Learning Wisdom from the Serpents

I’ve written a post over on the Theopolis blog, in response to a piece by Dr David Field, in which he discusses some of the issues he will be exploring in his forthcoming Theopolis intensive course. Within it, I consider how we should approach the task of learning wisdom from non-Christians.

Christian counselling is an area where many of the tensions between different Christian epistemologies have played out. Dr Field’s position appears quite different from that of the nouthetic or biblical counselling movement, for instance, which has emphasized a radical antithesis between Bible-based counselling and unbelieving psychology, the former grounded firmly upon Scripture and the latter deriving and fundamentally compromised by antichristian presuppositions. In contrast, Dr Field’s approach seems to be more integrationist, testing, weighing, and critically appropriating aspects of non-Christian psychology within an approach fundamentally committed to Christian truth, yet not entirely derived from Scripture. This may not promise the same security as the quarantine chamber of a system exhaustively derived from Scripture, but it may enable us to engage with a far more extensive reality. While his approach is not exhaustively derived from it, what Dr Field most definitely is not offering, however, is a vision of psychology essentially untethered from Christian truth.

Where psychology and counselling have been pursued from a confidence in biblical authorization and the tidiness of a neat biblicist system, yet without the extensive experience and skill that wisdom requires, the result has often proved very damaging. Dr Field’s approach, by immediately bringing us into contact with serpents like Freudianism and Zen Buddhism, provokes a sense of profound danger and trepidation. This sense is a very healthy one: psychology and counselling are dealing with dark, dangerous, and deceitful realities and, unless we approach it with care and caution, our actions can prove destructive. Wisdom moves us beyond the enclosed and domesticated realm of the garden and into the wider world, where we must deal with dangerous and untamed beasts with shrewdness and skill, not merely with the more binary categories of the Law that are most prominent in our childhood.

Read the whole piece here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Creation, Ethics, Philosophy, Revelation, Scripture, Theological, Theopolis. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Learning Wisdom from the Serpents

  1. Thanks for this.
    I remember a fairly stressful conversation from my college years on this very subject. Another gal and I were arguing for the usefulness of insights from psychology. Three guys were concerned that this represented “turning to Egypt.” We girls said, “It’s only data!” Of course, it’s not all only data, but some of it is.

    Thanks for the laugh about Freud. “He’s a mule … We won’t allow him in the house.” Indeed.

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