Growing up, I was born the son of a scientist. My father would take me to the lab and show me how to do basic experiments. I quickly fell in love with science and the insight it could provide in regards to the world around me.
In 1993, I became a Christian in the MIT ministry. In the last 18 years, many people have approached me and asked how I could maintain my intellectual integrity as a scientist while believing in Jesus. My response was a simple one. From my perspective, there is no conflict between the two. Science did a marvelous job at describing the various events that took place in God’s creation! Science has never stated that it was anything more than a detailed description of the world around us. The conclusions that we have arrived at from the given data is another story however…
I found it ironic when some disciples approached me and challenged my spiritual integrity when it came to my studies in psychology. They would ask me how I reconciled my faith in Jesus with humanistic approaches towards emotional healing. I explained that the different modalities I was taught (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, to name a few) worked really well with the established spiritual doctrine I held. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on solving problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognition via a goal-oriented and systemic procedure in the present. This sounds like a great approach, but if we stop and look at the scriptures, we find that we were given similar directions (without these fancy words) many years ago.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. “
In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives a directive to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. When we do this, we are replacing our distorted thoughts with ones that are filled with truth and life!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research states that our distorted thoughts lead to improper emotions, which, if left unchanged, will lead to unwanted behavior (the order can vary). The definition of “distorted thoughts” used by most therapists, reveals that these thoughts are “lies and half-truths” created by individuals struggling with mental illness. These individuals take the thoughts they have created and replace them with truth. In many cases, this begins a catharsis that the client was unable to undergo until the lie was replaced with the truth. Does this sound familiar?
John 8:31-32 (NIV)To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Jesus told us that knowing the truth would set us free! To this day, our Lord’s words resonate in both the lives and the hearts of men and women everywhere. The field of psychology simply breaks down known processes and assigns those names and definitions, but the remedy is still the same…the Gospel.
Please understand, there are some in this field, like in any other field, that take anecdotal evidence and come to crazy conclusions. Or even worse, use the established knowledge of the human psyche to manipulate and/or control people. Caution should be taken of these individuals and their associated theories.
Honestly, we are blessed in the church to have so many individuals who have studied the field of psychology and are applying it to spiritually healing in our fellowship. As God’s church, we are growing older and we are coming up against situations that we feel ill-equipped to handle. Such examples include, divorce, terminal illness, and chronic illness. These are just some of the challenges that we did not foresee while walking down the halls of our campus’ many years earlier. Yet, these are now the realities of many people’s lives. We must teach one another to receive and to give the grace that is found in the cross of Christ. I believe that talk therapy via distance therapycan work well to begin this process.
As our fellowship moves forward, embracing the world of psychology can benefit us immensely; yet as I conclude this thought, I must caution us from the sin of Nehushtan.
After the rebellion of the Israelites, God permitted the snakes in the desert to bite them. The people then repented and asked Moses to implore the Lord’s mercy. Moses made a bronze snake, which was proven a remedy from God to any snake bite. The intention was that the Israelites would see the mercy of God and His amazing power. Yet, as proven time after time, the Israelites were unable to “see with faith and only focused on what was in front of them”.
2 Kings 18:3-4(NIV)“He (Hezekiah)did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.
He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”
Years later, Hezekiah called the people to take their eyes off of the world and see the Lord they were to be serving. In doing this, the Asherah poles were cut down and the sacred stones were smashed. Along with those idols, the bronze snake that Moses had made was destroyed because it had become an idol to the Israelites. The Israelites had even given the bronze snake a name, Nehushtan. What had been a blessing from God had now become an idol.
In conclusion, we must never take our eyes off what truly heals us. It is Jesus. His grace, His Love, His acceptance, His Power…it will never be simply a technique or a concept, all of these are but shadows of the reality that is working in our lives. We must praise God and shower Him with the Glory that comes from the result of a healed heart!