I believe many Christians have made the same mistake. Terminology from psychotherapy has entered the vocabulary of many Christians. Terms such as bi-polar, psychotic, multiple personalities, etc., are used by most Christians (even though in many cases they aren't that familiar with what they describe). Many of us have come to accept the claims of psychotherapy, believing that psychotherapists alone are capable of leading us through the minefields of life and circumstances. In their attempts to assess human behavior and bring about positive changes, they do so from a discipline that is bathed in subjectivity. They describe their discipline as being ‘scientific’—a word that people have come to accept as being synonymous with trustworthy—and dress it up with medical terminology; but not only is the work of psychotherapists dependent on highly subjective personal interpretation, there are over 200 different approaches to psychotherapy, systems that frequently contradict one another!
Our mistake is in assuming that the laws of science which have resulted in the internal combustion engine and flights to the moon also apply to the mental-emotional-behavioral makeup of man. We have bought into the notion of psychotherapy as a behavioral science. But is it scientific? Psychotherapy is based on the principles of psychology. Almost every college or university requires a 3-5 credit hour course in psychology for freshmen, so many of us have had it jammed down our collective throats. If they can do that, I think it's at least reasonable to ask if psychology itself is a science.
In fact, a little over half a century ago, the American Psychological Association undertook a study which was subsidized by the National Science Foundation. The study was planned and directed by the distinguished psychologist, philosopher, and humanist Sigmund Koch, and involved eighty eminent scholars who assessed the facts, theories, and methods of psychology. The results were published in a seven-volume series entitled Psychology: A Study of a Science. (Admittedly not a very catchy title, but, hey, they were scholars, not novelists.)
After evaluating the results, Koch concluded, “I think it by this time utterly and finally clear that psychology cannot be a coherent science.” (Italics his.) He went on to state that activities such as perception, motivation, social psychology, psychopathology, and creativity cannot be properly labeled as “science.” He went on to describe the delusion of considering psychology to be a science:
"The hope of a psychological science became indistinguishable from the fact of psychological science. The entire subsequent history of psychology can be seen as a ritualistic endeavor to emulate the forms of science in order to sustain the delusion that it already is a science."
As Gordon Allport framed it in Pattern and Growth in Personality:
"The individual, whatever else he may be, is an internally consistent and unique organization of bodily and mental processes. But since he is unique, science finds him an embarrassment. Science, it is said, deals only with broad, preferably universal, laws…Individuality cannot be studied by science, but only by history, art, or biography."
I would not only add theology to that list, I would put it at the top of the list. But that isn’t true for a large percentage of Christians. Even Bible colleges and seminaries have accepted the pronouncements of the broken cistern called psychology. (I know, because I am a graduate of both.) Far too many pastors will refer people with serious problems to psychologists, claiming they themselves aren’t qualified to help such people. Do they really believe that? One of two things is at work: either they don't know the Bible well enough to be able to counsel from it, or their faith in psychologists supersedes their faith in God. Come to think of it, in some cases I imagine both are true.
The Bible informs us that, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him [i.e., Jesus Christ] who called us…” (2 Peter 1:3). If we can’t trust that statement, then I submit we can’t trust anything else we read in scripture.
We’ll pick this up in the next installment.