A Christian Psychology Proposal 1

This summer I’m choosing to read through Eric Johnson’s Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal (IVP, 2007). Eric is the founding director of the Society for Christian Psychology. I’ve skimmed large portions of it before, had numerous, enjoyable conversations with Eric over the years, and am familiar (and mostly agree) with his ideas. But, I thought I might share of few tidbits now and again from what I’m reading. But realize the book is 700 plus pages (he tells me he had to cut 1/3 of his book to get it published!). So, I will not be blogging through it like I have done with others books.

What distinguishes this Christian Psychology?

The book attempts to lay out a framework of Christian psychology. Johnson says that a framework ought to include these core distinctives:

1. It is doxological. It should glorify God in all that it aims to do and understand.

2. It is semiodiscursive. Here, he uses this word to convey that any psychology is a use of words, descriptions, and interpretations that point to meaning. “…soul care is interested in the referential function of various aspects of human life: language, emotions, mental images, actions…”

3. It is dialogical/trialogical. It is relational and interactive rather than something that exists by itself.

4. It is canonical. The bible, Johnson says, is the Text of texts. There is a standard that is our guide for soul care.

5. It is psychological. It is interested in the “nature of human beings and their psychopathology and recovery….Christian soul-care providers study the bible not for its own sake but for the light it sheds on the nature of human beings and their well-being and improvement.” (p. 16) 

I encourage interested parties to read his first chapters. Chapter one, “The Place for the Bible in Christian Soul Care” acknowledges that “The entire canon shows a concern with human well-being with reference to God.” He goes on to explicate that by sampling from Old and New Testaments as well as to define “soul-healing to include both salvation and sanctification in both vertical and horizontal dimension. Soul healing is not merely for creating the right relationship with God but also for healing and strengthening human to human relationships.  Chapter 2 and 3 talk about the misuses of the Bible in both biblical counseling and Christian psychological venues.

This book is exceptionally focused on the foundations. So, we may not expect great focus on whether soul care will greatly reduce mental healthy symptoms. But, lest we only think pragmatic thoughts, we ought to step back and consider the basis of the practical–the theoretical and theological bases for our work.


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, Doctrine/Theology, Psychology

3 responses to “A Christian Psychology Proposal 1

  1. cheynetown

    As a psychology graduate student and atheist I have learned a lot from this short description. I really like the 2nd and 3rd framework. The author uses vocabulary that sums up a great part of the practice of psychology (i.e., clinical practice). In reference to the other parts that make the sum it is clearly a new twist on an old practice. It does not make it right or wrong. However I can say that even Freudian theory (an outdated theory) can be utilized and have positive implications on an individuals mental health. With that said, there would be no reason why Eric Johnson’s proposals wouldn’t incur some benefit for ‘some’ individuals, particularly those that have faith in Christianity. Furthermore, the approach should be based on core foundations (i.e., framework 2 & 3) of psychology and utilize contemporary science in conjunction with its doxological approach.

    …I will definitely be adding the 2nd and 3rd framework to my psychology repertoire! Thanks…

  2. Ryan

    Have you started reading already?

    I bought this book a year and a half ago and haven’t been able to read through it, but now might be a good time.

    Glad to see you’re tackling it.

  3. I’m reading through his book now too. I also know Eric, and was able to have a substantive chat with him over coffee about his convictions and things going on at Southern. 🙂 Hope we are both edified by his insights.

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