Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. Psalm 103:2-3
Are psychology and psychiatry enemies of the faith, enemies that should be denounced and exposed? Before I really address that question, let me ask another one, “Should medicine, likewise, be considered an enemy?” Your answer, of course, may depend on whether you have appendicitis and are in a life-threatening situation, or you are in perfect health lounging in the tropical sun somewhere, sunglasses perched on your nose, and a glass of fruit juice in your hand.
For a period of time, the advances of medical science were greeted with stern rebuke by the Christian world. Scientific advances were thought of as worldly and were denounced. Even in my grandfather’s generation, some people still denounced those who went for medical help, suggesting that if they only had enough faith they would be healed.
Gradually, however, that mentality died out, and we came to recognize that God not only sets aside the natural laws of cause and effect and, on occasion, brings healing supernaturally, but He also chooses to work through the skillful hands of a physician. We have come to recognize that penicillin, which Alexander Flemming discovered, is a “godsend,” saving the lives of millions of people who otherwise would die.
Few object to antibiotics which drive away an infection that would gradually choke life from a tiny child. But can psychiatry and psychology be afforded the same tolerance if not outright acceptance as medicine? Psychiatry and psychology are not as exacting as medicine. At the same time, Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, gave psychiatry a pretty bad image with his godless search for something to hang responsibility on, and rightly so.
Bashing psychology and psychiatry has never gone out of style, but the practice is gaining new popularity today. Our English word psychiatry comes from two Greek words, psyche and iatria, which literally mean “healing of the soul.” And our word psychology comes from two words meaning “a study of the soul.” Thus far, there is no contradiction with biblical principles. The problem, however, is not the disciplines which I have mentioned, but theories or practices, no matter where they come from, which violate the principles of God’s Word, the Bible. Yes, some psychiatrists advocate principles that are in conflict with biblical teaching. Yet some ministers and priests do the same! Balancing that are godly men–yes, psychiatrists and psychologists–who are as committed to biblical principles as are those who categorically condemn them.
There are times when psychological help is vitally needed along with medication which can bring health and healing to a troubled soul, and God works through a psychiatrist or a psychologist just as certainly as He works through a surgeon who removes an infected appendix. To condemn all psychology and psychiatry, using a broad paintbrush, is attacking the innocent with the guilty. We’re shooting some of our own.
More than once, my phone has rung and a pastor who loudly condemns psychiatrists humbly asks for the name of a Christian counselor or psychiatrist, because a wife or a family member is suffering from a nervous breakdown and needs help.
If God is the author of healing and wholeness, let’s make sure we defend what should be defended and not shoot down those through whom God can bring healing and help. God is the source of healing and help, whether it comes through the pulpit, through medicine, or through psychiatry which affirms biblical principles. The real enemy–no matter where it lies–is that which violates the principles of Scripture. May God deliver us from “friendly fire” that shoots down our own. Think about it.
Resource reading: Jonah 1.
NOTE: This article was originally entitled, DISCERNING THE REAL ENEMY