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Yet psychology offers more than techniques. Most theories seek to explain why people do what they do, and how they can become whole. There is a broad overlap with Scripture. Scripture does not describe every aspect of human behavior; it does not tell us about anorexia for example, nor does it catalog strategies of denial, by which human being avoid facing their problems.

The question is whether psychology is truly helpful in what it adds to Scripture, and whether psychological explanations include the kind of information Scripture gives about human motives and behavior.

Does Religion Belong in Psychotherapy?

How then can it give a true picture of humanity? The Bobgans criticize Larry Crab, among others, for accepting a Freudian view of the unconscious. This is a major dividing line between psychology and many of its hard-line Christian critics, Christian psychotherapists say that while the bible does not describe the unconscious per se, particularly in a strict Freudian sense, it has plenty to say about people who are deluded.

It tells of a deceitful heart and of secret sins. People can be quite unaware, psychotherapists say, of what is driving their lives.

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You have to get under the surface, to the shadowy region of half-hidden motives and unhealed wounds. Yet Scripture shows that everyone who meets the Lord falls on his face and sees himself. There are two problems here: one of terminology and one of theology. Where Jesus spoke of self-denial, he was talking about sacrificing your own interests. For good or ill, humans possess a self and need help in dealing with that self.

When our children took their first steps or attempted to ride their first bicycle did we not bolster their self-confidence? It has never been considered inappropriate for Christians, any more than for non-Christians, to encourage their children or boost their self-esteem in this way. The deeper question is whether psychotherapy encourages an idolatry of the self. It is hard to deny that people really do have needs. Still, the question remains: If you build your system on filling human needs, where does God fit? Is he the Lord of all, so that our first and only absolute need is to worship and obey him?

Does psychology encourage us to think of him mainly as a source of inspiration and encouragement, a benign and accommodating figure who lives for our benefit? Lately this lay-led movement has been embraced by professionals.

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The only trouble is, those concepts have been stretched to fit a variety of religious and irreligious contexts. Recovery means a lot of different things to different people. It does not necessarily work that way, however.

A Christian Perspective

AA, for example, does not normally make alcoholics irresponsible; rather, it helps them to act responsibly. As sinners, we are caught in a web of sin, from which we cannot escape by making moral resolutions. We need to call for help, both from God and from fellow sinners. We will do that only when we have realized our own helplessness. Just as a sick person must give up on his or her own self-cure and go to a doctor, so we sinners must abandon our attempts to fix up ourselves. The recovery movement brings some powerful reforming forces to the church, chief among which is down-to-earth insistence that everyone needs help.

In the AA group, it is culturally unacceptable to be perfect; that is called denial. If psychologist really base their therapy on the Bible, why charge? Christian psychotherapy is vividly commercial. Psychologists sell a product, they do not take offerings or live on grants. That is not wrong, but it does raise questions about profit become more important that principle.

I think that in a majority of cases in suburban America, people can pay for it themselves. There is no such thing as free treatment. Somebody has to pay for it. I treat them. I treat them because I have an income. Not every therapist is so altruistic, however. The question of how to deal with people who cannot afford treatment bedevils the entire medical establishment, but it is particularly crucial for a movement that claims to be Christian.

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In purely cynical terms, Christian psychotherapy can be seen as a marketing ploy, gilding psychology with just enough Christianity to make conservative clients feel comfortable. One hears persistent rumors that some clinics are doing just that: selling themselves as Christian when, from an evangelical point of view, they are not.

By implication, the therapist was telling him to reflect on himself rather than to work for the homeless. Turn that thought toward the church and you have to wonder whether a psycologized church will ever get on to mission. You can ask a lot of penetrating questions of psychotherapy. You should not, however, miss something equally important: the urgent questions psychotherapy brings to the church. What was missing in the church was a practical application of our biblical knowledge to life. David Powlison remembers reading through a massive theological classic on sin and realizing that the multivolume work contained not a single case study showing how sin works in ordinary life.

The theological exposition was brilliant, but there was no detail. The need for help with such issues is inescapable. We have larger, less personal churches; dislocated communities and families; and social problems at flood tide. The people with the worst problems are frequently those whose families and friends cannot help. Personal problems are not simple anymore if they ever were ; there is a confusing brew of family, societal, drug-related, and religious issues to sort through.

Christians psychotherapists promise to offer help, and they have won at least tentative approval from church people. The universality of problems. That insight has changed the culture of many churches. Myers and David Powlison offer their revised chapters on the levels-of-explanation view and the biblical counseling view, respectively.

Why Religion Needs a Seat at Psychotherapy’s Table

The book is framed by two essays written by the editor. The first position, the levels-of-explanation view, is represented by David Myers. According to this view, psychology and Christian theology are two separate disciplines that provide complementary perspectives on the human experience.

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Though complementary, each should retain its distinctive voice. As such, the discipline of psychology must be allowed to pursue its own investigations according to its own methodology. Sometimes psychology will confirm aspects of Christian faith e. Other times psychological science might cause Christians to question accepted theological perspectives and scriptural interpretations.

Myers admits that he has revised his position on homosexuality because of psychological studies and genetic research. Next, Stanton Jones defends the integration view. Therefore, Christian psychologists and counselors should seek to integrate psychological findings with their more fundamental Christian faith. But this engagement has its limits.

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  • Like Myers, Jones uses the homosexuality issue as a test case for his approach, but with a very different result. For Jones, Scripture is clear that homosexual behavior is sinful and therefore no other data can be allowed to militate against the authority of Scripture on this issue. How are Christians to understand and undertake the discipline of psychology? This question has been of keen interest and sometimes concern to Christians because of the importance we place on a correct understanding of human nature.

    Psychology can sometimes seem disconnected from, if not antithetical to, Christian perspectives on life. How are we to understand our Christian beliefs about persons in relation to secular psychological beliefs? This revised edition of a widely appreciated text now presents five models for understanding the relationship between psychology and Christianity.

    The Christian psychology view is represented by Robert Roberts and P. Roberts and Watson maintain that there is not one universal psychology, but rather many rival psychologies. In this context, Christian psychologists wish to stake a claim for an approach to psychology that is explicitly based upon the Christian tradition.