Joy In God
Chapter 2
By Ward Fenley
Psychology, Joy, and the Bible

Perhaps more than any other century, the twentieth century saw the most heated debate among fundamental Christians concerning the use of extra-biblical1 psychological methods for counseling. It is very likely that the present century will likewise experience the same heated debates. Basically those who oppose extra-biblical psychological methodology argue that inherent in such methodology is the inclination toward humanism and self-sufficiency. Clearly Christianity is in opposition to humanism and self-sufficiency. However, the problem is not easy to solve when a Christian counselor declares that he or she is in opposition to the use of humanistic methods and philosophies to solve emotional, spiritual and mental problems for mankind, yet strongly affirms an extra-biblical psychological method to help a patient along with Scripture. There certainly are those counselors who profess to be Christian and yet implement humanistic means to counsel their patients. Then, as mentioned, there are counselors who use an extra-biblical psychological method and Scriptural teaching to counsel patients. Finally there is a third group that uses specifically Scriptural teaching to counsel patients.

Since our goal is to focus on obtaining joy without the use of humanistic teachings for counseling patients, we will briefly examine the motives behind the two latter positions, remembering however that in this brief observation of these two methods it is not the purpose of this book to defend any particular psychological method.

The position that affirms a psychological method that is strictly Scriptural certainly cannot be condemned, for who would condemn the use of Scripture to solve problems? Most Christians would agree that God has generally given us all that we need in Scripture to address the basic problems of mankind. Sin is definitely the greatest issue confronting mankind and Christianity finds its remedy for sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But of course we also recognize that this is first and foremost related to the actual standing of a person before God. That is, we recognize the problem of sin not so much in our relationship to each other but rather in our relationship or lack thereof to God. Through the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross, the penalty of sin is removed for the one who believes in Christís substitutionary sacrifice. In other words, the Christian believes that Christ took his or her place upon the cross as the payment for the penalty of sin. Thus, the remedy for sin is procured and restoration between God and man is accomplished. Among evangelical Christians, this point is not debated. However, the issue of sin becomes complicated when dealing with Christians who are struggling with any given sin. That is, how does the Christian address, confront, and diffuse a certain propensity to a particular sin in his or her life? Does the Christian use only the Scripture to find relief from their vice? Or do they rely upon Scripture with other means to remove their vice? For the counselor who believes in a psychological method that uses only Scripture to answer the dilemmas of the mental anguish of mankind, they usually will cite the following passages:

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: {17} That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

They argue that since all Scripture is God-breathed, and that God has given us all things for life and godliness; and since this was revealed two thousand years ago, it follows that any method created since the completion of the canon of Scripture must be regarded as humanistic and adding to that which God has prescribed for life and godliness. Granted, the application of much of this philosophy is to be greatly admired. For this philosophy obviously has a deep and reverent regard for the authority of Scripture for the solution to the problems2 of mankind. They would declare the reformed slogan, Sola Scriptura as extremely applicable to struggles of the mind. This slogan or motto is affirmed by the author here.

However, can we not make this distinction: namely that this motto is profitable and primarily concerning doctrine and theology rather than every facet of human existence? For a relatively facetious example, consider refrigerators. We use them to preserve our food. They save money. They keep our orange juice and diet Pepsi cold. They are convenient, and above all there are thousands of believers in Sola Scriptura who use them. I would venture to say that every Christian psychologist who uses a Scripture-only method to counsel patients uses a refrigerator. The point is that the term and appliance, refrigerator, is not mentioned within the pages of holy writ. However, we all (with the exception of perhaps some Amish groups) would testify to the practicality and benefit of the refrigerator. We could also mention the computer, the microwave, the hair dryer, electricity, the automobile, and thousands of other unique inventions of mankind that profoundly benefit us, many of whom believe in Sola Scriptura. So then, we can safely say that there is certainly nothing in Scripture that forbids the use of these wonderful things. In fact, we would be negligent to not give thanks to God for creating the ingenuity in man to invent such marvelous mechanisms and power:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Therefore, we can find that there are certain things that are not mentioned in Scripture that are nevertheless enormous blessings to us. The issue of worship in the church is an area where contention is widespread pertaining to the use of certain musical instruments. Many believe that there should be no instruments whatsoever in the church. Then still others believe that only a piano and organ should be used to accompany the voices (some perhaps even allowing an acoustic guitar, yet played ever so softly). And of course there are those who believe that only the instruments used in the Bible should be used. And from a search in a concordance they would identify all the passages similar to this: Psalms 150:3-6 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. {4} Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. {5} Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. {6} Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD. The question is, what is the heart of the passage? Is the passage prescribing exact instrumentation for worship? Or is the passage describing the heart of worship toward the living God? It would seem that verse six qualifies the heart of the passage: namely that is Godís desire for His people to utilize their given instrument, voice, or other means to praise the Lord. Whether the organ is used or the timbrel is used, or whether the synthesizer is used or the electric guitar is used, let those who use them praise the Lord. That is, if you are using an instrument that is not particularly named in Scripture, just be sure you praise the Lord with that instrument. Or if you have an appliance that is not necessarily named in Scripture, just use it and thank God for it. The heart of passages like the one in Psalms 150 is perhaps declaring that we have quite a degree of liberty in praising the living God, so long as whatever it is we are using to praise Him does not violate His word.

Is it possible that we could utilize this principle in the psychological arena? That is, if we find a method that is helpful and is also mentioned in Scripture, why not use it? And along the same line, if we find a method that is helpful and that does not violate Scripture, why not use it? This is not to sound humanistically pragmatic. Rather, it is to take that wisdom which God has given us; to search the Scriptures to harmonize with that wisdom; and to give guidelines and instruction in handling that wisdom.

Again, this book is not designed to support a certain psychological method. However, just because a method used in counseling a person is not explicitly identified in Scripture does not make it wrong or humanistic. This of course leads me into the thrust of this book.

The subject of joy in the Bible is gigantic. It is not my intention at all to try to find loads of extra-biblical ideas leading to the accomplishment of joy in a personís life. But it is my intention to try to exhaust what the Bible prescribes for joy in life and also unite by way of observation and experience those things in life that harmonize with Scripture and do not violate Scripture. For example, this author gets great joy out of snowboarding down a steep slope of virgin (untracked) dry powder on a bright and sunny day. In doing so I am able to give great thanks to God for granting me such a wonderful experience. There is no violation of Scripture in that experience, and quite frankly it contributes to my emotional well-being. In other words we should seek to find our joy and satisfaction in the Scripture and also in everything we do, as long as it is done with the motive of glorifying God. In the psychological arena, that is the true test of whether a psychological method is humanistic and contributing to self-sufficiency, or if it is always having the noble objective of praising and glorifying Jesus Christ.

Ward Fenley
 

1  I use the term extra-biblical only to make a distinction between those methods of psychology that are strictly Scriptural and those that use other methods that are not necessarily explicitly taught in Scripture. Almost every Christian believes in some form of psychology. The issue is not whether psychology should be used but rather what kind of psychology should be used.
2  When I use a phrase like the problems of mankind, it should be inferred that I am addressing the mental problems of discouragement that mankind experiences. Of course every social, religious, economic, and political problem has its root in the fallibility of the human mind.


ESCHATOLOGY.COM / KOSG