Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Psychology, Theology, and Social Work: Moving From Antithesis To Synthesis

My educational journey has been varied to say the least. From learning about Pavlov's dog to memorizing Wesley's Doctrine of Sin to discovering Jane Addams legacy my journey has provided me with an eclectic view of the world and my place within it.

Recently I have been attempting to integrate these seemingly divergent streams of thought (psychology, theology, and social work) into a cohesive unit. This has proven to be a difficult task that I imagine will take some time to complete.

While attending seminary I had a casual conversation with a fellow classmate about the fact that I was studying social work and theology. At some point in the conversation he said something like.. " Wow...those are certaintly two world's apart...aren't they?" Needless to say I was taken back by his comment. My inner self shouted "No!" but my outer self kept quiet. Ever since then that inner "No!" has been haunting me. So I decided to give it a voice.

Are social work and theology two worlds apart? Are these disciplines so different that they must remain in opposition to exist? I suppose if you come from a purely academic point of view they are seemingly different. Theology is the study of God. Social work is the study of helping people.

But coming from an experiential point of view I believe that theology and social work are related. No, they are more than that...they are intertwined. In my experience, the more deeply I study God (theology) the more deeply I feel compelled to learn how to love my neighbor...to learn how to help people (social work).

So, if I could go back in time to that moment in seminary class what would I say to my friend who asserted that, " Social work and theology are two world apart!" ?

Maybe I would say something cynical like, "Have you read the Gospels lately?"

But most likely I would say something simple..."No, no, my friend, I couldn't disagree with you more...theology and social work are not two world's but the same world...Loving God and Loving Neighbor."

So...I am interested to know what you would have said to my seminary friend. Are the disciplines of theology and social two worlds a part as he claimed? Or one world as I claim? Or maybe you have a completely different point of view? Whatever it is let me hear it...let's dialogue...

6 comments:

pastorwick said...

Matthew 22:37-40

A life of figuring out how to do both of these better, AND ACTUALLY DOING THEM...is a pretty good thing.

Maybe the fact that your friend asked the question is a testament to the fact that as a Church, we've done a lot less "doing" than we need to be.

From the theological side, not sure if it's True theology if not actively involved in humanity.

Bethany said...

I agree with you, Brooke.
As I'm entering into the world of college and pursuing this whole Childen's Ministry "thing," I am seeing a true mix of theology and social "work." The job of Children's Pastor and I guess every pastor is to minister to families, children, youth, etc while speaking truth. While I study I'll be taking many classes to "pastor" and other classes to understand children and families.

I didn't know you went to seminary...? Sweet!

Kyle said...

I agree and disagree with you not that i am saying it doesn't have a place in social work i am just saying like everything else it has it's time and place. I know a couple of christian counselors (and by couple i mean a married couple) and when i thought about being a counsleor they talked about how hard is was not being able to intertwine it within your counseling sessions. It took me awhile to understand that point until i met with one of them and spoke with them until they asked if it was ok that we talked about faith.I realized in order to be an effective counselor they had to meet the person on a level playing field without religion before they brought religion into it.

pastorwick said...

I don't think the issue here is talking "about" Jesus while doing social justice...

But rather it being the True source of why we would do it.

The world would say "moral virtues"...where we would say "God"...and I believe "God" has to be a much more powerful bowl of soup.

pastorwick said...

so....u gonna do a "bi-annual" blog-post? there's still time.

pastorwick said...

so, you totally haven't posted a blog in about a year now.