Diluted, Polluted, or Pure?[1]

The biblical basis and spiritual solutions are all that are necessary for establishing and maintaining mental-emotional health and dealing with nonorganic mental-emotional conditions. There is no need for both spiritual and psychological solutions. There is no need to add psychotherapy to spiritual counseling which leads to sanctification. We need simply and solely to rely on the spiritual and return the ministry of the cure of souls to its proper place in the church. In a discussion with the governor of California, Thomas Szasz very clearly recommended that the responsibility for mental health care should be taken away from the professions and given to voluntary associations such as churches. He declared, “I would turn this whole business back to the ministers and priests and rabbis.”[2]

One very difficult task, however, will be convincing Christians that there are not two equally good ways to solve mental-emotional problems, the spiritual way and the psychological way. An even more difficult task will be convincing Christians that a so-called blending of the psychological and the spiritual only emasculates Christianity because of the inherent conflicting belief systems of the two. There is only one way for Christian believers and that is the spiritual way, the biblical way.

We hope that we have revealed throughout this book enough misconceptions, misunderstandings, and mistakes about psychotherapy to enable the reader to at least question whether the psychotherapeutic way is a valid means of dealing with mental-emotional disorders.

The so-called virtues of the psychological way are mostly based upon self-serving testimonials and opinion rather than upon research and fact. Each generation since the advent of psychotherapy has brought forth its psychotherapeutic innovators who have insisted upon the success of their systems. Jerome Frank says, “A historical overview of Western psychotherapy reveal that the dominant psychotherapeutic approach of an era reflects contemporary cultural attitude and values.”[3] In contrast to this we know that the Bible contains eternal truths about man and his condition. We know that the biblical doctrines and principles are beneficial as a healing balm for men. God’s Word does not change with the culture and the times.

The available evidence should discourage anyone’s preference for psychotherapy over spiritual counseling. The spiritual way always has been and continues to be the proper and successful way to deal with mental-emotional problems. Even if the spiritual way did not exist, the psychological way is questionable at best and detrimental at worst. We are not attacking the psychological way merely as a means of establishing the spiritual way. The psychological way is suspect no matter what one might say about the spiritual way.

The church does not need psychotherapy and its convoluted systems of loose theories and fabrications offered as facts. Psychotherapy, from its very beginning, has been and still is detrimental to Christianity. It has dishonestly usurped the ministry of the cure of souls and it distorts any form of Christianity to which it attaches itself.


In spite of the fact that historically and philosophically many aspects of psychotherapy have been directly or indirectly antagonistic to Christianity, many people believe that the two are complementary, that psychotherapy and Christianity are perfectly compatible as used simultaneously or separately under different circumstances.

The church has fastened its faith on psychotherapy and believes its claims beyond proof or justification. At the same time, the church has become suspicious and doubtful of the validity of spiritual solutions to mental-emotional disorders. Thus, the element of the self-fulfilling prophecy has transpired here. People have been rewarded according to their expectations. When one believes in psychotherapy and doubts religion, it is no wonder that the psychological way looks so good and seems successful and the spiritual way appears inadequate. It has all happened according to man’s faith.

One of the largest referral systems to psychotherapy is the church. Christians are quite regularly referred to psychotherapists by unsuspecting priests and ministers who have been convinced that they are not able to help such people and that only the professional has the expertise required for counseling an emotionally disturbed person. The referral occurs not only because the clergy and the church have been talked out of the cure of souls ministry, but because the pastor does not really have the time to deal with such persons.

In most cases, ministers and priests are referring their people to a system that they know little about but have been convinced to accept as valid. Most pastors could not defend this system except by drudging up the defunct medical model or by leaning upon some unsupportable generalizations about the supposed effectiveness of psychotherapy. Most ministers could not even tell you the predominant psychotherapeutic orientation or the success or failure rate of the therapist to whom he sends his flock.

