Thursday, January 05, 2006

Psychology vs Theology

For quite some time, but in particular, for the past couple years, I have been concerned about psychology mixing in and undermining Christian theology. Already, my statement reveals quite a bit about what I think about psychology.

Check out this article: http://www.issuesetc.org/resource/journals/v1n9.htm

There just is no substitution for the laws of God, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the word of God, Biblical prayer, Biblical meditation, faith, and obedience. Sadly, these have been replaced in our culture (even our "Christian" culture) with self-esteem, self-actualization, taking off the "mask," being "real," New Age meditation, postmodernism, worship of gooey feeling experiences, tolerance, mixing Scripture with secular ideas, etc.

I just watched the movie Pollyanna yesterday. For those of you who haven't seen it, this daughter of a minister (Pollyanna) is orphaned, and her rich, religious aunt takes her in to her home. Everyone in this town is "negative" about something. People are grouchy, mean-spirited, gossips, and religious in the worst sense of the word.

An interesting part of the movie is the dreaded Sunday church service. Everyone goes to church and hears a fiery hell-fire and brimstone preacher shout about the wrath of God. Actually, listening closely to the sermon, his doctrine is totally sound (which for me is a fresh of breath air in this modern "make me feel like I'm a good person" society).

Well, Pollyanna is always finding something about which to be glad. Some people get to not liking her because she is such a "goody-two-shoes." Old people and younger people, Pollyanna wins the hearts of the people of the town: from the grouchy old Mrs. Snow (who had always previously imagined that she was dying) to the negative housemaid to the hell-fire preacher himself.

The preacher's transformation is very interesting. Pollyanna caught the hell-fire minister off guard by asking, "Do you like being a minister?" Pollyanna really empathizes with him about his frustrations with his congregation "not getting it." After all, her father was a minister, so she was familiar with the struggle of ministers. She went on to share with him how her father had decided a long time before to look for the good in people, instead of the bad. Then, she went on to share with the minister the fact that the Bible has over 800 "happy passages" that talk about the joy of the Lord, rejoicing, etc. Well, after a short conversation, Pollyanna "runs along" and the minister, left alone, gets on his knees in humility and repentance.

The next Sunday, the minister confessed his sin to the congregation - the sin of neglecting all the "happy passages" and not taking the time and making the effort to get to know the people in his congregation. The minister's humility and transformed the congregation. People left church with joy and gladness; and the joy was contagious.

So ...

There is certainly a number of good biblical points that the movie makes. We should not be negative people. We should choose to sow attitudes of joy and gladness and thanksgiving and appreciation of the blessings that Almighty God bestows upon us. Ministers should love their congregations and should encourage them and model Christ's love and compassion and kindness and humility to them. And when that happens, God can and does do great and wonderful things in peoples' lives. This is the main point that the movie drives home.

However, Christianity is not merely a psychological "glad game." There are a number of concerns that I have. Pollyanna "won" the heart of Nancy by lying. Also, the minister had been telling the truth in his hell-fire sermons. But he totally swings the other way and commits to his congregation to preach about the "happy passages" for 16 years! This is not balanced. The Bible says that the "fear of the LORD" is the beginning of wisdom - not the joy of the LORD. The joy of the LORD is our strength - to be sure - but it is so very important to give God the appropriate reverence, awe, and FEAR that is due. He is GOD! He is awesome and holy and Jealous! He hates sin and punishes wickedness. His wrath is real, and everyone who has ever preached about the wrath of God for any extended period of time has surely been persecuted.

In our modern churches, so many fear preaching about hell and sin and Biblical righteousness. People hate these doctrines of Christianity (i.e. they hate Christianity). So, instead of dealing with these doctrines with humility, and reflecting on their own sinfulness, many moderns twist the gospel into a "feel good" psychobabble with some "happy scriptures" mixed into it.

It is time to come to God on God's terms or not at all.

4 Comments:

Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Dan, maybe your fear of God is too strong to answers to some simple questions on how strict your religion is or maybe you can't answer them yourself ... hmmm.... May I repeat the questions ? does your religion accept divorce in any way ?
does your religion forbid all and any kind of birth control (pill , condom etc.) or are some methods acceptable ? Just curious to see how strict evangelical christians are on these matters.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Joe,

I have not been avoiding the questions. I've been busy, and I have not gotten around to answering them yet.

On divorce, the Bible says that, except of the case of unfaithfulness, divorce is wrong. God hates divorce. Who doesn't hate divorce? Divorce sucks.

However, God is also a God of grace. God takes people who's lives are totally screwed up, and he puts them back together. He is a God of compassion and mercy.

In our culture, divorce has become such an easy option. You have to wonder if a marriage that has prenumptial agreements written out and signed beforehand is really worth calling marriage. Certainly, when the vows are made, the two are married, whether they realized what they were getting into or not. Therefore, marriage should not be entered into lightly.

God loves to take broken marriages and heal them. That is the power of grace.

As for birth control - you really touch a personal button there. I think that the Scriptures are not clear or specific about it. However, I do think that Scriptures encourage a "culture of life." Children are a blessing from the Lord.

Having said that, I certainly do not condemn the use of the pill or condemns. That is putting it mildly. I think that using the pill is okay, but I am some what torn about the issue.

Abortion, of course, is unthinkable. Abortion is America's Holocaust. That it is even subject to debate is evidence of the depravity of man.

But you have to understand, the strictness of God (i.e. the law) simply exposes sin. I am not suggesting for a second. If you don't live up to this standard then you are going to hell. No. I am saying that the penalty for breaking the law is eternal damnation, but God has provided a way out! He has sent His one and only Son to die on the cross in our place - the just for the unjust - so that we might be set free of the law, that we might walk in the new way of the Spirit. Religious people, who are all about law, are some of the most depraved people in the world. It is truly all about the transforming grace of God - who replaces my heart of stone with a heart of flesh.

1:11 PM  
Blogger ecw said...

The psychology and theology topic sure reminds me of my thesis paper last year. It seemed like you understood alot of the stuff I was saying. My paper answered alot of the questions you have in this post. Do you just not agree with what I was saying or did you forget? I mean it is a complicated subject amd I'm still confused about it too.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Elise,
I remember your paper. I remember having good discussions about it. But it is complicated. I think that the "bad psychology" has been mixed in with "good psychology" and Christian Theology. In this way, its like "bad psychology" has infiltrated our camp and thrown many people into confusion.

12:11 AM  

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