Why Christians Can Benefit from Psychology

By Danni Moss
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The state of the modern church has made psychology a field of value to Christians.  Unfortunately, the church has abandoned its understanding of practical living, issues of human behavior, and how the Bible applies to real, day-to-day life.  That is a broad generalization and over-simplification but basically true.  The church does attempt to apply the Bible to daily life, but tends to stick to simplistic and easy issues.  When Christians face issues deeper than whether or not to homeschool and why, how to be a good Christian wife, and how to manage personal finances the church suddenly draws a blank, or worse yet, attempts to bring inadequate information and misapplied Scripture to bear.

The church offers Bible knowledge and sometimes connects some things in the Bible to life.  Granted, I haven’t experienced every church, so I can’t actually speak for all churches, but I’ve been in a far larger than normal representation of the church as a whole and there is a massive gaping hole in the church’s relevance to large segments of life. The church loves Bible knowledge and somehow if we acquire enough Bible knowledge it is supposed to magically fix all the issues of life just by its mere acquisition.  But from the top of the leadership structure on down, most Christians don’t actually knows how to make the connection between raw Bible knowledge and real living.  We get the high points like the 10 Commandments, tithing and avoiding adultery (and then the church often adds a bunch of points that aren’t actually in the Bible).  We bring in daily applications like children obey your parents and wives submit to your husband.  But what do we do about living with a bipolar spouse — or even harder, how do we live with a spouse we don’t know is bipolar and our religious beliefs are trying to fix it through prayer and the Christian version of behavior modification since we don’t “believe” in psychology? 

That’s just one example of hundreds of similar issues Christians face every day, no differently than everyone else alive.  These issues of life are not “Christian” or “non-Christian” – they are just problems.  They are problems for which the church does not have answers.  “Bipolar disorder” (as an example of many) isn’t in any book in the Bible, and those who want to consider it demon possession are making a difficult situation into a nightmare.  Christians dealing with Tourette Syndrome, Aspergers, borderline personality disorder, etc. will find no help in the church because the church either wants to vilify what it does not understand or leaders lacks the professional training to address these situations since they are medical, developmental and/or psychological conditions beyond the church’s grasp.  Christians dealing with incest, sexual abuse in marriage, pedophilia, covert abuse, etc. will find little or no help in the church because the church either clings to naivety and would prefer to turn a blind eye, or because they want to apply tiny Biblical bandaids to gushing severed arteries. 

At the same time, more and more Christians are turning outside the church for help because they have been wounded by the church when they sought answers.  Even those who don’t abandon the church are finding they must look elsewhere for help if they have any substantive problems happening in their lives.  In many cases, Christians have come to distrust churches and pastors because the church has done worse than just not help.  Sometimes the church has actually made their situation worse with its bumbling.  I have seen the church tell an abuser about the accusation of abuse against him – putting the victims in danger and giving an abuser time to cover.  I’ve seen the church encouraging abuse victims to stay in an abusive marriage where they and their children are in danger.  I have not known a church leader to report abuse to the authorities – I’m not saying all church leaders don’t report abuse, but not reporting abuse is the common (in)action of church leadership.  

Christians’ distrust of the church can also be the result of being humiliated by gossip when church leaders cannot keep private matters confidential.  Another unfortunately common failure of church leadership is when they judge and “discipline” people for the things in their lives these leaders don’t understand.  Pastors have been known to publically criticize people and to deny them participation in certain arenas because they are not “mature” enough or might be a bad influence – when the circumstances of their lives have nothing to do with their spiritual maturity or qualification to participate in church functions.

Probably the biggest complaint of Christians against psychology is based on the prevalence of world views in psychology that are oppositional to Christianity.  Unfortunately, some of the generalizations of psychology against Christianity have just basis because the church has abandoned its roots.  But some psychological theory is contradictory to Christianity and some of it teaches blatant hatred toward Christianity.  However, just as most Christians do not spurn medical doctors (who are trained in the same oppositional world views) when they need help for a broken leg or an appendectomy, Christians need not spurn the help of psychologists when they need concrete help with issues relating to the function of the human brain, human development, and human behavior.  If Christians who have the desire and aptitude to do so will enter the profession of psychology, Christians seeking help can also find an environment that is not hostile to their faith in the process.

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