The world of psychology and Christian faith Werner May, IGNIS-academy for Christian psychology, Germany 1. The field of conflicts between psychology, truth and faith 2. The relation between philosophy and faith - some remarkable positions in church history 3. Christian psychology is a reconstructive psychology 4. Knowledge of finding instead of knowledge of repairing 5. Final observation 6. Literature Introduction In 1986, the IGNIS-academy started to develop and to introduce Christian Psychology in theory and practice as a Christian alternative to the dominant psychological concepts. This article will first introduce our starting point of this challenge and our answer that Christian psychology is meant to be a reconstructive psychology, being developed on the basis of a personal and relational anthropological understanding of the human being (which reproduces the biblical view of the human being and the world in the most central way). Next I will give you a sketch of a fundamental principle in Christian psychology, which questions the human attitude of being capable to produce or control results of psychological interventions. After so many years of work this sketch might seem quite modest, but it outlines some of the knowledge and understanding that has been found more and more clearly in the years of discussion and that applies as standard for further theoretical development and practical work. 1. The field of conflicts between psychology, truth and faith In the western world the relation between psychology, truth and faith has changed in the last 50 years, parallel to the dominant ways of thinking (the modern period – transition – post-modern period). I want to shortly sketch this change by an overview of western psychology and its attitudes towards truth concepts and Christian faith (see Graupner 1999a). o The modern period, that is meant to have started with the beginning of natural sciences, is based on the faith that reality is researchable and that there is absolute truth – only one main concept can be true – and this absolute truth has to be found! Psychology as a science accepted this basic attitude as soon as it started (the hour of birth is said to be the foundation of the first psychological laboratory by Wundt in Leipzig in 1879). However, right from the beginning and during more than 100 years of psychology, a contradictory situation has developed: searching for objective facts, searching for the true understanding of the human being, of human experience and behaviour, different schools appeared offering quite controversial ideas. Up to now we can identify five main paradigms: (1) deep psychology (S. Freud), (2) behaviour theory (Pawlow, Skinner, Bandura, Kanfer), (3) empirical psychology (starting as memory- and perception psychology, then personality-, motivation- and developmental-psychology) (4) physiological psychology (now having a modern continuation in the neuropsychology) (5) humanistic psycholgy (Allport, Maslow, Rogers), which already belongs to the period of transition (6) systemic psychology (which quite lately appeared as a fifth paradigm, rather in the transition and after the modern period). Valuations against religion were common in all paradigms. Religion, no matter which, was either treated as neurosis (Freud: “God as a projection”) or excluded. It was ignored as part of metaphysics, that wasn’t to be looked at by experience- sciences and further more didn’t seem to have anything to do with the object of research, e.g. the research of intelligence. Generally the rejecting attitude of the psychoanalysis remained stamping for the relation between psychology and religion in this period and scientists were searching for the ultimate world concept by means of natural science. o The transition, leaving the modern period, was started by humanistic psychology (Allport, Maslow, Rogers) at about the middle of the 20th century: relativism and subjectivism, partly grown on the background of existential world interpretation, dominated the truth-question. The subjective aspect of truth was accented. At the same time metaphysical questions about sense, free will, self-realization were asked, religious experiencing was taken serious again (e.g. as experience of the peak or as upper levels in Maslow’s famous pyramid of motivation). It was C.G. Jung, an early collaborator of Freud, who developed his own concept of deep psychology and intentionally put religious experiencing back in the centre of psychology, as a religious mix of all world- and nature-religions. Since about 1970 religion has more and more been accepted as a human basic need, but this acceptance is combined with a hostile attitude against the Gospel, saying: All religions have a common truth (parable of the elephant), the differences are irrelevant, only dividing. o Since about 1980 the so-called post-modern period has superseded the modern period (Lyotard 1979). Post-modern thinking is characterized by the conviction: Every truth is true, mine and yours, even if they contradict each other! Theories of communication and constructivistic concepts offered a scientific basis for these new ways of understanding which have