Sunday, September 1, 2013

The socio-cultural perspective versus the Christian perspective of psychology

Rebecca Felten currently works as a Documentation Control Assistant at Sargento Foods, Inc in Plymouth, Wisconsin. She is currently attending Trinity Christian College, pursuing a major in Business with a minor in Psychology. She plans on graduating in the Winter of 2014. She hopes to use the skills and knowledge she gains to begin a career in human resources. She has a passion for working with others and utilizing the talents of various people. Also, she wishes to revisit Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, and serve at the orphanage there. The following is an excerpt from a larger paper written as part of the author’s participation in an Introduction to Psychology course.

The Christian perspective unmasks a person’s heart and mind, which were created by God. God created each of us with a specific purpose and plan. He created us with brains and hearts in perfect states. Our mental activity and behavior became misdirected when humans chose to sin. This separated us from perfection, and affected the way we think and act now. He provides our families and cultures to impact us, though not always in the way that is honorable to God. We have become misdirected because of our sinful nature.

God has redeemed us though in sending His son on the cross, which gives us identity and foundation in Christ, rather than solely on our cultural and social background. Ephesians 1:4 says; “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” The examples of moral attitudes and cognitive development mentioned before can be evident in this perspective as well. God created us with different capacities, gifts, and tendencies as a part of his perfect plan. Each individual was sovereignly and perfectly created in His image. The negative influences of culture and society are due to the fallen world. Since God redeemed the world, His grace is poured down on us and can transform our mental processes and behavior.

 Psychology is defined as the science of behavior and mental processes (Myers, 2011). Christianity digs right into the inquiry of human nature, what our problem is and how we react. The Christian perspective of psychology explains behavior and mental processes in the knowledge and understanding that God is sovereign. That point cannot be emphasized enough. Jesus Christ, once and for all, saved us. Psalm 66:5 says, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” Our entire life and development is shaped by His grace, whether we come to believing in Him or not.

As human behavior and mentality are studied, it is evident that the socio-cultural perspective emphasizes cultural influence while the Christian perspective emphasizes God’s sovereignty and influence over society and culture. God provides our families and cultures to impact us, but within God’s will. They cannot on their own explain our formation, being, and why we act or think as we do. God created us, knowing who we would be and how we would act. We were created for a purpose and by God’s grace. He has ultimate authority over everything. Everyone can feel the force of God’s will – his goodness and order. Society doesn’t always accept it, but everyone experiences it. Within His will, there is freedom to receive Jesus Christ. Humans are free and responsible through the Holy Spirit to turn their direction towards the one who created them.

While some of the cultural and social values we are surrounded with can parallel with God’s, there are many that are not according to His will. Knowing the sovereignty of God’s will, a person’s culture or social background do not stand in His way or take sole influence over individuals. God can choose to completely overrun every standard for culture we have experienced and even believe, and call someone to faith in Him. It is His pleasure to magnify the glory of His free and sovereign grace in choosing people that they might bring Him praise and glory.

To assume that our mental processes and behavior are impacted solely by culture leads to an unpredictable, misleading path. This perspective limits the power of God and leads to the belief in an inconstant foundation.  To put our trust or faith in the culture or family around us as a determinant of our being is not stable, reliable, or true. As said before, moral attitudes can be greatly influenced by the culture we live in and how we were raised by our parents. The concept that people often overlook regards the original development of our moral sense. The discernment of what is appropriate in our thinking and acting comes from God and Him alone.

In conclusion, the socio-cultural perspective explains the role of our upbringing and environment as the sole source of our psychology, but the Christian perspective unmasks the heart and mind that were sovereignly created by God and behavior within His will. The socio-cultural perspective on psychology focuses on how behavior and thinking vary across situations and cultures. The Christian perspective stresses the basis that God created each of us with a specific purpose and sovereign plan. He created us with brains and hearts in perfect states. Our mental activity and behavior became misdirected when humans chose to sin, but He redeemed us and called us to Him within His will. Isaiah 40:13-14, 28 explains the sovereignty and constant nature of our Creator who is not limited by culture and who sets the standards for morality:

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?... Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

To say that humans are influenced and molded solely by their society and culture would diminish the power of Jesus Christ. Christianity explains behavior and mental processes in the knowledge and understanding that God is sovereign.


Light, P., Sheldon, S., & Woodhead, M. (1991). Learning to think. London: Routledge.

Myers, D. G. (2011). Exploring psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

The Holy Bible: New International Version.. (1984). Colorado Springs, CO: International Bible Society.