28 Things You Didn’t Know About “Christian” Psychology

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counselingLike any pastor, I make it a major discipline in my life to read a lot. I must; I cannot allow my tools to grow dull. And, like any pastor SHOULD, I spend a significant portion of my week counseling the flock of God. Of course, that means a significant portion of my regular readings come from books on counseling. At any given time, I’m always working through five or more books to help me diagnose the soul and apply biblical principles to the hearts of the hurting, weary, or fainthearted. It is in fact a sad reality that many pastors have absolved themselves from the responsibility to counsel. Some because it isn’t a priority and they don’t make the time. Others because they have actually been taught not to by their colleges and seminaries. And a few don’t feel adequately equipped. Whatever the reason, pastors who don’t counsel their flock refer their sheep to another authority: human philosophy.

Of course, they aren’t aware that they are subjecting their congregations to human philosophy. They thought they were sending them to “Christian” psychologists and psychiatrists.1 What they either don’t know, or don’t care to know, is just how antithetical Christian psychotherapy is to a biblical worldview. They then send their unsuspecting and undiscerning congregation to learn anti-theology.

I’m gravely concerned, and it was one evening as I was reading from a contemporary Christian psychologist that I thought to myself, “People (and pastors especially) must know the theology of Christian psychology. They must know what it actually is. Shortly after that, I picked up another book by a secular psychologist, then another, and another, until I thought sometime in January that I would post one brief statement a day about Christian psychology during the next month on social media. That was this last month in February. Each day offered only a brief comment, but they were hopefully meaningful. I hope you’ll find the following helpful:

Day 1 – Christian psychology claims both the Bible and psychology are important in the diagnosis and counseling of “soul problems,” and that both can be compatible. It should be telling, however, that there are virtually no Christian psychotherapists who have any advanced training in theology or the Bible. The exceptions prove the rule, and that exposes where their real authority lies.

Day 2 – Christian psychology claims to be “biblical counseling.” In actuality, it is humanistic atheistic psychology that uses the Bible and proof-texts to support its secular theories. That helps make it look more “Christian” than it is. Their training will expose just how important they think the Bible really is in counseling (cf. Day 1 below…).

Day 3 – Christian psychology has become one of the greatest influences in the American church, and defines what we now think about the mind and soul. Yet, psychology itself is devoid of religion, and is even openly hostile towards it. In fact, in 1961 O. Hobart Mowrer asked, “Has Evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?” 55 years later, I fear we have.

Day 4 – Christian psychology does not originate with the Bible. Rather, psychology of the West was first developed by heretics such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Aquinas, long before the God-hating Freud entered the scene.

Day 5 – Christian psychology does not view the Bible as possessing a comprehensive analysis of human nature (contrary to what the Bible says about itself), and places true biblical counseling (i.e. “nouthetic” counseling) in the realm of “folk psychology” 2

Day 6 – Christian psychology views what the Bible says about the human nature as inferior to the authority of modern psychology.3 In other words, the collective wisdom of men is more authoritative on matters of the soul than God’s Word.

Day 7 – Christian psychology is indebted to the work of Thomas Aquinas, who is considered to be the first Christian Integrationist (psychology + the Bible). They depend much on his views, though he was a rank heretic who was instrumental in the formation of Roman Catholic theology. 4

Day 8 – Christian psychology can only function with an unbiblical understanding of the human constitution, making a false dichotomy between the soul and mind (or “psyche”). Biblically, they are one entity. In fact, the term “psyche” comes from the Greek word that means “soul.”

Day 9 – Christian psychology refers to itself as an “empirical science” when in actuality, it is a philosophy that uses “eisegetically” derived conclusions (they impose their presuppositions into the results) from case studies in order to validate its approach to counseling. That is not true empirical science. It ignores data that contradicts their methods, and over inflates the significance of evidence that seems to support them. This also why there are so many competing psychological methods.

Day 10 – Christian psychology maintains that its diagnoses are scientific (see day 9). In reality, its diagnoses are subjective interpretations of behavioral observation, not objective. This proves that their authority rests with psychology and secular theory and not the Bible, since the Bible will lead to one “diagnosis” (source of the problem) based on behavioral observation, while psychology leads to another.

Day 11 – Christian psychology is not a singular approach to counseling. There are over 40 major competing schools of psychology and hundreds of hybrid versions of the major ones. The most popular by far, however (and a favorite among evangelicals), is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has its own theological system largely akin to a secular form of Buddhism.

Day 12 – Christian psychology operates on an unbiblical theology of man. For one, it largely espouses a form of positivism (or neopositivism), optimism, and a philosophy of self-esteem that contradicts a biblical view of man’s wretched, sinful condition.

Day 13 – Christian psychology (and all psychology) depends on evolutionary theory to merit its positivistic behavioral analyses. In fact, this has contributed and led to the development of childhood psychology. If a biblical view of Creation is maintained, much of psychology’s merit is undercut.

Day 14 – Christian psychology is not consistent with itself, since there is no agreement as to the nature or degree of integrationism between secular psychology and the Bible. That argues against the nature of its “scientific” merit. This is more than just arguing for the best method of treatment (though there is that), but rather the actual diagnosis (the source of the problem). It seems that the chief point of agreement among them is that the Bible is insufficient for counseling.

Day 15 – Christian psychology admits to the horrifying and disturbing development of psychology, but then calls Christians to warmly embrace the new knowledge gained from psychology as a legitimate source of authority in counseling. But with such terribly anti-God presuppositions, how can we trust any of its conclusions?

