Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Does Calvinism Matter? - Part 6: Science and Psychology (Counseling)

Other Posts in this Series:

This post will aim to show how Calvinism's doctrines of providence and human nature serve to ground both sound science and psychology.

Science: knowledge
First, the Bible gives us warrant for doing science. One of the first tasks God gave to Adam was the scientific work of taxonomy, naming all the creatures (Gen 2:20). In the Proverbs, Solomon speaks of the trees (botany), animals (zoology), creeping things (entomology) and fish (ichthyology). The word “science” means “knowledge,” and God encourages accumulation of knowledge in His Word. Daniel 1:4 says that Daniel and his friends were “skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning . . . [studying] the literature and language of the Chaldeans,” which would have included a study of nature and the stars.

Second, the Bible's metaphysic (its teaching about what exists) shows that an orderly God created an orderly and uniform universe (Gen 8:22). 1 Cor 14:33 says, “God is not a God of confusion.” The miracles of the New Testament prove that interruptions of the regular pattern of nature are unexpected and surprising displays of God's immediate power and that they are not the norm.

Science is only possible if every created event has a sufficient cause. That is, we can only formulate “laws” of science, if things happen according to an orderly pattern. This is the basis of logical induction. If we observe any outcome of an experiment taking place with consistency, then we may induce that it will continue to take place.

Calvinism's doctrine of providence teaches that God upholds and sustains all of creation by the power of His word, that all things come to pass according to orderly chains of cause and effect, which God, the First Cause, set into motion, though He may and does interrupt them, and that all things are moving toward the end God Himself purposed from eternity.

Interestingly, this presupposition of the orderliness of creation is not a given in science. More and more physicists today are hypothesizing that events can randomly occur without a sufficient cause. This is one thesis in quantum physics, a particle theory, which speculates that movement at the subatomic level is random and that there is no sufficient or determining cause of motion. Some physicists simply say that there is no discernible cause, but others say that there is no cause. This is highly problematic in science, and it is the result of jettisoning the presupposition that every created event has a sufficient cause.

I submit that the Calvinist doctrine of providence, which teaches that God accomplishes His will through created means and ends, undergirds science because it is the foundation of the uniformity of God's created realm.

Psychology: the study of the soul; pastoral theology
The word “psychology” comes from two Greek words that mean “the study of the soul.” Psychology is a subset of science because it attempts to uncover the causes of various conditions of the human mind and then to prescribe cures. Historically, this was simply called “pastoral theology” though Sigmund Freud, and those who followed him, intentionally formulated new secular systems to replace the older pastoral models. The Puritans were some of the best students of the human soul who sought to apply Biblical Reformed Theology to all of life, including the inner world of the human being.

Many, if not most, non-Calvinists affirm the uniformity of the created physical realm, but they deny that events in the spiritual realm have sufficient causes. This is because they believe in a kind of free will that is capable of choosing against all influences. They affirm that when the human will acts freely and responsibly, it acts with contra-causal freedom, or libertarian freedom. But if libertarian freedom is true, then there are no sufficient causes for conditions of the human mind. And if that's true, then conditions of the mind cannot be studied or understood because a libertarian free will is the first cause of all its choices.

Against the non-Calvinist understanding of free will, Calvinists affirm an understanding of human freedom that says that choices with sufficient causes are both responsible and free. This is called compatibilistic freedom. Thus, Calvinism's doctrine of providence and human freedom is the foundation of biblical counseling and pastoral theology.

The Christian counselor uses the Word of God to uncover the streams of sin as they run in the human heart and to apply the gospel and law with careful precision as the cure for sin and its concomitant miseries. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word of God should be used to analyze the “soul,” along with its movements, and then to apply the redeeming balm of the gospel.

Faithful Calvinistic counseling realizes that human beings don't simply change when they're given commands to make different free will choices. What ails human beings is not merely that they make wrong choices and need to make better ones. Rather, the problem is much deeper. Their problem is rooted in the heart, which is determinatively inclined to sin and cannot simply overcome its sinful impulses by free will choices. In Romans 7:18, Paul says, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” He then says, “For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells within my members” (Rom 7:22-23). Though he was a believer, Paul's will didn't have the “ability” to obey all of God's law. His remaining sinful nature still waged war against what had been renewed. Paul could not simply choose to obey God with a free will decision.

Believers, therefore, need the constant and wise application of God's ordained means of grace, including the Word of God (gospel and law), prayer, the sacraments, and the fellowship of the saints. These “means of grace” work as necessary “causes” which must be introduced into the minds and hearts of believers to form them more and more into the image of Christ. As God's Spirit adds His blessing to these means of grace, there is a sufficient cause to believe the gospel, and we are increasingly formed into the likeness of Christ, from one degree of glory to the next, with the law of God as our guide.

Therefore, Calvinism's doctrine of providence and the human will undergirds psychology, which is really just another word for “the study of the soul” and is one part of pastoral theology.

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