We are presently living in the most ego-enlarged, self-indulged, navel-examined society since the days of Babylon, and the psychological way of dealing with problems of living has been a major source of this self-preoccupation, self-absorption, and self-deception. Psychological systems have not only invaded the Church; they have taken residence as major supplements to Christianity, thereby supplanting biblical truth, subverting the faith, and shipwrecking those for whom Christ died. Christian pastors and leaders have been looking to and leaning on psychology for many years to help those experiencing problems of living and to enlighten themselves about the souls of their congregants.

Some of the precursors and promoters of the psychological take-over of the Church were Paul Tournier, Clyde Narramore, Henry Brandt, James Dobson, and a whole host of other popular Christians. Among the early academic institutions to promote it are Fuller Seminary (APA approved in 1972), Rosemead Graduate School (at Biola University), Wheaton College, George Fox University and later Liberty University and Regent University. Following these beginnings, many thousands of Christians became trained to do psychotherapy and hundreds of Christian educational institutions became immersed in this type of psychology, so much so that much of the church in America has become a major part of the psychological society. Today psychology is one of the most popular majors in U. S. Christian higher education.

From the popularity of Freud and his psychotherapy followers after World War II came the psychological seduction of Christianity that has engulfed conservative churches, parachurch organizations, Bible colleges, Christian schools and universities, seminaries, and mission agencies. The present-day church has strained at many theological gnats but swallowed the proverbial camel of psychotherapy to such an extent that the sufficiency of Scripture for the issues of life has been overlooked for “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” (1 Tim. 6:20.)

The psychologizing of the church has reached pandemic proportions. By psychologizing we mean seeing life and treating problems of living by the use of psychological rather than or in addition to biblical means. This psychologizing occurs in almost every important facet of Christianity.

First, we hear it in psychologized sermons. Psychologists are quoted as authorities and psychological ideas are presented and even promoted.

Second, soul care has become psychologized. The Bible is supposedly not enough. Thus, psychological understanding is sought, and psychological techniques are applied.

Third, those who want to help people in the church who have problems of living often prefer becoming psychologically rather than biblically trained. We have found this to be true in even some of the remotest areas of our land and in some of the most unsuspected places.

Fourth, there is promiscuous referral. When people with problems of living seek help from their pastor, they are regularly referred to a licensed psychologist. This most often happens with marital problems, which are the most difficult for psychotherapists.

Fifth, there is evidence that reveals the rising number of churches providing psychological counseling with psychologically trained and licensed individuals within the church itself. The increase includes even the most conservative churches, conservative denominations, and even among the fundamentalists.

Sixth, many Christian schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries either partially or even entirely give credence to psychological rather than biblical solutions to life’s problems.

Seventh, Christian conferences are now saturated with a psychological presence, like the necessity of having a pastor present at a wedding. This thought-to-be-ideal combination of psychology and theology is just another insidious dilution of Scripture and diminution of the influence of the Holy Spirit. The inclusion of psychology and psychologists is one grand additional testimony to the psychologizing of Christianity and the secularizing of the Church. It demonstrates a lack of faith in what God has provided and a misplaced faith in what man has contrived.

Last, but not least, nearly all of the people who are selected to review books about helping individuals with problems of living are psychologically oriented. Their bias is almost as automatic as their belief that the earth is round. John Sanderson, in reviewing a book that integrates Scripture and psychological insights, compares the content of the integrationism of the book with a purely biblical position. Sanderson confesses his own lack of expertise on the matter but confirms the integrationist’s position. That this particular book was reviewed in a conservative Christian magazine by a conservative Christian who concluded by supporting the integrationist position is tragic but typical of the extent of the psychologizing of the church. [1]

It would be possible to extend this list by including books, tapes, workshops, and seminars that are psychologized in one way or another. Paul Bartz says that “well-intentioned, but ignorant, Christian leaders have widely adopted psychological models to deal with everything from counseling to church growth.”[2] One does not need a well-trained ear, eye, nose, hand or tongue to hear, see, smell, touch, or taste the evidence of the psychologizing of Christianity. It is so all pervasive that, if anything, our senses have been dulled to it. Psychologizing is rampant in the Church, to say the least.

Subverting the Faith

The antagonism towards Christianity subtly seeps through psychological ideas about why people are the way they are, how they should live, what they need, and how they change. Such ideas, promoted by Christians who believe and promote the psychological way, actually subvert the claims of Christ. Rather than denying the claims of Christ straightforwardly, they simply place Him alongside their favorite psychological theorists. Instead of directly denying the validity of the Word of God, they merely say that ministers of the Word are not qualified to minister to the deep levels of human need.

