At a recent conference, Diane Langberg submitted the following definition of Christian Psychology. I present it below, verbatim, for your consideration. In some ways she doesn’t say anything new. However, it is quite different from our usual definitions.
Let me explain my seeming contradiction by first giving you C. Stephen Evans definition of Christian psychology,
[It is] psychology which is done to further the kingdom of God, carried out by citizens of that kingdom whose character and convictions reflect their citizenship in that kingdom… (p. 132)
As you would expect, Dr. Evans offers a philosophically astute definition.
Or, consider Eric Johnson’s tome, Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal. In this book of 700 plus pages, he explicates a Christian psychology framework as doxological, semiodiscursive, dialogical, canonical, and psychological approach to soul repair. If you are looking for a theologically and epistemologically rich entry point to Christian psychology, I can’t point you to a better place than this book.
Like these two examples, many of our current definitions focus on matters of epistemology, theology, and psychology. Many definitions also emphasize the work of critical evaluation of existing psychological theory and research.
Now turn to Dr. Langberg’s definition. Notice how she emphasizes the character, the preparation, and actions of the counselor. Notice further that the focus on outcomes is bidirectional–on counselee and counselor.
Christian psychology as practiced in the counseling relationship is a servant of God, steeped in the Word of God, loving and obeying God in public and in private, sitting across from a suffering sinner at a vulnerable crossroad in his/her life and bringing all of the knowledge and wisdom and truth and love available to that person while remaining dependent on the Spirit of God hour by hour. That work, no matter what you call it, will be used by God to change us into His likeness; that work will result in His redemptive work in the life sitting before us; that work will bring glory to His great Name.
What I take from Dr. Langberg’s definition is an emphasis on action, the Spirit’s work and the counselor’s work (in self and other). While the epistemological definitions are necessary if we are going to think critically about our work, so to is this action-oriented definition. It reminds us that for all our thinking and theorizing, it is God’s work in our private and public lives that is used to bring healing and hope to others.