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Christian Theology[edit | edit source]

Definition[edit | edit source]

Theology is the study of religious belief and God. The word "theology" is derived from the two Greek words theos, meaning "God", and logos, meaning "the study of". Christian theology refers to the study of Christian faith and the God of the Bible. It encompasses both the study of the doctrine of the God of the Bible, as well as the wider study of Christian teaching.[1]

Truth in Christian Theology[edit | edit source]

There are several core beliefs within Christian faith which are generally acknowledged as truths within Christian theology.[2] These are as follows:

God[edit | edit source]

The most fundamental and absolute truth within Christian theology is the belief in an omnipresent, omniscient and transcendent God, whose existence is a mystery that lies beyond the bounds of human understanding.[3] While it is possible to share a loving, personal relationship with God, it is important to remember His supremacy over humanity, and His majesty should be recognised with awe and reverence.

Jesus Christ[edit | edit source]

In Christian theology, Jesus Christ is believed to be the son of God, both human and divine at the same time. This truth developed over time after the death and resurrection of Jesus, as seen in the Christian Scriptures. Jesus plays a key role as the Son in the Trinity, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, which are believed to represent the different ways in which God is with Christians. Historically, there were doubts about whether Christianity remained monotheistic if Jesus was regarded as a divine being; these were later dispelled by the belief that Jesus gives God a human form to spread His love and grace. Jesus' human and divine duality largely remains a mystery to Christians, and is difficult to explain fully.[4]

The Trinity[edit | edit source]

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is the belief that God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Although considered a fundamental truth within Christianity, the trinitarian nature of God is one of the more difficult and debatable areas of Christian faith, and can be considered a more subjective truth when considering the monotheistic characteristic of Christianity. A commonly accepted theory states that God is in fact made up of three distinct persons, although they share the same divine nature.[5]

The Bible[edit | edit source]

The Bible is seen as the word of God[6], and thus acts as the founding truth upon which other truths about Christian faith and worship are built. While there is a freedom of interpretation between individuals, allowing for the existence of varying relative truths from a personal perspective, the history of biblical interpretation should also be taken into account. This forms a semblance of structure and consistency within biblical truths, even as they are constantly evolving with modern-day thoughts and ideas. The process of exegesis involves analysing the difference between human bias and divine word in scripture, in order to distinguish the difference between the will of God and subconscious influence of past historical contexts. Although often wildly varying in results[7], these critical interpretations help with clarifying and refining important truths found within the Bible, particularly on a modern-day basis.

Issues Regarding Truth in Christian Theology[edit | edit source]

Due to the largely personal nature of interpretation when looking at Christian scriptures - even if this is not necessarily considered a correct interpretation[8] - it is easy for differing truths to develop for each individual, thus resulting in discrepancies of meaning, even with the existence of the God and the Bible acting as overarching truths. This indicates that truth in theology beyond its foundation is mostly relative, with little possibility of synthesis across the discipline in that regard.

There are some theologists who argue that trying to conceptualise and define truths in Christianity does not correlate with the idea of belief, as having faith in God means to wholly trust in him without the need for human interpretation.[9] Another aspect to consider is that God is beyond human knowledge, so it is impossible to explain God using truths conceived by humankind.

Psychology[edit | edit source]

Definition[edit | edit source]

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, often focusing on human behaviours and behavioural patterns. It is the study of human behaviour by humans. Clinical psychology focuses on the study of the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, while research psychology uses scientific methods to study human behaviour and mental health.[10]

Truth in Psychology [edit | edit source]

Truth in Research Psychology[edit | edit source]

In research psychology, a hypothesis is chosen and tested, often in a lab, using scientific methods.[11] In this way, truth in research psychology is positivist; it is about observation, measuring these observations and then testing them. Other types of research psychology tests are based on the personal, subjective experience of an individual or a group. For example, psychological research surveys may ask participants to rank their happiness on a numeric scale[12], which is problematic due to the difficulties in attempting to quantify human emotion, and because different people would define a '1' differently.

Research psychologists tend not to claim to know objective truths about human behaviour. Instead, they find the closest thing to the truth that they can, using the information and technology which they currently have available to them. Some research psychologists conclude that human behaviour follows law-like patterns[13], patterns which could be defined as objective truth in the realm of human behaviour. But these psychologists usually agree that a range of factors contribute to a given behavioural pattern, including social and environmental factors which are constantly in flux rather than following any definitive law or objective truth.

