The Enemies Model: Learning from Secular and Christian Combatants
Conflict is often an unavoidable part of the human experience. Differing worldviews can lead people who subscribe to them to clash to defend their values and beliefs. Such disagreements can extend beyond simply protecting one’s worldview, and many combatants seek to discredit one idea to elevate the one they subscribe to. However, it can be argued that it is possible to learn valuable lessons from those who hold opposing opinions. Thus, secular combatants who advocate for the notions of psychology can benefit from Christian learning, while their Christian opponents can gain a new perspective from studying psychological tenets.
The relationship between psychology and Christianity, and religion as a whole, has been tumultuous. Countless religious people believe that psychology is unnecessary and the Bible can provide all the necessary insights into the human psyche. Meanwhile, many non-theistic people that appreciate the value and effect of psychology on the health and well-being of the world’s population argue that religion is no longer necessary and even damaging (Poole et al., 2019). Thus, psychology and theology are often considered mutually exclusive and locked in an antagonistic relationship (Entwistle, 2015). The two disciplines are enemies, with secular combatants claiming religion is incompatible with mental health and intellectual discourse, while Christian combatants see psychology as an obstruction to an honest Christian life (Entwistle, 2015). Nevertheless, it can be asserted that psychology and theology should not be regarded as completely opposing entities. According to Entwistle (2015), these disciplines share a common goal and provide “different approaches to understanding and studying human behavior” (p. 1). Therefore, several important lessons can be learned from secular and Christian combatants and their understanding of human nature through psychology and religion.
One lesson that psychology teaches and can be learned from secular combatants is tolerance. Research findings show that religious beliefs and practices can benefit one’s mental health and well-being (Entwistle, 2015). Poole et al. (2019) claim that religion and spirituality can help people cope with mental health illnesses to a degree. It is essential to account for one’s religious beliefs or absence thereof and to treat those views and opinions with respect, even in case of conflicting views. Meanwhile, a rigid subscription to an authoritarian religious belief and intolerance to other worldviews is unproductive and damaging to any person’s psyche (Entwistle, 2015). In this regard, some of the teachings offered by the Bible are concerning. For example, in 1 Timothy passage 6:3-4, teaching different doctrines is discouraged and described as evil surmising (Bible Gateway, 2022). Therefore, psychology promotes tolerance to other beliefs and opinions, and it is a valuable lesson that can be learned from it and contemporary secular combatants, as to reject religion entirely is to potentially harm a person.
Secular combatants can also be appreciated for promoting the scientific understanding of reality and human experiences. Freud, in particular, believed in the significance of scientific knowledge of the human psyche and claimed psychoanalysis plays a primary role in providing such an understanding (Entwistle, 2015). Careful collection and examination of facts and their subsequent interpretation can provide psychologists with an exhaustive comprehension of various mental health diseases and causes. Moreover, a scientific approach can result in the discovery and further development of effective treatment methods that can help thousands of people. Nevertheless, it should be noted that human life and consciousness are extraordinarily complex and multifaceted, and many phenomena cannot be thoroughly explained (Konkola, 2019). In addition, a scientific clarification proposed by psychologists may not bring comfort to a person suffering from a mental health issue. Overall, the scientific base psychology suggests is of great benefit to humanity. However, as many of the earliest scientific propositions and explanations no longer hold weight, it is important to remark that changes in the scientific explanations in psychology can change with time to reflect new trends and evidence.
Finally, the Christian combatant belief that psychology should be practiced by Christians and within the church can be partially appreciated. According to John MacArthur, a prominent Christian combatant, “psychology can only be done by Christians, and that specifically Christian resources are sufficient to do such work” (Entwistle, 2015, p. 204). MacArthur’s claim that only Christians have a thorough and unique understanding of the human psyche and condition can be viewed as somewhat incendiary and lacking evidence (Entwistle, 2015). It can be argued that psychological help offered by the church can be exceptionally beneficial to people of the faith faced with mental health issues. Therefore, a lesson to learn from Christian combatants is that it is crucial to realize what activities or beliefs can provide relief to those suffering from mental health problems and facilitate their recovery. Thus, faith and Christian counseling can be beneficial for people of faith; however, one’s desire to seek help beyond the church should not be discouraged.
In summary, psychology and theology are often presented as two opposing disciplines that have no common ground. Both religion and psychology can provide invaluable insight and understanding of the human experience. These disciplines aim to offer people treatment and alleviate their mental health issues. However, secular combatants who praise psychology often question the value of faith in human life, while Christian combatants distrust psychology. Nevertheless, important lessons can be learned from both sides of the opposition.
Bible Gateway. (2022). 1 Timothy 6:3-4 – King James Version. Web.
Entwistle, D. N. (2015). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity: An introduction to worldview issues, philosophical foundations, and models of integration. Cascade Books.
Konkola, K. (2019). What psychology might learn from traditional Christianity. Humanities, 32(2), 125–154. Web.
Poole, R., Cook, C. C., & Higgo, R. (2019). Psychiatrists, spirituality and religion. British Journal of Psychiatry, 214(4), 181–182. Web.