Christianity Today andCCEF East

The May 17, 1993 issue of Christianity Today had an article by Tim Stafford titled “How Christian Psychology is Changing the Church.” In the article he calls Dave Hunt, John MacArthur, and Martin and Deidre Bobgan “adamant critics.” He describes another group as using “subtler criticisms” and says of them that “they see some value in psychotherapy.” David Powlison is listed in this second group.

As our past writing has indicated, we agree with this appraisal of Powlison and believe this position is shared at CCEF East. Near the end of the article, Stafford says, “David Powlison has developed a biblical understanding of counseling that accords with many of psychology’s insights.” (p. 32) This remark would never be made about Hunt, MacArthur or us. It is doubtful that Stafford would make the same remark about Jay Adams and we doubt that Adams would like to be characterized in that way.

In the same issue of Christianity Today, there is a section on “How to Choose a Counselor.” The article is a strong endorsement for professional, trained, licensed counselors. There is a definite message that professional counselors are better able than pastors, elders, and other lay people to counsel individuals. In seeking a counselor, one is supposed to ask about the counselor’s graduate degree “from an accredited (not just state-approved), reputable university or seminary.” The article suggests seeking licensed individuals “in places where licensing laws exist.” (p. 59) And, they suggest that the individual be certified “by a nationally recognized association.” The article categorically states: “Steer clear of counselors who do not have at least a master’s degree in counseling or in a related field of study from an accredited university or seminary.” It also says, “Reject those unlicensed by the state or province, if there are licensing laws, or not certified by a reputable, nationally known association of psychologists, counselors, or pastors. Degrees and licenses should be framed and displayed where clients can see and read them easily.”

The same issue of Christianity Today included a paid directory listing for the American Association of Christian Counselors and the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS). (Powlison is a former member of CAPS.) These two organizations believe in integrating psychology and the Bible. At the beginning of his article, Stafford described members of these two associations this way: “Last November, 2,300 Christian mental-health professionals gathered in Atlanta, the largest meeting yet of a vocation that barely existed 25 years ago.” In the directory there are listings of professionals from all over America, as well as listings for treatment centers and training programs. The one listing that did not surprise us is the one for CCEF East. Now if the paid listing of CCEF had been separated from the article on how to choose a counselor, and separate from the group of integrationist therapists and organizations, we may have had no problem with it. It seems to us that if CCEF cared about it they would have asked who else would be advertising with them in that special section.

David Powlison has sent us a response to our CCEF East Critique. We are eager to respond to it. However, he wishes to keep this very public church matter private. We have reluctantly agreed to do this. We think it is biblically incorrect to keep this public matter private. The church will benefit from an open, honest exchange over our charge that CCEF East is integrationist in its views and practices.

As Jim Owen says, the leaders of the Reformation “won city after city to the Reformation view through the medium of print and public disputation with their Catholic opponents.” (See p. 6.) Public disputation has been the means of properly dealing with biblical issues since Paul confronted Peter in Galatians 2:14. But, alas, CCEF East to this day refuses to do what the Reformers did.

We ask those of you who know individuals at CCEF East to encourage them to respond publicly or permit Powlison’s private response to become public.

Christianity Today’s Bias toward “Christian” Psychology.

The Christianity Today article does touch on and raise some important issues. Stafford expresses some balance in his article; however, the article is definitely biased in favor of Christian psychotherapy. An article supporting those of us who are psychotherapy critics would not have been published by Christianity Today for at least two reasons. First, Christianity Today is pro-psychotherapy, and, second, there is too much money paid for ads to promote psychology that would be at risk if such an article were published.

Christian media ads for psychological counseling have garnered millions of dollars for both magazines and radio stations. Recently, Jim Owen was invited to be interviewed on a Christian radio talk show. The day before the interview, Owen was informed that a psychologist must be on the program with him or the interview would be canceled. The reason? This station has numerous ads for “Christian” psychotherapy and the sponsors might become upset.

Christians have become prime consumers of psychological services under the influence of Christian pastors, seminaries, books, magazines, and radio. When one considers the cost of advertising and radio time, one must conclude that the profits are high.

The Christianity Today article included eight photographs of individuals who were interviewed. Only one of them, John MacArthur, was a critic. The others were Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, Archibald Hart, Paul Meier, Frank Minirth, Bruce Narramore, and Charles Swindoll—all integrationists! There was also an inset article about Meier and Minirth that was very favorable to them.

Stafford quoted Bruce Narramore as saying:

I think the critics need to ask, “Why are people so interested in psychology?” The thought is that we ought to go back to the old way. But the old way wasn’t working.

Narramore sounds like a true rebellious Israelite. Why did the Israelites want a king—because the nations around them had kings. Why did they go after false gods? Because “the old way wasn’t working”? What old way is Narramore talking about? The way of the cross? The way of salvation? The way people walked with the Lord from the beginning? The way Paul instructed believers to walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh? God forbid that we need a NEW WAY when Jesus declared that He is the way, the truth, and the life!

(From PAL, V1N3)