The results found in research psychology are then applied practically to real-life situations, often to people who come to clinical psychologists.[14] This makes the discovery of truth very important within the field of research psychology because the conclusions drawn will be applied to individuals- who are often in mentally or emotionally fragile states- to companies, to businesses, to marketing, and to whole societies.

However, the conclusions, meaning, and interpretations drawn from any given psychologic study are open to debate among psychologists, meaning that it is rare to apply the results of one specific test to the whole of humanity.

Truth in Clinical Psychology[edit | edit source]

Clinical psychology is focused on understanding the personal human experience- their subjective truth- and offering solutions. The focus is on how the patient feels about their situation and symptoms, rather than about using scientific method to measure and quantify their experiences. Clinical psychology aims to improve the lives of an individual, to uncover the individual’s truth and their personal feelings in relation to that subjective truth.[15]

Issues Regarding Truth in Psychology[edit | edit source]

Many psychological experimental methods are no longer considered ethical and are condemned and discouraged, as seen in the wake of the infamous Milgram experiment[16], and the Stanford prison experiments[17]. This means that there are limitations set on what research can be done due to ethical reasons, and the conduction of research tests often have to be reviewed. Thus the discovery of truth is confined within the limits of what is considered ethical.

Some critique that research psychologists are less concerned with coming closer to truth than they are concerned with researching exciting topics in the hopes of getting published. The data collected from a research study may be accurate, but the conclusions drawn from this data can be manipulated and exaggerated to make for a more interesting article. A phenomenon known as publication bias is also often at play, where boring yet extremely accurate studies may never get published. Interestingly, a study shows that over half of psychological studies failed the reproducibility test[18], which may demonstrate the move away for accurate scientific method.

Comparison[edit | edit source]

When evaluating the truths within Christian theology and psychology, several differences become apparent. Psychology, although built partly upon a scientific foundation, does not have a universal truth as absolute as the existence of God in theology. While theology is built mainly upon one source (i.e. the Bible) and is therefore limited in its content, psychology is constantly evolving through research; this allows the discoveries of infinitely more potential truths, whereas the main focus of theologists remains on studying the already well-established, existing truths.

While both disciplines involve a fair amount of personal interpretation and therefore subjective truth, psychology presents a wider scope of subjectivity and room for debate in the meanings of its research. This is because some theologists may believe strongly in one 'right' meaning depending on the strength of their faith and the type of Christianity they consciously practise, leaving them less open to approaching theology with contrasting or non-mainstream perspectives and ideas.

  1. Don Stewart, What is Christian Theology?, BlueLetterBible
  2. 3 Basics of Christian Theology, The Boisy Center for Religion and American Public Life
  3. K. Erik Thoennes, How God Is Both Incomprehensible and Knowable at the Same Time, Crossway, 25 May 2016
  4. Revd Dr Sam Wells, Jesus: Human and Divine, St Martin in the Fields, 09 October 2018
  5. Dr. Ray Pritchard, God in Three Persons: A Doctrine We Barely Understand, Christianity, 08 July 2010
  6. Joseph Haroutunian, The Bible and the Word of God, 1947
  7. Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica and Matt Stefon, Exegesis, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  8. Biblical Interpretation, Understand Christianity
  9. Thomas Corbett, Criteria for Theological Truth
  10. Introduction to the Field of Psychology, Lumen
  11. Research Methods, SimpyPsychology
  12. How to Measure Happiness With Tests and Surveys, PositivePsychology
  13. Glenn Geher, Laws of Human Behavior, Psychology Today, 02 June 2018
  14. Raymond Philippe, The Importance of Psychology, Owlcation, 09 September 2017
  15. Clinical Psychology Solves Complex Human Problems, Science in Action
  16. Kendra Cherry, Milgram's Experiments and the Perils of Obedience, Verywellmind 16 September 2019
  17. Alastair Leithead, Stanford prison experiment continues to shock, BBC News, 17 August 2011
  18. Monya Baker, Over half of psychology studies fail reproducibility test, Nature, 27 August 2015