Many readers of our books have written to us asking about how to confront psychoheresies in their churches and families. This is often a delicate issue. There is often an immediate suspicion that someone is attacking a person rather than questioning ideas and practices from a biblical perspective. Thus, the person who confronts psychoheresies is very often branded as divisive. (See “Ad Hominem,” page 8.)
The partial verse that is used to condemn anyone who might question psychological counseling theories and methods is this: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses. . . and avoid them.” But they ignore the middle of the sentence, which reads “contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.” Here is the whole verse in context:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17,18).
Therefore the ones about whom this passage speaks are those who are teaching unbiblical doctrines. The passage thus applies to those who are attempting to combine the psychological notions of men with Scripture and who are teaching “another gospel.”
Jesus, Our Example
How then can we contend for the faith in a climate that will not tolerate controversy and in a psychologized church? There is no simple method, but there is a Person to follow. Jesus Christ, who is living in every believer, is our example, wisdom, and enabler. We need to look at how He contended for the true faith in the midst of a perverse generation.
In His wisdom and grace Jesus spoke the perfect words with the perfect attitude. He spoke according to what He saw to be the faith of the listener. He challenged Nicodemus, who approached Jesus with an open heart, with spiritual truth. Yet He publicly condemned other Pharisees to their faces. He patiently taught those who would listen. He did not succumb to teaching them what they wanted, but rather the very Word of God.
Jesus knew when to speak and when to be silent. He knew the right approach with each person. Thus we need to be in prayer about each situation. And we need to be prepared: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we have been hiding the Word of God in our minds and hearts we will more easily be able to “shun profane and vain babblings,” which “increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).
Sometimes people feel compelled to say something in each and every situation to set people straight. However, there are times when the best wisdom is to be silent. Jesus was silent when Herod questioned Him. Furthermore, He did not allow Himself to be drawn into pointless discussion even though the Pharisees attempted to trick Him time and again.
There are other times when just a few words may be as much as a listener will receive. We never see Jesus filling the air with wasted words. He knew when He had said as much as one would receive. We need to pray for His wisdom!
But even with His great wisdom, Jesus met with much opposition—not only from the Pharisees, but even from some of his followers. At first huge crowds followed Him and seemed to take in His teachings with great enthusiasm. But, we see a turning point in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The thousands who had eaten the miraculously multiplied bread had followed him to Capernaum to receive more benefits. Jesus pointed out their wrong motivation and challenged them to something greater than material gain:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed (John 6:26,27).
He further challenged them with the truth of His identity: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). He told them that even though they saw Him, they did not believe. Then he gave an important key concerning how people respond to truth. He said: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). And when the people murmured, he said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Thus, after Jesus taught further about being the Bread of Life, “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? (John 6: 60).
Many people equate speaking the truth in love with never saying anything negative about anyone. However, when Jesus spoke the truth in love He said plenty of negative things—not only to the Pharisees but also to the crowds. Those whose hearts were hard and unresponsive to the truth turned away and even became antagonistic, but those whose hearts had been prepared by the Lord responded in faith. Here is the record of the opposite responses:
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John 6:66).
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:67-69).
What a contrast! Stark unbelief and the height of faith!
Approach and Attitude
What must be our approach and our attitude? First we need to determine where we are in the controversy. Has the person yet been taught properly? Has the person even considered the possibility that psychological counseling theories and therapies might undermine the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit? Or, is the person already committed to and promoting psychoheresy? Since we cannot know the mind and heart of another individual, we must begin with patient, careful teaching with the attitude of meekness, according to Paul’s instruction to Timothy.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
If after prayer, one presents the case for the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit and sounds the warning, people leave the psychoheresy and turn again to the Word of God, then that person has won a brother. If, on the other hand, the person warned remains committed to psychoheresy, then the best thing to do is to continue to pray and to wait on the Lord for further opportunity.
We cannot depend upon our own cleverness or our own powers of persuasion in such spiritual battles. Paul’s words to the Ephesians on spiritual warfare are of supreme importance here. How we desire to encourage Christians to “put on the whole armour of God” so that we all “may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil”! (Ephesians 6:11-18.)
Our desire is to reveal the errors of psychology so that Christians will clothe themselves with truth, arm themselves with the Word of God, and shield themselves with faith in God rather than in the wisdom of men.
The deception of the enemy is so very clever that even Christians who know their Bibles are being snared by various forms of psychoheresy. We often hear of churches in which the pastor preaches faithfully from the Word on Sundays and yet many of the programs during the week are steeped in psychoheresy. Somehow the truth of the Word is not applied in the life, and people fill the gap with the wisdom of the world.
Deidre received a phone call from woman who did not identify herself, but who attends a church where the pastor strongly speaks out against the use of psychological counseling theories and therapies. She said she was confused. As they talked, she continually responded with, “Yes, but . . .” and would proceed to parrot the usual one liners spoken by those who promote psychoheresy. After their conversation, it occurred to Deidre that the woman probably feeds on psychoheresy during the week. Then on Sunday she attends church and hears just the opposite. No wonder she is confused! Deidre tried to encourage her to be a Berean and test these things with the Word of God. We pray that she will.
So many seem to have lost confidence in the Lord’s provisions and in the sufficiency of Scripture for all matters of life and conduct. Ears have been tickled with vain babblings of psychological theories and therapies that subvert the Word of God and circumvent the work of the Holy Spirit. (See 2 Timothy 4:3-4.) Nevertheless we never know when there will be a hungry heart in disguise.
For instance, a pastor told us a story about a strong promoter of 12-Steps who read 12 Steps to Destruction: Codependency/Recovery Heresies. She admitted to him that she became more and more furious as she read, but by the time she finished the book she was convinced. Not only did she see the folly of 12-Step programs and abandon them; but she saw the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was saved.
Another person was engaged in a public debate with Dave Hunt over the issue of psychology. At the end of the debate, the man saw the errors of psychoheresy and now ministers to people, who have severe problems of living, with the Word of God through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit.
At other times, change has come about very gradually, through gentle persistence with a word in due season or an article or book timely placed. In all these instances the Lord used a mere human trying to teach the truth in meekness and love, but it is the Lord Himself who does the converting. He is the one who prepares and changes hearts. To Him be the glory for ever and ever!
But there are those who refuse every possible argument, every possible gesture of kindness and concern, every article or book. Perhaps one day they will change.
In the meantime we must stand, pray, and speak the truth in love. May the Lord give you grace to do just that according to His marvelous grace and almighty power!
Let us know how the Lord is working with you in this regard.
(From PAL, V1N3)