You’re probably asking yourself, “Why ask if Psychology is the study of the mind or the study of soul.” It probably even seems like a no brainer to you. Seriously! Who in their right mind could get a Psychologist and a Pastor/Priest confused?
Funny you should ask that very question. (You did ask it right? I’d hate to put words in your mouth.)
For several weeks I have been really struggling with a way of presenting to those, like myself, that have a background rich in Judeo-Christian belief.
Or to be more to the point, Evangelical Christianity.
Unlike many other religions out there, the Evangelical Christian community typically views that one thinks with their soul and lives life with their bodies. That it is the soul’s job to keep the body from sinning or doing other not so healthy things.
And it’s this very idea that the human condition is only made up of the body and the soul that creates a conundrum for many Christians, including myself.
For years, I’ve honestly thought that my depression had more to do with either a lack of faith, some un-confessed sin, or that it was God’s will and I had to find a way to live with it. Ultimately it boiled down that there was some disconnect between my life and what, where, or how God wanted me to live.
Can you imagine how much extra guilt, shame, anger, frustration and God only knows anxiety or depression this caused?
Honestly! Imagine living every single day knowing that it was God’s will that your life sucked and you were to live through it till the end without taking a shortcut and ending it sooner. Lost a job because of missing too many days due to your depression? Well it must have been God’s will.
Bombed that multimillion dollar presentation because of your anxiety? You bombed it because it was God’s will that you lose the contract that could have saved your job.
And when you’re feeling worthless over losing your job. Just remember it was all due to your lack of Faith in God. That’s why you were anxious and threw up all over the client.
Here’s the sad thing! You don’t have to take my word on it!
Here’s a man who is responsible for a congregation that if we take podcast, radio and church attendance, is in the millions, proclaiming that there is no such thing as Psychiatric illnesses like Depression or Anxiety.
In his essay, The Psychology Epidemic and Its Cure, Dr. MacArthur declares Psychology as “The Study of the soul.”
Not thoughts, psyche, nor brain. Nope!
Not, “Why we do we think the things we think and do the stupid things we do.”
No sir! He honestly declares that Psychology is the study of the soul.
And you know what? He’s not exactly wrong. Granted, he’s not entirely correct either. But he’s definitely not entirely off base with such a claim.
It took me a long time and lots of studying to figure out this conundrum. However, since I honestly believed that my immortal soul may be on the line I wanted to make sure that I had the right answer. (Well, as right as I could figure out any ways.)
So take your seats we’re going to have a bit of language class before we move on.
First Psychology needs to be broken down into its prefix Psych- and its suffix –ology.
Ology is easy; we all agree it means something to the effect “The study of…” But it’s that first part, Psych- that has been giving me fits.
As most of us probably know, Psych comes from the Greek word Psyche which lo and behold means (dat da da DA!) the seat of our emotions, feelings, desires, affections and aversions. But it can also mean, the essence of our life that does not disintegrate with death.
So let’s look at how it was used in two different verses.
“And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” - Mark 14:34 (ESV)
In this case psyche or in English Soul is more in kin to today’s word mind. We can tell this by looking at it in another translation like the Common Jewish Bible.
“[A]nd he said to them, “My heart is so filled with sadness that I could die! Remain here and stay awake.” – Mark 14:34 (CJB)
But that’s just one example. How about when it means our soul? That eternal essence of life?
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” - Mark 8:38 (ESV)
Here you can easily see that soul is meant a something more than just the seat of one’s emotional thought. That it seems to hold more weight like something that is critical to life itself.
What makes this so sticky is that both uses come from the original Hebrew word, Nephesh. (Can you guess what nephesh means? Yep, it can mean one’s soul, one’s mind or a host of other things depending on context.)
I guess I’m trying to say that there is more to being human than just a body holding in an immortal soul. That there is also our mind.
That gem or cursed part of us that often times gets overlooked at being the cause of a lot of misery for people.
And hopefully this this little walk down linguistics lane will help another Evangelical Christian that is struggling day in and day out with a mental health issue because they’ve’ve been taught that there really is no such thing as Mental Illness. That all their problems are really just a matter of Faith and their personal walk with the Lord.
And if that is the case, then you can now take solace and know that even our church fathers understood the difference of having troubles of the soul and troubles of the mind. And as such, you are perfectly within your rights as a human being, one of HIS chosen people or a follower of the Risen Savior to get help from a Mental Health professional without fearing you have committed a breach of faith.