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Psychology: Definition and Background



"A quest for novelty overshadows the search for reality"
(Warren Wiersbe)


We cannot have an understanding of who man is (psychology) without having an understanding of who God is (theology). It is our theology that interprets our psychology. We have to have a right theology to have a right psychology. If our theology isn't right, our psychology is going to be wrong. If you want to understand who you are, you have to first understand who God is. - anon.

   Definitions of Psychology:

1. Psychology is the Science of Mental Life
2. Psychology is the Science of human behavior, thoughts and feelings. Developmental psychology is that branch of psychology that investigates how these develop in human beings. (Child Development-A First Course - See Selected Bibliography) Psychology is concerned with the mind and with behavior. As these are largely human characteristics, we can take things further and say that psychology is the science concerned with the experience of being
human. (Introduction to Psychology - See Selected Bibliography)

   Background of Psychology:

Secular psychology actually began life with subjects like philosophy, theology and even mythology. These subjects were the main means of answering questions such as;

   What is man?
   What is his place in the universe?
   How should he behave? etc.

Rousseau, a famous French philosopher of the 18th Century, felt that if children were badly-behaved, it was because other people made them like that. - Do you believe that?

Gradually, though, in the 19th Century, psychology began to move away from such speculative subjects and identify itself more with experimental sciences such as anatomy, medicine, sociology and so on.

Here are some examples of topics studied by the early psychologists:

   The speed of pain in nerve cells, Physiology
   Expression of emotions in animals and man, Darwin
   Does a big skull mean a big brain, Phrenology
   How animals learn, Pavlov's Dogs
   How memory works, Ebbinghaus
   Hypnosis and the unconscious mind, FreudGrouping children by intelligence, Binet

From these small beginnings, secular psychology has expanded into an enormous field of study,

   Biological Basis of Behavior (Brain and the Nervous System)
   Developmental Psychology (Child Psychology)
   Learning, Perception and Thought
   Personality
   Intelligence and Aptitudes
   Emotions and Motivation
   Social Psychology (Group Psychology)
   Abnormal Behavior/Psychotherapy
   Statistics

In their book "Child Development-A First Course" the authors confess the following: "And now for the final confession. There are some questions that the scientific methods of psychology will never answer. "What is morally right and wrong?" This question is beyond the scope of psychology, belonging instead to ethics or religion." (Child Development-A First Course - See Selected
Bibliography) This indicates that psychology is incomplete in its purpose. However, Christian psychology has an obvious advantage to the "spirit-filled" Christian counselor, whose faith is founded in Christian Truth. With this, there should be no confusion to the Christian counselor as to the importance of working in both the spiritual and psychological worlds that are before us.

How important is psychology to the Counseling Practitioner?

Important! The term psychology comes from the Greek word "psyche" meaning Soul - the mind, will and emotions, all of which are created by God. Therefore, this makes psychology important to the Christian counseling practitioner. We cannot spiritualize everything because God created our "psyche" or soul
as well. We need to work in the spirit when appropriate as well as in the soul when appropriate. To work in one area would be limiting as well as foolish and possibly dangerous to the client/patient.

To many Christians the term psychology is very threatening, when it doesn't have to be. My experiences have shown that they simply assume rather than understand its importance. These people are judging secular psychology and not understanding Christian psychology, missing its real meaning and place
in Christian ministry. Most psychologists would agree that psychology by itself is an incomplete discipline in and of itself but would also recognize its importance in understanding behavioral patterns.

The dangers and deceptions of psychology is not necessarily in psychology by itself, but in the "Psychological Treatments" and "Secular Therapies" administered.




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