And yet, Calvinistic anthropology denies this agentic capacity, this ability through your choices and changes to move toward God and a state of grace. And in denying that capacity it seems that a Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is rendered logically impossible. A person cannot do anything to move, in a decisive way, into a state of grace. And without attaining that state of grace full psychological well-being cannot be achieved. The therapist and client must wait upon the saving action of God. The therapist can pray for the client, but she can't do therapy. At least not therapy that might produce rich and robust psychological outcomes.
Arminian anthropology, by contrast, grants a human capacity to make choices, decisions and changes that can decisively move a person toward union with God. This capacity is granted by the Arminian conviction that humans have free will and are expected to exercise that will in moving toward God. Because of this anthropology Arminian Christian psychotherapy is logically coherent. In an Arminian Christian psychotherapy the human efforts of both client and therapist are believed to be efficacious in moving the client toward God--toward spiritual well-being--which in turn profoundly affects and supports psychological well-being. This is not to deny the activity of the Holy Spirit in the therapeutic process. It is simply the recognition that beyond prayer therapy works as therapy, as human agentic activity that can move a person into a state of spiritual well-being. Basically, the relationship between seeking spiritual well-being and human effort in psychotherapy makes sense given how Arminians view human agency.
To make the logical issues here more clear, we can imagine three premises:
The Therapeutic Premise:If I was a better logician I probably could re-word these premises to tighten up the logical associations between them. Still, I think the basic idea is made clear. If you accept the the Therapeutic Premise, the Well-Being Premise, and the Calvinistic Version of the Anthropological Premise you have, what seems to my eye, a logical impossibility:
Therapy involves human agents making choices and changes that lead to greater well-being.
The Well-Being Premise:
Psychological well-being is dependent upon being in a state of grace, a reconciled relationship with God.
The Anthropological Premise:
- Calvinistic Version: Human agency lacks the capacity to move a person into a state of grace, into a reconciled relationship with God.
- Arminian Version: Human agency is capable of moving a person into a state of grace, into a reconciled relationship with God.
Therapy involves making choices and changes to move toward greater well-being. Well-being is dependent upon being in a reconciled relationship with God. However, humans lack the capacity to make choices or changes to bring about being in a reconciled relationship with God. Therefore, the logical outcome: Therapy cannot improve well-being.If, however, you are working with the Arminian Version of the Anthropological Premise you have something that is logically consistent and coherent:
Therapy involves making choices and changes to move toward greater well-being. Well-being is dependent upon being in a reconciled relationship with God. Humans have the capacity to make choices or changes to bring about being in a reconciled relationship with God. Therefore, the logical outcome: Therapy can improve well-being.Which brings us back to my conclusion from last week.
A Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is an impossibility.