Christian psychology presents an interesting conundrum. When I went to bible college a required class was, Introduction to Psychology; and to tell the truth I was not at all that happy about having to take this class. My primary problem with psychology and Christian counseling is that I am not sure what one has to do with the other; just as I am not sure what Naturalistic-Evolutionary “science” has to do with explaining the origin of the universe, with the Christian theistic understanding.
One of the points my psychology prof liked to emphasize, in discussing how Christian counseling should go about integrating “secular psychological principles” with the scriptures and ‘biblical counseling, was that we Christians could spoil the plunder of the Egyptians. In other words, he liked to underscore the fact that we could take the “good stuff” offered, by say, someone like Freud; and integrate it with a Christian approach to counseling.
But my question, was then and is now, is how is it that we are able to discern what is in fact the “good stuff” offered by “secular psychology?” All that we have available to us is the ability to empirically study behavior patterns; but this is only to engage in descriptive work. What I mean is that secular psychology is limited to “looking on the outside of people;” the only One who can actually diagnose the “human problem” is God, who alone searches our minds and hearts (cf. Jer. 17:9, 10) — so not only is He able to get at our real problem (with a right judgment), but He also Has the right “prescription” to that problem (the cross of Christ, and the giving of a “new heart” with His values intact II Cor. 3).
I think the Christian psychology “integrationist” approach (the one I’m alluding to above) is ill-founded. Do we need “counseling?” Yes! What was Jesus’ solution? To create His church, wherein true koinonia and “Christian community” can occur. A place where we can “confess” our sins to each other, and comfort each other with the same comfort that we ourselves have been comforted with in Christ. When we build a “counseling” methodology on the premise that “we” can integrate secular principles with Christian thinking, we set ourselves up for a fall. The secular approach assumes that man is “essentially” good, and thus if we modify our behavior (based upon this driving assumption — that man is essentially good) we will become whole and healthy people. But the Christian approach is at the polar opposite, relative to its assumptions. The problem is that we have an irreparable sin-filled heart (e.g. man is not “essentially good”), and the only solution is to put it to death (cf. Rom. 8:3; etc.). There is no modified behaviorism in the Christian approach to counseling, so why would we want to integrate principles (even if there is a superficial overlapping at points) that are mutually exclusive and at odds with Christian assumptions?
P. S. I do think there is a place for treating physiological problems with proper medication (like Prozac©, Zoloft©, Paxil©, etc.); but I see this as a different category from what I am talking about above. I’ll want to talk more about this later, I’m sure . . . so watch for more posts on this!