Agency, Atonement, Psychotherapy, Transformation, Determinism


This paper interrogates the relationship of the hard determinism inherent in the theories and models currently on offer in mainstream psychology and the current trends in psychotherapeutic approaches. It foregrounds the seeming contradiction between the emphasis placed on mastering and incorporating discipline-specific knowledge – which clearly assumes scientism and hard determinism – and the emphasis placed on practitioners to develop a coherent theory of change as part of their approach to effective clinical practice. We argue that hard determinism and strategies for facilitating genuine therapeutic change and transformation are incompatible where there is no clear, coherent view of human beings as genuine agents. We further argue this is a particular problem for Christian therapists, and for adequately treating Christian clients. The problem arises because genuine human agency is at the heart of Christian doctrine and experience. Thus, it is a real question as to how well Christian clients can be served by hard deterministic approaches to therapy and models of humanity itself. The paper concentrates on the Christian doctrine of atonement and how Christian expectations of atonement can be understood in ways that allow genuine Christian commitment, on the part of both therapist and client, to bring about a positive contribution to genuine change. The conclusion is that genuine human agency plays a central role in Christianity, and, therefore, must play a central role in Christian therapeutic practice and theory.