Christianity and Psychology
My current perspective on Christianity and psychology is that the two are distinct yet complementary because they differ in approach and nature. I believe that the Bible is infallible while Christianity is subject to man’s flaws. The Bible is specific revelation and psychology is a manmade science. The field of psychology fits within my Christian worldview because I do not accept psychology uncritically and understand that Christianity is not infallible.
Nature of Truth
To begin with, both Christianity and psychology are manmade, which means that neither can be said to be the sole source of truth. Truth is essentially the unchanging, objective reality that persists regardless of our perceptions. Human beings are subject to the physical senses and therefore incapable of truly knowing reality on its own terms. In the words of Paul,
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (I Corinthians 13:12, New Living Translation).
As human beings are incapable of directly perceiving reality, it is necessary to use rationality, deduction, logic, and testing to determine truth. Because humans are subject to their senses, no single field can claim to be the sole source of information or truth. Therefore both Christianity and psychology must back up their authority with reasonable arguments and methods for determining truth.
Christianity and the Bible
Christianity refers to the human element of the relationship with God. This means that Christianity is not infallible and therefore cannot claim absolute wisdom or discernment. My Christian faith relies on the Bible for its core beliefs, which means that my Christian faith is tied to biblical interpretation. My Christian beliefs are formed by rational and reasonable, at least in my own estimation, interpretations of Scripture. If my Christian faith is incorrect or flawed, I believe that it is because of an error on my part rather than an error in the Bible itself. Therefore my view of Christianity is a humble yet critical view that is open to new insights and changes in opinion.
I prefer to place emphasis on the Bible as my intellectual bedrock and must therefore make a distinction between Christianity as Christians attempting to understand God and the Bible, God’s Word written through men to mankind. This in turn marks Christianity as fallible while keeping the Bible as the infallible Word of God. I believe that this distinction is what enables the Christian to be open to exploring alternative fields and sources of knowledge like psychology. Accepting that Christianity is separate from the Bible allows Christians to utilize other techniques and theories without compromising biblical truth.
Psychology and Christianity
Psychology represents a human study of the human mind through observation and experimentation whereas the Bible represents divinely inspired writings on the relationship between God and man. Psychology is essentially a scientific method for acquiring systematic knowledge; akin to a tool. Because of this, Christianity is able to incorporate psychological principles, techniques, and specific theories without compromising biblical truth.
Psychology can be divided into two parts, facts and the conjecture. Psychology produces demonstrable facts through direct observations, experiments and results, and proven therapeutic techniques. These facts are separate from psychologists’ overarching theories, hypothesis, worldviews, and explanations for the observed phenomena. Christians are able to use psychological theories and techniques without compromising Christian faith in the same way that a Christian can use a hammer made by a non-Christian. Using the tool does not require accepting all of the beliefs of the person that made the tool.
Christians are human beings and therefore not above error. When Christians keep proper perspective and distinguish between Christian thought and divine revelation, they are able to take in new insights. Because psychology is a scientific method, it can provide greater insight into God’s creation. With these observations in mind, I personally see God’s word as the primary unchanging element with psychological theories and techniques being used in biblically acceptable ways. In other words, the counselor ought to be a Christian first and a counselor second.
Christianity should not fear nor reject psychology because psychology is a field of science, which means it is fundamentally meant to be questioned, tried, and considered. Christians are to be salt and light to the world around them, which requires liberally applying Christian views to other fields and issues. Light illuminates and must not be hidden behind the doors of the church.