August 17, 2011

What Does God Know About Psychology?

God is the almighty, transcendent Being of the universe. What could He possibly know about our human existence, our mode of thinking, feeling, acting, and interrelating?
Is He not also the one who created us, who redeems us? Has He not told us about Himself and His universe so that we might know Him and enter into fellowship with Him?
As God’s creation, we should listen to Him in His Word. The Bible tells us about Him, about our creation, about our entrance into sin, about salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and about His soon coming. This gives us a starting point for understanding ourselves and the way we relate to God and others.
Picture God tenderly bending over a clay form shaped as a human body, lovingly laying out every nerve, intersecting them with its mind, and giving it feelings and emotions. God saw that it was good! God placed Adam and Eve in a beautiful environment He had created for them. That, also, was good.
2011 1523 page6God knows us not only because He created us, but because He also came to live among us, to die in our place, to be resurrected on our behalf, and to prepare a place for us. Imagine Christ on the cross: forsaken by His disciples; feeling the withdrawal of His Father’s presence; fighting feelings of despair, hatred, revenge, hopelessness, disappointment, and abandonment. Indeed, Christ lived with all the trials of life, just as do each of us. Christ was tempted in all points as we are (Heb. 2:17; 4:15).
If we are known by anyone, we are known by God! God has given us minds to plumb the expanse of His universe, including the depth of our own minds. He wishes us to use our minds to their fullest. But as our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Source of truth, God wishes us to study the human mind within the context of His Word. No wonder Ellen White wrote: “The true principles of psychology are found in the Holy Scriptures” (My Life Today, p. 176). Thus, if we are to truly study psychology, we must start with an understanding of what God has told us about ourselves and our relationship to Him, to each other, and to the earth He created for us.
The acceptance of a biblical worldview as foundational to human understanding has many implications for the study of human nature and mental health. These biblical truths are givens that provide the foundational framework to understand human nature.
Note some areas in which Scripture is normative for our understanding of psychology: The gift of God’s self-revelation in His Word; submission to the Word of God for understanding, rather than reliance upon human autonomy; the unity of mind and body; creation in the image of God; the fall from and partial distortion of that image caused by sin; the conditional immortality of the individual; salvation founded solely on God’s saving grace rather than human ingenuity or effort; God’s sustaining grace; God’s eternity, knowledge, and power, combined with His personal interest in each individual; direct access and responsibility to God through His Word; the converting power of the Word of God; the role of the Holy Spirit in comfort, fellowship, understanding, conviction, conversion, and sanctification; the role of the Sabbath in providing strength to our relationship with God; the effects of giving to God and fellow humans of our time, talent, and resources; the nature, origin, and end of evil and its association with choice and with a being called Satan; the end of sin and sinners; the promise of eternal life with God and fellow humans.
What would life be without peace with God, knowing that He has forgiven our sins; that He has given us the power to be adopted into His royal family? Let’s not be robbed of the peace, restfulness, and joy that come from the assurance that we are accepted of God.
Understanding ourselves from the standpoint of God’s revelation of Himself and the universe in which we live contributes to the restoration of the image of God in humankind, and to the fullness of life God intended for us. It provides a solid foundation for our study of human nature.
E. Edward Zinke is senior advisor for the Adventist Review. This article was published August 18, 2011.