spread to different fields of research, psychology included (Watzlawik, Maturana). Post-modern thinking radically shows the limits of human knowledge. Isn’t that an affirmation of the bible? We know in part? Concerning religious believes the post-modern attitude is: Christianity is true for Christians, but other truths have to be accepted and tolerated as equally true. This again is a message hostile to the Gospel. At last, where is Christian psychology to be placed concerning the truth? Close to Jesus Christ, who says about himself that he himself is the truth. One person instead of any knowledge is true. We only find truth with and inside of HIM. This idea of personal truth should be explained more precisely, what I can’t do here. I just want to outline the main consequence: In Christian psychology the question about truth primarly turns into a question about confidence: Whom do I believe? In whom do I trust? In God, who has revealed himself in his word? In persons, who seem to be trustworthy? In fact, the aspect of confidence is evident in every area of human life and can well be proved in psychology: Regarding the different positions as psycho-analysis or behavior therapy or … why should one choose and support any of them, as there are obviously scientific arguments for and against? One has to trust (at least some of) the representatives, because there are not any absolutely convincing reasons for this or that opinion. Besides these conflicts between psychology and faith - reservation to the Christian faith and a significant difference between secular psychology and Christian psychology in their understanding of truth – we find more conflicts in the more practical field. Psychology isn’t only a science that gives academic orientation or influences from top down – like philosophical world views - but it mainly refers to human life, to life-style, to therapy. Therefore, besides the academic dimension and dispute, it has for example gained a social mandate in the health and social system of the western society. As this is at the same time an original task of Christian charity, psychology and Christian faith came and come in touch with oneanother not only on an ideological, theoretical level, but also on a pragmatic, practical one. Here psychology of any paradigm seems to convince by differentiated concepts and claimes broad acceptance based on the common faith in science in western society and politics. It also claimes acceptance for its abilities in helping and healing (therapy), although this claim never has satisfactorily and honestly been fulfilled (see: research of psychotherapy, research of evaluation). Up to now, psychological thinking is in every teaching schedule of social professions, and, further more, psychologists have taken over the places of theologians and pastoral counselers in different sectors, e.g. most recently in emergency care and debriefing. Therefore, Christians are directly challenged to respond to the practical offers of psychology in their charity ministry, their ministry to suffering, sick and weak persons. They had and have to take position to psychology. The theoretical and pragmatic discussion has led to different positions of Christians located between complete refusing and complete acceptance of psychological theories and interventions. As the challenge to prove and take a stand in a field of conflicts within the secular surroundings has never been unknown in church history, I will outline some important positions already given in the early centuries. 2. The relation between philosophy and faith - some remarkable positions in church history (see also Graupner 1999b) In modern times psychology and science in general have questioned Christian faith and, on the other hand, Christians have questioned psychology. In church history the same happened between philosophy and Christian faith. Some argued that philosophy had to be treated as an independent discipline which is not in touch with faith, which covers a different field of life and different questions. Maybe, they can complement each other or they have to be completely independent. Others insisted that it should be possible to learn from one another. Instead of complete rejection they suggested different ways of integrating philosophy and faith. As some of the ideas can help us for our actual discussion between psychology and faith, I will introduce four of them before I start to explain our own way of reconstruction. 2.1. The bible only Let us have Tertullian (died after 220) start the discussion. He says: “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? What the academy with the church?” “Stay away from all the writings of the pagans … whatever helpful knowledge writings may offer for education is already to be found in the Holy Scripture. Studying the Holy Scripture is more than enough.” In fact the Holy Scripture is full of treasures that Christian psychology has to discover and hasn’t yet discovered. For example, one of these treasures is forgiveness. For years, we have been trying to illustrate the process of forgiving as an original dominion of Christian faith. We want to understand what happens in a relationship before, while and after forgiving in a psychological and therapeutic meaning, not only using cognitive theories of guilt and conscious. How intensively have we been looking for this biblical treasure - and what about many others? 