Are Secular Psychological Principles Compatible with the Sufficiency of Scripture?

Alan explains how the sufficiency of Scripture does not imply that the use of secular psychological principles and practices is invalid.



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Someone asked me if the sufficiency of Scripture implies that we cannot use secular psychological principles and practices for us as Christians. In other words, can Christians use secular psychology for their benefit? Now, this is an interesting question, and let me first clarify that I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and the final authority on all matters in which it speaks. I recognize also that, although God has spoken in Scripture and we call this special revelation, God has also spoken through creation. We call this general revelation. Both the Scripture and creation are a part of God speaking, if you will. These two things are going to conform to one another. They are going to agree with one another. They are not to contradict each other.

For us to learn something about the created world that God has made and to use it for our purposes and benefits seems perfectly legitimate. Just imagine, and maybe this isn't necessarily true, but imagine it was an atheist who used secular, scientific principles to discover that water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, that water is H2O. Would the fact that water is H2O somehow be an anti-Christian fact or an anti-God fact? The answer is no. There's nothing anti-God about it. If a scientist used secular, scientific principles to discover in the created world that water is H2O, he's just discovered something that's true about the world in which God created. There's nothing anti-God about that. There's nothing anti-Christian about that.

We can use this fact that water is H2O to further benefit our culture and our society. We can use the fact that water's H2O for scientific purposes or whatever it might be. There are other ways that we can learn about the world around us and about ourselves through different faculties that God has given us. For example, obviously, I've already mentioned science. Science is one tool that we can use to learn about the physical world around us, the natural world.

We also have introspection. Introspection is our ability to pay attention to what's going on inside us and to be mindful of our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, and what sorts of states of mind that we're experiencing. We can have knowledge about that through introspection.

We also have testimony. Through testimony, we can learn about current events that are happening elsewhere or about past events from the reports of other people.

We also have historical investigation. Through historical investigation, we can learn about events that have occurred in the past, and we can discover what went on.

Then we also have psychology. Through psychology, we can learn about how human beings think and how they operate and their emotions and how that affects their behavior and their attitude and how they communicate.

Notice, we have all these different faculties, all these different methods of learning about the world around us and about ourselves that are available to us for our benefit. Psychology is just one tool that could help us to learn about human beings and how we think. It's not the only tool. It's not an exhaustive tool, but it's just one tool that helps us to learn about humans and how we think.

We can use psychology and its principles to help better ourselves, maybe to help overcome some sort of addiction, or to help us in our marriages, or to become better parents, or help us in our ability to communicate to one another. I see no problem using psychology or psychological principles and practices to benefit us so long as, number one, it doesn't violate or doesn't cause us to violate any particular scriptural command. For example, if the psychological practice entails looking at porn or maybe the psychologist is encouraging you to divorce your spouse and that'll help fix something, of course, then that would be a clear indication where you can't go with those particular psychological principles or recommendations.

A second concern would be that as long as the psychological process isn't compromising the safety of the Christian. For example, maybe through some forms of hypnosis, this could make you exposed to spiritual oppression or maybe bizarre kinds of thoughts. Then, of course, maybe that's a concern as well.

So long as the psychological principles and practices don't violate those two things, I see no reason why we can't use them to further benefit ourselves.

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Alan Shlemon