top of page

Is Psychology Biblical?

Introduction to Psychology and Biblical Compatibility


The question of whether psychology is biblical is multifaceted, requiring careful consideration of definitions and perspectives. To address this, we must first define psychology and then explore its compatibility with biblical teachings. Psychology, in general, can be understood in four distinct ways:


  1. As a task involving observation and reflection on human nature and behavior.

  2. As a systematic body of knowledge about human nature and mental processes.

  3. As an intervention through therapeutic relationships to facilitate emotional and psychological well-being.

  4. As a broader field encompassing both scientific and philosophical inquiries into the human mind.



Is There a Psychology Contained in the Bible?


When considering whether psychology is found within the Bible, we must acknowledge that the Scriptures do provide insights into human nature, behavior, and mental processes. Biblical authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, offered numerous observations about the human soul, spirit, body, mind, heart, dysfunctions, flourishing, and wisdom for living.


Genesis 2:7 states, “Then Jehovah God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” This verse highlights the holistic nature of human beings as both physical and spiritual entities. Other passages provide further insights:


  • Heart and Mind: Proverbs 4:23 emphasizes the importance of guarding one’s heart, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

  • Dysfunction and Flourishing: James 1:8 describes the instability of a double-minded person, “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

  • Process of Change: Romans 12:2 encourages transformation through the renewal of the mind, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”


The Bible provides a rich tapestry of psychological insights, demonstrating God’s exhaustive understanding of human nature and His desire to communicate crucial truths about it.



Are Psychologies Formed Apart from the Bible Biblical?


Psychological theories and reflections developed outside of the Bible must be evaluated for their consistency with biblical teachings. While some insights from secular psychology can align with Scripture, others may diverge significantly.


For example, Freud’s concept of the “unconscious” bears some resemblance to the biblical idea of the “hidden heart,” which suggests that there are deeper motivations and thoughts within a person than those that appear on the surface. Proverbs 14:13 states, “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief,” highlighting the complexity and hidden nature of human emotions. Jeremiah 17:9 warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” This suggests that while Freud’s observations may have some merit, his overall worldview and deterministic approach are incompatible with biblical teachings.


Similarly, Carl Rogers’ emphasis on empathy and unconditional positive regard aligns with biblical principles of love and understanding. Ephesians 4:32 exhorts, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” However, Rogers’ humanistic perspective, which often downplays the need for divine intervention and the reality of sin, must be critically assessed against Scripture.



Is It Biblical to Engage in the Task of Psychology?


Engaging in psychological inquiry and practice that involves both biblical and extrabiblical observations can be biblically warranted, provided it is done with discernment. The book of Proverbs exemplifies the integration of divine wisdom and human observation.


Proverbs 1:1-6 introduces the book as a collection of wisdom for living, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.”


The wise men of the Old Testament, such as Solomon, gathered insights from their observations of the natural world and human behavior. Proverbs 6:6 encourages learning from nature, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” This suggests that God’s wisdom is imprinted on creation, and careful observation can yield valuable principles for living.


However, this integration must be approached with caution, ensuring that all insights are scrutinized through the lens of Scripture. Proverbs 30:5 asserts, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Thus, while human observations can complement biblical wisdom, they must never contradict or supersede divine revelation.


Is Psychotherapy Biblical?


Psychotherapy, as a form of intervention involving empathic listening, understanding, and care, can be consistent with biblical principles. The New Testament contains numerous exhortations for believers to support and care for one another.


Ephesians 4:15 encourages “speaking the truth in love,” a foundational principle for therapeutic relationships. The “one another” passages, such as Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12-14, emphasize compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. Romans 12:4-8 discusses the diverse gifts within the church, including those related to teaching, encouragement, and mercy, which can be applied in therapeutic contexts.


The content of psychotherapy, however, must always be evaluated against Scripture. Proverbs 21:30 states, “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against Jehovah.” This means that while psychotherapy can be a valuable tool, its principles and practices must align with biblical truth and avoid any elements that contradict God’s Word.



Biblical Anthropology and Psychology


The Bible provides a comprehensive anthropology that includes the body, soul, and spirit. This holistic view of humanity is foundational for understanding biblical psychology.


  • Body: The Hebrew word basar and the Greek word soma refer to the physical structure of a human. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

  • Soul: The Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psyche refer to the person as a whole. Genesis 2:7 describes the creation of man as a living soul, “Then Jehovah God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

  • Spirit: The Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma refer to the impelling mental inclination and the force that animates a person. Proverbs 20:27 states, “The spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah, searching all his innermost parts.”


This holistic anthropology underscores the importance of addressing the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of a person in any approach to psychology or therapy.



Integrating Biblical Wisdom with Psychological Practice


The integration of biblical wisdom with psychological practice requires discernment and a commitment to biblical principles. Proverbs 3:5-6 advises, “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”


By relying on God’s wisdom and guidance, Christians can navigate the complexities of psychological practice while remaining faithful to biblical truth. This involves:


  1. Evaluating Psychological Theories: Scrutinizing psychological theories and practices against Scripture to ensure they align with biblical teachings.

  2. Emphasizing Biblical Principles: Prioritizing biblical principles such as love, compassion, truth, and forgiveness in therapeutic relationships.

  3. Relying on the Holy Spirit: Seeking the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of psychological practice and personal growth.



The Role of Biblical Counseling


Biblical counseling is an approach that seeks to address psychological and emotional issues through the application of biblical principles. It emphasizes the sufficiency of Scripture in providing guidance for all aspects of life.


2 Timothy 3:16-17 asserts, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This passage underscores the comprehensive nature of biblical teaching in addressing the needs of the human soul.


Biblical counseling differs from secular psychology in its foundational assumptions about human nature, the role of sin, and the need for redemption. It seeks to bring individuals into a right relationship with God, understanding that true healing and growth come from aligning one’s life with God’s will.


Addressing Contemporary Issues with Biblical Wisdom


In addressing contemporary psychological issues, Christians can draw on the rich resources of biblical wisdom. This includes:


  • Dealing with Anxiety: Philippians 4:6-7 encourages believers to present their anxieties to God in prayer, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

  • Overcoming Depression: Psalm 34:18 offers comfort to those who are brokenhearted, “Jehovah is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

  • Building Healthy Relationships: Ephesians 4:2-3 exhorts believers to cultivate humility, gentleness, and patience in their relationships, “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”


By applying biblical principles to contemporary psychological issues, believers can experience God’s transformative power in their lives and relationships.


Conclusion


The question of whether psychology is biblical is complex, but it can be addressed by recognizing the multifaceted nature of both psychology and biblical teachings. While the Bible provides profound insights into human nature and behavior, Christians can also benefit from extrabiblical observations and reflections, provided they are evaluated through the lens of Scripture. By integrating biblical wisdom with psychological practice, believers can experience holistic growth and healing grounded in the truth of God’s Word.


About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


RECOMMENDED READING


Comments


bottom of page