God and seatbelts

I went to an interesting debate this week a few weeks ago (this sat in my drafts for a while) about the integration of psychology and Christian counseling. A local pastor represented one side and a professor teaching psychology at a Christian university who also has an advanced degree in divinity represented the other.

Most of the debate centered around what degree a person’s faith plays in the cause and the solutions offered to psychological issues. I am basically going to summarize a two-hour debate in a few sentences just so I can get to my ‘diabetes point’ for this post.

The pastor’s argument was basically that unless there is an organic issue (e.g. mental retardation) than can be dealt with organically, what is offered by psychology is not compatible with Christianity. His problem was with symptom-based diagnoses because we aren’t really determining the ‘cause’. If man is by nature ‘fallen’, then we will want to resist taking personal responsibility in our conclusions and attribute our problems to what has been done to us by others. In his opinion, the cause of any ‘soul trouble’ must then be a moral issue before God. Through the sufficiency of Scripture (links to a pro-counseling definition of this term), God has revealed all that is needed about His creation.
sky on fire

I should tell you now that my bachelor’s degree is in psychology. I came into the debate with presuppositions and could not be completely objective. I think that the pastor was wrong in many of his conclusions. I don’t want this to necessarily turn into a religious debate so I won’t detail them here. But I will say that even in ‘secular’ psychology, it is not about removing personal responsibility or letting ‘self’ off the hook but about helping people take responsibility for their lives and reorient themselves.
To also speak briefly of sin and suffering, there are certainly examples in the Bible of people suffering for their sin (David) but there are also plenty of examples of people who experienced extreme suffering under no fault of their own (Joseph, Daniel). To reduce all psychological issues to simply an individual’s moral issues before God is just not accurate.
During the debate, I was actually reminded of a ‘conversation’ I was eavesdropping on between Scott Strumello and George on Twitter. The tweet that got me interested in the conversation was when George said, “I believe in God and seatbelts.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am a very conservative in my religious beliefs, but I think there is a big problem when your beliefs cause you to ignore an entire area of science. Two of the audience members who were there in support of the pastor cornered (and I really mean cornered) me after the presentation to ask me what I thought of the debate. Even though I could tell that they weren’t really interested in listening and had already drawn their own conclusions, I told them my thoughts.
The pastor had actually used diabetes during his presentation as an organic problem that should be treated medically with an organic solution (insulin). He mentioned that he would never suggest that a diabetic stop taking their medication (whew – I appreciate that! /sarcasm).
I mentioned to the two men questioning me after the presentation that I was diabetic. I told them that I had no plans to stop taking my insulin. They agreed that would be a good plan.
I proceeded to tell them that when I am anxious, stressed, nervous, depressed or dealing with other similar feelings, it often has a large effect on my blood glucose values. I didn’t tell them this, but for me, emotional stress often has a more dramatic effect on my numbers than most high carb foods.
When I am experiences those feelings of anxiousness or depression or am carrying too much stress, I often turn to God through prayer to help reframe and reevaluate my thoughts, feelings, and priorities. I also get my meter out to obtain a scientific measure of my blood sugar. If I need to, I plug that high blood glucose value into my pump and evaluate the need for a correction bolus. And you know what often happens as a result of both of these actions – both together and when done separately? My blood sugar stabilizes.
God and seatbelts.

hands of prayer


  • Great debate. I watched something similar not long ago. A christian psychologist addressing the same issue. Psychology as a means of counselling, I can live witth that. I’m not a professional, so I wouldn’t get into the details.

    I viewed your Sat snaps and some of the images can be called gods(idols) in biblical terms. As a conservative christian, do you think it is appropriate to be inspired by such objects. You worried me a bit there. Would like to hear from you.


  • Your blog today is of interest to me. I appreciate your candor! As a diabetic and a Christian I can relate to what you say. I have Encountered both sides of the issue. I have used the ‘secular’ and the ‘christian’ approach to counselling. I use prayer I also use perscribed medication for my diabetes, blood presure, and cholesterol.

    I guess you could say that I have learned to accept and appreciate a holistic approach to self care. I am a sirit, soul and body. I get cranky when either side throws out the baby with the bath water.

    My spiritual issues are why I have a pastor, and my Pastor does have a background in counselling and psycology. For my physical issues I have a family doctor and an Endocrinologist. And absolutely, when I deal with anxiety, grief, depression, stress, I do have a christian – trained counsellor who has worked in the secular world as well as private christian practice.

    It was not until I learned to interate these disciplines and the different people into my self care routine that I really began to see changes and tangible improvement in my life and in my whole self.

    As a Christian if a pastor or another christian challenges me and tells me to get rid of my meds I laugh in their face and remind them that God gave us doctors, medecines and counsellors. There is a place for each one of them in my life.

    Secular verses Christian, I have relied on both. My assesment is it is more a matter of qualifications and integrity. Is the person qualified and compassionate and do they know how to cut through the crap of my defenses and get me to begin resolving the issues.

    I am blessed with a tremendous self care team and I would not trade any of them for another!

    I have found all of these disciplines to be complimentary

  • I’m a Christian, but I think a lot of ‘religious’ types throw the baby out with the bathwater. Psychology is not about shifting blame. It is about uncovering the root of the behaviour so it can be addressed and then the person can take responsibility PLUS stop the behaviour. It’s one thing to say, “Yeah. That’s my fault.” But, you can lop the heads off those weeds all you want. Until you dig out their roots, they won’t go away. Duh! God did not say to check our brains at the door. My daughter also is diabetic and stress and emotional factors up her sugars more than carbs. When she’s in upheaval, her sugars go crazy. She should take her insulin AND deal with the roots of her issues. Sheesh. Fearing God is the BEGINNING of knowledge. Use it as your foundation and then go from there. This pastor was talking out his wazoo. God has no problem with counselling if it’s done and doesn’t just shut him out of the equation. We’re not one dimensional beings. We’ve got spirit, soul and body and it’s good and right to deal with the whole person. It’s not guilt for guilt’s sake. Guilt over wrongs is supposed to lead to repenting, then dealing with it so you can get free of it because the wrong stuff we do and think hurts us. Christians… I am one… and they drive me crazy. LOL!

  • Reminds me of a story Mark Lowry tells (Christian comedian). He talks about how he and some college friends were on a road trip and the driver fell asleep. They got in a bad accident and Mark was asking God why he let the accident happen. The answer he came up with was God let the accident happen because… the driver fell asleep! He gives the example of gravity. Billy Graham, no matter how godly he is, if he jumps off the empire state building, is going to go splat. It’s much funnier to hear him tell the story, but your post reminded me of it.

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