Counseling and Empirical Psychology -- By: Frank C. Peters

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 126:503 (Jul 1969)
Article: Counseling and Empirical Psychology
Author: Frank C. Peters


Counseling and Empirical Psychology

Frank C. Peters

In this lecture I would like to relate pastoral counseling to empirical psychology. While theologians are usually eager to keep pastoral counseling close to theology, it is equally important that this discipline be strongly undergirded by theoretical psychology. Theology gives pastoral counseling its direction and its motivation, whereas psychology provides the necessary skills to realize the chosen objectives.

Every counselor needs the kind of organization that some psychological theory gives to his thinking. A theory about anything, as Leona Tyler says, “is simply a way of organizing what is known with regard to it and a psychological theory is a way of organizing present knowledge about human nature.”1 Most counselors find it quite feasible to adopt a general theory that seems reasonable and to stick with it, rather than to devote a large part of their own time and energy to thinking about theory. However, the evangelical counselor should be aware of the presuppositions of certain theories lest he suddenly find himself the devil’s advocate.

During the formative years of contemporary pastoral counseling two basic theories have provided the framework for the literature in this field. Dynamic psychology rooted in Freudian theory and the client-centered method of Carl R. Rogers have become normative for most of the practitioners in pastoral counseling.

It is not my intention to analyze these theories but rather to deal with those aspects of the theory which have given evangelical counselors concern.

I. Freud and Religion

No evangelical counselor in search for a theoretical framework in psychology can ignore Freud’s analysis of religion and religious behavior. Under the term “Weltanschauung,” Freud sought an intellectual construction which would give a unified solution to all problems of our existence in virtue of a comprehensive hypothesis, a construction in which no question would be left open and in which everything in which we are interested would find a place.2

For Freud, religion has its origin in man’s helplessness in confronting the forces of nature outside and the instinctive forces within himself.3 If we could suddenly abolish culture we would be left in the state of nature which does not ask us to restrain our instincts, but restricts us in another way. Nature simply threatens to destroy us, coldly, cruelly, and callously.4 It is because of this threat that we u...

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