A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“When Freud is talking about how to cure neurotics he is speaking as a specialist on his own subject, but when he goes on to talk general philosophy he is speaking as an amateur… But psychoanalysis itself, apart from all the philosophical additions that Freud and others have made to it, is not in the least contradictory to Christianity…But [psychoanalysis] does not run the same course all the way, for the two techniques are doing rather different things (p. 89).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This quote could serve as a Rorschach test for Christian counselors. Hold it up in a room of Christian counselors and they will all see different things and may begin to act bizarrely.
I think we see several things in Lewis’ interaction that serves as an excellent model. In other posts we will examine his view of psychoanalysis, its compatibility with Christianity, and its usefulness to Christianity. Here our purpose is to examine his style of interaction rather than the content of his statement.
First, Lewis was humble towards those with a different expertise than his own. Whether or not you believe Lewis is overly ambitious about the ability to separate philosophical presuppositions from counseling methods, we should applaud his
Lewis’ purpose was to winsomely present the foundations of “mere” Christianity. To create common ground in order to demonstrate the key difference (self-reliance vs. God-dependence) was important to his purpose and respectful to the audience he was seeking to win.
Second, Lewis was not intimidated by “outsiders” who spoke in his field of study. Making friends and honoring expertise did not mean conceding everything. Being an excellent philosopher, Lewis knew he could talk from core philosophical
differences to the heart of the Gospel. Therefore, he did not cower from pointing out weak philosophical work to guide the conversation towards the matters of first importance.
Third, Lewis was willing to acknowledge commonality even with those with whom he disagreed. In the same paragraph Lewis is going to say they are after different things, but this does not cause him to disregard areas of common interest. In
this instance, Lewis is referencing the desire to see people free from irrational fears.
If we dismiss (assume the worst or assign ill motive) people because we disagree with them, we lose the ability to engage them in meaningful conversation. While the word “freedom” means different things in Christianity and psychoanalysis,
Lewis was willing to acknowledge that both want people to experience freedom from what ails them.
Fourth, Lewis recognized that points of agreement do not necessarily mean a shared mission. Lewis has a heart to walk with non-Christians as far as he can (whether you think he goes too far or stops prematurely), but to highlight the
significance of the difference where his path parted from his companions.
While I disagree (and that is painful for me to say) with his content, I believe Lewis’ approach is very Christian in this excerpt. I would hope my journey with those whom I rightly disagree would win me a hearing when it is necessary to
highlight the parting of our journey.