Science in Christian Perspective



A New Opportunity In Christian Witnessing
P.O. BOX 123, San Francisco, California

From JASA 8 (September 1956): 18-20.

I feel somewhat in the same classification that President Theodore Roosevelt stated when he said "Every good movement has it's lunatic fringe", for in a strict sense the field that I represent is not a physical science, nor a life science, but rather a fringe area that needs the findings from both so that it can be , an acceptable social science. Psychology is little more than a hundred years old though one can go back much farther than that to find excellent psychological treatises. As an academic discipline it is in its infancy, but then so is nuclear physics. My only hope is that our field will be more considerate in its inventions than the nuclear physicists were in theirs!

The general field of psychology has more or less divided itself into 4 areas:

1.) Research, commonly referred to as "rat & dog" psychology in honor to Pavlof and others who did physiological/psychological experimentation.

2.) Abnormal, which is closely allied with psychiatric therapy. This area is more closely related to the life science field in that physiological processes are more often than not involved to an high degree. Experiments are now going on to determine if an imbalance in the glandular excretions have any predictable bearing on psychopathy.

3.)Applied, here is the general area which includes industrial psychology which has been one of the most important steps in employer-employee relationships in the past decade; mental health, which has been widely heralded as the most significant advance in this century with the medical profession taking a leading role. The dynamic society that we live in has exacted a heavy toll with more than 50% of the available hospital beds filled with persons in some stage of mental illness.)

4.) Guidance and Counseling, which might also be part of Applied Psychology, but because of its rapid growth as a separate field warrants a separate category. The field of educational psychology is closely interrelated for it is from their testing devices that the conclusions have been drawn. In this field we would have to also include Child and Adolescent Psychology and a new field which is coming into prominence, Marriage Counseling. I will speak more on this a bit later.

If I were to ask this group the question, "How many have given counsel to another person in the past couple of months?", I am sure that 100% would reply in the affirmative. It is the practice of most schools to use their teaching faculty as counselors to students, with the inherent problem of a students oft-times being counseled by one who has a totally different field of interest. We question the validity of such a practice but are unable to offer any alternative that does not add a considerable amount to an already tightly pressed budget. When industry realizes its stake in the educational setup and begins to support higher education with more than token grants, and when college trustees are given the intrinsic value and the economic saving of professional guidance we will not have the problem of students studying in fields for which they have no aptitude or graduating with degrees in fields for which they have no love nor concern. Vocational guidance should begin on the secondary level so as to avoid indecision and nondirection in advanced training centers.

Counseling at a professional level involves more than vocational or psychological counsel for there are several fields which use counsel to an high degree, the legal, medical, theological, and educational professions. My particular concern is with three of the aforementioned. Having worked in the San Francisco school system during my master's program I am acutely aware of the psychological counselor's problems and limitations of effectiveness in helping children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds and especially those who come from homes where there is emotional insecurity and where the child is often in the cross-fire of quarreling parents. My concern for better family relationships drew me into the field of Marriage Counseling where if given the opportun.ity to counsel young people before entering such an exacting relationship problems can be averted, or at least means of dealing with the myriad problems of such intimate association are explored and they do not come as bomb blasts to wreck an harmonious home. Pre-marital counseling is preventative therapy and is usually far more effective than attempting to untangle the complex interreactions of marital complexities.

In the past year more than a dozen principals have called me to help in a particular problem in their schools and most of these schools were without adequate psychological help available. Dr. Clyde Narramore recently stated, "Almost every school with more than 2,000 students recognizes the need of professonially trained counselors and is attempting, as much as the budget will allow, to hire psychometrists and/or psychologists, for there is bound to be a significant percentage needing professional help."

What are the qualifications for a "professionally trained counselor" ? Most school systems have not been too specific in this regard. How often we have found the situation where an English or Science teacher who has gotten a little too old to control a class situation, yet is not quite old enough to retire, is made a "counselor". A child is sent down to the office and he inquires, "Well, what did you do?"

"Ah, nothing."

"You must have or the teacher wouldn't have sent you down, now listen to me, you go back and apologize and don't let me see you down here again."

What a travesty of counseling. The child's problem has not even been touched. Fortunately superintendents and principals are realizing that behavior problems are more than isolated acts of disobedience and that patterns of behavior need adequate understanding, dispassionate analysis, and frequently some discipline.

