Psychiatry and Inner Conflicts

“God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiasted 3:11).[1]

If we are quiet before God and allow his Spirit to shine upon our inward state, we shall probably discover more than one conflict which is robbing us of inner peace. The man who lives apart from God may be largely unconscious of his inward conflicts and only aware of their tension.

Of course he may be driven by the sheer force of the tension to a psychiatrist who, if he is a wise one, will help the man to realize the sources of his disharmony. But he still will not be at peace with the nature of things, with his own conscience, and the divine purpose that is being worked out in his world unless the psychiatrist is able to lead him to faith in God.

But, except in unusual cases, the Christian need not turn to the psychiatrist. Either alone with God or with the help of a trusted friend, priest, or minister he can, if he wishes, see for himself the fierce, hidden resentment, the carefully concealed self-importance, the obstinate and unforgiving spirit, and all the other things which prevent inward relaxation.

Psychiatry can, and does, remove certain disabilities and resolve certain conflicts, but it cannot by itself supply our standards or values. It cannot answer any questions outside the immediate range of human personality.

I believe that those who would see in modern psychiatry something at once more efficient and more “scientific” than true [Christian] religion are doomed to disappointment. For, however excellent psychiatric methods may be, no adjustment can be provided toward any suprahuman purpose in life and no connection made with any resource outside human personality.

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” [2]

Such further integration may be, and of course sometimes is, provided, even unconsciously, by the psychiatrist. But that is because he is a man of faith himself, and not because he is a practitioner in psychiatry. He has to go beyond his function as a scientist if he is to adjust his patient to a world of spiritual reality.

Day by Day with J.B. Phillips, edited by Denis Duncan. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1983, 204-06. J.B. Phillips of England is known for his translation of The New Testament in Modern English. He also wrote 21 books including Your God is Too Small.

[1] Introductory Bible verse added.

[2] St. Augustine, Confessions – added

In this excerpt, Phillips uses “psychiatry” as synonymous with psychotherapy—mental health counseling that is based on the study of brain chemistry or psychology. We acknowledge that there is a place for psychiatry when there is an organic brain problem, and secular counseling can give support and coping tools. But we believe in, and advocate, Bible-based, grace-oriented, Holy Spirit-led discipling and counseling. See The Doctor is IN.