Selected Implications of the Doctrine of Humanity for the Discipline of Psychology -- By: Charles A. Poe

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:1 (Fall 1998)
Article: Selected Implications of the Doctrine of Humanity for the Discipline of Psychology
Author: Charles A. Poe

Selected Implications of the Doctrine of Humanity
for the Discipline of Psychology

Charles A. Poe

Special Student
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27588

Professor of Psychology
Bluefield College
3000 College Drive
Bluefield, Virginia 24605

The class entitled, “The Doctrine of Humanity” (Hammett 1998) began by the professor reading Psa. 8:4 (KJV): “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” What is man? What is humanity? What are human beings like? How are they to be understood? These questions relate to the doctrine of humanity, or anthropology, from a biblical or theological perspective.

Psychology, an academic discipline little more than one hundred years old, a separate endeavor independent of philosophy, focuses to a large extent on much the same subject matter as that noted above. For instance, it asks the question, “What are human beings like?” Possibly the question could be framed, “What is man?” However, recent definitions of psychology would suggest an even narrower question: “What is behavior?” or, “What is mental process?” (Myers 1998).

In addition, the discipline of psychology often begins with a different question, “How are people to be understood?” The mindset of most psychologists, frequently academicians, is what Johnson (1995) labels “naturalism.” This basis for understanding people is strictly physical and materialistic. Though the biblical, orthodox, theological model allows for the supernatural, including spiritual, theistic, and revelatory phenomena, the naturalistic model does not.

Are people, however, to be understood only in physical or materialistic terms, e.g., by muscle twitches, conditioned responses, or biochemical actions and reactions? Are they totally determined by these biological processes and/or environmental events which impinge upon them? Some persons find the consideration of themselves as a sum total of mere molecular activity to be less than fully enhancing.

Theologically, the primary events of time and space are: Creation, the Fall, Restoration, and eventual Consummation (Hammett 1998). The biblical creation

account observes that man is created in the image of God. In the Fall, however, Hammett (1998) notes there is damage to this image and all human capacities, e.g., mind, will, and emotions—all is tainted by sin. Especially important is the death of the human spirit, the basis of one’s relationship to God and the coordinating, controlling function. Thus, the other c...

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