Thirty years ago in one American university, the study of psychology was confined to a single course taught in the philosophy department. Today a student who wants to pursue psychology at that university can choose from three curricular tracks: clinical, experimental, or educational psychology. Within each there are a host of sub-disciplines, such as learning theory, abnormal development, personality theory, animal psychology, physiological psychology, and social psychology. Similar patterns of “mushrooming,” specialization, and diversification can be seen in the development of other “social sciences,” such as political science and sociology.

The Word of God has much to say about human sociality: it teaches the nature of this sociality, and it provides directives for understanding and structuring the social dimension. As servants of that Word, evangelical Christians must attempt to discover and make known whatever perspectives the Scriptures offer on the “scientific” study of man.

Christians are not the only ones who insist the social sciences need a direction of some sort that they are not getting. Paul Goodman, for instance, has argued that we need a perspective on social problems that goes beyond that of the present-day social sciences, “which limit the discussion to the arrangement, communication, and culture-pattern of people as they currently appear.” Goodman himself pleads for the “indispensable advantage” offered by the perspectives of “history and poetry,” which can point us to “other possible ways of human being, which might have other arrangements, communications, and patterns” (Compulsory Mis-education and the Community of Scholars, p. 164). To this the Christian must add that historical analyses and poetic visions ...

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