Christ and Psychiatry

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Second of Two Parts

From the cursory review in Part I of the background of psychiatry as a social science I would draw two points: the rich but diverse profusion of philosophical assumptions of those who have molded the psychological-science side of psychiatry underlies much of the identity confusion that we experience today; secondly, as we attempt to help our patients with their personal problems, this same variety of orientations gives us a philosophical legacy from which we can draw, extending far beyond the narrow confines of mechanistic determinism.

Even granting the full force of this second point, the side of our profession rooted in the social sciences lacks the firm philosophical base that would allow us to integrate it fully with the side rooted in medicine, with its strong presupposition that the patient really does matter. These two thought-worlds of the psychiatrist do not always easily come together. I would propose that in Christ and in the Judaeo-Christian view of man, these seemingly dual allegiances of our profession can become one, and that here we will also find a full-bodied sense of meaning for our vocation.Both psychiatry and Christianity are relentlessly empirical at their pith. Psychiatry at its best would proceed, in its dealings with man, from the observation of man as he is and from the collection of information and interpretation of data rather than from philosophical ideas about the nature of man. In the like manner, the Old Testament does not start from philosophical speculation about the nature of God; its revelation of God to man is unfolded in the actions and deeds of God in history. Similarly the New Testament focuses upon the actual historical facts of the life, the death, and the bodily ...

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