What Good is Secular Psychology?

Common Grace

For some, secular psychology has a bad reputation, but could there be value to it? In this video created in cooperation with the Association of Biblical Counselors, Eric Johnson, Professor of Pastoral Soul Care at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, encourages Christians to give God thanks for the common grace we find with secular human scientists.

Eric Johnson is an associate editor of the Journal of Psychology and Theology and author of Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal. He has also authored articles for the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling and co-edited and contributed to Christianity and Psychology: Four Views and God Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents God.  

Eric said we grew up in a culture where the human sciences were developed in a secular world. The major players, researchers, and theorists have developed their work as if God didn’t exist.  

What are your general thoughts on secular psychology and what value, if any, it has for the church? Have you ever thought about secular psychology in relation to the church before?
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It’s easy and understandable for Christians to feel a bit threatened by the human sciences if they do not explicitly consider God in their findings. Eric says there’s no reason to feel threatened, however. The human sciences—Christian and non-Christian—belong to God. He is the Lord of the universe, and science is a gift of common grace from God.  

Does Eric’s perspective challenge your thinking at all? Why or why not?
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Common grace is the grace of God that is common to all mankind. As such, the human sciences are ways God gifts the entire world and our culture so that He can prosper and bless humankind through them.

Eric gave two particular research fields that have blessed humankind, though they didn’t originate from Christian thought:

  • intelligence research
  • attachment research

Both of these ares of research have helped humankind.  Intelligence research has altered schooling to help both mentally ill and mentally advanced students. Attachment research gives insight into the best and healthiest ways to raise children.

What other blessings or contributions do you see in our culture that haven’t necessarily come from Christians? Does Eric’s message grow your appreciation for them? Why or why not?
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Eric said that the advances in secular psychology, though helpful, do create a dilemma for Christians because we are interested in human beings for the glory of God. He said we need to become deeply acquainted with our belief system and Christian worldview so that we’re able to read secular psychology and other sciences through Christian “glasses.”  

How knowledgable would you say are when it comes to the Christian faith? How well can you articulate it? Do you believe you’re able to discern what is “Christian” and what isn’t? Why or why not?
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Eric said that the goal for Christians is to disentangle truth from secularism and tell the full truth about God’s universe and the way He created and redeemed humankind. Ideally, our defense would be able to hold its own and be just as intelligently responsible as what we find in secular psychology, but it would have Jesus at the center. 

What new questions do you have about your faith and how it intersects with science?
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The relationship between faith and science is a complex one, and in many ways, Christians are just now beginning to navigate it. As you continue to grow in faith, knowledge, and understanding, remember to pray to the God of all wisdom for His insight and truth. And don’t be afraid! Remember, God is the Lord of all creation. He is bigger than all of your questions and infinite in mercy and love. 

To find out more about the Association of Biblical Counselors, click here.