Monday, July 9, 2012

Intro Letter-December 2011

Last year was the first year I was able to work with this newsletter, Soul & Spirit. I learned a lot about editing, I learned a lot about Christian psychology, and I learned a lot about patience. We are already well into a new year and I am looking forward to this year as much as last. I expect some great contributions once again from a variety of authors, some old and some new.  This issue brings with it a variety of articles as always including an extended piece from Robert Yarbrough, PhD. As always, I welcome any thoughts you may have.

Jason Kanz, PhD
Marshfield Clinic

Dulling the Dichotomies: Antidotes to Antinomies in Paul

1.         The Seemingly Schizo Human Status Quo

Christians have always looked to the Bible for comfort and guidance. But more than a few passages taken in isolation might not seem particularly user-friendly for such purposes. Some examples:[i]

… all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:9-12; the litany continues for seven more verses).

I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me (Rom 7:9-11).
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate ….For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing …. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:14, 15, 18-19, 21-24)
… you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Cor 3:3)

Whom Do I Trust? or "The Heart of Christian Psychology"

In Eric Johnson’s (2010) “Psychology & Christianity: Five Views” we can follow, on the basis of a number of positions, the discussion on how psychology and Christian faith are related to each other. Johnson deserves thanks not only for presenting these five positions, but also for bringing individual advocates of each position together in a critical discussion in which each author comments on each article by the others.

Thanks to this variety of views, it came back to me again with renewed clarity that all our knowledge is partial and will pass away. The question I ask myself is: “Whom do we actually trust in developing psychological concepts and models, in our empirical work and in the resulting practical work in therapy and counselling: reason, our understanding? Our experience? Science? The triune God?

I would like to suggest this provocative definition of Christian psychology: a Christian psychology is the psychology – regardless of which of the five positions described in the book it may represent – which makes use of understanding, experience and science, but in all of these ultimately trusts God and genuinely reckons with his concrete help, whether in scientific research or in practical application with the desire to honour him.

In my judgment, we need the inclusion of psychology as a science along with the other humanities and social sciences, including theology, in order to be able to understand better human life and living together - with the aim of reducing the errors in our scientific understanding. This is one of my central concerns. The reduction of errors is our responsibility.

But: For the blessing, God is responsible. This means that we must trust HIM for the final success. This is no lip-service, but a real expectation, challenging me to work constantly in deepening my relationship with God and to grow into using the gifts of the Holy Spirit: how can I best give the Holy Spirit room in my psychological research, teaching and concrete help for persons, and allow HIM to work?
I hope that the individual articles and the overall impression of our new internet journal, Christian Psychology Around The World, provide testimony of this.

You will find the corresponding e-paper at:

Werner May
IGNIS-Institute for Christian Psychology, Germany
President of the European Movement for Christian Anthropology, Christian Psychology and Christian Therapy (

Oh Yet to Be Like Christ

Over the last few years, I’ve sensed a heart-felt pull to discover what it means to know God in such a way that it leads me to an ever deepening desire to be like Christ… by that I mean to be like Christ in full surrender and in freedom from the attachments to “be like God.”  This be-like-God mentality has been Satan’s pull into the worldly perspective since the fall, just as He had enticed Adam and Eve through false logic and reason, to pull away from God and to go it on their own.

To expand upon this theme, I’d like to start with a personal story about my life that I believe pertains.  My husband and I are in the empty nest stage of family relationship. Out of the emptiness with this loss of our children’s presence, we have added two new additions to our family in the form of toy poodles.  Clearly the addition of these sweet ones is a way of adding interest in our home and to fill a love spot for us until the grandbabies arrive. 

As we’ve been learning all the ins and outs of current trends in training our dogs, we’ve studied about their pack mentality.  Successful training from this viewpoint requires us, as owners, to become the “leaders of the pack,” or if you will, the Alpha dogs within our home.  In watching videos and reading current literature on this subject, I’ve begun to realize that there is a very deep draw within myself, which is very different from all the pulls over the years where I’ve desired to “do things on my own,” to follow my own visions and plans or to pursue my own ideas of what I believe my life should look like.  Rather, this draw is to truly live out life under the “Leader of our pack;” our Alpha Jesus Christ, under the authority of God the Father through the Holy Spirit.

The desire to do things on my own or for the sake of “my own kingdom” is, I believe, the “tragedy” that is referred to by Oswald Chambers in his book, The Place of Help.  Chambers states that, “not until we realize that there is something tragic at the basis of human life shall we recognize the love of God,” or I believe truly KNOW Him.  As I’ve looked at the “tragedy” of life for myself, my clients and the world at large, perhaps it isn’t so bad after all to follow a Leader that sets a vision for the good of all, has plans in place, disciplines and guides us in our roles, and walks with us on our journey of representing Him.  It is not the vision that I or those whom I serve might design; yet we have to remember that, like Christ, we do each have a God-given role.  

Though the priorities and plans He establishes as our Leader often differ from those that we envision, we do walk in good stead as we “imitate Christ” in surrender and abandonment to the One True God. He formed each one of us individually from the beginning.  He has the perfect fulfillment of all that we could ask or imagine according to His plans and work within us.  He knows our deepest hungers, thirsts and needs (and He knows little furry creatures will not fill them)! 

Lord, help us to turn away from our drives to act in your stead, to satisfy ourselves and our visions, and to essentially replace You as the Alpha and the leader of the pack.  Let us turn towards being image bearers of Yourself through being like your Son in full surrender to You and Your Glory!

