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Teaching the History of Christian Psychology: Looking at the past, pointing to the future. Philip G. Monroe, PsyD Michael R. McFee, PsyD www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com. What is Christian psychology?. Akin to asking what is psychology (what isn’t within the scope of psychology?)

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teaching the history of christian psychology looking at the past pointing to the future

Teaching the History of Christian Psychology:Looking at the past, pointing to the future

Philip G. Monroe, PsyD

Michael R. McFee, PsyD


what is christian psychology
What is Christian psychology?
  • Akin to asking what is psychology (what isn’t within the scope of psychology?)
    • We expect to have many permutations and modalities
  • And yet we expect to have some distinctives
    • High value of the biblical text in shaping the field and our gaze (different form early psychology of religion focus)
    • Also connectivity to the stream of Christian thought (e.g., biblical theology/anthropology, ecclesiology, eschatology, philosophy, etc.)
histories of psych often contain
Histories of psych. often contain:
  • Great men/celebrationist approach
  • Start with the Cartesian dilemma and the beginnings of modernist divorcing fact and faith ending with James’ psychology of religion
  • Modernist assumptions unchallenged though nods given to Kuhn and Gadamer
  • Atomism, subfields emerging
  • Primary emphasis on clinical psychology & therapy as a field/industry (last 100 years)
what might be missing
What might be missing
  • Key content areas
    • Prior to Descartes?
    • Pastoral care streams? Theologies of persons? Other disciplines? Fundamentalist-modernist debates
    • Significant depth in area of critical thinking and epistemologies exposure and analysis
    • Exposure to emerging models
  • Key pedagogical methods
    • Do students leave the course with the view to continued study and how it relates to their current practice as therapist?
    • Real connections outside of the discipline
missing content sufficient critical analysis of modernism in psychology
Missing content: sufficient critical analysis of modernism in psychology
  • Criticism of Modernism, possible re-connections between faith and fact
    • Modernist assumptions
    • Fundamentalism/modernism debates
    • Evangelical buy-in to modernism
    • Postmodern criticisms and philosophy of science
anton boisen
Anton Boisen
  • “Thus it is come to pass that the erstwhile Queen of the Sciences under whose protective care our colleges and even our state universities were founded and nurtured is today a monarch without a throne. The men of today worship at the shrine of science and give to it the same unthinking devotion which formerly was given to accepted religious dogmas. Meanwhile the term “scientific” has become a sort of shibboleth used commonly with only the haziest conception of its fundamental principles.” [1]
  • [1] Boisen, A.T. (1936). The exploration of the inner world: a study of mental disorder and religious experience. NY: Harper & Brothers, p. 182.
current modern dogma division thanks to descartes






Nature’s God

Deist faith






Women and children

Family God


Current Modern Dogma Division(thanks to Descartes)

So, where does theology/biblical studies fit?

missing content theology of persons
Missing content: theology of persons
  • Theological anthropology
    • Doctrine of sin/evil
    • Doctrine of salvation and change
      • Cornelius Plantinga
      • Stanley Grenz
missing content pastoral care traditions
Missing content: pastoral care traditions
  • Early church
  • Medieval church
  • Puritan traditions
  • American church traditions
puritan thought

Puritan Thought

High water mark of Pastoral care!

Richard Sibbes

Richard Baxter

Christopher Love

puritan thought13
Puritan Thought
  • High View of Scripture
  • Strong Doctrine of Sin
  • Sophisticated view of Persons
puritan care
Puritan Care
  • Affirmed the importance of the spiritual.
  • Focused on the God’s ways in our lives.
  • Studied the effects of melancholy.
  • Validated the role and influence of the body on the mind and spirit.
Spiritual Depression vs.

Mental depression

Melancholy is a dark and dusky humour which disturbs both the soul and the body, and the cure of it belongs to the physician [rather] than to the divine .... It is a humour that unfits a man for all sorts of services, but especially those that concern his soul, his spiritual estate, his everlasting condition. The melancholic person tries the physician, grieves the minister, wounds relations and makes sport for the Devil. ... Melancholy is a disease that works strange passions, strange imaginations and strange conclusions.

