Tucked into my bookshelves I have several books from the seventies written to attack Christians (me included) who were working in psychology. We were called psychoheretics and speakers of psychobabble, involved in undermining the Christian community by smuggling secular humanism and other non-biblical philosophies into churches and seminaries. Most of these attackers are gone but they raised an issue that has relevance for people builders and people leaders today: is it unhealthy or dangerous to use methods built on beliefs that are non-Christian or even anti-Christian?
Consider coaching as an example. We do coaching without thinking that its core principles build on humanism, Buddhism, American business practices and a belief that answers to our problems reside within apart from any need to acknowledge or depend on God. Mindfulness is a bigger example. An article in Monitor on Psychology (July/August 2012) describes a “tremendous surge in the popularity” of mindfulness and notes how this has “moved from a largely obscure Buddhist concept to a mainstream psychotherapy construct today.” Is this a modern form of psychoheresy and psychobabble or is it a useful concept for reducing stress, increasing focus and mental clarity, and building better leaders? Here are three guidelines for evaluating or using methods based on non-Christian foundations.
- Know its meaning, methods, claims and demonstrated effectiveness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation involving a moment-to-moment focus on the present without rumination or judgment. Advocates claim numerous benefits, some of which have been demonstrated to be effective. The Monitor review is more cautious, indicating that evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness is still limited, even though quality research continues.
- Don’t jump to conclusions, uncritically embracing what is popular or quickly rejecting what is new. Remember that God has given us a lot that is used for good even though it comes from non-Christian sources. Medical practices are examples.
- Ask yourself if the techniques are consistent with your values, core beliefs and ethical standards. Can you overlook the foundation assumptions and use the methods without risking harm or compromising your Christianity? If in doubt, wait until you have clearer perspectives.
What is your attitude about mindfulness or other debatable techniques? Please comment.
To know more about mindfulness watch Jon Kabat-Zinn give a google talk on the subject – click here