What Evangelicals Say About Psychology -- By: Janeen Carrell-Brown

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 23:0 (NA 1991)
Article: What Evangelicals Say About Psychology
Author: Janeen Carrell-Brown

What Evangelicals Say About Psychology

Janeen Carrell-Brown

Dr. Carrell-Brown (Ph.D., counselor education, Kent State University) is a clinical psychologist and an M.A. student at ATS.

When I first became a Christian in 1981, I was immediately drawn to meet other counselors and psychologists who were intentionally Christian in their professional lives. I signed up to attend a training workshop in the outskirts of Philadelphia given by a Reformed Presbyterian minister and professor of counseling named Jay Adams.1 I was excited by the Biblical teaching, seeing what the Bible had to say about anxiety and anger and relationships. However, very subtly, and eventually not so subtly, Adams spoke against and then railed against the evils of psychology and psychiatry. In essence, there was no counseling approach or technique of which he approved, except his own. He insisted that nothing could be accomplished until the client was “saved.” His Nouthetic Counseling (based only on the Bible) was the only appropriate way to help people.

I am a person who feels first and thinks second. I was internally confused. I was naive. I was unable to cognitively ponder and consider advisedly what I was hearing. I began to wonder whether I could continue to be a psychologist. (It never crossed my mind to give up my Christianity.)

It was a blessing that my husband Bill had accompanied me to the program. He thinks first and feels second. He very calmly helped me to sort out the doubts, confusions and issues. He helped me realize that Adams condemned behavioral psychology but the system he described was certainly behavioral psychology. My heart and mind were finally put at ease when Bill stated, “Janeen, God has prepared you in this direction for years. He certainly wouldn’t want you to give up all that learning and training. He wants you to use it for Him.”

Through the years I have heard of people who thought psychology was of the devil, yet it wasn’t until a client brought me the book The Seduction of Christianity2 that I could tangibly feel the fear of evangelical fundamentalists for something about which I considered them to be woefully ignorant.

The diatribe did not “hit home,” however, until several of my counseling supervisees, who are Christian, reported clients who were fearful that their pastor would learn they were seeking professional help for emotional problems. I had no real understanding of the lack of pastoral support for mental health. I had some things to learn!

This assignment is a wonderful opportunity to begin research on what the evangelical world thinks abou...

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