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Psychology: Harmful or Helpful for the Believer?
Psychology: Harmful or Helpful for the Believer?

Psychology: Harmful or Helpful for the Believer?

“Is psychology harmful or helpful for people of faith?” is the question that is on the minds of many Christians and non-Christians alike. Quite frankly some in the church may be convinced that psychology is unequivocally “harmful” and not of God. I obviously do not hold this view and believe that the utilization of psychology to expand our understanding of human behavior and mental health issues can be of great benefit to the church. That is not to say, however, that everything within the practice of the discipline is compatible with Christian doctrine. For example, secular psychology tends to focus on the self and man’s inherent goodness, whereas Christianity is based on man’s sinful nature and the need for salvation through faith. It is because of this and other differences that I propose we filter what we glean from the practice of psychology from a Christian worldview. Here are some practical tips to consider when doing so:

  1. Know What You Believe- As followers of Christ the Bible gives us specific instruction for how to live(2 Tim 3:16). We learn about human nature, how to treat people, and how to regard God and ourselves. God gives us two fundamental commands that are to govern our lives. They are found in Mark 12: 30-31 where Jesus says,“ And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Behaving in ways that don’t reflect your love for God or others would not be consistent with Christian doctrine as reflected in this verse. Perhaps asking yourself the question, “does this idea/action support my love for God and others?” would be a good way to determine the way forward in a given situation.
  2. Test All Things Against the Word of God– Many people of faith are ready to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when it comes to psychology. The Bible reads in 1 John 1: 4, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world”(ESV). According to one resource “spirit” can refer to “a way of thinking, attitude or disposition.”[1] To test means to “to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing…’[2] So essentially, does this theory, way of thinking or attitude line up with Christian doctrine? If the answer is “no” then I would suggest you carefully consider your course of action. With that consideration comes prayer, which brings me tip #3.
  3. Pray- Prayer is a way to communicate with God. In prayer we reverence and worship God. We are also able to present our supplications to him. In turn He responds to us and gives us guidance as we spend time communing with Him. The Bible says, “…pray without ceasing…” 1 Thess 5:17 (NASB). Additionally, the scriptures are replete with examples of people of faith including Christ himself communing with God through prayer and receiving guidance. Therefore, having a prayer life is essential when trying to make decisions.
  4. Obey God– Put most simply: obeying God is doing what He told you to do. It will be difficult to determine what He wants you to do if you are not communing with Him on a regular basis. John 14:15 reads, “”If you love me, keep my commands.” (NIV) There is blessing associated with obedience as we see throughout the scriptures and in our own lives.

While this post was initially intended to provide insight into how believers can decipher between what is harmful and helpful when considering the incorporation of secular psychology into their lives, the strategies provided can be helpful in determining the utility of any belief, philosophy, theology etc.

For more information on the integration of Christianity and Psychology please consider reading the following article by Christianity Today http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/september/concerning-psychology-and-christianity-guest-post-by-sarah-.html

To learn a bit more about how to walk out the tips outlined above consider purchasing my book, The Point of It All: A Faith-Based Guide to Successful Living.

[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 331). New York: United Bible Societies.