Perhaps one of the most important attributes of a counselor would be the ability to understand people, what makes them tick-not physiological knowledge alone though that is necessary. Dr. Peter Marshall the famed Scottish preacher who became Chaplain of the Senate was called to the fashionable New York Presbyterian Church of Washington, D. C. and found less than a score of young people in all departments, then in a year after he came there were more than 200. Why? A teenage girl who heard Dr. Marshall in a high school assembly that was notorious for booing speakers right off the platform stated, "We kids liked to hear Peter Marshall because he spoke our language. He didn't talk over our heads, and he put the responsibility for what we made of our lives squarely on us." He knew what made them tick. Every successful youth leader is somewhat of a psychologist though he may not be clinically trained.

A second attribute would be a friendly personality with few annoying habits. Some people are very irritating in both public and personal audience. I once had a professor who constantly pulled at his ear. And there is a very famous preacher who I can't stand to watch because he is always pulling his handkerchief thru his hands. I am reminded of the story of a lady threatened with a nervous breakdown and was persuaded to consult a psychiatrist. After their first session, he gave her a list of things to do and made a weekly appointment for her. Two weeks later he telephoned her and asked why she had failed to keep her appointments.

"But, Doctor," she explained, "you said for me to stay away from people who irritate me, and I don't know anyone who irritates me more than you do."

A third qualification of a good counselor would be the ability to listen sympathetically and not condescendingly. You don't need to be orientated to Dr. Carl Roger's non-directive approach to be able to do this either. Though I am a disciple of non-directive therapeutic counseling there are many situations which require giving specific information or as it is referred to by Rogers, an "authoritative approach". Many counseling sessions are a total failure because the client feels that he or she has been dominated and then their own defenses rise up to form a barrier between the counselor and client. The eclectic approach is probably what the greater majority of counselors use.

The fourth and perhaps most important attribute so far as the client or student is concerned is that the counselor must know how to keep confidences. One of the major reasons for the cathartic value of the Roman Catholic confessional is the absolute confidence of the parishioner that the man listening in will never divulge the conversation to another. To a professional counselor this too is essential for there will be an inability to get the client to speak freely and thus explore the cause of difficulty if the client feels such information might be divulged. A "blabbermouth" has no place in the counseling profession.

I indicated in the title that I would suggest a "new way or new opportunity in Christian witnessing". I am vitally concerned with this subject, having spent the last fourteen years helping Christians realize their divinely appointed responsibility, God did not save us and then whisk us up to our celestial home. Instead he gave us the privilege of spreading His Gospel to all the world. In Pasadena City College I met a Christian Mathemetics and Astronomy professor who used personal contacts as well as classroom discussion to present the need of faith in a personal God. He was a founder of the ASA, Mr. Peter Stoner, and he used his daily life as an opportunity for a Christian witness.

He typified what Dr. Wm. Evans wrote in his practical and scholarly volume, "Personal Soulwinning" (p.28), "An opportunity is defined as a time with favoring or propitious circumstances; a favorable chance . . . the personal worker (Christian witness) must be an opportunist; he must believe in opportunism. As men in the gold fields are constantly on the lookout for gold veins, so should the personal worker be on the lookout for souls."

In answer to the question, "How is counseling a "new way" of Christian witness" we can say:

1.) It is a new and growing field, hence subject to either good or evil influence (equating good with Godly and evil with ungodly influence.)

2.) It is interrelated with the total environmental conditioning of a school and its teaching philosophy, therefore it can be a positive force in helping moral and spiritual development.

It is more or less an individual contact basis, thus affording maximum privacy when dealing with people about eternal verities. Men like Dr. Narramore in Los Angeles, Chief Consulting Psychologist f or the County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Paul Wilkerson, Counselor in a junior High School in Akron, Ohio, and Dr. Augustine of the Graduate School of Psychology at Penn State and Head of Guidance and Counseling of Erie County, Pa. have been encouraging Christian young people to come into the field and help make this discipline a vanguard for Christ.

The question may arise . . . Is it ethical to use a clinical counseling conference as a place to evangelize or give a Christian witness. Dr. Wallace Emerson with a somewhat prejudicial viewpoint stated in his "Outline of Psychology", "The most important study in the world is not of things, but people. Things have no importance, so far as we can tell, except as they relate to people." (An astronomer might take exception to this!) He continues, "When a person becomes a Christian, from that moment on, his chief business in life ought to be people. Since there is nothing here on earth that has eternal destiny except people, it is the business of Christians to influence that destiny in whatever walk of life they may find service." We have a divine imperative ... scientist, teacher, preacher, there is no distinction when Jesus said, "Ye shall be my witnesses . ." John 15:16.