Why the Clergy Surrendered to Psychiatrists (Part 1)

From time to time I have asked certain individuals to write a guest article to shed light on the abuses of psychiatry and how the church surrendered its biblical authority for the preservation of the soul. Also, to shed light on how the church no longer trust in the sufficiency of Holy Scripture, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit for biblical counseling.

Why the Clergy Surrendered to Psychiatrists (Part 1)

Professor of sociology, at the University of Chicago, Dr. Andrew Abbott, in his award winning book, “The System of Professions”, significantly helps us to understand “why” the clergy in the 20th century lost, as well as surrendered, all “cultural” jurisdiction (though not necessarily “ecclesiastical” jurisdiction) over “personal problems” to psychiatrists:

The clergy were in fact the heaviest losers from the creation of the new psychiatric jurisdiction … by the 1920s, the clergy had lost any vestige of cultural jurisdiction over personal problems. No longer were such problems signs of God’s word, or occasions for thinking about ultimate reality. Rather, they were complete and entire problems unto themselves. (Abbott 308, 309).

As a sociologist, Professor Abbott easily discovered that the “reason” for this surrender and take-over, by psychiatrists, was not hard to historically identify:

The gradual recognition of personal problems as legitimate categories of professional work did not bring a serious clergy effort to conceptualize them. The clergy’s failure to provide any academic foundation for their practice with personal problems ultimately proved their undoing. If another profession should establish relevant diagnostic, therapeutic, and inferential systems and legitimate these in terms of general values, the clergy’s simpleminded cultural jurisdiction would be easily usurped. (Abbott 286).

This failure by the clergy to “conceptualize” and/or to “provide any academic foundation  for their practice with personal problems” in the modern period, and which “proved their undoing”, was because they did not possess, like the sons of Issachar, an “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles. 12:32).

And what was it specifically about the “times” in which we lived, and even now live, that the clergy failed to discern or understand? The answer, once again, is clear. The clergy failed to discern that the age in which they were now living (and for the first time in the history of Western civilization) was rapidly moving away from the age of “craft” toward the age of “professionalization” at every level of society. As a result, the clergy were not only theologically and academically left behind in the dust bin of intellectual history (i.e. as it specifically pertains to a sacred “study of the soul” or a “sacred psychology” out of the sacred scriptures) but were easily overtaken at the same time.

This usurping of authority over the personal problems jurisdiction, by psychiatrists, through the process of “professionalization”, and together with the clergy’s inability to both discern and adapt their pastoral “craft” to the historical moment, proved to be a “cultural” catastrophe for the clergy in the 20th century. Hence, the old way of controlling knowledge and expertise over personal problems (i.e. by way of “craft”) was swiftly giving way to the new way of controlling those very same problems by means of a professional system of “abstract” knowledge.

Thus, whoever developed and controlled an elaborate and detailed “system” of “abstract” knowledge on human nature, together with the inner workings of the human mind, thoughts, emotions, behavior, etc. (i.e. through text books, courses, degree programs, specialized faculty, associations, licensing, conferences, diagnostic and treatment systems, state laws and protection, etc.), would come to dominant. Once again, Professor Abbott provides us with insight (or rather, hindsight) with respect to how psychiatry was able to “seize” control of the personal problems jurisdiction from the clergy by developing and controlling the “professionalization” of knowledge:

There are two rather different ways of accomplishing this control. One emphasizes technique per se, and occupations using it are commonly called crafts. To control such an occupation, a group directly controls its technique. The other form of control involves abstract knowledge. Here, practical skill grows out of an abstract system of knowledge, and control of the occupation lies in control of the abstractions that generate the practical techniques … For me this characteristic of abstraction is the one that best identifies the professions. For abstraction is the quality that sets inter-professional competition apart from competition among occupations in general. Any occupation can obtain licensure, but only a knowledge system governed by abstractions can redefine its problems and tasks, defend them from invaders, and seize new problems – as medicine has recently seized alcoholism, mental illness, hyperactivity in children, obesity, and numerous other things. Abstraction enables survival in the competitive system of professions. (Abbott, pp. 8-9)

Submitted by Rev. Russell Haynes

Rev. Russell A. Haynes is a graduate of Tyndale College and Seminary, in Toronto Canada. He is also ordained with the Evangelical Church Alliance International, based in Bradly Illinois. He has lived in Toronto for the past 25 years and has had a special pastoral passion and heart for exposing the spiritual and physical dangers of secular psychiatry and secular psychology. He also is attempting to reclaim a “Biblical Psychology” (i.e. a “sacred psychology” or sacred “study of the soul”) back to the life of the Church and especially for the pastoral care of souls.

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