We Teach Truth #5 - Psychology

We Teach Truth #5 – Psychology
Brad Alles

This month’s blog will focus on Psychology.  But what do we mean “psychology”?  Literally, psychology means the study of the mind.  Yet this examination of the mind is not just concerning the physical organ of the brain, but concerning the behaviors and attitudes of people.  It seeks to answer the question, “Why do we behave the way that we do?”  In order to answer that question, we have to remember that there are two distinct views of humanity today.

All worldviews except Christianity will tell you that humans are basically good, or neutral at worst.  Man’s moral state is not one of depravity and sinfulness, but one of goodness and morality.  Since we are basically good, our biggest need is to do what we want.  After the basics of life have been provided like food, water, shelter, and companionship, we need to follow our desires to make our life complete.  Whatever it is, we should pursue it.

On the other hand, the Bible has a totally different perspective on humanity.  We are created to give glory to God and yet cannot because of our sinful nature.  Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we are all sinners, pulling away from God toward our own selfish agenda.

Due to this sinful state, our greatest need is not doing what we want, but receiving a Deliverer from our lost condition.   Thanks to God He has provided the Deliverer—Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.  Only Christ can save us and orient us back to God, enabling us to live lives that glorify God and bless others.  Our behavior can change—but only by God’s redemptive work through Christ.

While all worldviews state that humans are basically good, the Bible teaches Fallen Dualism.  In other words, we are fallen, or sinful beings whose nature is not good but self-centered.  We are dualistic, meaning that we possess both body and soul.

This is in contrast to Monism, the belief that humans are body only, with no soul.  That belief stems from the assumptions of naturalism and evolution.  There is nothing in this physical world but things comprised of matter and molecules.  We have a brain, which can be touched because it is made of atoms. However, the soul, which is immaterial and unable to be touched, does not exist.  In this mindset, we are simply matter in motion–our brain tells us what to do, reacting to stimuli, but we have no free will and soul with which to make decisions.

On the other hand, the Bible states that God created man with both body and soul.  Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Even though created perfect, Adam and Eve sinned, disobeying God in the Garden of Eden.  Because of their rebellion, all humans are sinful.  The Apostle Paul writes about this  in Romans 5:12, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”  In spite of humanity’s sinfulness, God had mercy by sending a Savior to remove our sin and guilt.

In a biblical worldview, good mental health involves confession of sin, forgiveness granted through Jesus, and a repentant life which shows a change of heart and actions.

Our greatest need is not doing whatever we want, but redemption through Christ.  That is clear from Hebrews 9:27-28.  It says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Yet if the Christian perspective is wrong, there are questions that need to be answered.  First, if humanity possesses only a body, with no soul, why is there thought?

Remember in Monism, the belief is that humans have a body only.  We have a brain, made of atoms and molecules, but no soul, which is unable to be touched.  We are simply matter in motion–our brain tells us what to do, reacting to stimuli, but we have no free will or soul with which to make decisions.

If this is true, how did thought come from matter?  Our brain has matter, but our thoughts do not.  How is this possible?

A second question comes to mind.  All other worldviews state that humans are basically good.  Psychologist  Abraham Maslow said, “As far as I know, we just don’t have any intrinsic instinct for evil.”  But if humanity is basically good, why is there evil?  We see suffering and evil every day; we see it in our homes, neighborhoods, and other countries.  Why do these acts happen if people are good?

Maslow explained the evil this way: “Sick people are made by a sick culture.”  But think about that–we make the culture.  If we’re good, shouldn’t the culture be good as well?  What failed?  The culture?  Or the people who make the culture?

Third, if humanity needs to do whatever we want, where does it stop?  If good mental and psychological health is acting on our inner desires, do we ever say some things are not permissible?

For instance, take the issue of pedophilia.  There are people in the American Psychological Association that are debating if this is actually deviant behavior, or simply another lifestyle choice.  They say maybe those who prefer “adult-child sex” are just different, but not wrong morally.  Read articles on counselors who debate this issue–they advocate for the removal of this impulse from the list of behaviors that need therapy.

Ideas have consequences.  This issue of “intergenerational intimacy” is just one of many.  And people’s worldview assumptions, such as the nature of man being good, can take us down devastating paths if we follow them.

Some believe that humans are basically good.  That is not what we experience as we look around us.  What makes more sense is the fact that we’re sinners–people who deal evil because it is part of our nature.  And since the Bible diagnoses this problem, let’s turn to the Scriptures for the solution as well.

Since we are sinners in need of forgiveness, confession is best for good mental health.  Sadly, most of the time we make excuses for our sinful behavior.  We blame others, or justify our actions with some reasoning to make us feel better.  However, we will still feel guilty.  That’s the problem–we shouldn’t rationalize or just fell remorseful; we should repent.

Read what King David said in Psalm 32:1-5 after he dealt with the guilt of his adultery:

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Good mental health means dealing with your sin by confessing it to God and receiving forgiveness through Christ.  As we live a new life in repentance by following the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, guilt and shame can be removed.

As for what really fulfills us, it is not just doing whatever we want as we have seen some advocate.  Our goal in life should follow Jesus’ words in Matthew 27:37.  He said the Greatest Commandment was to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”  And the Second Greatest is like it: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 27:39-40).

The Bible’s Truth is clear.  What we read in the Bible is what we see in the world.  It explains our experience better than any other worldview, and when we follow God’s Truth, it allows us to thrive in all areas of our life.