During the past several years, God has led me away from the psychological "wisdom" of man, and into His Word as the only fully sufficient source of counseling for solving the problems of life permanently. My search has led me to begin writing detailed critiques of popular psychology books, both secular and Christian, holding them up to the light of Scripture. This is a most difficult task. It involves criticizing and expressing strong disagreement with the ideas of individuals who are considered "experts" in the field of counseling. Some hold degrees in theology as well as psychology. My own qualifications are far less impressive. I am a Christian seeking God's truth, and trusting His promise (James 1:5) to generously provide wisdom. I am a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, CA, where I enrolled in order to become more competent in the Scriptures. There are temptations to continually guard against. One is pride, and I find it helpful to prayerfully study and listen to men who know the Bible well, and how to apply its wisdom. Another temptation is to develop an overly critical, judgmental spirit, forgetting that my ultimate goal is to express godly compassion and help people to be set free from the unprofitable wisdom of worldly counseling. Because of these potential problems, and the dangers of my motives being misunderstood, I have decided to make this statement of purpose and position to accompany my critiques.
I hold to the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, believing it to be breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17), inerrant, infallible, and eternal. God warns against turning to the counsel of the ungodly or adding to His words. I base my position on the following relevant passages:
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:1, 2)
"'Woe to the rebellious children,' says the Lord, 'Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin.'" (Isaiah 30:1)
"All Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)
"As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:3, 4)
"For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8)
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar." (Proverbs 30:5, 6)
"'All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.'" (1 Peter 1:24, 25; see also Isaiah 40:6-8)
"Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89)
"The entirety of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever." (Psalm 119:160)
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes;The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward." (Psalm 19:7-11)
The theories of psychology were formulated, without exception, by men who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ. These theories seek to answer questions that are also addressed by the Bible, such as: Who is man? What is his problem? How can he be changed? Who or what is the agent of such change? What are the goals of that change? If psychology's answers were compatible with Scripture, they would be redundant. If its answers conflict with Scripture (which they generally do), we must reject them in favor of God's truth. On those very rare occasions where psychology accidentally happens on some point of truth, that same truth can be found, in purer form, in the Bible. In view of all this, I reject the psychological theories and methodologies developed by unregenerate men such as Freud, Jung, Ellis, Maslow, Skinner, Rogers, Adler, Fromm, and many more.
In approaching books of psychology, my goal is to examine their teachings purely in light of Scripture, rather than on the basis of personal experience or opinion (although personal experience does validate the failure of psychotherapy along with the sufficiency of Scripture). In doing so, I cite the example of the Bereans, who similarly tested what they heard:
"These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11)
Basically, it is not my own ideas contrasted with the ideas of others, but Scripture contrasted with the teachings invented by man to replace God's truthful explanations regarding man and the solution provided by the Cross of Jesus Christ.
My attitude toward those who promote psychology is one of love, gentleness, and respect for the genuineness of their faith (in the case of professing believers), even while disagreeing strongly with many of their teachings. I am guided by the following Scriptures:
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." (1 Peter 3:15)
"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." (Colossians 4:6)
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, 4-7)
I recognize, as I write, that I cannot judge the motives of the hearts of those who engage in psychological counseling. I must take their statements of motive at face value and leave all judgments to the heart of God, Who alone fully knows the hearts of men:
"I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:10)
"For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)
I am not pleased at the prospect of naming names, since my purpose is to critique teachings rather than to criticize particular individuals or judge motives. However, note the clear warnings of Paul:
"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:28-32)
"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:2-5)
For the sake of people who are easily taken captive by these appealing psychological theories, now disguised so as to appear biblical in many books, it is necessary to name names. The sheep must be properly warned about the "wolves" who dress as shepherds, maybe even honestly intending to be shepherds, yet destroy God's flock by feeding them the deadly poison of ungodly counsel. Those counselors who truly seek to honor God and help His people will be open to the exposure of error:
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)
"Love...rejoices in the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:6b)
I have a deep concern for the split that is already occurring in the body of Christ because of the teachings of psychology. However, truth cannot be sacrificed on the altar of "peace at any price." I must speak the truth in a spirit of love, knowing that it is ultimately God's truth that unites His body:
"That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:14-16)
"Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." (Ephesians 4:25)
It is the entrance of psychology into the church, not the "contending for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3), that has created a split among Christians in their teachings. I view this split with great sorrow, concern, and a prayerful hope that God's people will return to their position of sufficiency in Christ.
