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Implications of the Resurrection for Christian Psychology

 
 

[For the month of April we have a variety of guest bloggers. This week\’s post is authored by Dr. David Jenkins, Associate Professor of Counseling, Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA]

When Eric Johnson asked if I would be a guest blogger, I knew the post would take place a couple of weeks after we celebrated Easter.  I have always appreciated the Society for Christian Psychology and the simplicity of its mission statement.  So my first thought on what this blog\’s focus would be was, \”What are the implications of the resurrection for the theory, research, and practice of Christian psychology?\”  While continuing to prayerfully consider what my contribution might be, I became increasingly convinced that this was the direction to take the discussion.  It was reassuring to have the presentation topic confirmed.  I became a bit unsettled, though, because as I spent time pondering this topic, I realized I had taken it for granted and not really thought through this before-at least not in any kind of systematic way.  \”Yikes,\” I thought, \”I\’m supposed to blog on this for public display to the SCP!\”

So what follows are some thoughts about what difference the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ makes for Christian psychology.  While I hope I can inform to some degree, my intent is more to spur some discussion among you.  I\’ll present some general thoughts first and then some implications for the theory, the research, and the practice of Christian psychology.

 General Implications

Because of the resurrection, Christian psychology should be characterized by pervasive qualities of:

  • 1. Hope (Rm 8:20-25).
  • 2. Life (Mt 22:29-32).
  • 3. Freedom (Rm 6:5-14).
  • 4. Evangelism (Ac 26:22-29).
  • 5. Transformation (Php 3:20-21).
  • 6. Purpose (1 Cor 15:12-22).

 Theory Implications

Higgins (2004) identified aspects of useful theory.  Useful theories are: testable, coherent, economical, generalizable, and explanatory.  Interestingly, he added a sixth aspect beyond these common five-generativity.  Isn\’t that fascinating?  Good theory should also \”give birth and life\” to further theory.  I believe a suitable word to go along with this is \”heuristic\”-the theoretical work of Christian psychology should guide in the investigation and discovery of who God is, what He\’s like, and what that means for those created in His image. 

The resurrection means that what we presently see, touch, hear, smell, and taste is not all there is to this story of being human.  We are not in a \”closed\” universe, meaning that God has always been and remains active and immanent.  Surely, this ought to stimulate \”holy\” (i.e., set apart) theory that\’s qualitatively different than what modern psychology presently offers.  And as Christian psychology seeks to recover and nurture its historical identity found within biblical Christianity, \”resurrecting\” that identity after a century of neglect, division, and abuse seems like an appropriate way to describe this effort.  In what ways do you believe the theory of Christian psychology is shaped by the resurrection?

 Research Implications

Jones (2002) described functions of research: modification, illustration, explanation, exploration, affirmation, prediction, and correction.  Although space doesn\’t permit elaboration on each of these functions, a couple of examples will clarify this point.  The resurrection \”modifies\” what I know and believe about persons created in the image of God.  The resurrection \”illustrates\” the pattern of creation, fall, and redemption present in the universe, but particularly in human beings.  You could construct similar thoughts regarding the other functions of research.

Beyond these implications, the resurrection should affect the \”content\” of Christian psychology\’s research as well as its \”process.\”  Probably more than any other, the general implication of hope should influence our research.  Topics such as resilience, optimal functioning, and the power of a well-lived life seem uniquely suited to a discipline whose foundational beliefs include the resurrection.  What other research content and process areas do you believe are uniquely shaped by the resurrection?

 Practice Implications

Sizemore (2006) outlined elements of a counseling model derived from a Christian psychology perspective.  He included elements regarding the nature of epistemology, persons, health, pathology, and treatment.  What we believe about what we know and how we know it is radically affected by the resurrection.  Let\’s face it-even the apostle Paul identified the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the defining issue of the reality of our faith.  To believe in the resurrection requires us to step outside of naturalistic approaches to our work with persons.  Once again, I believe the general issues of hope, death as a precursor to life, freedom, making God known, transformation, and purpose influence my intentionality as a practitioner of soul care.  How is your work with people affected by the resurrection?

 Conclusion

I love Jesus…and, really more importantly, He loves me!  I am a living example of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.  Some of you may know part of my story, and the details really aren\’t that important to our purposes here.  But just know that God took me from hopelessness, death/destruction, bondage, darkness, distortion, and futility.  He brought me lovingly and radically into hope, life, freedom, knowledge of Him, transformation, and purpose!  I\’m certain many of you can testify to the same \”resurrection power\” in your own life.  May God continue to bless this project of Christian psychology and those who are part of it!

I look forward to your comments and contributions!

 References:

Higgins, E.T. (2004). Making a theory useful: Lessons handed down. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8(2), 138-145.

Jones, I.F. (2002). Research in Christian counseling: Proving and promoting our valued cause. In T. Clinton & G. Ohlschlager (Eds.), Competent Christian counseling (pp. 641-657). Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook.

Sizemore, T.A. (2006). The five domains: A Christian psychology model for counseling. Retrieved August 6, 2007, from Society for Christian Psychology Web site: http://www.aacc.net.net/email/media/scp_2.ppt

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