Day 16 – Christian psychology recognizes that at one time, the responsibility for the healing of souls was entrusted to the ministry of the church. It now believes itself better suited for that task.5 But, in the words of Jay Adams, “A good seminary education rather than medical school or a degree in clinical psychology is the most fitting background for a counselor.” 6

Day 17 – Christian psychology maintains that secular psychology can and should be “integrated” with the Bible. That is to say that they believe that the conclusions and diagnoses of human soul problems made by the rationalism of depraved philosophers is compatible with the Bible.

Day 18 – Christian psychology points to its “success” stories to validate its method. This begs the question, “How do you define “success?” If by “success” you mean, “cured,” then there are no success stories, and not even the top psychologists in the world have been able to make the claim that they have healed someone of their mental illness(es).

Day 19 – Christian psychologists have never been able to say their psychology has healed anyone (see Day 18). This should lead us to question whether or not they have diagnosed the right problem. The truth is, their treatments bring no “cure” because they are only treating symptoms of the problem (having the wrong diagnosis to begin with), and not the root problem itself. By way of illustration, it is akin to a patient expressing symptoms of exhaustion, weight loss, and fever. The physician then begins treating the patient as he would for anyone with a virus, believing that to be the source of the problem. In actuality, the patient has cancer, and while the treatments may offer some relief, the Dr. has failed to address the actual disease.

Day 20 – With less than a week left of “29 Days of Things You Didn’t Know About Christian Psychology,” I’m well behind, but I’m catching up – Christian psychology, though adhering to dozens of competing methods of counseling, does not view biblical (nouthetic) counseling as capable of offering real solutions to soul problems. To varying degrees, Christian psychology views biblical counseling as ignorant, anti-intellectual, uncaring, unloving, and insensitive.

Day 21 – Christian psychology adheres to various secular psychologies that explain behavioral problems without the context of sin, God, the soul, or anything spiritual or supernatural. While Christian psychology does believe in those things, it adheres to the treatments and explanations of behavioral abnormalities by those who deny them. That leads Christian psychology to treat symptoms of behavioral problems, without addressing the heart.

Day 22 – Christian psychology, like much of mainstream psychology, is extremely dependent on environmentalism (you are a victim of your environment, and your environment, past or present, explains your current behavior). This theory has been developed by observing the behavioral characteristics of animals and how they respond to environments. However, this is completely antithetical to a biblical understand of the human soul, which vehemently rejects the notion that our environment determines responses. To say so places our behavior outside our control, absolving us from responsibility for sin.

Day 23 – Christian psychology defines itself as “a rigorous inquiry into human nature and how to treat its problems and advance its well-being.” Interestingly, Christian psychology uses that definition to defend that psychology has been practiced by Christians for centuries (P&C, 14). But that definition defeats the system, because any genuinely rigorous inquiry into human nature comes from the Scriptures alone. The “psychology” (literally, the “study of the soul”) that has been practiced by Christians for centuries is one that has affirmed that soul problems can only be rightly interpreted through the Scriptures.‪#‎solascriptura

Day 24 – Christian psychology calls itself “clinical” to give it more credibility. You may sometimes hear the phrase, “biblical in nature, clinical in practice.” That is a nonsensical, self-defeating assertion. To say they are “biblical in nature,” is to say that it is the Bible that their counseling is based upon. To say they are “clinical in practice” is to say that the counseling they give is based on humanistic psychotherapy and psychiatry. Therefore, Christian psychology maintains that their counseling is based upon the Bible, but the counseling they give is secular. I hope you see the problem…

Day 25 – Christian psychology often exchanges the terms “soul care” and “mental problems” as it fits its schema. However, that is only confusing at best, but also affirms the parallelisms between what a biblical counselor calls “soul problems” and a psychologist or psychiatrist calls “mental problems.” But if mental problems are soul problems, then who is better suited to provide counseling? Pastors? Or psychotherapists? However, humanity resents confrontation, and “mental problems” sounds much less confrontational than “soul problems.”

Day 26 – Christian psychology functions under multiple layers of sophistication, making it more a relic of 2nd century Gnosticism (which appealed to a secret, higher knowledge of the soul) than actual Christianity. However, understanding the method of diagnosis in psychology, strips it of much of its mysticism.

Day 27 – Christian psychology functions with the presuppositions of modernism, as all contemporary “modern” psychology does. Logic and human reason is authoritative, and is the Bible is only used where it supports their conclusions. It is not used to test the validity of the logic and human reason. In fact, where it contradicts their conclusions, the Bible is reinterpreted to fir their schema.

Day 28 – Christian psychology ultimately condemns the unbeliever, since most states require by law that licensed counselors only provide counsel consistent with their client’s religion, even if that religion is believed by the counselor to be wrong. Incidentally, that also means it is illegal for a counselor to counsel against socially accepted sins (like homosexuality, abortion, etc.) as long as that sinful behavior is legal. In PA, for instance, the law requires licensed counselors to abide by the ACA Code of Ethics, which clearly reads, “Counselors are aware of – and avoid imposing – their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.” That is completely antithetical to Christian evangelism.

Day 29 – I confess, when I first thought of the idea in January, I forgot it was a leap year, so I guess that means Day 29 is left to your conclusion. 😀

  1. Ignorance, however, does not excuse the derelict pastor. This is the pastor’s life work. He has been called to rightly diagnose the condition of men’s souls and provide the biblical remedy.
  2. Eric L. Johnson, “Psychology and Christianity,” 15.
  3. Ibid., 15
  4. Watson & Evans, 1991, “Psychology and Christianity.”
  5. McNeil, 1951; Oden, 1989
  6. Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s New Testament, 437.
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