Many Christians have either questioned or left “the faith once delivered unto the saints’ to follow after one or more of the 500 psychotherapeutic myths. Through the guile of psychotherapy and the naivete of the church, the holiness of Christianity has been exchanged for the hollowness of psychotherapy. And many have made the transaction as if it were all done for scientific and medical reasons. The fact is that they have exhibited a faith in the psychological which has exceeded their faith in the spiritual, and they have done it all for less than objective reasons.

One Christian psychotherapist wrote, ‘I am convinced, however, that the psychoanalytic method in the diagnosis of human behavior is a valid one.”[4] A Christian psychiatrist tells in his book about the wonderful advantages of psychiatry and particularly of Christian psychiatry.[5] A well-known Southern California minister read about the four basic temperaments of Hippocrates and proclaims them with a spiritual message even though the theory behind them has never been shown to be valid.[6]

Christian seminaries now train ministers as clinical psychologists and counselors, and many Christian colleges offer the services of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and counselors to minister to the mental-emotional needs of all. Psychotherapy is so universally acclaimed and believed in and accepted in the Christian world that one would think the church had received it as a vision from on high.

Many Christians believe that psychotherapy provides real truths about man and can be trusted to help improve human behavior. The question is: which truth is true truth? There is not one Christian psychotherapeutic way. Christian psychotherapists follow a variety of the over 500 schools of thought available. Psychotherapy, both outside and inside of Christianity, provides a diversity of methods and belief systems. There is much the same confusion and contradiction of psychotherapeutic thought both in and out of Christianity. We know that the spiritual principles in the Bible are eternal, but which psychotherapeutic principles are eternal? The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:10-11).

The Christian psychotherapist believes in combining both the spiritual way and the psychological way. His faith is in a recipe that adds the ingredients from both. However, does he study psychotherapy to find an elaboration of spiritual truths or as an end in itself? For example, the Bible distinctly teaches that man has a free will and is normally responsible for his behavior. Does the Christian psychotherapist look to psychotherapy to state such a truth or to elaborate upon it? Does the Christian psychotherapist place the Bible or psychotherapy first? Does he think first of the spiritual or of the psychological?

Although the intent of the Christian psychotherapist may be to place Scripture first, does he convey this idea to his counselee so that they both know that the Word of God is preeminent in all things? Or do those who come to the Christian psychotherapist merely learn to trust psychotherapy more? Put simply, do people have a greater confidence in Scripture or in psychotherapy after seeing the Christian counselor? How many times has a Christian psychotherapist knowingly or unknowingly exalted a psychotherapeutic idea over a biblical doctrine? How often has a psychotherapeutic idea influenced belief in a biblical doctrine when it should have been the other way around?

Even if the Christian psychotherapist places the Bible first, there is a danger, after having once found a biblical truth in psychotherapy, of adopting other ideas that may be contrary to Scripture. How much psychotherapeutic garbage has the Christian psychotherapist taken in and dispensed as a result of accepting therapeutic systems which sound like biblical ideas? Although the combination of Scripture and psychotherapy may begin compatibly enough, there is no telling where it will end. Psychotherapeutic techniques and theories should not be inflicted upon spiritual principles, nor should the Bible be forced to fit psychotherapy. True spiritual counseling should come out of biblical principles.

It may be that some Christian psychotherapists’ hidden reason for the lack of complete dependence upon Scripture is that this position might raise the whole question of charging fees for services. If the Bible is sufficient and counseling is a ministry of the church, what is the rationalization for charging a fee? If one can maintain the bankrupt medical model and defend professional training in psychotherapeutic techniques, charging a fee is perfectly justifiable.

The popularity and proliferation of psychotherapy in Christian circles have given it a validity and visibility that it does not deserve. As we have indicated in the beginning of this book, there are still questions about whether psychotherapy even works, how it works and on whom it might work. As we mentioned earlier, psychotherapy is a system filled with many unproven theories and few facts. It is a ridiculous delusion to go on believing in the romance and ritual of psycho­ therapy. It is a field that is filled with speculative and spurious thought, which sometimes ends up killing one’s confidence, confession, and convictions in Christianity.

