The Intersection of Behavioral Science and Faith
In this post I am going to explain a few things from two entirely different perspectives that on the surface may seem like they do not marry well, but they do. I am talking about the vastly different worlds of behavioral science and Christianity.
Let's talk definitions!
Behaviorism- " Behaviorism is a worldview that operates on a principle of “stimulus-response.” All behavior is caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning)." Source
Applied Behavior Analysis- " Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. " Source
Determinism (ABA)- This is simply the scientific idea of "cause and effect". In the natural world, for something to happen there must be a reason (stimulus) that causes the effect (behavior).
Determinism (Theological)- Theological Determinism simply states that the cause and effect of events in the natural world are known by, and actuated by the Creator-God.
Faith- Biblically speaking, faith is a gift from Christ, a gift that gives freedom to those people who have answered the call that Christ has offered (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is also defined as having belief in something without adequate or empirical evidence.
Phew. ok, the nerdy stuff is over, let's get to the good part.
You may be asking, "What is the point?". I gave you all of those definitions to show you where the genesis of this ministry came from. It came from a world view. As stated above, behaviorism is a worldview of cause and effect. The Christian worldview is also one of cause and effect but it differs slightly in origin than the behavioral one. The Christian worldview says that all things that exist were created (effect) by God (cause). Here, I will let scripture explain in a way that I cannot. Consider John chapter one verses one through five:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it "
These verses are discussing the creation account and the coming of Christ! They are discussing Jesus ("the Word") creating all things and more than that, life is found in Him. This is the type of cause and effect that I am talking about!
All that to say, determinism is essentially the same in the context of both the natural and theological worlds; there is a cause and effect in both arenas that makes everything go 'round.
This ministry was bon out of the understanding that if the world has a natural order that mimics design, then naturally there must be a designer. I have spent years in service to the Church through many different roles and I have served many families in the role of Behavior Analyst (and subsequent roles before that related to behavioral services). All of these experiences have taught me one thing:
Human behavior is deterministic due to cause and effect, but the origin of the cause is more than just external environmental variables; it is a woven tapestry that reveals the characteristics of the Designer and Creator.
This is where the marriage of all of the terms and worldviews I listed above appears. There is a natural deterministic world that affects our behavior (we are products of our environment after all), but that does not limit nor nullify the abilities of the Creator-God behind this natural order. My faith and my work do not contradict each other, they compliment one another.
Having this understanding has given me the ability to see people not only as products of environment, and cause and effect; but as beautiful image bearers of the Creator in many different expressions. Our ministry exists to share this truth with people: we are all image bearers of God at the core of who we are regardless of ability or disability, that is why the good news of Christ is GOOD NEWS! No matter your station or appearance, Christ came for you. Why you may ask? Simply that God would be glorified in reunion with his creation through the avenue of Christ.
We exist to celebrate all people in Christ-likeness. Connect Family Ministries exists to shed light on a portion of God's creation that is all to often overlooked and is in need of celebrating.