As Christians living in a psychologized or therapeutic culture we must begin to at least ask ourselves how we are to approach and interpret psychological diagnoses and their corresponding labels. We need to understand what these labels are telling us and what they are not telling us, what we can learn from them and what we should avoid in them.
In the absence of instruction to guide us, the average church member is either so cold to psychology that they deem it all bunk and so refuse heed any of it, or on the other hand are so warmed by it that they soak it in with little to no questions asked. I’m advocating a middle ground that is willing to admit that psychology makes some very keen observations about people and why they tick, and yet I’m very cautious and suspicious when their conclusions conflict with or down play Scripture.
If we are too hot towards everything we learn in psychology we become mystified by how accurate they are in describing us, down to the reasons why we wear certain colors. Psychology is definitely into the minor dirty details of life, and as such, really give off a vibe that they know you, and so you can trust them to have the answers. Secular psychologist give the appearance that they hold all the cards in their arena and are on the cutting edge of answers the Bible and your pastor don’t and cannot address. What this can look like on the ground is if someone is struggling with a diagnosis of Bi-Polar and comes to the church and because psychology is taken at face value, the person it deemed to need clinical and possibly professional medical care. Like someone with a broken arm, they are shuffled off to the “professionals” who handle that sort of thing, because it is understood (wrongly so) that the church does not handle such things. Discipleship with such a person is not taken as seriously as it is assumed that they just can’t do certain things due to their “condition”. Pat and remote answers are always used around the person shrugging off their behavior as something to do with them just being on or off their medicine.
If we are too cold towards psychology we typically believe that anything of a psychological nature is threatening to Christianity, and seeking to undermine Christian authority and truth. Labels such as ADHD and Bi-Polar are isolated or ignored, and people with such labels are treated just the same as everyone else. They too are hit with overly simplified answers that they are just sinful and should get themselves under control. Their suffering is whitewashed with exhortations to straighten up, and given Bible examples how to.
Some think that simply seeking counsel and wisdom from a Christian or Biblical Counselor is the obvious answer, and yet again there is battle going in that very area to define just want makes counseling Biblical. Let’s say a Christian Counselor takes a Freudian approach to a person dealing with low self-esteem and just injects some bible verses into the view. Has the counselor really performed Biblical counseling? No. The system and therapy in use does not match the Scriptures and both have two totally different goals in mind. This type of counselor is commonly referred to now as an Integrationist. Someone who buys the full secular model for understanding an issue and it’s therapy and believes it is made Biblical if portions of it can find proof texts in the Bible. This is just painting a coffin a different color. The Biblical counselor stays within the Biblical grid of categories and theology to make sense of the person and issues from God’s point of view, leading the person ultimately to a closer walk with God, and not just symptomatic resolution so they can feel better for the sake of feeling better.
Hopefully series will shed a little light on these areas, because it is not as cut and dry as we are led to believe. My next post will deal with Psychological Labels.