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.