Valerie Murphy, LCPC, SD, BCPCC
Foundation Counseling and Training

Tailoring Interventions to Match Sin Motivations

A typical definition of sin is that it is disobeying God or “missing the mark”.  These simplistic descriptions are often learned during childhood. However, as the person matures his understanding of sin needs to also mature. Sin is a complex subject demonstrated by the numerous terms used in the Bible. Some terms emphasize the cause of sin, including ignorance, error, and inattention. Other terms focus on the character of sin such as missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, iniquity or lack of integrity, rebellion, treachery, perversion, and abomination. In addition, there are terms that center on the results of sin such as agitation or restlessness, evil or badness, guilt, and trouble. [i] Theologians have attempted to describe the central aspects of sin. A survey of nine contemporary theologians[ii] resulted in 13 different descriptions of the essence of sin. Sin was described as sensuality, disruption of shalom, sloth, selfishness, pride, unbelief, mistrust, lawlessness or transgression, covenant breaking, apostasy, rebellion, idolatry, and power. These descriptions have given us a greater depth to our understanding of sin. This understanding needs to be applied in the counseling room.

Book Review: God and the Art of Happiness

In her previous book By the Review of Your Minds (1997), Ellen Charry constructively proposes that theology has a pastoral function and should serve human flourishing. In the process of making her case, she demonstrates that “classical doctrinal theology” was motivated by this purpose. Now, in her latest book, God and the Art of Happiness, she picks up on her previous argument and more narrowly pursues it with the notion of happiness. Her attention turns to this topic “when [her] beloved husband and companion of forty years died an untimely and pointless death" (p. ix). She laments that much theological reflection on grief and suffering focuses on the traumatic experience and questions surrounding God’s presence in the midst of pain. Charry takes a different tack. She connects the pursuit of happiness to the reality of pain. And, she does so by theologically constructing a holistic approach to happiness. Charry suggests that within Christian theology “happiness has been primarily construed in terms of eschatology.” So, from this perspective, “attending to temporal happiness,” she argues, “is at least beside the point.” 

Renting Lacey: A Book Review

Almost two years ago, I was asked to serve on an advisory board for the rescue and recovery efforts of American children and teens enslaved in sex trafficking. In my examination of the available literature on this topic, I came across a small book by Linda Smith, a former U.S Representative from Washington State and more recently the founder of Shared Hope International and War Against Trafficking Alliance (WATA). This brief, but powerful text was not written for the scholar but for compassionate individuals from all walks of life.

The title of the book, Renting Lacy, was derived from a conversation Smith had with her husband who stated, “…these girls’ young bodies are being rented out by the hour” (p. v). Typically, these child victims are required to service between ten to twenty men per night. Until quotas are met, basic needs such as food and shelter are often withheld. In addition, violence fills their lives and escaping is not an option.

Leisure and Christian Psychology

Much of our culture’s attitude to work is displayed in the way that we describe its absence.  In contemporary life, we think of Monday through Friday as a typical “work week” and tend to look forward to the “weekend” when we can have a “break” from work; even better than this are the intermittent “vacations” we are able to “take.”   But a careful look at these terms will indicate that they convey not a fullness, a presence, but rather simply a temporary cessation of “work.”  Our culture even justifies these “breaks” and “vacations” by recourse to productivity:  a rested worker is a happy worker, and therefore a more productive worker. 

Spiritual Theology & Christian Psychology

In the classical tradition of spiritual theology, which is itself an ancient form of Christian Psychology, three development stages have been identified as relates to the progress of a Christian in terms of his or her relationship with God. These three stages have traditionally been referred to as the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. As a Christian reaches deeper levels of sanctification (what the classical tradition often refers to as holiness), they advance through these stages, though most mystical writers readily admit that few persons advance to the unitive stage in this life. 

Around the Web-December 2011

The Washington Post discusses some recent changes with regard to the self-esteem movement. Promoting self-esteem, regardless of success, has met with some academic failings. Though confidence levels are often high, performances are not. As Christian psychologists, examining the construct of self-esteem from a biblical worldview may be a useful endeavor.

One of the distinctives of Christian psychology seems to gain wisdom by looking backward. We learn about psychology not only from modern conceptions of mental health, but also by considering biblical wisdom, church history, and Christian philosophy. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement based upon two decades of scientific research that has shown that children raised in toxic environments grow up with problems. Laurie Fendrich, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, identifies a common modernist bias. She writes, “No matter how obvious the observation, how eternal the topic, how great the works of literature that have tackled any given theme, or how insightful the philosophers who have studied a matter, the modern mind cannot fathom reaching a conclusion without relying on scientific studies.” We can learn from a variety of disciplines and traditions and should continue seeking to do so.  

Intro Letter-September 2011

Happy 2012.  We initially put this newsletter together during the Fall, but a number of circumstances delayed its release and for that, I apologize. One of those things that slowed us down was the 25th annual world conference of The American Association of Christian Counselors, our parent organization.  I was privileged to attend the event and witness a number of great speakers.  I also had conversations with some of you and I am encouraged about the body of the Society for Christian Psychology.  The newsletter this is late in coming, but I do hope you are edified by the number of worthwhile articles again on a broad range of topics including: 9/11, the need for empirically supported treatments, an examination of mindfulness versus Spiritual Mindedness,  conscience, laughing, crying, and ways of being a sexual minority.  As always, I welcome questions from readers. 

Grace and Peace,
Jason Kanz PhD
Marshfield Clinic