Psychoheresy is not just a minor diversion from sound biblical doctrine. It is one of the most subtle means of undermining the faith, so much so that it is safely ensconced in Christian colleges, seminaries, and churches. Theologians and pastors either look the other way or have been convinced by others that psychological counseling and its underlying theories can greatly benefit Christians. Yes, psychoheresy is alive and proliferating.
Those professing Christians who counsel according to the psychological wisdom of men continue to thrive in spite of recently documented problems. The September 16, 1996 issue of Christianity Today reported some of the more serious allegations against the Minirth-Meier/New Life Clinics and other ostensibly Christian providers in the psychotherapy industry. The article titled “Hurting Helpers” quotes Dr. Gary Collins, a long-time advocate of integrating psychological theories with the Bible and current president of the American Association of Christian Counselors. Collins says:
Our field is in a period of crisis…. Some of the inpatient programs give an image of greed and make people feel that companies get people in a hospital and keep them there until their insurance runs out, and then they let them go (p. 76).
In spite of a growing public awareness of problems in the psychotherapy industry, Christianity Today reports that “the Christian counseling business has experienced explosive growth” (p. 76). In fact, Collins declares, “There’s no more exciting time to be in this field” (p. 78). That’s because the Christian counseling industry continues to grow. Promoters, such as Collins, convince Christians that psychological therapy is comprised of neutral techniques that can be used by Christians. We disagree and contend that psychological therapies are based on unbiblical understandings about the nature of man, how he is to live, and how he changes.
Psychological counseling is made up of over 450 different therapies, which do not agree among themselves. Therefore, every psychotherapist could criticize the field of psychology and yet continue to practice what he/she likes. When Larry Crabb criticized aspects of psychological counseling, many Christians thought he had moved away from psychology, when, in fact, he continues to promote his own combination of psychology and Christianity. (See “Has Larry Crabb Changed?” PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter V2N2.)
Faith in Science Falsely So-Called
Those of us who believe that Christians should not integrate secular counseling psychologies with the Bible are often dismissed with such shibboleths as “All truth is God’s truth,” when, in fact, the kind of psychology we are opposed to is made up of opinions and myths, rather than truth. It is “science falsely so called.” Christians should follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20,21).
The author of the Christianity Today article mentions some of the same concerns about psychological counseling that we have addressed, but then assures the reader that, in spite of the shortcomings of the counseling industry, psychological counseling can be very helpful to Christians who need more help than the church provides.
The “Christian Psychology” Tree
A very telling graphic, which is included with the Christianity Today article, is titled “The Roots and Shoots of Christian Psychology” (p. 77). This graphic shows a tree with branches bearing the names of some of the well-known psychological integrationists, including Larry Crabb and Dan Allender on the “Spiritual Seekers” branch; James Dobson and Norm Wright on the “Family/Marriage” branch; Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Stephen Arterburn and Robert McGee on the “Clinical Care” branch; Neil Anderson and James Friesen on the “Dissociative Disorders” branch; Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller on the “Self-Esteem” branch; and Newton Malony and Richard Dobbins on the “Pastoral Counseling” branch. Right at the base of the trunk are inscribed three names: Clyde Narramore (considered to be the father of the “Christian psychology” movement), Paul Tournier (universalist), and Karl Menninger.
Roots of ‘Christian Psychology'”
The roots, labeled “Secular & Humanistic Pioneers,” include Carl Rogers, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Abraham Maslow, B. F. Skinner, and Virginia Satir, all of whom opposed Christianity, with at least the first three involved in blatant occult practices. Each of these “roots” had strong metaphysical beliefs that comprised their unbiblical, anti-Christian belief systems (religions). While promoted as science, these theories and teachings are religions rather than science.
What kind of tree is this, with occult and secular humanistic religious roots? It is clear that the roots are ungodly. Is this a tree from which Christians should eat? Or, does it more resemble “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9)? Jesus said:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Matthew 7:15-19).
Cut It Down
We contend that the tree of Christian psychology should be hewn down right at its base. Let the world follow the wisdom of men. Let the roots continue to nourish the ways of the world until the time of the Great Harvest of the Lord.
This simple illustration makes it appear that “Christian psychology” is a separate tree from secular psychology, but it cannot be separate because it has the very same roots, and the very same sap flows through its veins.
How dangerous is this growth of Christian psychology in the church? We believe that it is a diabolical means of infusing the church with the world’s ways and ideas. It takes the eyes off Christ and onto self. It substitutes the word of God with the wisdom of men and it replaces the work of the Holy Spirit with human ingenuity. It feeds the flesh and hinders spiritual growth.
How Big is This Tree?
The CT article included some figures that show its size. The American Association of Christian Counselors has 17,500 members. The “Christian” psychological counseling market includes many individuals and small counseling centers. It also has large conglomerates with radio programs that entice Christians into therapy programs. The Minirth Meier New Life Clinic has 25 inpatient units, 55 outpatient units, and over 600 employees. That clinic alone reported 500 inpatient admissions and 7,600 outpatient clinic visits just during the month of June 1996. Rapha has 63 programs, “has a network of 3,500 churches in its RaphaCare program,” and “has doubled in size in the last 18 months” (pp. 76, 77).
What Can We Do?
What can we do to prevent this tree of Christian psychology from spreading its branches over the entire church? How can we keep its branches from coming between Christians and the Son and from casting shadows on the truth of God? Our small efforts will not hew down this monstrous tree, but we pray that as you continue with us to expose the tree for what it is, believers will remove themselves from the tree, its fruit, and its shade.