Thomas Brooks (1669). A Cabinet of Jewels. Works v.3.

lewis on baxter and brooks
Lewis on Baxter and Brooks

In all this there is evidence enough of some sound psychology in the Puritan approach to mental depressions, especially in their real awareness of the distinction between mental and spiritual depression. It is not only amusing that Baxter includes into the written sermon quoted above several pages of medical 'remedies' and an amazing medley of antique potions and treatments: it also shows an awareness that, as Thomas Brooks puts it in a footnote, 'The cure of melancholy belongs rather to the physician than to the divine, to Galen than to Paul',101 and that the foregoing counsel relates not so much to the condition as to the Christian in the condition. (p.89)

teaching method
Teaching Method
  • Exposure to Puritan Thought
  • “Spiritual” and “Mental Depression”
  • Read through various quotes.
  • Compare “Mental Depression” with DSM.
  • Lecture on 7 reasons the H.S. allows or causes a Spiritual Depression.
spiritual depression
Spiritual Depression
  • “The Genius of Puritanism” by Peter Lewis. Soli Deo Gloria Publications (1977, 1996) Morgan, PA
  • 7 reasons of the Holy Spirit to allow or bring a depression:
spiritual depression rationale
Spiritual Depression Rationale
  • Out of sovereignty.
  • To show us the comfort, and our dependence upon him for them.
  • To develop the various Christian graces in us.
  • To weaken and prevent sin.
  • To chastise for gross sin.
  • To keep believers near himself.
  • That believers may help others from their own experience.
evangelical stigma
Alternative to simplistic and pop theology attributions within the evangelical culture, such as:

unconfessed sin


lack of faith

character weakness

lack of piety

the effect of sin

weakness of will

lack of self discipline1,2

Evangelical Stigma

1.White et al, (2003, Spring). Christians and depression: attributions as mediators of the depression-buffering role of Christian social support. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 22(1), 49 - 58

2. McCandless, J. B. (1991). The Church Confronting Adult Depression: A Challenge. Counseling and Values, 35(2), 104‑113

contemporary models of cp
Contemporary Models of CP
  • Students need skills to evaluate current and future theoretical/practical models of change
    • What does this person or model observe about the world, God, humans, brokenness, change and how things work?
    • What assumptions do they make about life
    • What worldview supports and encourages their observations?
teaching about assumptions
Teaching about assumptions
  • Many significant models in psychology and psychiatry have been founded on an attempt to protect private faith in light of empiricist obligations
    • Ex: Psychiatric hospital care of the 1830s under Samuel Woodward. MI as a somatic disease but treated with compassionate moral education. Impact of his assumptions?
parallel model two book
Parallel Model (Two Book)



Psychology may challenge interpretation of Scripture or theological formulations.

overlap model
Overlap Model



Integration takes place in the overlap, where both areas speak of the same things.

filter model
Filter Model



Psychology is passed through the filter of Christianity so what is left is pure and good y.

fermentation model
Fermentation Model






Two areas put together to make a new field, Christian Psychology









Bits of y taken out, observed, recast, and used to enrich the theological model (or to provoke or illustrate)

position papers

Position Papers

Primary Goals:

To help students prepare for in-class time.

To direct students to specific reading.

Cultivate critical thinking and ownership of the material.

position papers30
Position Papers

Secondary Goal:

Functions as a gate keeping tool.

- It directly addresses entitlement around lateness issues.

- The nature of the task with a time demand allows for a readily received deadline.

- A late position paper is either irrelevant or unfair to the rest of the class.

position papers31
Position Papers
  • Provide brief directions that orient students toward the materials that they will read.
  • Address those issues where students need to see and evaluate the evidence for themselves.
  • Students compare/contrast or write out their personal ideas or opinions.
what are the advantages of each type of tracking and reflecting
C: "I feel sad and lonely."

