Vol.XX No.X Pg.2
December 1983

Using Psychology

Robert F. Turner

"Brother Turner, do you use psychology in your preaching?" It was a conversational question, intended to compliment. The querist was surprised when I told her I had only had a few hours in educational psychology — and that so long ago I remembered little about the course. She said she felt one could not preach successfully who did not "use psychology."

By "using psychology" some seem to mean we must manipulate the hearers — pull the psychic triggers that will cause them to think and do as we say. I hope she didn't mean that. Also, many confuse making friendly, social contacts, showing interest in recreation, etc., with gospel evangelism. (This is the basis upon which they use church funds to buy fishing camps or banquet halls.) But hamburgers are not the power of God unto salvation, and psychology cannot save souls.

Webster defines the term: ''systematic knowledge and investigation of the phenomena of consciousness and behavior." For you and me, that means "how people act, and why." People are the clientele, their hearts the targets for gospel truth, so obviously the better we understand them the more successful we should be in our work. But there are excellent Bible teachers who wouldn't know Freud from fraud. There is more than one way to know the heart of man.

Now and then I hear "sermons" that are textbook lectures from Transactional Analysis. Oh yes, the Bible is used, but only as a source for illustrations or examples to decorate the psychological lesson. Reasoning begins on the psychological basis and clearly produces the conclusion. Then we are treated with the remarkable discovery that the Bible concurs with our sermon. The cart before the horse.

If a concept of human behavior is true, it was true before human science of the psyche discovered it. God made it that way. Sacred history conforms to fact (what is, is), and the inspired word is our most accurate mirror of human behavior patterns. The man who knows the Bible and uses it as the basis for his reasoning has the very best insight to man's problems and their solutions. He may even use a Freudian point to decorate his presentation (like Paul citing some Greek poet, Acts 17:28). But he will preach a Bible sermon, with psychological illustrations; not a psychological sermon, with Bible illustrations. There is a world of difference.

God's word is psychologically correct, not because He follows the book, but He made the object of its study.