Asking where is God in all of this?

Kassidy Crown

Questioning role of soul in psychology


In my senior seminar psychology class this past week, we discussed whether or not one needs a soul to be considered as having personhood, or more simply, being human.

Having been raised in a religion that would answer this question with a resounding yes, this argument was a difficult one to find a compromise with.

On one hand, neuroscience and psychology would suggest that everything we have previously attributed to a soul is explained away by the brain and our increased understanding of it.

On the other hand, is it right to force the concept of the soul into these scientific boxes in the first place, risking a “God of the gaps” issue in which we put God, (or in this case, the soul) wherever we do not have a current scientific explanation to understand something?

If this is the case, then we risk assigning the soul to gaps that can eventually be filled as our understanding of the world grows and science explains away these gaps.

This would suggest that there is a limit to God’s power, and a limit to what a soul can be therefore defined as.

For example, if one were to explain the movement of the continents due to God’s intervention, but scientific discovery explains this movement due to tectonic plate movement, then one must question if God is truly omnipotent if something that once was attributed to God can so easily be explained away.

The same can be said for the soul. If we limit the soul, then we are attempting to limit an immaterial thing that by definition comes from God, and thus is part of his omnipotence.

And if we are to explain it away by negating its existence through neuroscience, do we not risk negating God by those same standards?

As a psychology major and future practitioner, another concern of mine related to God is a question Christian clients sometimes raise upon being diagnosed: “Where is God in all this?”

In other words, where can one find God in mental illness or suffering?

I feel that these questions only serve to shake the faith of individuals by making them believe that they are to be blamed for their illnesses.

As a psychology major, I am aware that I must ask these questions of my future patients, but I must also be aware of their view of religion.

By placing a blanket statement on every client that walks through the door, one takes a tremendous risk of harming an already potentially fragile understanding of God, or they risk assuming a religious view when the client is not religious.

If a client is an evangelical Christian who has questions about God’s place in their diagnoses, then of course that is something that should be addressed.

However, suggesting every client that walks through the door needs to be put through the “Where is God in all of this?” or “Why is God making me suffer?” lens can do more harm than good.

If we assume a client is religious when they are not, then we risk either addressing issues that may not need to be addressed, such as their relationship with God, or we risk alienating their trust from our care.

But, let’s return to the question of a soul making one human.

By psychologist standards, we do not necessarily have souls. But if one is to take the viewpoint that we do have souls, then does that mean those who do not believe in God do not have souls, and thus are not human?

What about those with severe mental disabilities, such that they cannot cognitively function on a level that would allow them to understand the concept of God?

Do they not have souls, and do they lack personhood because of their incapacity to relate to God in a way that we can understand?

I would hesitate to give a final verdict or answer on any of these questions.

I am apprehensive to suggest anyone is incapable of having personhood.

I believe that even if someone cannot cognitively understand God, they are still capable of having a relationship to God with the aid of the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace.

If not, then what was the point of Jesus dying for our sins? What was the point of God coming to earth and walking among us?

As psychologists we must ask these questions, yes, but we must also remember what both science and religion teach us and that by the very nature of being alive we should be granted personhood.