Psychologist affirms creation
Lita Cosner chats with Nathan Marinau
Psychologist Nathan Marinau grew up in a Christian family and remembers giving his life to the Lord at an early age.
However, in my later teens, I became quite disillusioned with the church and what I believed to be the Christian faith. I began asking questions like, ‘How do you know that God exists?’ ‘If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world?’ The answers I received did not satisfy me at the time, and to be honest, I don’t think I was ready to receive them anyway. In hindsight, I wanted to suppress my conscience and justify continuing to live a life that was not in accord with God’s will.
Even though Nathan grew up in a Christian family and attended a Christian school, he says he was “very ignorant of what the Bible had to teach on the sorts of challenges common in our present age.” So, he says, “When I was exposed to evolutionary concepts through friends, social media, and then later on at university, seeds of unbelief were planted and began to take root, leaving me unable to reconcile my faith in God with intelligent thought.”
A change of mind
All this changed for Nathan when, in his early twenties, one of his best friends became a Christian.
I was very interested in his conversion as we had grown up together and I could see a noticeable change in him for the better. He had peace, joy, and a sense of purpose for his life that I dismally lacked. I wanted what he had. We often spoke about his faith, and I began seeking answers to my questions again.
He was also struck by the arrogance of some of his university lecturers.
In particular, I recall a student asking a question about intelligent design, and the lecturer shut her down in a condescending matter. That not only disappointed me, it got me interested in better understanding intelligent design! This study reignited my hope that maybe there was a God after all who had created everything.
CMI gives answers
As is often the case, coming across reliable information about creation was a major turning point for Nathan.
After about two years of research into these issues, I happened to come across creation.com when I typed into a search engine a question about the science behind creation. This website was such a godsend to me! I felt such relief as I scrolled through the research articles and realized that there were very well-reasoned answers to many of my questions. I was never the same after that night. I really opened my heart to the Bible again for the first time since I was about 12 years old. It was such a turning point in my life and began me on my journey back to restoring my relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.
Psychology and Christianity
Some people might be surprised that there are psychologists who are Christians, because many think psychology is inherently anti-Christian. Nathan explains:
I believe psychology is just like any other scientific study or enquiry, in this case, trying to understand the mind and human behaviour. In this regard, it isn’t inherently anti-Christian, just like biology isn’t. However, people can become confused when they think that psychology can answer the deeper philosophical issues of the meaning of life and such; it cannot and should not even attempt to do so.
One reason why people are so surprised by the existence of psychologists who are Bible-believing Christians is that so many psychologists are anti-Christian.
Of course, as in any field, there are psychologists who do hold anti-Christian views, and this will inevitably influence the way in which they use the tools of psychology in their profession.
The limits of psychology
One mistake a lot of people make is thinking that psychology can achieve more than it really can.
In my practice as a psychologist, I respect the limits of my profession. I realize that psychology cannot truly transform someone’s heart; only Jesus can do that. However, I also appreciate the way in which I can help people through my profession and I am always conscious of representing Jesus to people who would never set foot in a church. God’s heart for people helps me to never give up on someone and to believe that they can change, despite how hopeless the situation may appear from a human standpoint.
Biblical principles help people
In fact, when psychology works, it’s often because it’s drawing from principles that are biblical.
For example, James tells us to confess our faults to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. This, in a nutshell, is how I see counselling. There is power in confession and this is because God has created us as relational beings, in His image.
I have witnessed how basic biblical principles help people, even when they do not know that the advice is straight from the Bible. For example, when someone comes to see me with an issue relating to resentment toward another person, where appropriate, I encourage them to go and speak with that person. This is what Jesus instructs us to do in the Gospels if we have an issue with a fellow believer (Matthew 18:15 ff.).
Another example is when people become aware of an unhelpful way of thinking, they can change that way of thinking with more helpful thoughts. This is comparable to Romans 12:2 in action—being transformed by the renewing of the mind.
In John 1:14 we see that Jesus came full of grace and truth.
I believe that showing people grace first, through genuine care and listening to them, enables their hearts to be open and receptive to the truth that will set them free. This is not always the case, but I find it to be true more often than not in my practice. Too often, Christians jump straight to telling someone the truth without taking the time to show them grace first, and this will often lead to greater polarization.
Nathan is well aware that though people can be helped in some ways through psychology, this does not address or replace their core need for the Gospel:
I believe someone can be helped through psychological counsel, however, they will not experience true transformation without the Gospel. For example, an alcoholic may be able to apply psychological counsel to stop drinking, but then continue to hold onto all the reasons why they started drinking in the first place. The Gospel will help someone at this point of truly healing their heart and helping them in ways that psychology cannot.
Psychology in evolution
Nathan believes that the practice of psychology only makes sense if we view people as created in God’s image.
I believe the fact that we can even understand the mind and human behaviour is reason for believing in a Creator. Also, the reason why psychology can help people in the first place is because of the way we were created to respond.
If we were the products of evolution, on the other hand, “a lot of human behaviour would be illogical, for instance altruistic actions such as saving someone’s life at the expense of one’s own.”
God’s Word is the standard
Further, Nathan exhorts,
I would encourage readers not to exalt any science, including psychology, above God’s Word. If Scripture tells us that something is not good for us, then regardless of what we think or feel, it is not good for us. As Christians we must uphold God’s Word as our standard.
Finally, Nathan encourages Christians to be careful from whom they seek counsel. He says:
A psychologist’s worldview will influence how they use the tools of their profession, and this may not align with Scripture. For instance, there is a big push now with ‘mindfulness’. A lot of schools are introducing techniques to young children within this framework. Mindfulness is not evil in itself, but a lot of the techniques are informed by Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices that are not in line with Scripture, and this is where Christians need to be aware and discerning.
The world’s way is not God’s way; for one thing, it does not acknowledge the goodness of God (Romans 2:4). As Christians we acknowledge God’s goodness in such things as the sacrifice of Jesus, and as we continue to renew our minds according to His truth (Ephesians 4:23), we are able to experience His abundant life (John 10:10).