T: "You are feeling sad and lonely."

C: "Yes, I feel miserable."

T: "So you’re feeling miserable."

C: "I can't stand it anymore. If I have to talk about this one more time I am going to go out of my mind."

T: "You feel like you can’t stand this and you're not going to be able to take it anymore."

C: "I feel sad and lonely.

T: "Hmm, is this about the same when we talked on the phone?"

C: "Yes, I feel miserable."

T: "You sound quite distressed, is that something you would like me to help you with?"

C: "Yes, I can't stand it anymore. I need to do something. If I have to talk about this one more time I am going to go out of my mind."

T: "You sound exasperated, is that how you are feeling right now?"

What are the advantages of each type of tracking and reflecting?
position papers33
Position Papers

Grading Structure:

  • Position Papers should comprise a significant portion of the final grade with serious consequences for missed papers. (20%-25% suggested)
  • Position Papers should not be required for every class session (suggested use is one third to half of class sessions).
position papers34
Position Papers
  • Position Papers should be pass/fail.
  • Given a check if accepted.
  • Returned with a comment if rejected.
  • Late position papers are not accepted.
  • Failed position papers result in points subtracted from total grade (e.g. 2 points subtracted for each failed paper).

Position Papers: Position papers are not miniature term papers. They are short but serious exercises that prepare you to read the text and to participate in class discussions. How long should a position paper be? Only long enough to complete the assignment- no more, and no less. Many position papers will be just a single page, others a few pages longer. But there is never a reason to make the paper longer than it needs to be. Position papers must be prepared before the class period in which they are due and turned in during class – no exceptions. Attempts to prepare these during class and then to turn them in will be considered an honor code infraction. Each paper will be given either a “check” (denoting paper accepted) or a note explaining why the paper is unacceptable. Two points will be deducted from your final grade for each missing position paper (up to a possible 25 points).


“Late Position Papers: If you feel your paper was late for a valid reason, please attach a note of explanation (e.g. “I was on my deathbed last night”) and then turn in the paper to me. I will let you know whether the paper is finally accepted.”