The teachings of psychology, with all of their emphasis on self-love, self-worth, self-image, self-esteem, self-whatever, are sometimes difficult to refute without coming across as harsh and unloving. The same problem arises in critiquing the popular theories regarding the influence of childhood abuse on adult behavior. However, one must consider the effect of these teachings on the whole body of Christ over a long period of time. If everyone learns to love self first, care for self first, and in others ways put self ahead of others, everyone ultimately suffers. This is not God's way. We have a collection of individuals who attempt to be self-contained, not seeking first the kingdom of God, and not esteeming others ahead of self (Philippians 2:3) or loving others as much as self. If, instead, Christians are properly taught to love God and others--and without love God says we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13)--everyone benefits. I'm not suggesting here that truth be taught merely because it "works," but rather I point out that God's truth works for the good of His children in the long run. It is very much my hope to present the truth in such a way as to show its superiority over the ways invented by ungodly men. I write out of a deep compassion for people who are struggling with the problems of life, hoping to point the way to Jesus Christ and the eternal hope that He alone offers. With such an abundance of false teachings, that is a formidable task and certainly no light matter.
I also want to make it clear that I do not intend to deny the reality of the problems that psychologists attempt to address. To the contrary, those problems are far more serious than these human counselors admit in their writings, in which they incorrectly analyze the causes of those problems and proceed to point toward the wrong solutions. The eternal consequences of man's problems are rarely acknowledged in psychological literature, which redefines sin as "sickness" and contains other glaring theological errors.
As I write, I constantly remember the warning in Ephesians:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:10-13)
As noted earlier, the theories and methods of psychology were developed by men who rejected the Cross and the Word of God, men who could not understand the truth of God but were rather under the power of Satan:
"But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."
(2 Corinthians 4:3, 4)
"For the message of the cross of foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Corinthians 1:18-20)
"For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:10b-14)
Such men as Freud, spiritually blind and spiritually dead, cannot understand the truth of God. Some were openly hostile to the Christian faith; Freud heads this list. Since such individuals are held captive to Satan, we know the real mastermind behind the theories--no matter how well sugar-coated with Scriptures that have been wrenched out of place in order to be "integrated" with psychology. Remembering this spiritual deception, we know who and what we battle--not the humans who are deceived either as counselors or as counselees, but the master of deception himself. This is not to say that men are not accountable for testing what they believe and practice, but only to reveal the ultimate source behind the mass deceptions of psychological theories and practice.
Jesus' words, "the truth shall set you free," have been quoted out of context on many occasions to support Freudian archaeological digs into the "unconscious" to unearth memories and hurts that supposedly create and cause the problems of adult life. But here is what our Lord really said:
"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.' They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, "You will be made free?"' Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.'" (John 8:31-36)
Seen in context, it is the truth of the gospel, the cross of Jesus Christ, that sets man free from the bondage of sin. Not one word about the "truth" of "getting in touch with your feelings" or the "truth" of some buried childhood memory. To the contrary, Scripture would have us press toward the knowledge of Jesus Christ and eternity:
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7, 8)
"Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you." (Philippians 3:13-15)
Love rejoices in the truth, and it is just that truth, the real truth that sets the captives free, that I wish to uphold in my writings. Consider the closing words of James:
"Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19, 20)
When all is said and done, my major concern is for the eternal souls of people. When unbelievers are led to false solutions for their problems, they are led away from the cross of Christ. When Christians are taught to focus on self and pour their time and money into introspective therapies, they are not leading others to Christ. Such Christians are also shortchanged in the process of sanctification, being led away from their sufficiency in Christ. Evangelism ultimately suffers in this process. Were it not for the sovereign, overpowering grace of God, I would be terrified. However, my knowledge of God's sovereign working of all things according to His purposes (Ephesians 1:11) assures me of the final victorious outcome. But for now, He calls me, and all those who are called by His name, to contend for that glorious faith once delivered to the saints, setting our minds on the things of heaven and fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ.
© 1991, Christian Discernment Publications Ministry, Inc.