Thursday, July 3, 2008

Psychology and Theology

There are two ways of approaching the cults - anticult and countercult. Countercult approach is mainly Christian and deals with the theological issues such as doctrinal deviations and heretical teachings. Anticult approach is psychological and sociological. It deals with the psychological issues such as mind control.

There is a difference of opinions regarding what a cult is. Christian theologians usually define it as a group that has heretical views, twists the Bible, and is formed around one person (the leader) or some peculiar interpretation of the Bible. Psychologists (cult experts) define a cult as a group that uses mind control, authoritarian leadership, and is formed around the leader or a group of leaders.

This difference of definitions causes Christian theologians and psychologists to consider different groups as cults. According to theological definition, cults are religious groups. According to psychological definition, cults may be not only religious, but also philosophical, political, commercial, and so on.

There is also another terminology problem. There are some Christian churches that use undue influence on their members. Psychologists consider these churches as cults. However, since they do not have obvious heresies, theologians do not call them cults. Instead, they use a term "abusive churches." The most famous example is the International Church of Christ.

While there are serious disagreements between theologians and psychologists, I do not think it is inevitable. Psychology and theology have different fields of study. For example, physicists and chemists do not need to have fierce debates and disagreements, but they have their own fields and can have a good agreement. They also can use the works of one another for further studies in their fields. My personal opinion is that the same is possible with theologians and psychologists.

Former members of religious cults and abusive churches have some psychological problems. However, they also have spiritual problems. They often have a question how to have a normal spiritual experience without being under mind control and spiritual abuse. Many of them have a desire to continue their spiritual life and they seek the way how to do that in a new way.

Usually, psychologists (cult experts) say that former members of religious cults and abusive churches should go to consult a psychologist/cult expert. However, I think it is equally important for them to have a proper spiritual care and be consulted by a good pastor or priest. I even think that it will be good if a psychologist and a pastor can work in coordination.

Some psychologists neglect proper spiritual experience while they pay attention on mind control. Some theologians neglect mind control while they pay attention on proper spiritual experience. If psychologists and theologians can work in coordination, I think it would be a great benefit.

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