2.2. Integration: “Plundering the Egyptians” To continue the discussion, we consider the well-known argument: “Should knowledge only be a Christian privilege? Are there no treasures to be found in the rest of the world?” Ideas, how to include secular thoughts concretely, how to integrate them, have their historical route in a position of father Origines (died around 254), who, referring to Exodus 3, 21-22, recommends to “ plunder the Egyptians”, that means, to use the best of worldly thinking for one’s own use. “And I will make the Egyptians favourably disposed towards this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbour and any women living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” (Ex 3, 21f) If God himself gave this order, that the Israels should steal pagan treasures, the jewellery of the Egyptians, than the treasure itself was obviously not “pagan”, unclean and unusable. This means, transferred to philosophy (or psychology), that Christians can take secular ideas out of their original context, the old, pagan context, and put it under the mastery of Christ. They thus “baptize” it (in analogy to the change of masters when someone turns from pagan to “saint”) and thereafter can use the baptized material in a happy and free way, without hesitating. Because “all the good and true things are coming from God; they just have to be freed from their imperfect, dark figure, in which they occur in pagan culture.” In principle, we can find all secular psychological concepts being christianised like this, not only in a theological context, that makes biblical thinking relative or reduces biblical authority, but also in biblical based positions. (Here it has to be added, that the question about psychology and Christian faith has two fields of diverse discussion: the field of different psychological theories as well as the field of different Christian confessions and denominations with their many different theologies. It ist important to bear this in mind, although I won’t say any more about this.) 2.3. Integration: “Cutting hair and nails” To verify secular models within a biblical framework The second, most common way of integrating psychology and faith, of looking for Christian-psychological models, criticizes a simple “plundering-the-Egyptians”, which will often end in some kind of a “ stew-model”. One demands carefulness, to avoid the danger of “getting sick from the stew”, if it is a mixture of biblical ideas and undiscovered contraire psychological concepts. But still one believes that secular science could manage to find right and helpful results when they do research in God’s creation, and therefore many of the secular models will include at least some truth. However, we can’t take them 1:1, but have to prove carefully whether they show compatibility with the biblical framework. Wherever we find parts contradicting the bible, it’s clear, that “psychology has to submit itself to the authority of the Holy Scripture.” The historic model for this way of intergration is from Father Hieronymus (died 419/420). Hieronymus also takes his basic idea from a quite metaphorical interpretation of scripture. Deuteronomy 21, 10ff says: “When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord, your God, delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and make her shave her head, trim her nails…” Before a pagan woman was allowed to marry an Israelite, before she could become a part of the Israelitish community, her hair and nails had to be cut. That was a special symbolic act with a deeper meaning, because in this time especially long nails were a sign for certain cults, for certain idolatrous rites. Cutting them should symbolize a breaking with the pagan past. Translated to Christianity and pagan thinking, this means, that ideological thinking has to be cut off like the hair and nails of pagan women. Philosophical (or psychological) concepts have to be proved carefully before including them, they have to go through an intensive process of cleaning to be sure, that no unwanted, unconcious mixing would happen. What will such a cleaning process look like? You may think of a kind of “selection-filter”, secular models will be send through, to discover and take out those parts of the model, which either contradict directly to the Gospel, or to different basic biblical principles or to biblical orientated ethics in general. So the task is to “screen the secular concepts through the biblical filter”. If there don’t appear any conflicts with basic biblical principles, the model will pass the filter and will be completely taken over into the Christian-psychological model. If there do appear contradictions, it has to be changed, has to be adapted to the demands of biblical principles. Sometimes concepts cannot pass the filter at all, what means that they are absolutely of no use in a biblical frame-concept. The “filter-process” obviously will be a great help to