In response to an ad in World magazine for Jim Owen’s book Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word, two people wrote letters to the editor (World, June 5, 1993, p. 5). One complained, “nothing disturbs me more than Christian-bashing by Christians.” The other said, “I do not appreciate the narrow-minded approach of this publisher to Christian psychology and the Christian recovery movement.”
Are those of us who proclaim the sufficiency of Christ and warn about the dangers of Christian psychology “narrow-minded” “Christian-bashing Christians”?
The following is excerpted from Jim Owen’s letter to the editor of World magazine.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Perhaps, since I am the author of Christian Psychology’s War on God’s Word (that “awful” book advertised on the inside back cover of World’s April 24th issue), you will let me answer my critics.
Ms. Frank’s letter accuses me of Christian bashing. However, as even the title makes clear, my book deals with the presuppositions and counseling methods of Christian psychology, not individuals or counseling as such. . . . Christian psychology raises crucial questions about Scriptural authority, proper exegesis, and sound doctrine. If these issues cannot be raised, then the evangelical community is in dire straits indeed. Our unity, then, will not be a unity based on dialogue and argumentation to establish the Truth, but rather a unity of silence and ignorance.
Minority dissent has more than once rescued the Church from heresy and deadness. Consider, for example, Athanasius, who almost single-handedly saved the deity of Christ from politics and Arianism by insisting that the Son shared in the same quality of deity as the Father. One wonders whether our modern “ecumenical” evangelicalism would be willing to fight so valiantly for the word same instead of like?
Then, of course, there is Martin Luther, who for the sake of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, rent asunder the unity of the Catholic Church and set Christian against Christian. . . . The pope banned the publication of Luther’s books and forbid their sale as well as their reading. By Ms. Frank’s definition, Luther was a Christian basher. One wonders, again, if our modern evangelical community would line up behind Luther were he active today? I fear the Reformation has died with a whimper, not a bang, in the 1990s.
More and more, it appears, the evangelical community is reflecting the secular therapeutic culture which views Truth (with a capital T) as merely personal preference, not something objective and absolute which is to be diligently searched out. Shared experience is what now binds us together, not doctrine, and feelings substitute for clearly expressed belief.
Ms. Medley, in her letter, does not “appreciate the narrow-minded approach” of [my publisher] (and by association my book) regarding Christian Psychology and the recovery movement. Well, then, let me recommend that Ms. Medley read David Well’s new book, No Place for Truth. David Wells is one of the evangelical communities’ outstanding scholars and theologians, and his book is published by Eerdmans, hardly a “narrow-minded” publisher. Dr. Wells believes that “feeling” Christianity and psychology are bringing the evangelical community to ruin. “It is, I believe,” he writes, “the dark prelude to death, when parasites have finally succeeded in bringing down their host. Amid the clamor of all the new models of evangelical faith there is the sound of a death rattle,” (page 134). Strong medicine from one who can hardly be labeled “narrow-minded.” The issue is not narrow-mindedness regarding psychology; the issue is right-mindedness as taught in God’s Word!
Though David Wells and I might differ in some points of theology, I don’t doubt we would both agree that evangelical Christianity must be theologically grounded and theologically interpreted, not psychologically grounded and psychologically interpreted. The Christian life is one that is lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, not the power of psychotherapy or a recovery group. And may I humbly submit that the Gospel is not about helping hurting people cope with, and perpetually recover from, their past victimizations.
Something else comes through in the letters. It is the demand for censorship. What is it about the Christian psychology/recovery movement that moves it to demand that its evangelical critics be silenced? Surely we are not going to claim that because “hurting” people are “helped” by sensitive “caregivers,” Christian psychology and the recovery movement are above scrutiny no matter how bizarre their exegesis or doctrine may be.
How far we are removed from Acts 15 when the “grace” Christians took on the “law” Christians and won the day in open debate. Scripture and God’s acts in history were their weapons of victory. And how far we have removed ourselves from the methods used by the leaders of the Reformation, who won city after city to the Reformation view through the medium of print and public disputation with their Catholic opponents.
However, it seems the Christian psychology/recovery movement will have none of this. Those who raise questions about its Scriptural exegesis or theology are not worthy of a hearing. Their books should not be read, let alone published. And if published, they shouldn’t be allowed to advertise in any decent Christian publication. Does this sound like a desire for censorship? Well, it is. Is this really the direction we wish the evangelical community to move? God help us if it is, for we will no longer have an evangelical church grounded in Scripture and possessing a dynamic history. We will no longer have an evangelical church.
(From PAL, V1N3)