When I went to school to become a Christian counselor I had no idea that there were those who were opposed to Christians learning how to become helpers through the lens of psychology. I remember one of my professors asking the class how we would respond to the challenges voiced by others. I was stunned. “Why wouldn’t we want to learn from any field of knowledge in this world, if it offered a real chance to help hurting people?”
His challenge felt like someone questioning me as to why I wouldn’t accept a Polio vaccine made by a scientist. It just didn’t make sense to me. If we can’t use information that doesn’t come strictly from the Bible, none of us could exist. We couldn’t bake bread because the recipe doesn’t come from the Bible. We couldn’t do mathematic equations because the Word doesn’t show us how. I thought this was craziness and I truly was shocked that I even had to consider this question.
But my professor was right: Within a week’s time, I noticed certain Christian friends asking me why I would study psychology. Their tone and choice of words let me know that they were displeased.
I had gone into the field of Counseling in order to help other people. I really didn’t think I had many issues to work out. The blessing was that I literally unraveled emotionally while in school. I had always been a nervous and emotional person, but I thought that was just how I was made. As I learned family dynamics and examined psychological issues, I began to see the wounds I had incurred while growing up. Now I had no choice, I had to work through through these issues in my own counseling process. I could go into great detail here, and I hope to at a later date, but suffice it to say by the time I left the program I was no longer the depressed, anxious or insecure person I had been three years prior.
If you google “Psychology and Christianity” you will encounter a maelstrom of web sites devoted to this issue. Some support the combination of Christianity and psychology, but many are vehemently opposed. Thirteen years after I made a personal commitment to Christ, I was stuck in shame and low self-esteem. Being a Christian that long, and understanding God’s grace but not being able to apply it to your life, causes you to feel more shame.
But after I examined some things with the help of a counselor, I forgave myself and understood better how situations had impacted me. As St. Augustine said, “all Truth is God’s Truth” — note the capital T — but we can still use small “t” truths to help us. No field of study has the absolute truth, but we as humans, making our way through a world which is filled with suffering, need to rely on resources in addition to the Bible.
I feel that psychology, and the help of some very compassionate Christian people, healed me: My faith is stronger than ever. I hurt for Christians who have emotional wounds, and or medical issues, which could be helped by what psychology (and medicine) has to offer. They stay stuck in a silent hell because they have been told psychology comes from the devil.
What do you think?
*This post was originally posted 12/09/07