What Should Christians Know about Secular Vs. Biblical Psychology?

We live in a fallen world, with all of the ills that it naturally entails. The fall of man has brought not just separation from God, but also sicknesses of various types.

Many of these illnesses are emotional and mental rather than physical. Psychology claims to hold answers to many of these illnesses, but some Christians may question the efficacy of psychology, especially if it does not reflect biblical truths.

Psychology Examined

The world of psychology is often a confusing one, filled with competing voices claiming to have found the key to dealing with various issues and are often in direct conflict with each other on not only diagnoses but treatment.

Underlying most of these theories is the operative presupposition that man, like the animals, can be “trained” to think in ways that overcome the various illnesses.

In other words, man is the sum total of his emotions and physical needs, like any animal. This is, in part, the reason medications are overprescribed, as they prefer to deal with the symptoms rather than the root cause.

Secular psychologists are generally uncomfortable with, or outright adversarial to the concept of the soul, or if they do embrace the concept, it is in wholly secular humanist terms, bereft of its transcendent/spiritual character.

As you might suspect, most pop psychology is materialist or atheistic naturalist in its operative philosophy. For the Christian, this can be problematic, since we recognize that human health is wholistic.

That is, it must take in and account for all the data applicable to the mind, the body, and the soul, whereas the secular psychologist recognizes only the body and the mind (psyche). This isn’t to say all psychologists take this approach.

There are those who accept spiritual realities but do so from an essentially occult or Theosophical perspective. This is why we see such New Age therapies as Rebirthing, Transcendental Meditation, NeuroLinguistic Programming, Yoga, Mantra Meditation, etc. being employed by a fairly significant number of psychologists.

These therapies, if you wish to call them such, are also problematic for the Christian, as Deuteronomy 18:10-12 forbids them and similar practices. It is also of significance that Carl Jung is revered in many psychology circles, and various therapies based on his ideas are employed.

Why is this of concern? Jung was himself an occultist who had a deep appreciation for Germanic paganism and worked for the Nazis due in part to that fascination.

Jung claimed to have made contact with a number of spiritual entities through the practice of Creative Visualization, another therapeutic technique used by many psychologists.

One of these entities, whom Jung named Philemon, became his “spirit guide,” and was instrumental in communicating to Jung what would become of his theories of human psychology.

If that weren’t worrisome enough, Jung also claimed to have gone through a Hellenistic ritual (ancient Greek paganism), and that during this ritual he “had even experienced deification in doing so,” according to Dr. Richard Noll.

Not surprisingly, Jung had a very adversarial view of Christianity. He wrote that he realized “…the church is a place I should not go to. It is not life, which is there, but death.”

The spiritual dangers of submitting to practices and therapies developed out of such occult philosophies are very clear.

Christian Psychology

This isn’t to suggest that psychology holds no benefit to those in need. It certainly does, if it is approached as the inexact counseling that it is, and with the operating presuppositions of Scripture in mind. Man is not an animal but is created in the image and likeness of God Himself (Genesis 1:27).

What is at the root of all human ills, including the psychological, is the fallen condition of man, which impacts emotional and mental health.

Thus, any psychological counseling must start with the fact of the Fall of Man, our condition vis-a-vis inherited depravity, and the way by which these core problems can be remedied.

In other words, no proper psychological counseling can be offered if Christ is not at the center of all approaches and therapies. Prayer is the first of these therapies. It is in prayer that the mind, body, and soul of a person are aligned in a healthy and proper way before the Creator.

In prayer, we can gain the strength to resist the disordered affections and behaviors of the wounded self, which tends toward self-destructive acts. This is why Christian psychologists are so important to the Christian community.

With the gospel at the center of their reason for pursuing the field and their methodology, they are better able to help heal, as they understand the needs of the soul. The various occult methodologies of secular psychology don’t do this because they are essentially narcissistic methodologies.

They’re self-centered, rather than God-centered. In other words, they simply serve to compound the core problem of all of humanity — that of inherited depravity, which is at its very root a self-centered rebellion. As William Law wrote:

Nothing hath separated us from God but our own will, or rather our own will is our separation from God…the fall of man brought forth the kingdom of this world; sin in all shapes is nothing else but the will of man driving on in a state of self-motion, self-government, following the workings of a nature broken off from dependency upon and union with the divine will. All the evil and misery in the creation arises only and solely from this one cause.

In other words, self-centeredness is the cause of human suffering, be it disease, war, hate, or mental illness.

If you are in need of counseling, seek out a Christian counselor or psychologist who understands the cause of all human illnesses, whether it be physical, emotional, or psychological.

Sources

Dr. Richard Noll, The Jung Cult, 1994

Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, 1963

For further reading:

What Does the Bible Say about Anxiety?

What Did Jesus Mean That We Will Have Trouble in This World?

What Does it Mean That God Is Not the Author of Confusion?

5 Powerful Verses for When You’re Struggling with Fear

What Does it Mean ‘Fear Not for I Am with You’?

Why Should We Not Worry about Tomorrow?

How Are We Created in the Image of God?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/KatarzynaBialasiewicz


J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.

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