Page 10 - EMCAPP-Journal No. 8
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Critical Issues                                   The Christian faith has its own set of concerns
             In spite of its amazing accomplishments in its    about modern psychology. To begin with, while
             short history, questions need to be raised about   Christians affirm that knowledge can be gained
             the  limitations  of  modern  psychology  and  its   through the scientific method, there is a greater
             current  dominance  in  the  field.  Postmodern   recognition that human finitude and fallenness
             and  cross-cultural  psychologists,  for  example,   impose  restrictions  on  our  pursuit  for  know-
             have questioned the possibility of developing a   ledge,  regardless  of  our  research  methods.  In
             universal science of human beings that applies    fact, the human (or social) sciences are espe-
             to all people for all time in all cultures and cri-  cially  susceptible  to  what  has  been  called  the
             ticized  most  contemporary  psychological  re-   “noetic  effects  of  sin”  (that  is,  the  distorting
             search  for being too  westernized  and  focused   effects of sin on human understanding and re-
             on the individual.                                search, see Moroney, 1999). Such assumptions
                                                               should lead Christians to be humble about their
             But modern psychologists themselves acknow-       own psychological claims, but also to develop
             ledge  the  challenges  they  face.  Most  of  psy-  a “hermeneutic of suspicion” regarding psycho-
             chology  is  concerned  with  intangible  aspects   logies based on distorted worldviews, like natu-
             of human life that cannot be directly observed    ralism, which allow for no reference to God or
             and measured. For example, a psychological re-    the supernatural. Religious neutrality is a mo-
             searcher might collect observable, measurable     dern  myth  (Clouser,  2005).  From  a  Christian
             data from the performance of 100 people on an     standpoint, one cannot exclude God in the stu-
             intelligence  test,  but  the  real  focus  of  interest   dy of the images of God. Modern psychology,
             is the people’s intelligence, which is intangible.   therefore, dramatically misinterprets the trans-
             The observable data is necessarily one step re-   cendent, God-oriented nature of human beings
             moved from the actual intangible object of the    and views human life solely instrumentally and
             research.  Contemporary  psychology  research     adaptively.  For  instance,  it  has  been  common
             takes such matters into account mathematical-     in modern psychology to see concepts such as
             ly and by replicating previous studies, but this   agape-love, altruism, free will, and belief in God
             “gap” between the data and the object of psy-     treated as illusions and considered to be merely
             chological  interest  keeps  psychologists  from   chemical processes in the brain that are a func-
             claiming absolute certitude about their findings   tion  of  social  experiences  (this  is  an  example
             and the conclusions they can draw from them.      of  reductionism,  especially  common  among
             Even  more  problematic,  all  psychological  sci-  adherents  of  naturalism,  a  view  that  reduces
             ence  involves  making  some  assumptions  that   all unique, higher-level human experience and
             cannot  be  empirically  proven  (Koch,  1981).   activity  to  lower-level  natural  processes  that
             For instance, in order to investigate the process   humans have in common with the rest of the
             of becoming a mature person, one must have        natural world).
             some understanding of what a mature human
             looks like, and different communities disagree    To understand better the impact of worldview
             about their maturity ideals.                      assumptions on one’s psychology, let us consi-
                                                               der  the  following  interaction  from  the  stand-
             Some  contemporary  psychologists  have  also     point of naturalism and Christianity. During a
             criticized modern psychology’s reliance on na-    conversation Jesse tells Jacob he doesn‘t have the
             tural science methods (see Martin, Sugarman,      money he needs to fix his car and get to work the
             & Thompson, 2003). They point out that some       following week. Jacob tells Jesse he would like
             psychological features of human beings, such as   to give him the money he needs, and he does
             human freedom, cannot properly be described       not care if Jesse pays it back. Jesse expresses his
             just using the methods of the natural sciences.   gratitude repeatedly, takes the money, and they
             As a result, it is necessary to use human science   part ways. Believing that all human actions are
             methods  as  well,  for  example,  narrative,  eth-  fundamentally  motivated  by  self-interest,  an
             nographic,  and  phenomenological  (Creswell,     adherent of naturalism will interpret the inter-
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