How does a Christian worldview – understood particularly with respect to the overarching story of Scripture – inform and help us implement the various kinds of academic tasks we undertake as a university? Today’s blog in the Faith and College blog series relates to the behavioral sciences at HBU, especially Psychology and Christian Counseling.
As we have seen from earlier studies, the New Testament opens with the dawning of the long anticipated days of fulfillment – the empire of God announced in the preaching of John and embodied in the preaching and actions of Jesus.
Mental Illness in Scripture
Jesus’ various ways of teaching regarding the coming of God’s kingdom are punctuated with different kinds of miracles, but especially miracles of healing. It is important to realize that his healing miracles are not limited to physical healing. The healings of Jesus touch mind, body, and spirit. Not only do his healing acts (and others in the New Testament) produce emotional elation on the part of the one healed (joyous expressions, worship, even jumping; note Acts 3:6-8), but they also bring, as explicitly indicated in certain instances, a soundness of mind. The demon exorcisms particularly point to those who are deeply troubled in spirit, captured by alien spiritual forces that have taken over their minds and bodies. When the man possessed by a legion of demons is healed by Jesus, the Scriptures tell us that he is later “clothed and in his right mind” (Luke 8:35).
Demon possession is not the only biblical portrayal of mental illness. Both Old and New Testaments point to those who are God’s people but are emotionally weary and in an agony of spirit. The laments of the Psalms (almost every Psalm at some point has an element of lament) are full of such feelings. The prophet Jeremiah is not called the “weeping prophet” for no good reason. More than once he expresses the wish that he had never been born (Jeremiah 15:10-18; 20:14-18).
The great apostle Paul also is completely transparent about his fears and anxieties. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves…” (II Corinthians 1:8-9a; compare also 2:4; 6:4-10; 7:4-6; 11:28-29).
Christian Counseling and Psychology
Christians can and do suffer from mental illness. It is unusual for us in Christian circles to speak of despair or mental illness, but the biblical writers and characters do so regularly. We should be unafraid to speak of these things – and, indeed, more than speak, to seek to minister to those suffering from mental illness.
The field of psychology is oftentimes a source of suspicion and mistrust by Christians. Sometimes that suspicion has been well and truly justified because the earliest proponents of psychology as a discipline often put it forward as a substitute for faith and religion. Psychology is still sometimes used and misused in that way, but that does not have to be the case.
Christian psychology – that is, healing practices that focus specifically on the heart and mind, grow out of a Christian worldview, and are implemented by faithful Christian practitioners – can be a source of great healing and help. In my own life I have found help from Christian spiritual directors, counselors, and psychologists. And, outside the area of counseling and psychological professionals, don’t we all need Christian friends to give us spiritual advice, wise counsel, and emotional support in times of need?
Emotional healing, the healing of heart and mind, memory and association, is inextricably linked to physical well-being and health. Healing the heart and restoring the mind bring emotional and mental soundness, a renewed vision for how life ought to be lived, and moral clarity for those who are confused.
The healing of hearts and minds is a sign of the coming of God’s kingship through Christ the Lord.
And, on the last day, when Christ returns, we are promised not only physical healing – as if that could be separated from spiritual and emotional healing. The resurrection of the dead means emotional healing as well, when God will wipe every tear and death will be no more – no more mourning, or crying, or pain (Revelation 21:1-6).
At HBU, with intellectual rigor, humility of heart, and an openness to the work of God in the practice of the healing arts, we teach (and are expanding our offerings both residentially and online) Christian counseling, mental health, and psychology as an expression of our participation in God’s work, the continuation in our own personal and institutional history of the story of the Bible.
School of Psychology at Houston Baptist University
These related areas of psychology are huge draws for students – rightly so. Christian students understand almost intuitively the role that Christian psychology and counseling can play in the healing arts.
HBU’s School of Psychology is part of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. To read about the School of Education, read “Jesus was a Teacher.” The School of Psychology offers undergraduate degrees in psychology and pre-professional art therapy, as well as a minor in psychology. The School also offers a Master of Arts in Psychology (MAP) and a Master of Arts in Psychology – Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (MAP-LSSP). Graduate counseling degrees include Counseling, Christian Counseling, and Counselor Education (MEd).
Many of our undergraduate students are now in graduate school, and graduate school alumni are able to work in a variety of settings, including at community colleges, law enforcement agencies, or in the private sector. Students go on to be school counselors, professional counselors, teachers, therapists, and more. Learn more about the psychology programs at HBU.edu.
Edited by Joannah Buffington
I’ve been writing a young adult fantasy series about an orphan boy named Hamelin Stoop. The second book released earlier this year. I’d love for you to watch the short book trailer below and share it with children and young adults who may be interested in fantasy and adventure.