Psychology, Theology and the Spiritual Life in Christian Counseling
Psychology, Theology and the Spiritual Life in Christian Counseling
1. This paper is a book review that will deal with the above work by McMinn and the nature of Christian counseling in general. The work is a whole is designed to be easily read, and reads very quickly at the price of sophistication. Its ultimate purpose is one of integration on wto levels: first, the integration of the “broken” person back into loving relationships, chiefly with God, who is a God of healing, and second, the immensely important integration of theology with the aims of counseling. Counseling without God is a far less complex affair than Christian counseling.
The secular counselor can be safely utilitarian, whatever helps heal the person might be tried or advocated. However, with Christian counseling, the idea of integration is all important. Christians have a specific view of the personality that cannot be ignored in counseling. These ideas on the human personality is based around our inherent sinfulness and “brokenness. ” (McMinn, 1996, 32). This is central, all of humanity is in need of counseling of some sort, but the final end of counseling, that of union with God in and by healthy relationships with other persons, provides far more difficult challenges than the more utilitarian secularist.
Furthermore, the idea of the integration of the ego out of its sinful (yet natural) drive to self-sufficiency (cf. 35-40ff) is another specifically Christian idea when coupled with the important idea of Grace, the Grace that is, by its very function, a healing balm. Hence, the counselor must also know how to “give way” to grace, grace that is not in the control of the counselor. The notion of the “abuse of power” so important to the chapter on “Sin”is precisely not realizing the fact that the Christian counselor must act as a conduit of grace and not its “dispenser.
” Thus, the counselor that does not realize this gap, the gap between the counselor and the will of God for the broken victim has failed in his duty. The grace for the believer is always present, and Christian counseling must have a sense that his duty is to help the victim find it. The basic thesis of the book is sound from a theological and a psychological point of view: the modern secular mentality stresses ego satisfaction and ones “control” over ones life. But this is little more than the institutionalization of original sin: this is the problem, not the solution.
This desire, natural to fallen man, to be self-sufficient is the root of all psychological problems. Hence, the work takes this fundamental insight through the various ideas that develop in the process of counseling: prayer, scripture, forgiveness, etc. Each concerns itself with bringing the patient to a fuller understanding of the nature of his alienation, both from others an from God. 2. In the section on prayer, I was struck by several things, things that I recall myself going through. I was always taken aback by the attacks on prayer by both mainline psychology and society at large: why would one pray if God is all knowing?
Of course this is not an easy question, and the church fathers dealt with it in some detail. I began to see prayer as being of 2 kinds: the intercessory prayer, or the literal meaning of prayer in the sense as “to ask. ” This is not a part of Christian counseling to any great degree. But the second form of prayer, that of communion and oneness, is. The prayerful meditation of the ancient monks has healing properties even apart of belief. Prayer, as McMinn points out, reduces stress, creates a bond with the counselor, and places the problems of man in a theological context (66ff).
The same might be said for his section on Scripture: is not Job an excellent case study for the Christian counselor? Is not David and his sins even better? (Cf. 100) It seems to me that the development of my own prayer life since being involved with counseling has more to do with dealing rather than asking. , In other words, it seems to me that pure prayer is not about asking for things: God knows what we need. Pure prayer is about dealing with that which God has given us in our own development.
Suffering is no a bad thing with a prayerful attitude: it permits us to reject the world and its comforts, and to seek our rest in God alone. Christians involved in counseling should avoid, as my experience has shown, treating prayer as a means of “getting” things. This can lead to disappointment and a belief that God is merely a great cosmic vending machine that exists to grant wishes. I recall my older view that prayer was about “getting,” instead of “dealing. ” Prayer as a means of communing with God in the midst of suffering is both a very Christian idea as well as a powerful tool in counseling Christians.
3. A major issue that arises from reading this book is the difficulty of the task. The author is writing for a popular audience, and hence, can not get into the deep psychology and theology necessary to make his this work. Theology is the highest of the sciences, and this is because the understanding of Christ as Logos gives both the efficient and final cause of creation, including our minds. The Logos is the being of all things so far as they exemplify a cosmic reason, an interconnectedness that makes nature understandable and law-abiding.
But our problem arises, both as Christians and as counselors, when we are forced to deal with the affects of the fall: a nature that bears God’s energy (though not her person), but is only poorly reflected in our minds that have been darkened by sin. Christianity has been worried about this healing since St Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine, who have dealt with the church and the Christian life as primarily a psychological affair, an affair of the consciousness, but a consciousness whose own drives seek to obliterate God and his presence in the interests of self centeredness.
The very nature of the book in question cannot get into these issues except in trite examples. The book needs to build upon Christ as Logos before any serious psychology can be done. Putting this differently, the point is that Christ is to be found in the human mind in that it bears traces, fingerprints of the creator, but the creator as the Son, the image of the Father. The cosmic reason found in all things. This is an ontological problem, one that needs to inform all Christian psychology. Th reality is that this book is far too simple, far to “easy” and cannot gt to th heart of the matter.
4. In terms of action, I want to take from McMinn’s section on Scripture. This is likely the most valuable part of the work, and Scripture, to say the least, is only rarely considered a bok of counseling or psychology. Yet, the scriptures are saturated with psychological insight. Hence, my action here is to begin bringing scriptural sources into counseling. Even with secular patients, the Bible, even if the patient does not necessarily believe its divine origin, still contains many positive and negative examples for people to consider.
The sins of David, including murder, are helpful is showing the example of repentance and the fact that a spiritual giant like David can be so flawed. I might say the same of Noah, after his drunkenness. God can forgive anything. The prophets such as Jeremiah or Amos were all persecuted for their beliefs and complete refusal to compromise. For people to be treated harshly because of their faith is something Christ explicitly mentions as the lot of the Christian: scripture is about God’s presence amidst a world that does not recognize him, whether it be the establishment of Judah or the Jewish Pharisees.
The Christian Will suffer–there is no getting out of that, it is built into the process of both living and counseling. Christ Himself is such an example. Therefore, in dealing with patients, the Scriptures will be the central component in counseling for the examples they contain: examples of righteous suffering, but suffering with a purpose. Suffering with a purpose is bearable, suffering for no reason is not,. There is not a major figure in the Scriptures that is not persecuted for one reason or another by a world that does not understand te godly life. For us as counselors, nothing can be more important, useful or inspiring.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 2 December 2016
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