The New Religion of the Therapeutic

In my observations, a new “religion” of sorts has developed in our culture and society, one that centers the (perceived) therapeutic. In this new “religion,” mental health is the new salvation; psychologists are the new priesthood; therapy is the new sacramentalism; self-care the new spiritual discipline; and the idea that we should only do or say things that are affirming is its dogma.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there’s obviously good to be had in psychology, therapy, etc. Mental health is a good thing and something we should be concerned with as Christians. And there are many things we as Christians can learn from psychology, therapists, etc., especially in those areas where the church has largely previously failed.

But these ideas, when unmoored from Christian convictions (e.g., of what constitutes “health”) actually enter in as an alternative framework (worldview), which will prove dangerous (and already is), even as it easily hijacks Christian language in its propagation.

A Biblical Theology of Psychotropic Medication

The following outlines are portions from two presentations given for the course 6710 Counseling in Theological Perspective: Faith & Practice taught by Dr. Rev. Stephen Greggo at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, October and November 2014.

The two presentations (part 1 and part 2) addressed a case study of a specific (fictional) individual. My group was selected to address matters related to the use of psychotropic medication and discipline.

The first presentation raised concerns. For example, some of the more theologically oriented concerns regarding the use of medication included the following:

  • Not taking responsibility for one’s actions (sin).
    • In the use of medication, have we mislabeled sin as illness? Are we treating sin as non-sin?
    • By treating an issue as illness, do we eliminate the Christian claim of human responsibility?
  • Sanctification – Does medication conflict with the Christian view of change?
    • What is genuine, God-honoring change from a Christian perspective (sanctification)? And how is that sort of changed accomplished?
    • Is change resulting from medication that form of change, an expression of sanctification? Or should we distinguish the two?
    • And if distinguished, how should a Christian view change resulting from medication, since it is not necessarily the change of sanctification? Is to be avoided, seen as good but yet superficial, etc. What?

A Christian Interface Approach to Psychology and Clinical Counseling

The following is a paper submitted to Dr. Rev. Stephen Greggo in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course 6710 Counseling in Theological Perspective: Faith & Practice at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, November 2014.

[You should note, we were required to select a doctrinal statement as a starting point in laying out our theological convictions.]

This paper seeks to present a distinctively Christian interface approach to counseling and psychology. It will (1) begin by presenting relevant theological convictions, (2) tease out interface implications, and (3) conclude with brief ministry applications.

Theological Convictions

I have selected the London Baptist Confession of 1644 as my doctrinal statement. As a Reformed Baptist, this confession faithfully represents my theological convictions. However, due to its brevity, this section elaborates upon certain theological topics that are central to my interface approach.

Revelation. Christian theology speaks of two modes of divine revelation. ‘General’ or ‘natural revelation’ refers to God’s revelation of truth “to all persons at all times and in all places” (‘general’) through ‘natural’ means such as “nature, history, and the constitution of human beings” (e.g., conscience).[1] ‘Special revelation’ is that which is communicated to particular persons (‘special’) through supernatural means such as divine speech, unique events of divine intervention, and the divine incarnation.[2] Due to man’s fallen condition, general revelation’s efficacy diminishes as man suppresses truth known through general revelation (the noetic effect of sin; see Rom 1:18-32), intensifying the need for special revelation. As God’s direct and explicit revelation, Christian scripture (special revelation) holds the place of highest authority (sola scriptura).[3]

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Psychology & Christianity: Five Views – Goodreads Review

Psychology & Christianity: Five ViewsPsychology & Christianity: Five Views by Eric L. Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book.

At times it felt less like reading a multiple view book and more like reading a collection of complementary essays from very similarly positions. Philosophically, it seems like the latter 4 views are more complementary than contradictory, although the Biblical Counseling view seems like it would differ a bit in terms of practice. Even the authors of these views recognized the complementary reality of their positions. Their main differences seemed to be that of emphasis.

In contrast, I found the levels of explanation author rather frustrating. He seemed very naive concerning the philosophical and epistemological discussion being had by the other authors and often didn’t seem like he was really understanding what the other authors were saying. I had a hard time respecting him.

In sum, a very helpful and insightful book. Definitely a “thick” read.

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Goodreads Review of Integrative Psychotherapy: Toward a Comprehensive Christian Approach by Mark R. McMinn

Integrative Psychotherapy: Toward a Comprehensive Christian ApproachIntegrative Psychotherapy: Toward a Comprehensive Christian Approach by Mark R. McMinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The authors claim to present a (not “the”) Christian approach to psychotherapy. They are theologically sensitive. I appreciate this. However, it is less clear to me how their approach is DISTINCTIVELY Christian and not simply SENSITIVE to Christian truth-claims.

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