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Philosophy Lite: Believers practice Christian psychiatry, caregiving

March 18, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 18, 2010 at 10:19 p.m.


By Raymond Smith

After a person becomes a Christian and a part of the family of God, he takes on the responsibility of meaningful relationships, not only of his Christian brothers and sisters, but to unbelievers as well.

One of these responsibilities is that of a caregiver. In 1984, Kenneth C. Haugk published "Christian Caregiving - A Way of Life," a book that has helped thousands of believers minister to the needs about them.

Haugk was a pastor and clinical psychologist who founded the Stephen Series system of lay caring ministries. Stephen Ministries is now active in more than 9,000 congregations in more than 100 denominations.

He writes, "All other factors being equal, Christian caregiving has significant advantages over any other method. The primary advantage is that of depth. ... Christian caregiving is superior to caregiving of any other kind."

Another well-known writer on this subject was Dr. Paul Tournier, a Swiss physician and psychologist/counselor. Because he combined the elements of Christian teachings and a Christian based psychiatry with his medical practice, he was able to help not only his patients, but a host of readers as well.

He is the author of at least 30 books including, "The Healing of Persons," "Escape From Loneliness," "The Person Reborn," "Guilt and Grace" and "The Seasons of Life."

He died in 1986 at the age of 88.

In 2006, Christianity Today magazine listed Tournier's "The Meaning of Persons" as one of the top 50 books that have influenced the way Evangelicals think, talk, witness, worship and live.

In the 1940s, psychosomatic medicine was still in its infancy and Tournier observed that the contemporary approach to illness was purely organic and failed to consider the patient as a whole.

Tournier saw the need to not only consider the physical aspects of health, but also the psychological and spiritual dimensions.

Dr. Quentin Hyder, in his book "The Christian's Handbook of Psychiatry," wrote that Christians are just as vulnerable to emotional problems as non-Christians, but the difference is that Christians have additional spiritual resources to rely on.

He further wrote, "Christianity and psychology are not enemies. It is understandable why many Christians have shied away from psychiatry. The basic theories of the predominant Freudian therapy are hostile to the tried and proven concepts of the Bible."

He wrote that while guilt may be a considerable factor in neuroses and psychoses, the grace of God can be a powerful remedy.

Our conclusion is that Christians would do well to broaden their lives by entering into ministry with people. While Tournier had no formal training in psychology, he was wise enough to try to understand his patients in the light of what he knew about himself and what he studied. Every Christian should, first of all, understand himself and then minister to others.

Recommended reading also includes "Competent to Counsel," by Jay Adams and "Happiness is a Choice," by Minirth and Meier.

One caveat, however, the layman should recognize his limitations and not try to act the professional.

Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and President of Strong Families of Victoria.

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