How God Is Good for the Soul -- By: Eric L. Johnson

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 07:4 (Winter 2003)
Article: How God Is Good for the Soul
Author: Eric L. Johnson

How God Is Good for the Soul

Eric L. Johnson

Eric L. Johnson is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology in the Department of Christian Counseling and Family Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He completed the Ph.D. (educational psychology) at Michigan State University. Dr. Johnson has edited two books, one of which is Psychology and Christianity: Four Views (InterVarsity, 2000). This article is adapted with permission from a chapter from a forthcoming book published by InterVarsity entitled: Divine Counsel: The Supremacy of God in Christian Soul-Care, co-authored with Diane Langberg.

Many of the greatest Christian thinkers have believed that knowing God and knowing one’s self were intimately interwoven, including Augustine, Bonaventure, John Calvin, and Sören Kierkegaard.1 Calvin called the knowledge of God and the knowledge of one’s self the sum and substance of all “true and sound wisdom” and believed they were thoroughly interdependent.2 As Kierkegaard briefly put it, “The more conception of God, the more self; the more self, the more conception of God.”3 The more one knows God, he believed, the more one becomes a self (a responsible person as Christianly conceived); and the more one becomes such a self, the more deeply one can appreciate God. The best of historic Christian thought has consistently maintained that it is not possible to know one’s soul accurately apart from a corollary knowledge of God. Such a stance offers a radical reconceptualization of the field of counseling, currently conceived of in thoroughly secular terms. But the secular stance of modernism/ postmodernism is nothing more than a communally-based assumption that was largely unquestioned in the twentieth century. For the Christian community, grounded as it is in the Christian Scriptures and, secondarily, in the Christian tradition, an accurate understanding of human nature and oneself can only proceed in concert with one’s knowledge of God (and vice versa).4

To develop a distinct psychology and form of counseling and psychotherapy that is foundationally Christian, then, requires a deeper exploration of the implications of this “bi-polar” stance. The purpose of this article is a consideration of the mental health benefits of prayerfully meditating upon some of the main features of God’s nature.

Some Psychospiritual Benefits of the Experience of Some of God’s Attributes

Because of the thorough interdependence of self-understanding and Godunderstanding according to Christian thought, we ...

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