Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

All Truth is God's Truth: What Hath Jesus to do With Freud?

 

The question is often asked, "don't Christians need the insights of the social sciences, especially those of psychology, to find peace and happiness in their lives, particularly if they are to solve the really deep problems of the psyche (Greek-"soul")?" Perhaps others are cognizant of the fact that somehow psychology and Christianity are not totally compatible. Thus, they might pose the same question in more benign form. They might ask, "can’t Christians study psychology in order to gain a better understanding of who we are as human beings?" The question may be asked thusly, "can’t Christians mine the gold from psychology and leave the dross?" Perhaps the most common way to ask this question comes in the form of a prior assertion: "since all truth is God’s truth, can't we search psychology to glean God's truth to help those who are hurting?" Christians of all stripes and bents fall into this camp by posing the question one way or another.

 

Let us affirm at this point that the disciplines of physiological psychology, neurology, comparative psychology and certain dynamics related to educational psychology (learning methods, phonics validation, some testing, etc.) are indeed valid where conclusions derived there from do not contradict Scripture. Conversely, what we are talking about in this article are the over three-hundred psychotherapeutic models that claim to offer help solving problems at the deepest level of human experience. No agreement exists as to what a so-called patient ought to look like after such counseling. Moreover, these models claim to offer scientific facts for solving problems related to the immaterial soul, the mind, the will, and emotions. These dynamics are beyond that which science and scientific method are designed and able to verify. Again, the term "psychology" comes from a Greek compound word meaning "the study of the soul." Thus, what we are talking about is the study of the soul. The obvious questions that need to be posed are "how can science deal with the non-material soul? Doesn’t science deal with that which may be hypothesized, observed, tested, and falsified? Doesn’t science deal with empirical evidence as opposed to metaphysical reality?"

 

Leaving those questions, and turning once again to the questions that are often asked by Christians--"since all truth is God’s truth, can't we search psychology with great profit for the church"--let us provide some biblical perspective. The underlying assumption of such questions is that we need something in addition to the Scriptures to provide us with everything we need for life and godliness. The assumption is that somehow we are incomplete without the insights provided by modern psychology. The assumption is that the church of God simply suffered until Freud came along to save us from our deep seated psychological problems.

 

The theological assumption under such questions is that God seeks to provide help for our souls through general revelation. In other words, when one says that "all truth is God's truth," he is saying that God, by way of general revelation, not special revelation, has revealed truth for us to discover through the social sciences that we might gain more insight into our souls. The problem with this notion is that it contradicts what the Scriptures actually say. Human beings cannot glean spiritual/psychological truth from general revelation. On the contrary, they suppress the truth revealed. Referring to all human beings, Paul affirms, "because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21-22)."

 

Among others, two massive truths should be extracted from this text. First, human beings have become futile in their thoughts. So called insights into the human psyche gleaned from the social sciences apart from the special revelation of God in the Scriptures are futile. While a psychologist may say something that corresponds to the Scriptures from time to time, it is not because he has gleaned it by mining a nugget from the depths of general revelation. Rather, he has stumbled upon it because he is created in the image of God. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, not by virtue of its ability to work, for it has none if it is stopped, but by virtue of its being a clock. As such, it points to the correct time twice a day. A human being is right from time to time, not by virtue of his great insight, for he has none (regarding the soul) if his thoughts are futile, but by virtue of his being a human being created in the image of God. As such, he points to God from time to time. Note that we are not talking about insight into physics or biology for example. These things properly fall under the heading of general revelation and as such can be discerned apart from special revelation. Second, human beings, in their futile thoughts, profess themselves to be wise, but in reality have become fools. According to Rom. 1:22, psychology is the product of fools.

 

Paul says the same thing in another context: "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 21-24)." In another place he warns us of the dangers of human, futile, foolish thinking: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8)."

 

Let us make stronger case for our position (as if Scripture isn't enough). If we were to pose questions similar to those posed at the outset of this article in a religious context, no doubt agreement among conservative Christians would be wide-spread (we recognize that ecumenical Christians would not answer in the same way).   Example questions include: "don't Christians need the insights of the world religions, especially those of similar bent, to find peace and happiness in their lives, particularly if they are to have a proper relationship with God?" Perhaps others are cognizant of the fact that somehow world religions and Christianity are not totally compatible. Thus, they might pose the same question in more benign form. They might ask, "can’t Christians study Islam in order to gain a better understanding of who we are as human beings?" The question may be asked thusly, "can't Christians mine the gold from Buddhism and leave the dross?" One may even ask, "since all truth is God's truth, can't we Christians search Hinduism to glean God's truth to help us on our path to God?" We believe most Christians' answer would be a resounding "no!"

 

In fact, the Scripture is clear on this point. For example, God compares seeking truth in anything or anyone other than Him as spiritual adultery: "And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them (Deut. 31:16)." Again, "And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house (Jg. 8:27)." "And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god (Jg. 8:33)." "And they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them (1 Chr. 5:25)."

 

What does God say to those who practice the New Age techniques offered in psychological counseling such as meditation and visualization? He says, "And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people (Lev. 20:6)."

 

What hath Jesus to do with Freud? Nothing.

 

Now, one might say that we are not comparing apples to apples. We are comparing religion to science. After all, psychology and/or psychotherapy is a coherent science like physics or medicine. One might ask, "if you accept the science of physics, why do you not accept the science of psychology?" Again, that view is set forth on the assumption that psychology is a coherent science like physics or medicine. The question is just that, "is such the case?" The evidence says "no." To that issue, we shall turn tomorrow.



[1] General Revelation refers to the fact that God has revealed Himself in creation, conscience, and history. It is a general revelation in that it is given to everyone. According to Rom. 1:18-32, all suppress this revelation and exchange it for a lie. This revelation renders persons without excuse for sinning against God and their condemnation is just. As such, this revelation is not a saving revelation nor is it designed to be such. Persons suppress this revelation such that they become futile in their thinking. Special Revelation, on the other hand, refers to fact that God has revealed Himself in a potentially saving way through the Scriptures and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Enabled by the Holy Spirit, persons see God and their need for Him unto salvation. It is this revelation of God in a saving way by the Spirit that enables persons to discern and embrace everything they need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).



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