Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saying It Plainly

I spend most of my time dealing with theology, philosophy and apologetics. In all 3 of these areas it's not hard to detect the constant need for Western Evangelical Christianity to confront Her intellectual, moral and spiritual foes. In the literature, the greatest contemporary foe of Evangelical Christianity goes by many names: modernism, materialism, naturalism, physicalism, scientism, etc. To each of these can be added innumerable adjectives, as well.

But I just finished a book that is about as far away from theology, philosophy and apologetics as I am prone to get. Lest you think that I've found the time for some fiction or maybe a classic, I must say that the this book will seem to most to be just like all the rest of the stuff I talk about on this blog. It's not. Here's the info:

Eric L. Johnson & Stanley L. Jones, Psychology & Christianity: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

[There's a revised edition with a 5th view, but I don't have it yet. Since the 5th view is presented by some Biola folk (one of whom is John Coe, the most sincere, transparent and spiritually penetrating man you'll ever meet), I'll have to get it soon and finish the debate started in the first edition.]

Each of the authors discuss psychology, or Christianity in psychological categories, which is not something I'm used to. It is an interesting and engaging discussion, one that makes me wish I had paid a little more attention in the one psychology course that I took in college. But at the outset, the editors made a statement that related the psychology discussion to the aforementioned task of Western Evangelical Christian theology, philosophy and apologetics of confronting Her greatest modern foe. And the statement is much simpler, straightforward and revealing than some of the unnecessarily convoluted statements often made by theologians, philosophers and apologists. At the very least, it's a reminder of how clearly the battle lines have been drawn. What's more, it's a glimpse into another discipline where the battle rages and where Christians must be ready to engage.

"Over the lat 150 years an alternative worldview has competed [with the biblical worldview] for cultural influence, and over the course of this century it has become the dominant paradigm for understanding ourselves in Western culture, a worldview now called modernism. One feature of modernism [is] its secularism; that is, its tendency to empty culture of its religious significance, discourse, and symbols ... The secularism that has pervaded the significant writings and major institutions of the Western culture in the twentieth century is evidence that modernism has superseded Christianity in influence ... Gradually, beginning in the early twentieth century, unwritten rules developed that excluded religious views from expression in the main forms of media, education, and science in the West. As a result, religious speech was relegated to private life and to religious institutions and media ... Beyond that, with few exceptions religious considerations were dropped from public discourse."

"This move away from a religious worldview to a secular one also happened to coincide with another very significant cultural development: the application of natural science methods to areas of the world to which they had not been previously applied ... These methods began to be applied to the study of society, human consciousness and behavior, economics and business, and education ... Secularism combined with the methods of the natural sciences in the study of human nature resulted in a number of sciences being newly formed or reformed in ways that excluded reference to the supernatural beliefs or assumptions. This mix of secularization and the application of scientific methods to the understanding of animal and human behavior, emotion, personality, and thought shaped the modern version of psychology. And it is this combination which has led to the present debate among Christians about how the findings and theories of secular psychology should relate to Christian belief and practice" (p. 13-15) (author's emphasis in italics, my emphasis in bold and italics).

Let's do our best, in psychology or wherever God has placed us, to combat secularism and stand for the truth of the Christian worldview in an informed and intelligent, yet winsome and convincing manner.

No comments: