Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Psychology and the Church (seminar update)

Last night, after finishing yet another stage of our move to 15075 30th St SW (just north of Cokato), I drove my son Jon and his friend Brianna back to North Central.  It was late--we arrived in Jon's room at about midnight after dealing with parking.  (Snow emergencies make things "interesting" around here.)  Still, it was a beautiful night.  The moon was coming up full amid the cold clouds, and, as we were going through downtown Minneapolis Jonathan remarked how nice it looked with the plies of clean snow.

I'm just about to drive back to Cokato now--more cleaning to do in the house--but thought I'd say at least a little bit about what we're learning in the Psychology and the Church seminar.  There's still a lot more to learn--this class continues through May.  This is simply an attempt to share some things that just might be helpful to one or more of the readers.  It helps me organize my thoughts too.

The basic question I'm asking as I'm taking this class, doing reading and reflecting on what I'm learning is about how psychological understandings of mental health can help us in our God given callings (a) to love our neighbors (especially those who seem most broken in mind and spirit, and (b) to clear blockages to the work of the Holy Spirit** in my life and in the lives of other Christians.  I'm asking how how our personal relationship with God as His sons and daughters interacts with scientific (psychological and medical) ways of helping people heal.

Why do this?  When Jesus walked the earth, he brought healing and wholeness to many.  The word for "healing" in the Greek language is the same as the Greek word for "salvation" and "deliverance" (as in being "delivered" or "rescued" from evil).  Following Jesus and ministering in his name means more than just helping people know Jesus' love in their heads, as in "affirming" or "confirming" one's faith.  Following Jesus and ministering in his name means more than proclaiming that he will save you someday in an unearthly "heaven when you die" sort of way.  Following Jesus is more than just a fresh "coating" of good looks or nice short-lived feelings.

From what I read in scripture, Jesus acted to bring salvation and healing and deliverance from evil in his earthly ministry.  From what I read in scripture, and from what I've seen happen over and over again today, the Holy Spirit acted and continues to act through his Spirit-filled followers today, bringing the same blessings--salvation, healing and deliverance--all summarized by the Greek word "sozo."  It's my hope and prayer to be a part of doing that more effectively as I re-enter the world of active Christian ministry and leadership.

Christians have various ways of understanding how ancient and modern understandings of the psyche or "soul" interact and/or complement one another as we follow Jesus in loving God and serving our neighbor.  "Psychology" is the way that modern science works to serve and help our neighbors, but Christians generally believe that there is something missing in modern psychological understandings.  Even so, most Christian students and teachers of psychology believe that some forms of modern scientific psychology can be good allies in helping people heal and deal with the sinful self, the sinful world, and the devil's evil power.  In our class, we're looking at several contrasting ways in which Christian scholars understand the relationship between those two things--modern psychology and faithful, biblical, Holy Spirit directed, supernatural, prayerful ministry.

There's still a lot more to learn.  As a pastor, I believe it's important for me to be able to walk beside people as they heal and are delivered from evil, using whatever faithful means God may put at our disposal, whether through science or straight from the Word of God. 

Father God, may the righteousness you give be more than simply and outward coating of righteousness, but a gift that brings health and deliverance from evil in this life, as we wait for the final deliverance and salvation in heaven.  May it be done on earth now, as it is in heaven.


* God is our Father because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the faith given by that same triune God.
** Thinking of "love, joy, peace" and the other fruit of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit's gifts as in Romans 12, First Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 etc.


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