Someone once asked me a great question: “How can we avoid ‘psychologising’ the gospel?” What they meant was this: If someone comes to us with a felt need or a specific difficulty, how do we point them to Jesus Christ without giving the idea that Jesus is simply a fix for their problems? Do we run the risk of people coming to Christianity simply to get their issues ‘fixed’ and that’s it? Can the gospel be in danger of being simply another form of therapy?
People come for therapy for a range of different reasons. Certainly some people turn to a therapist or psychologist to try and solve the problems they are having. They have a specific area of need and would like a quick fix solution to deal with it. That happens, of course, but most therapists would probably want to dig deeper than simply deal with the presenting issue.
Those who do dig deeper, or who come to therapy for broader reasons, are essentially asking some searching questions: Who am I? How do I understand the world? What part do I play in the world? Every therapist will have a particular mindset and worldview that dictates how they approach those questions. One might emphasise that the answer of ‘Who am I?’ lies in our childhood and upbringing. Another might focus on our identity shaped by our fears and desires. Still another might explore our relationships with ourselves, others and the world we live in.
The Christian gospel gives the ultimate answer to these fundamental questions. It tells us who we are, what the world is, and how we fit in the deepest and most profound way. Its answers are found in the God who made us and who we are designed to relate to. We are made to live in worship and relationship with God, and through him to look after the world he has created. We are his creations and his redeemed people through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psychology, and ‘psychologising’, in a broad view, is understanding ourselves and our place in the world. The gospel, then, presents us with the most comprehensive psychology we could desire. It gives deep and lasting answers to the questions that psychology asks, and provides a framework for dealing with the most fundamental issues of the human heart and life.
Psychologising the gospel, therefore, can mean narrowing down the gospel to simply be a quick fix for my problems or situation. But in a wider sense, the gospel can be psychologised in that it presents with such a comprehensive worldview and mindset that we are changed as a result. We have our hearts and identity set in the right place, and our knees bowed before our Lord and our Saviour. There is, then, a proper psychologising of the gospel that gives hope for a psychology that finally, and truly, makes sense.