Friday, June 23, 2017

The importance of worldviews is illustrated in how one defines psychology.

Psychology is usually defined as the scientific study of the human brain and behavior. But the etiology of the word psychology reveals, at a worldview level, that definition is incomplete.

Psychology is the study of psych, or more accurately, the psyche (pronounced sy-key).
The root of the word psyche is the Greek word psuche (Strongs #5590). Psuche had two meanings. It meant the “life force”; that which animates all life on earth. Psuche differentiates life from non-life. All life, at least all animal life, had psuche. Psuche is as common as life. In this sense, psychology is the study of that which is common.

But psuche had a second meaning. Psuche also described something uniquely human, something special, and something spiritual. In this sense, psychology is the study of that which is spiritual and special and uniquely human.

Psychology is the study of the brain and behavior, but from a Christian perspective, it is also the study of that which is uniquely human and spiritual. A fuller definition understanding of psyche includes our heart, soul, and mind. As such, psychology is interested in topics dear to a Christian worldview – topics dealt with extensively in the Bible.

What does a Christian worldview have to do with studying psychology?

In one respect, the Christian worldview has little to do with to studying psychology. In another respect, it is crucial.

In 1879, three years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, Wilhelm Wundt established the first psychology laboratory. Wundt and the “fathers” of modern scientific psychology applied scientific methods understand psychological phenomenon. Scientific psychology today, like in 1879, applies scientific methods to describe psychological characteristics and to understand “how it works.” Scientific psychology deals with proximate causes. Proximate means the cause that is closest to the event – how something happens.  “How do we see?” “What happens when neurons fires?” “How do people behave in social situations?” The goal of scientific psychology is to discover how every mental power and capacity works.  

But scientific methods cannot answer ultimate questions. Science cannot answer, “Why do we see?” “How does the activity of neurons give rise to the subjective experience of consciousness?” “Why do humans behave badly in social situations?” “Was human psychology created by God or is it the result of evolution by natural selection?” “Why is there mental pain and suffering?”  We can examine every topic in psychology in terms of proximate and ultimate causes. The Christian worldview gives meaning and purpose and answers to life’s ultimate questions.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Things Christian high school students need to know about psychology – before they go to college.

There are some things Christian high school students need to know about psychology – before they go to college.

It is not my purpose to write a new psychology textbook or a book about the Christian worldview. My purpose is to write about psychology via-a-vis a Christian worldview. This is a book about where psychology and the Christian worldview overlap.  It is about how worldviews matter to the study of Psychology. It is my purpose to help Christian students think “Christianly” about psychology.

It is important that students think Christianly about psychology because most students will take at least one psychology class in college. Although there are many Christians in psychology research, teaching, and counseling, psychology departments are home to some of the more anti-Christian intellectuals on college campuses. Psychology professors have high levels of atheism and many are ignorant of or antagonistic toward the Christian worldview.

It is important to think about psychology from a Christian worldview perspective because many Christian students walk away from their faith in college – you have probably read the statistics. If “walking away” has anything to do with the content of college courses, it is the worldview beliefs underlying modern psychology. 

When students leave for college they enter a culture fascinated with all things psychological. There is something very appealing about the field of psychology.  Each year Americans buy millions of books about self-help, addiction, recovery, relationships, parenting, spiritual growth, and emotional and mental health. Self-help books about recovery, addiction, relationships, parenting, and weight loss make up the bulk of the new Christian book titles. Seminar speakers, workshops, talk show hosts, and celebrities promote techniques -- that may or may not be scientifically tested -- designed to improve psychological health and well-being. Millions of Americans seek mental health services every year and Psychology’s theories influence business, advertising, social work, nursing, engineering, and any other career path you might pursue.

Psychology’s theories influence ideas about learning and child development, parenting practices, moral development, personality and self-esteem, and more. Psychology influences the Christian church. It is important to think about the relationship between psychology and the Christian worldview because psychology is controversial among Christians. Student should understand why some Christians say Psychology is inherently anti-Christian, idolatrous, or an “ungodly rival religion” while others embrace it.

Christians should think about psychology because people are hurting. Christians have long been at the forefront of meeting the world’s physical needs with food, blankets, and shelter. But are we at the forefront of meeting the world’s Psychological needs? Too often, secular community mental health centers serve more hurting people than they can handle, while Christians debate whether Biblical counseling, Christian counseling, secular counseling, or “just praying harder” is the answer. That is not right. Correcting the problem begins by re-claiming Psychology for Christ. That happens at the worldview level.

The Christian worldview is the most logical, internally consistent, and meaningful paradigm for understanding the big questions about the Mind. After all, it is God’s grandest creation. Christian students need to understand why. Instead of surrendering Psychology or walking away in the face of Psychology’s philosophies, we have a duty to put forth reasoned explanations for our worldview in every discipline, including Psychology. That’s what this book is about.