I wrote a while back about the Christian church’s absurd battle with science. Throughout history the church finds itself behind, standing firm on points that future generations have to apologize for. I always think of the church’s insistence on the earth being the center of the solar system.
But more importantly today, is our struggle with psychology, counseling and neuroscience. In particular, the church as a whole seems to struggle with the effectiveness, necessity, and benefit of counseling.
John Ortberg wrote an article on neuroscience in the Leadership Journal back in 2014 where he quoted Rick Warren:
Rick and Kay Warren noted after the death of their son: “Any other organ in my body can get broken and there’s no shame, no stigma to it. My liver stops working, my heart stops working, my lungs stop working. Well, I’ll just say, ‘Hey, I’ve got diabetes, or a defective pancreas or whatever,’ but if my brain is broken, I’m supposed to feel shame. And so a lot of people who should get help don’t.”
Ortberg went on to state that “Neuroscience can help us understand moral and spiritual development. It shows the importance of genetic predispositions in areas of character and attitudes—from political orientation to sexuality. But it has not shown that personal responsibility or dependence on God are irrelevant. It does not replace the pastor or trump the Bible.”
He further argues, as I’ve written about and agreed, that most of our behavior is NOT a series of conscious choices. I was just sitting with someone who was struggling with extreme anxiety and hopelessness. I slowly pointed out that his thoughts and reactions to a particular event were not the average reaction. In other words, I began to explore with him the reality that he was being much harder on himself than the average person would.
He reluctantly agreed and then sheepishly stated that knowing that didn’t change the reality. He was telling me that just because I pointed that out did not change how real his reactions felt or the power and prevalence they had in his life. I jokingly responded that if it were that easy I’d be out of a job.
It’s true, knowledge about how things should be does not transform us most of the time. It does not detract from the bible or God to acknowledge that there is a science out there and a group of professionals who understand, to a degree, how to help people grow and heal out of these difficulties.
I sometimes hear the argument, “Well, what did people do before therapists?” I don’t know. I think there are several explanations and possibilities, but the bottom line is that there are people who are suffering and there are resources available. I make no secret about my passion- I believe that psychology and neuroscience can help us with our relationship with God, sanctification, and understanding the bible. I’m glad that there have been many Christian thinkers in the past who agree and many more who are coming to the forefront now.