From Genesis to Revelation, running water symbolizes cleansing, healing, and life. Four pure, life-sustaining rivers flowed forth from the Garden of Eden. The water of life poured forth from the rock to sustain the children of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well. He further declared to His followers, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). In the book of Revelation, the apostle John recorded his vision: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22: 1).

Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). Jesus was not speaking of literal thirst, but of spiritual thirst, for He knew that such thirst can only be satisfied with spiritual life. When Jesus gives life, He brings cleansing and healing to the soul, which includes the mind, will, and emotions.

People are at least as thirsty for life and so-called mental-emotional health as they have ever been. And yet, in their thirsty quest they have been led to the four polluted streams rather than to the River of Living Water. These four polluted streams represent the four major models or streams of psychotherapy.

The first polluted stream is the psychoanalytic model, which is based on the work of Sigmund Freud. He believed that those people who were drinking from the River of Living Water were sick. He decided to devise another stream, emphasizing the mental factors of human behavior and portraying the individual as being dominated by instinctual, biological drives and by unconscious desires and motives. Basic to this view is the belief that our behavior is determined at a very early age. This idea is known as psychic determinism, which is contrary to the biblical concept of personal responsibility and choice.

The second polluted stream is the behavioristic model, which also stresses determinism rather than personal responsibility and choice. It says that freedom of choice is only an illusion. This model rejects the introspective study of man and stresses external and observable behavior. Rather than exploring the inner psychic phenomena as explanatory causes, it focuses on the outer behavioristic results. While the psychoanalytic model speaks of psychic determinism, the behavioristic model proposes biological, genetic, and environmental determinism. Two names associated with this model are John Watson and B. F. Skinner.

The third polluted stream of psychology is the humanistic model of man. It is of more recent origin and emerged as a “third force” in psychology in the 1960s under the leadership of Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. Contrary to the first two streams, the humanistic model considers men to be free and self-directed rather than determined. The one unifying theme of this model is the self, which involves the self concept, individuality, the search for values, personal fulfillment, and the potential for personal growth. On the surface it sounds good, but the focus is on self rather than on God; the source for growth is self rather than the River of Living Water.

The fourth and most recent polluted stream is the existential or transpersonal model of man. This model, like the humanistic model, considers man to be a free agent who is responsible for his life. It places faith in the inner experience of the individual for dealing with his deepest problems. One of the important themes of the existential model is that of death. Themes such as what lies beyond death, the meaning of death, and the purpose and value of life are explored in this stream. Although the existential model gives us a religious view of man, it encourages the individual to break away from old patterns and to create his own values, his own religion, and his own god. Existential psychotherapists are critical of anyone who is dependent upon a religious creed or authority outside of himself.

It is amazing that it took psychotherapy so long to “discover” the religious nature of man. Psychotherapy at its very inception considered religion to be either a weakness or flaw, on the one hand, or a myth, on the other. However, just because psychotherapy has turned to the religious nature of man, this does not mean that it is turning people back to God. Psychotherapy does not lead one to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; nor does it encourage belief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God.

We do not need the new, fourth stream, religiously oriented psychotherapists to tell us about the religious nature of man. The church has known about it all along. And, we particularly do not need them because they have a different god and a different gospel. What we do need is to turn to the River of Living Water and learn to drink the life force given by our Creator and Sustainer.

From the four polluted streams flow more than 450 psychotherapeutic approaches. It is from these four streams and many often-conflicting psychotherapeutic approaches that Christian psychologists draw the polluted water of psychological notions and attempt to mix the potion with the Word of God.

How can one know whether the water being offered is the living water or a polluted mix? Only by knowing Scripture and asking the questions, “Where is that in Scripture?” and “What does the Bible say?” over and over again.

(From PAL V3N2)