This is the third entry in a series of posts addressing Christianity and Social Work. The purpose of these posts is to view questions proposed from a friend a few years back when he learned that I was pursuing a degree in Social Work. You can see the entire series as it is posted by clicking here. So, here is the next entry, enjoy!
Q. In what ways, if any, has your study of the mind shaped your faith?
A. I suppose that saying social work is a studying of the mind would be mislabeling what social work actually is. The difference between a social worker and a psychologist or psychiatrist, in short: is that the social worker seeks to empower the individual to utilize, develop, and understand the tools they possess in order to manage their lives. The field of social work is in fact so diverse that it would be difficult to limit the social worker's role to any one single spectrum. The above explanation is broad and universal in most social work roles.
I will have to admit that the beginning of my study in social work was met with great trepidation. I was fearful that I would have to embrace theories and practices that contradict my faith and beliefs. But, the biggest hindrance I experienced was that I approached all methods of therapy from a nouthetic approach. I feared that I would no longer be willing or able to help people without compromising my belief system.
So, without exhausting the details beyond necessity, I struggled very much in the beginning. Many psychological theories are in direct conflict with the teachings of scripture and pose a problem for Christians in therapy and human service fields. The premise that the problems of man are rooted in the mind is only valid if we understand that the mind is hindered by the fall of man and effected by sin.
The study of social work has shaped my faith with new perspectives. My training has shaped my faith through the broadening of my awareness. My knowledge of other approaches to helping man resolve the troubles of his human condition through his own means better equips me to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in this context.
I have come to a greater understanding of man being formed in the image of God (imago dei) and that encourages me to see the whole of humanity, its state without the truth of Christ, and the necessity of the Christian social worker to remember his first love with a sense of urgency. My study of the mind or social work in general has broadened my concern for the lost and the direct effect of sin on the lives of all earth's peoples.
In the end, the study of the mind demonstrates that there are certain organic issues that can effect the way people behave. There is also a spiritual issue that effects the way man responds to his environment. Plainly, the role of the Christian Social Worker is to obey Jesus Christ, and love his neighbor as he loves himself. A difficult task, but one that is required.