Needing your imput on Integration of Psychology/Christianity...and Study of the Scripture especially

The Lamms (
Wed, 3 Jun 1998 23:07:25 -0700

2 June 1998

Dear Folks,

I have recently entered a D.Min. program in Marriage and Family. One of
the texts 'A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal: Modern Psycho-Therapies' by
Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman make the following quotes. It is
these quotes that I would appreciate your imput about.

In thinking about the possibility of integrating Christianity and
Psychology the authors make the following criticisms of such a task.

1. The assertion that the Bible declares itself (in passages such as 2
Tim. 3:16-17 and 2 Pet. 1:4; 3:14-18) to be sufficient to meet all human
needs. Thus to argue that one could or should study anything other than
the Bible (such as psychology) in order to better meet human needs is
tantamount to declaring the Holy Scriptures to be inadequate to equip the
servant of God and also to rejecting God'own claims for his revelation
(Bobgan and Bobgan, 1987, p. 11; Adams 1979, p. 46).

2. The belief that there are two sources of counsel in this world God and
Satan. Further;, "The Bible's position is that all counsel that is not
revelational (biblical) or based upon God's revelation, is Satanic" (Adams,
1979, p. 4; see also Bobgan and Bobgan, 1987, p. 32). Thus to decide to
listen to and learn from a non-Christian in an area where God has revealed
his will (i.e., in psychology) is to "walk in the counsel of the wicked"
(Ps. 1:1).

3. The argument that psychology is bad science. If we are to accept truth
from any quarter, surely (it is argued) it should only be on the assurance
that we are accepting true truth, real truth. Surely the vain speculatons
and philosophies of mere humans (2 Cor. 10:5) do not merit a place in our
beliefs alongside God's Word (Swaggart, 1986, pp. 6-7; Bobgan and Bobgan,
1987, pp. 29-30).

4. The argument that integration is amalgamation or syncretism. This
argument of the anti-integrationists, simply put, is that "combining
Chrstianity and psychotherapy is joining two or more religious systems"
(Bobgan and Bobgan, 1987, p. 23). This position assumes first that
psychotherapy systems are religious systems (" not only a
substitute method of helping troubled souls, it is a surrogate religion"
[Bobgan and Bobgan, 1987, p. 15] and second that "the goal is to integrate
or amalgamate the truth of Scripture with the so-called truth of psychology
to produce a hybrid that is superior to the truth of each" (Bobgan and
Bobgan, 1987, p. 33).

"What the Scripture does teach about persons lacks the specificity and
precision necessary for qualifying either as a formal scientific theory of
personality or as a clinically useful heuristic model for understanding
personality functioning." (pg 40)

Then the authors go on to state that they embrace a number of hermeneutical
principles that "undergird orthodox biblical interpretation. (pp. 40-42)

1. First, since God is the Creator, there can be no ultimate conflict
between knowledge from special revelation (what the Bible says) and
creation (also known as "general revelation," what nature says). There can
and often has been however, conglict between interpretations of special
revelation and interpretations about the facts of the created order. In
shuch cases of conflict, the interpretatin of either special or general
revelation can be wrong, or possibly both.

2. Second, "the Bible is the Word of God addressed to the heart of man".
Hence a sincere submission to the Lord who speaks through the Scriptures
and is revealed in them enables us to see reality, however imperfectly,
from God's perspective, the only proper perspective. Special revelation is
special, and that is why Calvin suggested that the Scriptures can function
as spectables that correct our vision of God's creation when sin has
distorted oru understanding."

3. Third, the Bible is a historical book written first of all to a
particular people in their culture at a certain time, answering their
questions and meeting their needs. Thus the biblical message to us today
cannot be understood properly without understanding its historical and
cultural context. With a proper appreciation of these factors, we can
confidently expect that we will hear God's voice speak to us through his
words to ancient peoples.

*4. Fourth, the Bible was written in nonscientific, everyday language that
sometimes used (or assumed) commly held "scientific" concepts of that time
but which we now know to be false. But this does not mean that the Bible
teaches those concepts. For example, Exodus 20:4 ("You shall not make for
yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything...that is in the water
under the earth" [RSV]) reflects the ancient cosmological belief that the
earth was flat and floated on water but the Bible does not teach
authoritatively that view; rather; the purpose of the verse is to prohibit
idolatry and not to teach a cosmology.

Similarly, many of the verses often cited as teaching formal psychological
concepts cannot responsibly be interpreted in that way. The folk
psychology in the verses is merely a vehicle by which to teach the main
point of the vers. For instance, Paul's use of "spirit, soul and body" (I
Thess 5:23) connotes the whole person, every aspect of the believer, and
cannot necessarily be taken to mean that Paul was authoritatively teaching
a tripartite (three-part) view of personhood. The danger here is expecting
from Scripture something God did not intend to provide.

5. Fifth, biblical passages must be understood in light of the author's
intention or meaning, and in the light of the totality of the biblical
revelation. It is especially important to remember that obscure or unclear
biblical passages are to be interpreted in light of clearer, more
unequivocal passages, and dece must be given to the cumulative weight of
many passages over one seeminly clear text if there is apparent conflict.

I would appreciate your comments on the issue of integration of psychology
and Christianity and then the process of studying scripture.


Keith Lamm