Why do we have so many thereapeutic specialists? And — here’s a big one — why have so many pastors become therapeuts?
Perhaps a different angle on this question: Why do so many take their “spiritual” or “psychological” problems to therapists instead of to their pastors or to others in the church community?
Is the gospel supposed to be therapeutic? Is your life now “as good as it gets”? (Jack Nicholson)
Here’s the big issue: millions today think therapy is the means to a happy life. Do we all believe we should be happy? That peace of mind is a right? That our life should be better?
Wilkens and Sanford find three ways Christians conceive of the relationship of psychology and Christian living/theology:
1. All problems are spiritual; forget the psychologist and dig into the Word. Sometimes called “biblical counseling.”
2. Salvation comes by discovering your inner self — therapeutic approach to salvation.
3. Various degrees of combination.
I see the second one in folks who want to capture and re-express all theological truths in psychological language, and I hear it most when I hear things about “inner person” or “inner selves.”
They then dip into Freud, Rogers, Skinner and Family systems, and they are right to see them as worldviews. So, what are the advantages of the psychological approach?
1. Psychology, at some level, is instinctive: treating children as children, empathy with the problematized, etc.. these are all gut-level, common sense psychological patterns.
2. Salvation is seen as healing and a process.
3. Reminds us that we emerge from our past.
4. Both Christianity and psychology are into healing.
5. Human flourishing requires love, acceptance and respect.
But there are problems:
1. Too much determinism.
2. Too much reductionism.
3. Problems are more than psychological often.
4. Value-free psychology is a myth.
This completes our series on Wilkens and Sanford, but they have two chps on worldview that we did not cover … it’s worth your reading!