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The relationship between Christianity and Psychology (Mental Health)

Updated: Mar 4

There are four major models that explain the relationship between Christianity and Psychology (Mental Health). There are other models and fields of study related to Christianity and Psychology, such as Christian Psychology, Pastoral Care, and Spiritual Direction/Formation, but I will not address those here. I will present on the four major models. Each model has their own advantages and disadvantages, academic institutions, licensing credentialing processes, and professional organizations.

1.Levels of Explanation. The Levels of Explanation model emphasizes the distinction between Christianity and Psychology. It maintains that all levels of reality are important (physical, psychological, social, theological). Each level of reality is accessible to study by the methods of each discipline and each should exist within their own boundaries. Christianity and psychology are distinct perspectives independent from the understanding of the other.

Key words/people/places: Most proponents of this model have been academics, Christians teaching at both Christian and non-Christian universities. David Myers. American Psychological Association.

2. Christian Counseling.

The Christian Counseling model emphasizes the practice of Christians providing counseling. They have set up Christian counseling centers to provide counseling derived from a Christian worldview. They embrace themes like sanctification, healing, and spiritual growth. Key words/people/places: AACC, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, James Dobson, Larry Crabb, Dan Allender.

3. Integrationist.

The integrationist model emphasizes the common ground between Christianity and psychology. Both disciplines cover the nature of human beings, human development, problems with the human condition, and solutions to help resolve human problems. This can go both ways, either a biblically based psychology, or adopting psychological studies as general revelation. Integrationists want to study psychology to see what is compatible with Scripture. Key words/people/places: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Wheaton College, George Fox, Gordon Conwell, Fuller, Rosemead, CAPS, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Richard Butman, Everett Worthington, Mark McMinn, Mark Yarhouse.

4. Biblical Counseling.

The Biblical Counseling model is critical of psychology because of its secular presuppositions and objectives are opposed to Christianity. (e.g., Self-help can be seen as anti-Gospel, trusting in oneself for salvation, instead of trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.) They provide counseling based on biblical and theological frameworks, such as repenting of sin and discipleship in Christ. They emphasize that pastors should be counseling people in the local church. Key words/people/places: Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), Jay Adams, National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, Master's College and Seminary, CCEF, David Powlison, Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, Journal of Biblical Counseling.

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