identify acceptable secular ideas for Christian psychology. However, we still have the challenge, to set up standards for a true Christian filter. Hieronymus himself once had a famous dream, which questioned his own way of integrating philosophy. He dreamt he was standing in front of a judge, telling him that he was Christian. But the judge responded: “You are lying, you are a Ciceronian, but not a Christian. Where your treasure is, there is your heart.” Shocked Hieronymus turned away from all philosophy. Where is your heart? Is it widely open for God’s love and His word – or is it mainly excited about secular ideas? This question has to be asked again and again. Whom do you trust more, science or God? Do you use psychology, or do you put your trust in it, do you get justification from it? 2.4. Reconstructing secular concepts How can we use secular concepts with our hearts deeply dedicated to God? How can we establish a filtering process, that neither cuts off the essential things nor allows to pass any of the probably hidden anti-biblical implications? Again, the picture of a Father can help us to understand how to do it. Basilius the Great (died 379) suggested, we should act like the bees. They freely and fearless fly to certain flours, choose the best nectar and transform it into something new, into honey. In the same way, we should fearlessly walk towards the ideological concepts, but just take their nectar, their ideas, as an impulse, an impulse to think, which we then transform into something really new, like honey. This means, that we get through the impulse on the background of a biblical basis, to find its value, its meaning in this different frame-concept. Christian psychology, as we understand it, calls this process reconstruction and our position is to build up a reconstructive psychology. 3. Christian psychology is reconstructed psychology (see Graupner 1999b) Honey production, reconstruction, as we say, presupposes to work on a biblical Christian view of the human being and the world. And it needs Christian psychologists, men and women, who enter into relationship with truth as a person, who live with HIM, in front of HIM and for HIM, in the theoretical and practical field of psychology. I will firstly say a bit more about the Christian view of the human being and the world. 3.1 Corner pillars of a Christian view of the human being and the world 3.1.1. The personal basic level of reality God is a person, and so is the human being as an image of God. Although this image is damaged by sin, it still can be realized and has to be gained back through salvation. In its core the image of God is love, love as a Trinitarian present. The human being is a person, person as a process, as we say. Referring to Andrej Lorgus (Lorgus 2002) we become a person through processes of freedom, creativity, spirituality, knowledge and autocracy. “… responsibility for his behaviour only starts, when a human being is aware of the fact, that an act was done by himself, in freedom.” (Lorgus, p.8) “Only a mature person knows, that effort and self-victory is needed, why, in which direction and for what. A human being as a person accepts his existence creatively, that means in a critical, constructive, and axiological way. His being is transmitted by values…” (Lorgus, p.9). Christian psychology understands personal freedom as the possibility to love, the possibility to pass the frontiers of one’s own being and to belong to the OTHER. According to the philosophy of Emanuel Lévinas, we talk about an ethical identity instead of an ontical. Radically expressed, a main characteristic of a personal basic level is, that this world is constituted and held by acts of the will of God and of human beings, by intentional decisions and not by blindly running material processes according to natural laws. 3.1.2. The relational basic level of reality Belonging to the Other and to the others, as characteristic of a person, provides – as we think - the condition to understand reality as relational (nowadays, the quantum physics suggests to understand even the material world as produced, and so as a relational reality). “For the understanding of human reality, the category of relation is more essential than the category of substance.” (Schmiedlinger according to Graupner, 1999b, p.142) God spoke and all came into existence. Even today HE is still carrying everything by his strong word.” (Hebr 1, 3a) The human being is not, but is standing in relationships. Relationships to God, to people and to himself determine his reality and any reality at all. (Dialogical concept of Christian psychology). As I said, a reconstructive psychology needs Christian psychologists, men and women, who enter into relationship with truth as a person and live with HIM, in front of HIM and for HIM. Knowledge, especially psychological knowledge, is knowledge of persons and not of things. This kind of knowledge happens on the one hand by being engaged with one’s object of knowledge, what once again is a personal process - we call it intimate knowledge – and on the other hand by the relation to God, the personal truth. And this is not about doctrines, but about love. Truth turns into performing truth, it happens! Our challenge is: We have to rebuild the results of psychology, achieved until now, on the basis of our understanding of personal existence and relation. We have to gain new knowledge by intimacy with God and with certain people. A high demand. 