The following article, which was excerpted from our book Missions & PsychoHeresy,1 was published 20 years ago. We have updated and expanded the original article to included important added information from the book, including a list of the mission agencies interviewed, the survey conclusions from the book, which did not appear in the original article, and other updated information. These conclusions were a surprise to us at the time, and a shock to others, but would be commonly known by current missionaries and missionary candidates. From our surveys, subsequent to publishing the book, we find that everything remains the same: Mission agencies continue to use professional mental health counselors to evaluate candidates through personal interviews and psychological tests and to provide licensed psychiatrists and psychotherapists to therapize any missionaries in need of help. The Missions & PsychoHeresy book is currently available as a pdf ebook on our website to read online or download and print.2]
Missions & PsychoHeresy Revisited
Mental health professionals3 wield a great deal of power and authority in numerous sectors of society, including business, industry, schools and colleges, and lamentably also in churches, Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian schools. Psychoexperts have infiltrated and occupied many areas of life. Their power is tremendous even though what they do lacks scientific support.
Numerous books and articles have been written about the chasm between psychological claims and research revelations, between the psychological promises and the produced results. We have written extensively over the years warning about the unbiblical and unscientifically supported psychologizing of the faith. Some years ago we coined the term “psychoheresy” and titled one of our books with that name. In it we described “psychoheresy” as the integration of secular psychological counseling theories and therapies with the Bible. Psychoheresy is also the intrusion of such theories into the preaching and practice of Christianity, especially when they contradict or compromise biblical Christianity in terms of the nature of man, how he is to live, and how he changes. The subtitle of our book PsychoHeresy is The Psychological Seduction of Christianity,4 which is a seduction that we documented as having already happened and that continues to deceive many professing Christians. Our book The End of “Christian Psychology”5 provides further research and reasons why Christians need to throw off the shackles of psychoheresy.
In Missions & PsychoHeresy we focus attention on the use of mental health professionals and psychological tests for evaluating missionary candidates and the use of mental health professionals for providing treatment for missionaries returning from the field who are suffering from problems of living. The psychology and psychological tests used to evaluate missionary candidates not only contradict and compromise biblical Christianity, but also do not meet the standards of science in theory or in practice. Furthermore, the care of missionaries provided by mental health professionals denigrates the doctrines of Scripture and bypasses the help that God has already given in His Word.
From all the evidence, it is surely an understatement to say that the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3) has been thoroughly psychologized and undermined. The evidence is found in numerous places from seminaries to Bible colleges and from churches to Christian schools. A plethora of mental health professionals and their surrogates are found therapizing and falsely theologizing the saints for a variety of problems from real to imaginary. For decades now, those who identify themselves as “Christian psychologists” have been peddling their secular wares behind closed counseling doors; within the walls of seminaries, schools, Bible colleges and churches; throughout Christian media; and in a multitude of books. Is it any wonder that they have intruded into the very heart of missions? They are the professional experts called upon to evaluate missionary candidates, above and beyond the call of God, through their gnostic psychological knowledge and psychological tests. They are the professional experts called upon to provide mental health treatment to missionaries who experience problems of living.
While we cannot say how much psychology is being spread throughout the world through missions, we do know that it has influenced missionary candidates who have been trained in seminaries and Bible colleges. They have already had a good deal of psychology mixed into their understanding of Scripture and its application in people’s lives through pastoral ministry classes, as well as through direct psychology classes. Unless they are in the small minority, they have accepted this blending of psychology with Scripture and hold “Christian psychologists” in high esteem. Therefore, a psychological evaluation and psychological test will generally be accepted as necessary hurdles. Moreover, the assurance of psychological help in the future, should problems arise, is no doubt seen in the same way as medical health care coverage, necessary when needed.
This book is primarily about the prolific practice of using mental health professionals and psychological tests to evaluate missionary candidates and to provide psychological care for missionaries. However, this focus of concern is appropriate wherever the psychoexperts vend their wares and services.
In this volume we expose the mental health professionals’ false façade of expertise for screening missionary candidates and caring for missionaries, and we intend to explode the myths that surround the psychological testing used on these hapless men and women. We will first report on the responses of a number of Christian mission agencies6 to a survey having to do with approving missionary candidates and the care of missionaries. These are merely examples of the similar practices of numerous other mission agencies and are only meant to demonstrate this dark side of missionary selection and care. Our focus is missionary selection and care, but many of the same tests and practices are used in the training and selection of pastoral candidates and others interested in Christian service.
To conduct this survey, we decided to ask only a few questions. To simplify the interview, these questions could be answered with “yes” or “no.” Our goal was to find out about the involvement of mental health professionals and psychological tests in the screening of missionary candidates and the use of mental health professionals in assisting missionaries experiencing problems of living.
After considering a variety of questions, we decided on the following three:
1. Do you use mental health professionals to screen or evaluate missionary candidates?
Those mission agencies that regularly used, ever used, or favored the use of mental health professionals to screen candidates were counted as “yes” replies. However there were only a few mission agencies that did not regularly use such individuals.
2. Do you use psychological tests to screen or evaluate missionary candidates?
Not all missionary agencies gave us the names of the tests. However, we tabulated the names of the tests that were reported and concluded that the following were the most popular: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the DiSC. We discuss these tests in the book and reveal why such tests cannot be trusted to evaluate missionary candidates.
3. Do you use or favor the use of mental health professionals to assist missionaries if they are experiencing problems of living?
Those who provided such care directly or through insurance plans were counted as “yes.” If missionaries raised their own support and obtained their own health care coverage, we indicated a “yes” response if the mission agencies were open to the use of mental health professionals. Also if the mission agency supported the use of mental health professionals upon the recommendation of the sending church we listed it as a “yes” reply.
