sure there are more. What else would YOU want to read about regarding psychology/psychotherapy from a christian perspective?   


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling science

14 responses to “Psychology for the (Christian) Masses

  1. I love this book idea!

    Something I’ve been working through lately is realizing how often I’ve confused my “feelings” with my spirituality, and how easy it is to attribute a psychological problem (ie: depression) to a spiritual problem.

    Does that make sense?

  2. rob

    great idea. in fact we are doing something like this over in the uk at where a psychiatrist, social worker and minister come together to have the best of both worlds! and it needs to be 100% of each, not a 50/50 hotch-potch


  3. Pam Elmore

    This would be a great resource!

    I would add:

    What is the relationship between sin and struggle? (related to 2, but broader)

  4. Ryan

    Definitely something about the nature and effects of sin, nature and effects of salvation, necessity of community/fellowship, and how mature discipleship can all affect the soul.

    What about how caring for souls can be used as a way to reach out to unchurched, hurting peoples?
    I’d love to build a ministry or have a private practice that does just this.

  5. Mark O.

    I’ve recently heard alot of talk from “spiritual” psychotherapists about energy and the need to unblock energy, channel it, and become aware of it.

    I’ve been reading some literature related to body psychology that touches upon the physical effects of characterological problems (I’m still not sure I even buy it myself).

    So the question is: Is energy and body psychotherapy another name for new age spirituality? Doesn’t the Bible talk about the physical effects of sin at times? Any relation?

  6. Lightbearer

    Excellent idea 🙂

  7. Caroljean

    I would buy that book for sure! I’d especially love to see an examination of some popular theories: CBT, interpersonal psychodynamic, narrative etc.. and how they are compatible or where they differ from christian thought. It would have to be a broad enought range of christian thought though. I’ve heard people say mental illness is the result of sin in a way that so called physical illness isnt. Ive also heard that therapy leads to too much emotionalism in ones spirituality and a lack of personal repentence ( the idea being that therapy consists of blaming your mother). Especially tricky would be sexual impulses in therapy – are they sinful? These would all be great topics. Again, I’d buy the book!

  8. Grahame

    Last year I heard a speech from a Salvation Army Officer who for years has suffered from bipolar disorder that was treatment resistent. I’ve also come across in my work as a Psych nurse Christians who suffer from chronic mental illness such as schizophrenia that have resulted in hospitalisations in psychiatric wards. The belief that Christians should not suffer from serious mental illness such as bipolar, schizophrenia and major depression, and if they do is a sign of either a character flaw or demonic possession is stigmatizing and needs to be addressed.

  9. I’m also thinking a checklist of what to look for in a good counselor would be really helpful. For people reaching out for help for the first time, often, they have no idea what to look for in a good counselor.

    I think I’ve shared this before, but years ago I saw a “christian” counselor and it was truly awful. I stayed away for over a decade before depression got the better of me…

    Now I’m seeing a psychologist who happens to be a christian, and I am shocked by how different the experience is. (In a good way.)

    I wish I had taken the time years ago to do some research and find out what makes a good (or bad) counselor.

    Recounting trauma while your counselor eats a cheeseburger? Not so helpful. But at the time I had no idea that all counselors didn’t bring their dinner into sessions from time to time. Or consistently run thirty minutes late. Or “overshare” their own crap to the point that at the end of the session, you feel like they should write a check to you!

    So when are you going to write this book?

  10. karenestelle

    I recently heard Tony Campolo speak about how prior to Freud, almost all counseling was done by clergy with one goal: reconciliation. With Freud came the era of counseling for the purpose of “self-actualization” which turned a lot of counseling into, as Tony put it, hedonism. I think that we often look at Christian counselors as a brand of counselor that’s been approved by the church who throws out scripture and occasionally references God vaguely. I’d love to see how Christian counseling could somehow be really different, if it really focused on our part in the Kingdom of God and the sacrificial love we can only be a part of giving and receiving if we are connected to Him, AND YET, also addressed the very real mental health issues?

  11. I am parenting a young person with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I have answered it for myself a long time ago, but if you are going to write a whole book:

    “What is the relationship between sin and atypical brain development?”

  12. Great ideas Phil. Here’s a couple that popped into my head.

    How can (why would) a Christian commit suicide? Won’t God keep them from doing it?

    A Christian response to autism spectrum disorders.

    How can I defend myself and recover from spiritual abuse in a healthy way?

    Should my counselor and pastor work together to help me?

  13. This would be an awesome book!

    I have a book title suggestion

    N’ere the twain shall meet?

    Christian psychology = oxymoron?

    Related to #4 is the question of about evaluating how appropriate is it to take part in therapeutic techniques just based on pragmatism or the evidence-based support for them such as DBT or EMDR or ECT, etc.

    Would be interested in your perspective on addiction, recovery, 12 step too.

  14. rob

    i wonder if anyone has read this book, and what your thoughts are about it? It sounds like it deals with this topic.

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