irrelevance of late position papers
Irrelevance of Late Position Papers
  • Late papers are irrelevant because they are a tool to prepare for class interaction.
  • It is unfair to write using peer ideas once you have participated in the class discussion
  • Bibliographic
    • Philosophy of science; Modernist critique
    • Pastoral care history and tradition
    • Modern integration debates
    • The new christian psychology
    • Critical histories of psychology
    • Theology of personhood
phil of science
Phil. of Science
  • Evans, C.S. (1996). Wisdom and humanness in psychology (reprint ed). Regent College Publishing.
  • Kuhn, T. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Mahrer, A.R. (2000). Philosophy of science and the foundations of psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 55, 1117-1125.
pastoral care tradition
Pastoral Care Tradition
  • Boisen, A.T. (1936). The exploration of the inner world: a study of mental disorder and religious experience. NY: Harper & Brothers.
  • Clebsch, W.A. & Jaekle, C.R. (1994). Pastoral Care in historical perspective
  • Coloquhoun, J. (1998). Spiritual Comfort (Don Kistler, Trans.). Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications. (Original work published 1814)
  • Grob, G.N. (1966). The state and the mentally ill: a history of the Worcester State Hospital, 1830-1920. Chapel Hill, NC: U of N. Carolina Press.
  • Lewis, P. (1996). The genius of Puritanism. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publicatioons.
  • Monroe, P.G. (2006). Why are you downcast, O my soul: Lessons from the Puritans on helping the hopless. Edification, 2:3, 1-8. [contains bibliography of numerous Puritan writers on counseling related topics]
  • Rogers, T. (2002). Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholy (Don Kistler, Trans.). Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications. (Original work published 1691)
integration debates
Integration Debates
  • Beck, J.R. (2005). Balanced integration: A reply to Maier & Glass. Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 24, 51-55.
  • Beck, J.R. (2003). The integration of psychology and theology: An enterprise out of balance. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 22, 20-29
  • Beck, J.R. (Ed.). (1997). Sola Scriptura. Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 16:4, 293-362.
  • Hurding, R.F. (1985). The tree of healing: Psychological & Biblical foundations for counseling and pastoral care. Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library. (pp 212-242 only).
  • Maier, B.N. & Glass, J.H. (2005). A matter of balance? A response to Beck (2003). Journal of Psychology & Christianity, 24, 46-50.
  • Monroe, P.G. (1997). Building bridges with biblical counselors. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 25, 28-37.
  • Nash, R.H. (1993). Great divides: Understanding the controversies that come between Christians. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
  • Powlison, D. (1993). Critiquing modern integrationists. Journal of Biblical Counseling, 11:3, 24-34.
  • Powlison, D. (1996a). Competent to counsel? The history of a conservative protestant anti-psychiatry movement. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Powlison, D. (1996b). Modern therapies and the Church’s faith. Journal of Biblical Counseling, 15:1, 32-41.
  • Powlison, D. (2000). Affirmations and denials: A proposed definition of Biblical Counseling. Journal of Biblical Counseling, 19:1, 18-25.
  • Powlison, D. (2002). Does the shoe fit? Journal of Biblical Counseling, 20:3, 2-15.
  • Serrano, N. (2003). A history of the Christian Association of Psychological Studies: 1954-1978. Paper presented at the 2003 CAPS National conference.
  • Smith, William P. (1996). Authors and arguments in Biblical counseling: A review and analysis. Journal of Biblical Counseling, 15:1, 9-20.
  • Smith, Winston T. (2000). Dichotomy or Trichotomy? How the doctrine of man shapes the treatment of depression. Journal of Biblical Counseling, 18:3, 21-29.
the new christian psychology
The New Christian Psychology
  • Roberts, R.C., & Talbot, M.R. (1997). Limning the psyche: Explorations in Christian psychology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
  • See www.christianpsych.org for articles and bibliographies.
critical histories of psychology
Critical histories of psychology
  • Cushman, P. (1990). Why the self is empty: Toward a historically situated psychology. American Psychologist, 45, 599-611.
  • Cushman, P., & Gilford, P. (1999). From emptiness to multiplicity: The self at the year 2000. Psychohistory Review, 27, 15-31.
  • Cushman, P. (1995). Constructing the self, constructing America. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Dawes, R. (1994). House of Cards: psychology and psychotherapy build on myth. New York: Free Press. [Ch. 8 on reserve]
  • Morawski, J. (ed.) (1988). The rise of experimentation in American Psychology. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
  • Pickren, W.E. (2000). A whisper of salvation: American psychologists and religion in the popular press, 1884-1908. American Psychologist, 55, 1022-1024.
  • Robinson, D.N. (2000). Philosophy of psychology at the turn of the century. American Psychologist, 55, 1018-1021.
  • Tweny, R.D., Budzynski, C.A. (2000). The scientific status of American psychology in 1900. American Psychologist, 55, 1014-1017.
  • Wozniak, R.H. (1992). Mind and Body: Rene Descartes to William James. Washington: APA.
theologies of personhood
Theologies of personhood
  • Burke, T.J. (ed.) (1987). Man and mind: A Christian theory of personality. Hillsdale College Press.
  • Gregersen, Niels, H., Drees, Willem B., & Gorman, Ulf (2000). The human person in science and theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Grenz, S.J. (2003). The social imago: The image of God and the postmodern (loss of) self. In C. Wilkins (ed.) The papers of the Henry Luce III Fellows in theology, vol. VI of Series in Theological Scholarship and Education. Pittsburgh, PA: ATS.
  • Grenz, S.J. (2001). The social god and the relational self: A Trinitarian theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville: Westminster John Knox.
  • Sedgwick, Peter. (2001). Descartes to Derrida: An introduction to European Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Schrag, Calvin O. (1997). The self after postmodernity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Schults, L. (2003). Reforming Theological Anthropology: After the philosophical turn to relationality. Wm. B Eerdmans.