Doers of the Word
Natalia J. Garland
Is psychotherapy demonic? There are some radical Christians who
seem to think so. However, I will show that social work is
compatible with the Bible and a natural expression of
spirituality. I will start by defining social work, and then
provide some simple biblical cross-referencing to prove that
social work is a profession worthy of spiritual people.
Mount Mary College
offers a crisp, precise definition of social work that I really
like. I found this at their website.
If you have a strong interest in helping people deal effectively
with their environments and others, as well as helping resolve
personal problems of living, a degree in social work might be the
best choice for you. Social work is a highly regarded field
centered around enhancing coping skills, linking people to needed
resources and empowering them to make changes in their
[End of quote.]
That sure doesn't
sound like the work of the devil to me. Here is another
definition that gives more details on the types of services which
social workers provide and the places where they work. I found
this definition at the website of the Philadelphia Biblical
Social work focuses upon the relationships individuals have with
each other, with their families, and with their communities.
Social workers can be found in public organizations and private
businesses, as well as medical and mental health settings. Social
workers are the largest providers of mental health and therapy
services in the nation. They are in every level of government,
education, research, and a growing number are elected political
leaders and legislators. Social workers counsel individuals, work
with groups, administer organizations, and resolve conflict. They
impact others' lives guided by their gifts of leadership,
compassion, and mercy. Social work is the art of holistically
helping people make willful decisions and assisting individuals
as they navigate through difficult situations.
There are different
theoretical and stylistic approaches to clinical social work.
Some psychological theories of human behavior have been more
friendly to the inclusion of spirituality than others. Nowadays,
perhaps because of the influence of Twelve Step programs, there
seems to be more openness to the benefits of spirituality on
Let us also keep in
mind that it was psychotherapy, not the Church, that exposed the
problems of incest, rape, wife battering, and child abuse. It was
psychotherapy that made it possible for victims of abuse to be
understood, believed, and helped. Church leaders have often
unknowingly exacerbated these situations.
The Epistle of St.
James perhaps most directly refers to the worthiness of the
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To
visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep
himself unspotted from the world.
The widows and the
orphans might be regarded at the patients of those days.
They were the ones who needed practical assistance as well as
emotional support. (I think it would be possible to give this
passage both literal and symbolic interpretation in application to
modern social work.) Notice that St. James regarded this kind of
helping as "pure religion." He also seems to add the
stipulation that the helper maintain a certain focus and identity
appropriate to the work. St. James calls such helpers "doers
of the word" (James 1:22). The word refers to the
sayings of Christ, and also to the person of Christ.
Social work is not
in competition with religion. Mental health should not be
anti-salvation. Jesus Christ, who came to bring salvation, also
valued and stressed the practical and emotional aspects of life.
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye
gave me drink: I was stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye
clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye
came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord,
when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto
There is a promise
of eternal life for those who apply their Christian beliefs to
practical usefulness within society.
There seems to be
no requirement that a helper provide specifically Christian-based
services. A religious social worker, for example, is providing
valid services within the realm of social work activities. I have
nothing against Christian counselling or pastoral counselling.
Faith-based programs provide important services for both those
with and without a belief system. Working on secular jobs,
however, also offers opportunity for a spiritual impact. The
spiritual person will be known by their embodiment of Christ-like
words and deeds. Without this embodiment, even Christian
counselling would be hypocritical and ineffective.
Christ Himself is
the example to be followed. This holds true for all people who
profess to be Christians, no matter what their occupation. I will
close this essay with a quotation from a statement on "Basis
of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church," from
the Russian Orthodox Church of Three Saints.
The Saviour said about Himself: "I am among you as he that
serveth," (Luke 22:27). Service for the salvation of the
world and human beings cannot be limited to national and religious
limits, as the Lord Himself states clearly in the parable of the
merciful Samaritan. Moreover, the members of the Church encounter
Christ as the One Who assumed all sins and suffering of the world
when they welcome the hungry, homeless, sick or prisoners. Help to
those who suffer is in the full sense help to Christ Himself, and
the fulfillment of this commandment determines the eternal fate of
every man (Matthew 25:31-41). Christ calls upon His disciples
not to shun the world, but to be "the salt of the earth,"
and, "the light of the world."
[End of quote.]
psychotherapy as demonic is to discourage true Christians from
choosing careers in the helping professions. Social work has
brought much good into the world. People who turn to social
workers for help are often people who have been failed by their
families, schools, and churches. (Written 02/07/05: bibliography available.)
Until we meet