Psychotherapists undermine the ministry of pastors and have developed a formula for referral: (1) Anyone who is not psychologically trained is not qualified to counsel those people with serious problems of living. (2) Refer them to professionally trained therapists. This is one predictable and pathetic pattern of the psychological seduction of Christianity.

Pastors have been intimidated by the warnings from psychologists. They have become fearful of doing the very thing God has called them to do: to minister to the spiritual needs of the people through godly soul care both in and out of the pulpit. Some of that intimidation has come from psychologically trained pastors. A spokesman for the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, a psychotherapeutically trained group of pastors, says “Our concern is that there are a lot of ministers who aren’t trained to handle their parishioners’ psychotherapy.”[3] And of course, if the pastors are not trained, they are not considered qualified. Therefore, the predictable benediction to the litany is: “refer to a professional.”

For biblical reasons pastors should stay away from doing anything like psychotherapy because of its inherent sinfulness. Moreover, pastors have a higher calling. Soul care is to be based on the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible; not on the opinions, surmisings, systems, and sagacity of mere humans. The pastor’s calling is to care for the sheep, to nurture them in God’s Word, and to mature them in the faith.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17.)

Biblical soul care is far different from psychotherapy. Biblical soul care focuses on Christ to nurture His life in the believer; the psychological way focuses on self which only feeds the flesh.

But, just as referral is the offering to the parishioner, it is the so-called answer for the missionary who needs rehabilitation. An article in a conservative Christian magazine recommends the possibility of sending missionaries away from a church to a treatment center “which specializes in missionary restoration.”[4] In checking the staff of this restoration-for-missionaries center, we found—you guessed it—licensed psychotherapists.

Can you imagine Paul turning to the ideas of men after his first missionary journey, after he had been persecuted and nearly stoned to death? Paul refused to put any confidence in the flesh. Without ever turning again to the philosophies of men and without the benefit of modern-day psychology, Paul rejoiced in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and in the great privilege to serve Him and to suffer for Him.

The number of examples of the referral formula is endless. It would be repetitious and eventually boring to continue adding examples. Everyone knows that the church has become one gigantic referral system. One pastor rightly challenges other pastors by saying:

We pastors have, like the rest of society, forgotten who we are and what we do. We are ministers of the Word. As such, everything we do, including counseling, is to be guided by the Word.

We have confused ourselves with secular counselors and psychologists. We have different goals! Their goal is to see the counselee restored to normalcy as recognized by society. Our goal is to see the counselee restored to a right relationship with God, and then, as a result of that restoration, to see him live as a child of God.[5]

This pastor also says, “Pastors either ‘farm out’ counseling situations to ‘professional counselors’ or use secular counseling methods themselves.” Then he asks a very important question: “How can we expect our people to see the relevance of God’s Word on Sunday morning if we use a different standard during the week?”[6] This type of spiritual disconnect elevates the psychological over the theological and therapy over sanctification.

God’s view of man according to the Bible is not compatible with any psychotherapeutic view of man. Neither is the biblical revelation of the human condition of being sinners in need of a savior considered or incorporated by any of the many brands of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy has debased and virtually replaced the church’s ministry to troubled individuals. During this time pastors have been devalued and have been intimidated into referring their sheep to professional psychotherapeutic priests. Many people no longer look to pastors and fellow believers for such help; nor do they look to the Bible for spiritual solutions to mental-emotional-behavioral problems.

The cycle of deception is complete. The psychotherapist offers humanity a less demanding, less disciplined, more self-centered substitute for Christianity, for that is what psychotherapy is: a false solution to nonorganic mental-emotional-behavioral problems. Deceived people flock to this surrogate religion with its unproven ideas and solutions to life’s greatest dilemmas. They trust the counterfeit priests of psychotherapy and worship at the strange altars of man-made solutions for the soul.

Unless we seek a biblical understanding of the human condition and biblical truth in all matters of life, we are in serious danger of “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such turn away.” (2 Tim. 3:5.)

 


[1] John Sanderson, Book Review of Biblical Concepts in Christian Counseling, Presbyterian Journal, 11 September 1985, p. 10.

[2] Paul Bartz, “Chemical Man,” Bible-Science Newsletter, Vol. 24, No. 2, February 1986, p. 1.

[3] Kenneth Woodward and Janet Huck, “Next, Clerical Malpractice,20 Newsweek  May 1985, p. 90.

[4] David Swift, “Are We Preparing to Fail?” Moody Monthly, September 1984, p. 109.

[5] Robert Illman, “Confidentiality and the Law,” Presbyterian Journal, 26 December 1984, p. 9.

[6] Ibid.