The psychotherapeutic system usually centers on self and appeals to a sick and sinful society. We have for too long been seduced by this orientation of self-centeredness which produces only a pseudo-solution for the soul. The safest and sanest thing for Christians to do is to replace psychotherapy with spiritual counseling in the church. Such a reversal would be a welcome relief from the woes of a system that is so subjective and so incapable of providing objective proof or validity. Re-establishing the spiritual counseling ministry and abandoning the psychotherapeutic domain would no doubt prove illuminating to the entire church.

It is the Scripture, not psychotherapy, which reveals the true condition and nature of man. The Bible contains sufficient information and counsel for maintaining mental­emotional health and for ministering to mental-emotional problems. There may be psychotherapeutic systems that will help man to feel better or to indulge himself without feeling guilty, but none of them has any eternal value.

Psychotherapy is the counterfeit currency of the world and a substitute for the healing balm of Gilead. And Christian psychotherapy is a house divided against itself. How long shall we have one foot in the wilderness of the cure of minds and one in the promised land of the cure of souls?

Faith in What?

In all honesty, there is no conclusive evidence or final proof for either the psychological way or the spiritual way. It is our faith that has led us in one direction or the other. No one has proven outside of faith the superiority of either way. When a person chooses one way over the other, it merely constitutes a leap of faith in one direction or the other. Most psychotherapeutic concepts hover in the realm of the mystical and even the theological. Psychotherapy is swathed in theories which are believed as fact by an act of faith. It is dishonest not to admit the element of faith and to insist that psychological theories are universal facts. Such theories rest on the same need for faith as religion does. They are wholly dependent upon faith.

Some might argue that certain testimonials support the use of the psychological way and others the use of the spiritual way. But, when we overlook the testimonials in either direction and look at all the hard evidence, the conclusion is that neither the psychological way nor the spiritual way has final proof of either superiority or greater effectiveness of one over the other. Each requires faith. The question is: are we going to place our faith and trust in the systems devised by men or are we going to believe and trust God’s Word as set forth in the Bible?

The psychological model has not proven itself as a substitute for the spiritual model either theoretically or practically. The cure of minds malfunctioned from the very beginning and has floundered ever since. If psychoanalysis had done what it pretended to do, men would never have had to invent over 500 other therapies and thousands of techniques to do the job. The fact that so many different therapeutic systems are currently being tried indicates that not much is really known about the cause and cure of mental-emotional disorders. Proposed causes and attempted cures are merely guesses as to how to deal with such problems.

Psychotherapy has proven to be like the naked monarch in the fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” For almost eighty years it has proliferated itself and permeated our society. It has captured the hearts and minds of the people and turned the head of the church away from the cure of souls. Like the emperor, psychotherapy stands proud and tall in its supposedly beautiful garments, and few have dared whisper, “The emperor has no clothes!” The emperor is naked, and few have the vision or courage to speak up and say so. Few dare speak out because neither society nor the church wants to be part of an inquisition. Furthermore, the church is self-conscious about its recurring image of appearing narrow-minded. And so, all stand and look at the emperor and pretend that he is wearing fine apparel.

People have pretended so long and so hard that they actually believe he has on the most elegant clothes ever created. Because they have been fearful of the possibility of repeating the error of the inquisition, they have accepted an illusion. Unfortunately, many people both in and out of the church do not want to deal with the facts of his nakedness and would rather believe a delusion and live in ignorance.

The Supernatural Quest

The church lost much of its influence in the personal lives of believers in the realm of mental-emotional problems partly because believers often attempt to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh. However, another reason has to do with those in the church who have tended to relate mental disorders to disobedience or demonism–sin or Satan. While it is true that everything wrong in the world is due to sin, there are sins within us, those inflicted upon us, and those that exist in this decaying world. In many instances, the church overlooked circumstances and organic illness as possible causes and, thus, through simplicity lost respect. However, psychotherapy is also filled with a simplicity that defies both proof and denial. The possibilities of demons and disobedience have simply been replaced by symbols and metaphorical sickness. Moreover, psychotherapy has overlooked the most vital and most complex aspect of man, his spirit.