4. Knowledge of finding instead of knowledge of repairing (see Graupner 1999b) Spiritual-mental things are not causal, but personal, they are creative! That’s the main thesis of Christian psychology. That’s why spiritual-mental things don’t submit to causal laws like material things. If at all, we can dare to make some statements of probability, which don’t tell anything certain about the individual case. This means, that psychology actually can’t, as it intended and still intends, formulate causal statements about human life. However, the more of the personal falls apart and the more of the material gains influence, the more regularity will increase in human life, see e.g. the development of addiction. Therefore, knowledge about regularities is also relevant for every individual case, but not as knowledge of repairing (regarding the human being as an object, as a machine, that I can reconstruct following an instruction plan), but as knowledge of finding, as we call it. In my opinion, the variety of models of disorder in the field of psychopathology also shows, that definite causal explanations are impossible (of course they are all based on different paradigmes, too). E.g. to explain and describe symptoms of depression we know mere physically orientated models, cognitive concepts or spiritual ones. It’s helpful to know all of them, but not in order to pick out, what subjectively seems to be more true and helpful to create my own integrative model. They are to be understood as different perspectives or as glasses to look at reality, which will support an increase of knowledge by circling, scanning reality. The German theologian v. Rad, a specialist on the Old Testament, writes about the Hebrew understanding of reality and about biblical-Hebrew thinking: “Maybe this thinking is more unfamiliar than imperfect; because even we can still recognize, that here questions are more circled in a plain area, and that in this way a deepness and wideness of the problematic is adjured, which couldn’t have been viewed like this by using a linear movement towards a solution. Anyway, the view! It’s much more about it than about gaining an abstract formulated knowledge, which could be told in one sentence.” (von Rad, 1992, p.76) What we call knowledge of finding has two functions: It increases our understanding of the other one, thus enabling us for more intensive relations. And it prepares the ground of knowledge, so that I can find out the unique way of healing with the other one. In the perspective of Christian psychology this may happen with the help of the Holy Spirit. 5. Final observation Christian psychology isn’t anything finished and will never be anything finished, but is more the process and the results of a way, that come up, when we as psychologists, seized by the Christian faith, start to follow the just outlined way. I will illustrate this by using one of my personal experiences: Christian psychology, as we have been trying to develop it at IGNIS for more than 18 years, started as a joint way of seven psychologists. We had two common starting points, one was our academic education, our training in psychology, and the other one were our personal religious experiences as Christians, our relationship with God, which had fundamentally changed our lifes as former atheists. So at beginning we asked the question: How can these personal experiences of faith influence our psychological thinking and acting? That’s how we started our way, which I want to describe now as influenced by five factors: 1. Our psychological education, which was quite different, because psychology is not a uniform structure. There are not only different psychological schools, but also different tasks for psychologists, working with drug addicts or counseling parents, just to name two examples. 2. Our personal experiences of faith, which were not only individually formed, but also determined by different church backgrounds. 3. The revelation of the Holy Scripture. The bible reveals us the will of God, but each of us understands and interprets it a somewhat different way. 4. Experiences in spiritual life and ministering to people within the worldwide and local church from the first days until today. 