A Case for Psychology

Dr. Brian Allison

Are you suspicious of psychology? Do you think that psychology is evil? Many Christians think of psychology as virtually synonymous with secular humanism or Freudianism. Some well-meaning believers charge that psychology is a tool of the devil, and that faithful Christians should neither teach it, read it, nor be exposed to it. I contend that psychology per se is not bad, but that there are bad psychologies.

You have heard the correct claim that all truth is God's truth. All truth is God's truth because God is the Creator of all reality. So the Scripture reads, "For by Him [Jesus Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16). Every fact of this invisible-visible reality, which we call the universe, is a theistic fact (i.e., God's created and interpreted fact), whether that fact concerns the mind of a human being or the structure of a nerve cell. For God, the creating of the fact necessarily entails the naming of that fact. So every divinely created fact must simultaneously be a divinely meaning-ful fact (i.e., rational and logical). The created universe is rational and logical because God himself is both rational and logical - the universe merely revealing His nature (Rm. 1:20), as well as reflecting the rational structures and logical forms of His mind. As creatures made in the image of God, endowed with reason and logic, we can discover and understand this divinely interpreted universe. We can share in God's own created reality and knowledge.

Moreover, in His created meaningful reality or world, God was pleased to create different dimensions of human experience (e.g. physical growth, romantic encounter, intellectual fascination, etc), as well as different domains of human knowledge (e.g. physics, economics, biology, etc.). In each of these dimensions of human experience and domains of human knowledge - whether visible or invisible - laws invariably govern the activities, elements, and interactions pertaining to them. The notion of law (i.e., a general, and necessary, cause-effect relationship) is entailed in the very concept of a rational and meaningful world, for order and logic are mutually inclusive. So laws inextricably govern every sphere of human existence, whether the behaviour and activity in view concerns the human mind, the physical planets, or the subatomic particle. This fact underlies the viability of the scientific enterprise and allows us, both the Christian and non-Christian (each, as the image bearer of God, having equal intellectual access to this common created reality), to discover the laws and (causative) principles operative and evident in each of these experiential dimensions and intellectual domains.

I contend that psychology is a science, because laws govern the behaviour and activity of its subject matter. Some well-meaning sceptics deny the scientific status of psychology, claiming that this discipline consists solely of subjective opinions and individualistic views. Though this claim, in part, may be true (as is the case with any other discipline) to deny general scientific status to psychology may imply prejudice and misunderstanding. A science, because its subject matter entails subjugation to laws and principles, demands the application of an empirical methodology. That is, science permits and requires that hypotheses be observable, testable, and verifiable. Such is the case, for example, when we consider Edward Thorndike's theory of classical conditioning in the field of learning psychology. Such also is the case, for example, when we consider Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive growth in the field of developmental psychology. We observe here, as in many areas in the discipline of psychology, measurable and definable parameters.

So all truth is God's truth. Psychology (the science of the human mind and behaviour) is just as much God's truth, being a part of this created reality, as is pharmacology; psychology is just as much a legitimate science, being governed by laws and principles, as is endocrinology. As rational or intellectual beings, inherently suited to explore and understand God's rational universe, we should be just as interested in discovering the laws and principles of psychology as we are in discovering the laws and principles of quantum mechanics. All truth - visible and invisible - falls under the Lordship of Christ, having been created by Him, and for Him. Psychology belongs to Christ just as much as chemistry, mathematics, or philosophy does. As there are secular humanistic philosophies, as well as Christian philosophies, so there are secular humanistic psychologies, as well as a Christian psychologies.

The Book of Proverbs is replete with (causative) principles which govern human behaviour, from which we may induce psychological and sociological laws, in order to gain significant insight into human experience. This fact enables us to understand and help ourselves, as well as to understand and help others. For instance, one induced psychological law from the Proverbial data is: The nature of an individual's verbal experience directly effects the nature of his psycho-emotional health and disposition. So some of the data reads: "There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (12:18); "A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit" (15:4). A similar induced law is: The nature of an individual's circumstantial experience directly effects the nature of his psycho-emotional health and disposition. So some of the data reads: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but desire fulfilled is a tree of life" (13:12); "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him" (17:25). Another induced law is: The nature of an individual's psycho-emotional health and disposition directly effects his physical health and disposition. So some of the data reads: "A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones" (14:30); "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken" (15:13).

Much of the Bible concerns, or relates to, the nature, state, and behaviour of humankind. The Bible is not a psychology text-book, but it is a book replete with psychology. We do ourselves a disservice, in the pursuit of God's (general) truth, to deny or reject this fact. Many Christians, through fear and misunderstanding, have abandoned and sacrificed this domain of knowledge to the unbeliever for too long. It is time to reclaim it and present a proper understanding and view of it, which only a Christian world-view can provide. Again, psychology per se is not bad, but there are bad psychologies