Christianity and Freudian Thought

Over the years Christians avoided Freud due to his emphasis on sexual language to describe mankind’s motivations and issues in life.  Within Christianity there is a renewed and culturally charged interest in sexuality; Freud’s name is making a comeback and being reevaluated to see if he was really on to something. Yet few know little more about Freud than that he was a pioneer in Psychology and that sexual tension seemed to be a key role in his interpretation of man. Let us look at some things the church does well to reflect upon when considering this man and his system.  

This is the really short overly generalized summary of Freud from my own understanding of the man and his work. First of all sexual tension was not really what Freud was out to prove. It was only the key focal point of where he believed man’s motivations lay, if you removed God from the equation. Freud was not Christian and as such sought to explain man from an understanding of pure observation, revelation was out.  To Freud and others, all religion and gods were only man’s compensation for being frustrated (usually sexually) in attempting to achieve your “super ego.”  Your ideal self, was not being met or nurtured, and your attempts to do so are always frustrated by others, who are inevitably out trying to do the same. Thus the push and pull of life was a constant and so to be content (because true happiness belongs to the super self) would be to realize that people are crap and in competition with you, and you just really need to learn to man up and deal with it. In Freud there was not much else in the form of relief from this tension and pattern, because of the brokenness of man. Therapy could potentially last forever because there was no way out of the closed system of push and pull that we are all a part of in this system. 

It is the closed nature of the system that broke it not too long after its formation. Some of Freud’s own students and colleagues argued against such a pessimistic view of man, the world and the lack of therapy to help people find real relief. So like a child’s stacking of so many blocks begins to tumble under its own poor construction, the system failed just as fast.  For all his pessimism the data of thousands of people who were really happy was never considered. The pushing aside of how mankind felt about judgment before a holy God was to Freud an unhelpful and unfortunate way for people to think about themselves. Other systems were created (as we will see in later editions) that are far more positive and yet the common missing element will still be God. To Freud and those who follow in his footsteps, the desire to replace pastors and churches is seen in their use of pastoral language, and yet there is a distinct message they bring to attempt to convert people to their way of thinking. They have very great insight, and yet can only point you back to yourself for the solution. To Freud and others religion is a subset, or marginal area of a person’s being, something of a hobby they do to give themselves relief and an outlet for feelings associated with not measuring up to one’s super ego. 

The Christian model crushes Freud’s system and gives far more practical application to those who suffer in that it sees the “super” in the divinity of God. God is the ideal that never changes or fails. We do not measure up to His standard and yet His message to us is that He has provided a way of escape and restoration. God gives promises to never leave or forsake us, and many more which give comfort, support, strength and courage to many people, who in turn can take their faults and sins seriously in light of such solutions. People cannot only be free to feel better about themselves, but can look to serve God and others even when they know they are not perfect and whole in and of themselves.  

Freud’s system resides broken and dismantled in our day. Some eclectics borrow a piece here and there, but all in the psychological world know that the system as a whole does not work, leaves out major pieces of data, and cannot be repaired. Now Freud like many others were very perceptive and insightful in their observations, and were not scared to work in the dirt and grime of people’s filth and sin. This in turn reproves the church to be more involved with people, even its own people, to not shout down from ivory towers what people should do and not do, but to really walk alongside one another through the sometimes deep and disgusting swamps and muddy rivers of life. The church soaks in secular psychology when its members sit individually by as like so many empty victimized love tanks waiting for someone to fill them. 

To be continued in an overview and critique of the systems of David Burns and Alfred Adler and other competing thoughts within psychology. Did you know or ever consider that psychologists are not at all unified (and some are adamantly opposed to one another) in their understanding and interpretation of people, their problems, tools, and therapies?

Christianity and Freudian Thought.


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