5. Our own ministry to completely different persons, who have come to us with their questions and problems. In this way, Christian psychology has come alive as results on our way, while we were ministering to certain persons, reflecting our psychological knowledge and practical experiences, our religious experiences, biblical knowledge and experiences of church history. I think I should add two more remarks: For every individual psychologist at IGNIS, these five factors are, of course, differently and incompletely marked - e.g. I only have a small knowledge of church history - and they are always part of a personal developmental and changing process – my relationship with God nowadays is different from what it was 20 years ago. When we think of ministering to people, we do not only think of therapy, but also of all the other fields of psychology, like e.g. education, communication or scientific research. So every Christian psychologist starts doing his work and he gets results and with them he enters into a dialogue with other Christian psychologists with their own results. This dialogue is the centre of every scientific process, and for me this also seems to be typical for Christian psychology as I experience it in Germany, in Europe, but also worldwide at the moment: There is not one single great personality that develops a Christian psychology, but there are more personalities, 10, 20 or maybe more, who share their results. Out of this dialogue Christian psychology will develop in the future. Right now we just see some first fruit of only a few years. I think that this is God’s character, that we create something comon. As already said, Christian psychology, like every human science, needs its own anthropology, needs to outline the basic characteristics of the human being. An important step to do this and help together on an Europeen level, was the foundation of the European Movement for Christian Psychology and Anthropology (EMCPA) in Warsaw in 2003. Thus we have a platform to discuss anthropological basic questions like: What is truth, what is health, what is a person? Of course, we are not the first ones to ask these questions, but we have in common, that they come out of our direct perplexity as psychologists and Christians serving others. So we can share our experiences, combined with our different traditions, also church traditions of the orthodox, the catholic and the protestant theology. Another task of Christian psychology, as I already mentioned, is finding proper models and interventions for different practical tasks. In this we have to regard the status of the actual scientific research, but still think “from God” originally – and I am aware of our human limits of knowledge, which won’t allow us to develop much better models or find much better interventions than other psychological schools. But in addition to our human competence we can rely on the blessing and the mercy of God. Maybe somebody might ask: Do we really need special Christian models to get God´s blessing? Aren’t the common secular models enough, which can also count on the mercy of God? When I consider the size of God’s mercy and what it’s able to affect, than I would even answer with Yes. This also means, that I respect everybody who has choosen an integrational position. But developing a Christian psychology is about more, is also about giving honour to God in our models. Speaking about the human being, I want us to speak about his creator and saviour. That’s an expression of our love to God, how little it may be. Unfortunately, many people in our western countries do not only relate personal growth, freedom, life fulfilment and health with the Christian faith (although this side of religiousness is noticed more and more in psychological research). So they fear that Christian psychology will also only present the negative sides of Christian faith. There I see a special calling, that we as Christian psychologists should be able to understand such processes in a better way than others, and that we can jointly be with those, who are disappointed of God and the church! In this lecture I tried to introduce some of the basic ideas of Christian psychology, as we see them at the IGNIS-academy for Christian psychology at the moment (see more about it: Graupner 1999a, 1999b, May 2002a, 2002b): reconstructive psychology and knowledge of finding, personal and relational basic level of reality, personal truth as a truth hapenning in love, and Christian psychology as a shared process of brothers and sisters. All this was meant to invite us to produce (more) honey, busy like the bees, to work together on a Christian psychology, where there still is a lot to be done. Literature: - Graupner, Kathrin (1999a): Das Wirklichkeitsverständnis der Psychologie. IGNIS-Fernkurs: Die Grundlagen Christlicher Psychologie, Heft 1, Kitzingen - Graupner, Kathrin (1999b): Das Wirklichkeitsverständnis der Christlichen Psychologie. IGNIS-Fernkurs: Die Grundlagen Christlicher Psychologie, Heft 2, Kitzingen - Lorgus, Fr. Andrej (2002): Die orthodoxe Lehre von der Person. Unveröffentlichter Vortrag Wien, übersetzt von Johann Krammer - May, Agnes (2002): Der Mensch als bedürftige Person- Störung und Heilung. IGNIS-Fernkurs: Die Grundlagen Christlicher Psychologie, Heft 4a, Kitzingen 2002ª - May, Agnes (2002): Der Mensch als bedürftige Person - Psychotherapeutische und seelsorgerliche Konzepte. IGNIS-Fernkurs: Die Grundlagen Christlicher Psychologie, Heft 4b, Kitzingen 2002b - Rad, Gerhard von (1992): Weisheit in Israel. Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn: Gütersloh - Soldan, Wolfram (2005): "Empirische Evaluation von Vergebung: Nutzen und Grenzen dargestellt anhand eines Fragebogens und eines Models aus der IGNIS-Akademie", Vortrag in Rom ..
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