While we are examining only a few ways in which psychoheresy has invaded missions, these are clear and objective facts. They reveal the obvious use of psychology in both evaluating missionary candidates and providing treatment for missionaries experiencing problems of living. In giving psychology such a place in selecting missionary candidates and in providing treatment of missionaries, mission agencies clearly demonstrate their trust in psychologists and psychological devices and their veneration of the psychological wisdom of men, which is the very wisdom of men that God warns about.
The following 35 mission agencies, in order of size (number of overseas personnel serving over four years), were selected and interviewed regarding the above three questions:
- Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board
- Wycliffe Bible Translators USA
- Assemblies of God, General Council
- New Tribes Mission
- Christian Churches/Churches of Christ
- Churches of Christ
- Baptist Bible Fellowship International
- Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
- TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission)
- Campus Crusade for Christ, International
- ABWE (Assn. of Baptists for World Evangelism)
- Christian and Missionary Alliance
- Baptist Mid-Missions
- Baptist International Missions
- SIM USA
- Church of the Nazarene, World Mission Division
- Mission to the World
- Africa Inland Mission International
- Presbyterian Church (USA), Worldwide Ministries
- Navigators, U.S. International Ministries Group
- UFM International
- United Methodist Church, Board of Global Min.
- Evangelical Free Church Mission
- United Pentecostal Church International
- Gospel Missionary Union
- Greater Europe Mission
- OMF International
- Mission Aviation Fellowship
- Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod—Board of Mission Services
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Division for Global Mission
- World Gospel Mission
- American Baptist Churches in the USA. International Ministries
We use the Southern Baptist convention (SBC) as an example of our interview results. The SBC is the largest of the mission agencies. It is not only number one on the list of the one hundred largest mission agencies by number of overseas personnel serving over four years, but it has more missionaries than all of the last forty agencies put together.
The SBC representative reported that missionary candidates must see a psychiatrist as part of the screening process. Two of the tests that all candidates must take are the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Myers- Briggs Type Indicator. We were told that, if any issues come out in the psychiatric interview and psychological testing, a clinical psychologist is used to counsel the individual.
With respect to mental health care of missionaries who are experiencing problems of living, the SBC has a self-funded health program, which includes the provision for mental health professionals. The representative said that their concern is to have the missionary who experiences problems see a professional, licensed, mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or marriage and family counselor. The SBC representative emphasized that the license, training, degrees and professional background of the mental health professional were all important.
None of the representatives of the above denominations complained about the use of mental health professionals or psychological tests for screening or psychological mental health care for missionaries.
After interviewing 35 of the largest mission agencies and 9 of the largest denominations, we emphatically state: No one, but NO ONE, questioned the use of mental health professionals and psychological tests for screening missionary candidates, and no one, but NO ONE, questioned the use of mental health professionals to care for missionaries.
It is certain that numerous other mission agencies and denominations are just as seduced by the psychoexperts and their tests and therapies as the ones listed above. The mission agencies and denominations interviewed represent more than the tip of the iceberg of the problem of psychoheresy, because they are among the largest of the mission agencies and church denominations representing the largest number of career missionaries and church members of the two lists we used.
While the subject of this book is psychoheresy found in the process of selecting missionaries and of their later mental health care, psychoheresy is also found in the training of pastors. Many Bible college and seminary students at entrance, during their classes, or prior to ordination are required to see a mental health professional and/or take one or more personality tests. The various seminaries and Bible colleges offer numerous classes, such as pastoral care, psychology, Christian counseling, clinical pastoral education, family life, human development, and personality theory, which reek of the very psychoheresy that we have described over the years.
We suggest that readers ask their mission agencies the three questions used in this survey and update us on their answers.
No Scientific Proof
No one has scientifically studied or proven the value of the use of mental health professions and psychological tests to screen or evaluate missionary candidates. There are research methods one can use to test the assumption that the use of mental health professionals and psychological tests improve the retention rate of those missionary candidates who are sent to the field. However, no mission agency of which we are aware from our original survey and subsequent to then has done such a study. It is our belief, with our familiarity with research methods, that on average those candidates who were rejected for missionary service, based on a mental health interview and personality tests, may very well have done as well as those approved and sent to the field!
The “use of mental health professionals to assist missionaries if they are experiencing problems of living” is entirely unnecessary. To use secular psychological conversations to provide personal relief and guidance is in contradiction to what the Scripture offers and has offered prior to the rise of these licensed mental health professionals who can only give secular and, thus, sinful conversations.
Sixty years ago mission agencies did not rely on clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and other psychological counselors or psychological tests to evaluate missionary candidates. They sought the Lord and evaluated according to biblical standards of faith and practice. Reliance on the wisdom of men has not only contaminated mission agencies, churches, and other Christian organizations, but also weakened the faith of many believers.
1 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Missions & PsychoHeresy. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2000.
2 Missions & PsychoHeresy ebook, https://pamweb.org.
3 Mental health professionals include such persons as psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical psychologists, marriage and family counselors, and some social workers. We reluctantly use the words “mental health” and “mental illness,” because they tend to confuse the visible and invisible, the body and the soul, and the tangible and the intangible. These terms therefore lead to illogical conclusions and applications. Please regard the terms as “in quotes” throughout.
4 Martin & Deidre Bobgan. PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1987. This book has subsequently been Revised and Expanded and is available as a free ebook at https://pamweb.org.
5 Martin & Deidre Bobgan. The End of “Christian Psychology.” Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1997, https://pamweb.org.
6 The following definition of “Christian mission agencies” is used in World Vision’s Mission Handbook 1998-2000, which we follow throughout this book: “Please note that the term ‘agency’ is used throughout the Handbook in the broad sense, referring to denominational boards and other kinds of organizations involved in overseas mission.”