Contemporary Psychology – should we use it?


Psychological Paradigms
by Skip Moen, D. Phil.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth! Psalm 57:5  ESV
Be exalted – All contemporary models of psychological practice are based on a Greek paradigm of cause and effect.  Basically, they all seek to understand causes in order to alter effects.  From pharmacology to Freudian analysis, the underlying commitment is to rational (however that may be defined), cognitive exploration of causal connections with the unjustified presupposition that determining and controlling causes will result in different consequences.  But just like the attack of Thomas Kuhn on the naïve model of scientific development, this paradigm stands or falls on the truth of the connection between cause and effect in the world of psychology.  If psychological practice is to succeed, there must be a direct relationship between my antecedent causes and my subsequent effects.  Otherwise, there is no point in examining these causes.  I might as well simply treat the symptoms.  In fact, in some sense, psychological pharmacology has already conceded to this solution although it continues to support the paradigm that psychological problems can be solved by causal alterations.
The Jewish paradigm is radically different.  The Jewish paradigm presupposes, based on revelation, that God alone determines the relationship between moral and ethical choices and the subsequent effects.  In other words, there is nodirect relationship.  The relationship, if it exists at all, is a function of divine connections, not automatic causal ones.  For example, if I cut my hand with a knife, my hand bleeds.  This is a direct causal connection.  If I cut my hand with a knife and it did not bleed, I would be very concerned.  This direct causal connection is why I do not cut out my heart when I am feeling forsaken.  The direct causal connection would lead immediately to death.
But there is no apparent direct causal connection between disobeying Torah and immediate consequences, nor is there for obeying Torah, for that matter.  If I eat pork, I do not instantly get sick or die.  If I misuse God’s name, I am not immediately struck by lightening.  In the absence of this direct causal connection, I draw the false (and ultimately tragic) conclusion that these actions have no consequence.  Therefore, I can disregard them as irrelevant to my behavioral choices.  The fact that you insist that they have “eternal” consequences is unimportant because I see no necessity to consider what is not causally connected now.  And your argument presupposes a paradigm that neither psychology nor society acknowledges.
Hebraic counseling models are not based on the accepted paradigm of cause and effect.  They are based on the idea that connections depend entirely on God’s perspective.  Therefore, it is of little value to examine why I behave in certain ways in an effort to alter my behavior.  What matters in a world where the consequences of my actions are determined by God, and not by causality, is how I behave.  Therefore, counseling practice under this paradigm is directional.  Do this!  Do not do that!  It ultimately doesn’t matter why I do this or that nor does it matter how I feel about doing this or that.  What matters is whether or not I do it.  You might consider Yeshua’s parable of the two sons asked to work in the field.  God makes the consequence connection according to His determination, not according to my explanation or rational insight, or according to the system of causality employed in the Greek paradigm.  In the Hebraic world, it does not follow that if I revisit the injuries of my past and come to terms with them, my psychological outlook toward others will improve.  It does follow that if I forgive and bless those who harmed me, God will be glorified.  What happens to me, however, is up to Him.  I act out of duty, not personal benefit.  In the Hebraic model, my first concern is repaying the debt I owe to God because my very existence is His gift and that is repaid by faithful loyalty to His instructions regardless of the actual or expected outcome.  In the Hebraic model, psychological health is a function of my obedience to God, not a function of my inner state of mind.
In Hebrew thought, my psychological state of mind is a function of my willingness to exalt the name of God through my behavior, and in most cases, this requires both of the great commandments.  I am what I do.  And when my doing is focused on blessing others, God makes the connections that nourish my soul.
 
 
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