Psychology is a diverse field where the main subject is the human being, the individual. Biological psychology studies the biological basis of behavior (including neuroscience), cognitive psychology examines the role of thinking/believing, social psychology studies the customs and principles of human interaction, and developmental psychology examines the growth of the individual (child, teen, and adult) over time. There are other tangential or specialized fields in psychology such as historical, educational, or evolutionary psychology, but these are not usually fields you can specialize in as an undergraduate.
Psychology obviously dovetails with a number of other professions, such as business, law, medicine, journalism, and education. Psychologists are desired and received in most job sectors.
The study of psychology, from a Christian perspective, is interesting because it is the study of the human being without the light of special revelation. That is, without theology or scriptural insight. It studies the essential nature of individuality and is very helpful in capturing the inner workings of the mind and human behavior. Its limits, however, are defined by the often liberal posturing of the secular psychology researchers–for example, the androgyny or de-genderizing agenda ignores easily observable differences between male and female development, especially in children. And often the “fleshly” side of human nature is captured at the expense of the moral or “spirit-filled” side. Studies on altruism, for example, are riddled with unhelpful and conflicting theories of evolutionary development of conscience instead of the common sense nod to religion or reason, which is normally the basis for moral development. Studies about empathy are likewise ad hoc.
More importantly, the whole field of psychology is led astray by its supposed claim to be a science. Since Freudianism died out in the 1930s and 40s, psychology turned scientific and purports to be neutral and objective in its discoveries. But professional psychologists and the APA are far from objective… They are committed to methodological naturalism (i.e. agnosticism/atheism), humanism (man is essentially good), moral relativism (i.e. what’s “good” changes with time and culture), and evolution. Many psychologists are mini-philosophers, creating semi-religions of their own as they delve into matters of free will, the nature of things, and morality. The result of these commitments and philosophizing is hardly a comprehensive or objective snapshot of the human being, but rather an assortment of politically correct notions. Some of these notions are indeed testable and helpful. Others are a stumbling block, at best. Behavioral and cognitive therapy, as well as some forms of counseling, have yielded some of the best results the psychological world has to offer. But much of the psychological world has gone astray, yet chases after itself within the closed world of the Academy. Any honest researcher will tell you that they can make their data say anything they want; choose the wrong interpretation, however, and you are out of the Ivory Tower. This is hardly objective “science.” It is protected politics.
Some of the most controversial or “charged” areas of psychology today, for the Christian, are:
These fields would be very difficult to be in because of the sheer weight of the Academy, pushing contemporary trends that are anti-biblical. Psychologists are often called in to “enlighten” these fields, but their prescriptions only push people farther away from Scriptural tenets and guidelines. In the field of gender/sexuality, psychology has dismantled notions of gender identity, gender roles, heterosexuality, abstinence, purity, pregnancy, and child-training in favor of theories which promote androgyny, feminism, LGBT, promiscuity, experimentation, abortion, and rebelliousness. Pushing against any one of these sacred cows is grounds for censure. In the field of education, psychology has lost faith in traditional methods such as core curriculum, drill, phonics and arithmetic, teacher authority, parents, and code of conduct. Instead, they have embraced a liberal commitment to child-centeredness, values clarification, teacher facilitation, federal intervention, financial solvency, and multiculturalism. They are not willing to abandon these values despite the failure of public schools and American education, and despite the brave naysayers in their own field. Obviously the field of ethics is a dangerous foray too, because appeals must be made without religious support or invoking absolute morality. Ethical psychologists are called on in perhaps every professional field in existence including courts, hospitals, laboratories, correction facilities, Boards of Trustees, and industry. But political correctness and deconstruction constrict the range of argument so much that it is almost impossible for a Christian to converse. Secular psychologists, in denying the soul, dignity, and uniqueness of human beings (i.e. the image of God), have essentially destroyed the very object of their study. They cannot sufficiently guard us anymore.
This is not to say that a Christian should not major or enjoy psychology. There is much to learn and discover, especially when it comes to observable behavior. But when it comes to what is inside the heart/mind of man—the unobservable things — secular psychology gets it wrong almost every time. Thus, Christian psychologists should know that a major revising of what is learned is necessary at all times—comparing results to what the Bible says about man, and comparing prescriptions to what the Creator commands, is necessary to filter everyday lectures and readings throughout college. If a Christian then enters the professional field of psychology, ethics which come from God rather than from the field must narrow the experiments he performs, the counsel he gives, the techniques he uses, or the interpretations he invents. The Holy Spirit is able to blow on the work of a psychologist, but it takes dedication and commitment to His authority.
In posts to follow, we will examine the more “religious” commitments of secular psychology and how to sidestep them so that they do not infiltrate biblical belief. We will also propose better assumptions.