Man cannot escape his need for the supernatural. He can distort it; he can attempt to substitute it; he can deny it; but he cannot escape it. The cosmic loneliness we find in literature, the reaching outward for union with the seemingly unknown, and the seeking inward to find meaning in life are all indications of the desire to unite with the supernatural.

This is the first century in the West during which many do not have a basic realization of salvation or an understanding of the meaning of life. Thus, people are looking to psychotherapy, astrology, biorhythms, ESP, and even UFOs and extra­ terrestrial beings to fill the void. They are looking for an easy psychological salvation that does not recognize the fallen condition of man and an easier psychological sanctification which does not involve the spiritual process of growth. The jacket cover of Christopher Lasch’s book The Culture of Narcissism states:

The narcissistic personality of our time, liberated from the superstitions of the past, embraces new cults, only to discover that emancipation from ancient taboos brings neither sexual nor spiritual peace.[7]

We predict that to fill this spiritual void and escape the growing criticism of main-line psychotherapy, new forms of psychotherapy which follow the religious nature of man will become increasingly popular. They will discard their scientific sheep’s clothing and blatantly tum to the occult. They will expand their interest in higher consciousness to include a mish mash of Eastern and Western religions. They will combine elements of psychotherapy and religion with all kinds of occult beliefs and practices.

Already a new form of psychotherapy has arisen on the scene, which mixes the Freudian search into the past with reincarnation. The jacket cover of Past Lives Therapy by Morris Netherton says, “A renowned psychologist shows how your present problems and anxieties are the result of what has happened to you in your past incarnations, stretching back centuries.”[8] The book claims cures for colds, migraine headaches, stuttering, and so on. Such combinations of psychotherapeutic theories and techniques, religious beliefs and practices, and the occult will have vast appeal to the numerous people disillusioned with the old-time psychotherapy and desiring to fill the vacuum left by the absence of true biblical faith. The first indication we had of this was several years ago when a clinical psychologist told us that the new psychotherapy would join psychological principles with occult principles in order to minister to people. He is a licensed psychotherapist and uses psychology together with astrology in his practice. At that time it seemed like an incredible idea; now it’s obvious.

The Bible warns about combining humanism with the occult:

For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.

Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. (Isa. 47:10, 13)

Ancient Babylon was condemned because its religion deified self and embraced the occult. The future Babylon, spoken of in the book of Revelation is a revival of a combination of humanism, self-glorification, false religions, and the occult.

Many aspects of psychotherapy, and especially the fourth stream, fit right into the biblical description of Babylon. Needleman reports:

A large and growing number of psychiatrists are now convinced that the Eastern religions offer an understanding of the mind far more complete than anything yet envisaged by Western science. At the same time, the leaders of the new religions themselves—the numerous gurus and spiritual teachers now in the West—are reformulating and adapting the traditional systems according to the language and atmosphere of modem psychology.[9]

Ralph Metzner, a clinical psychologist, in his book Maps of Consciousness explains how the I Ching, Tantra, Tarot, alchemy, astrology, and Actualism work and claims that these occult practices can be used to achieve meaning in life and can lead to mental-emotional growth and health.[10]

In his book From Shaman to Psychotherapist, Walter Bromberg says that there are at least 250 mystical methods for attaining a higher consciousness. He observes:

Whereas in previous generations “altered consciousness” was considered a mark of bohemian depravity if sought voluntarily or one of madness if involuntary, nowadays a “high” is the essence of psychologic sophistication. The procedures for attaining greater awareness of the sensory world within, or to put it bluntly a “good feeling,” vary tremendously.[11]

And we might add that the possible combinations of the 250 mystical methods and the thousands of psychological techniques stagger the mind. Jesus, on the other hand, advised:

Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt. 7:13, 14)

Living Waters

Psychotherapy has tried to maim the hand that holds the sword of the spirit and has made the church vulnerable in soul ministry by providing all sorts of substitute psychological ideas in place of genuine spiritual solutions. Psychotherapy even offers all kinds of trinitarian psychotherapeutic models to draw people away from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and said:

Hath a nation changed their gods which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.

Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord.

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:11-13)

The psychological way is a broken cistern while the spiritual way is the Living Water. The psychotherapists have filled their broken cisterns with the water from the four polluted streams of psychology.

The church has waited too long, has drifted too far, and has largely given up the Living Waters for broken cisterns in the area of mental-emotional healing. The church has drunk this polluted water and poisoned its soul ministry until it is nearly nonexistent. And, in its attempts to replace this needed ministry, the church has turned to the world of psychotherapy in search of the ministry which was destroyed by psychotherapy.

The church not only permitted the cure of minds to replace the cure of souls ministry without substantiation or proof, but has embraced psychotherapeutic theories, techniques, terminology, and theology in its blind desire to meet the needs of a suffering generation.

All mental-emotional problems that have no organic base can be best ministered unto by the Word of God. God has asked in His Word, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8). This is a call to serve and to minister. We have a choice to make based upon faith, because there is no final proof for either the psychological way or the spiritual way. How long shall we “halt between two opinions”?

Some Christians already believe in and preach the use of the cure of souls rather than the cure of minds. Paul Billheimer in his book Don’t Waste Your Sorrows says “Except where there is organic difficulty, the root of all conflicts in the home is not mental but spiritual. Psychology and psychiatry are usually totally irrelevant.”[12]

We have a living God, the source of all life and healing. We have His living Word. His Word contains the balm of Gilead for the troubled soul. His Word ministers healing to the mind, the will, and the emotions. Ray Stedman in his book Folk Psalms of Faith refers to all the written revelation of God as “the law of the Lord.” He quotes Psalm 19 which says, “The law of the Lord is perfect,” and then he declares:

It is complete, there is nothing left out. It is comprehensive, it does everything that we need it to do. There is no part of your life, no problem that you will ever face in your life, no question with which you will ever be troubled, that the Word of God does not speak to and illuminate and meet.[13]

We grieve over the way the church has given up on the cure of souls ministry where believers will stand on the completeness of God’s Word, minister under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, function as a priesthood of all believers, and minister God’s love, grace, mercy, faithfulness, wisdom, and comfort to those suffering from mental-emotional anguish. As such, believers would voluntarily give their time, love, and prayers to lift the heavy burdens. They would be enabled to follow Paul’s admonition:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:1-2)

The Lord has indeed promised more to His church than a Dead Sea. He has promised Living Water! In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying,

If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37-38)

Is not the Lord, the creator of the universe, able to fulfill His promises? He has promised life and life abundant! Surely we can believe Him! His faithfulness is unto all generations!

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live….

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:1-3, 8, 9)


[1] Adapted from Martin and Deidre Bobgan. The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1978, Chapter 30, pp. 191-204.

[2] Thomas Szasz, “Nobody Should Decide Who Goes to the Mental Hospital.” Co-Evolution Quarterly, Summer 1978, p. 60.

[3] Jerome Frank, “Therapeutic Factors in Psychotherapy.” American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 25, 1971, p. 360.

[4] Paul D. Morris. Love Therapy. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1974, p. 32.

[5] 0. Quentin Hyder. The Christian’s Handbook of Psychiatry. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1971.

[6] Tim LaHaye. Spirit-Controlled Temperament. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1966.

[7] Christopher Lasch. The Culture of Narcissism. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1978, inside jacket cover.

[8] Morris Netherton and Nancy Shiffrin. Past Lives Therapy. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1978.

[9] Needleman, op. cit., p. 109.

[10] Ralph Metzner. Maps of Consciousness. New York: Macmillan Co., 1971.

[11] Walter Bromberg. From Shaman to Psychotherapist. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1975, p. 33.

[12] Paul Billheimer. Don’t Waste Your Sorrows. Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade, 1977, p. 89.

[13] Ray Stedman. Folk Psalms of Faith. Glendale: Regal Books, 1973, p. 41.