Rejection of the Living Waters[1]

In the past, religion and science were the main ways of achieving our aspirations. More recently, to the consternation of some and the satisfaction of others, the license for ensuring our well-being has apparently been transferred to psychotherapy![2]

Psychotherapy from its very beginning created doubt about Christianity. Each in his own way, the two great men of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, eroded confidence in Christianity and established negative ideas concerning Christianity that prevail today. Freud (1856-1939) was a Jew, and Jung (1875-1961) was a Protestant. Both men influenced the faith and affected the attitudes of many people concerning Christianity and the role of the church in the healing of troubled souls.

Freud believed that religious doctrines are all illusions, and that religion is “the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.”[3] Jung, on the other hand, viewed all religions as collective mythologies, not real in essence, but real in their effect on the human personality. For Freud religion was the source of mental problems, and for Jung religion, though merely a myth, was a solution to mental-emotional problems. Thomas Szasz states, “Thus, in Jung’s view religions are indispensable spiritual supports, whereas in Freud’s they are illusory crutches.”[4]

As the views of these two men influenced our culture, many Christians began to doubt the effectiveness of the Bible and the church in dealing with life problems. On the one hand, if one is religious, he must be sick; and on the other hand, religion is merely a necessary fantasy. While Freud argued that religions are delusionary and therefore evil, Jung contended that all religions are imaginary but good. Both positions are anti-Christian; one denies Christianity and the other mythologizes it.

How did Freud and Jung come to such conclusions about religion? According to Atwood and Tomkins, “all theories of personality will remain colored by subjective and personal influences.”[5] According to Szasz, “The popular image of Freud as an enlightened, emancipated, irreligious person who, with the aid of psychoanalysis, ‘discovered’ that religion is a mental illness is pure fiction.’’[6]

Szasz contends, “One of Freud’s most powerful motives in life was the desire to inflict vengeance on Christianity for its traditional anti-Semitism.”[7] He also shows how Freud made his hostility towards religion look like an objective conclusion from the realm of science. He says, “There is, in short, nothing scientific about Freud’s hostility to established religion, though he tries hard to pretend that there is.”[8] Freud was surely not an objective observer of religion. According to Szasz, he was a man who incorporated his personal feelings towards Christians into a supposed scientific theory about all religion.

While Freud grew up in a Jewish home, Jung was raised in a Christian home and his father was a minister. He wrote of his early experience with the Holy Communion, which seems to be related to his later ideas about religions being only myths. He says:

Slowly I came to understand that this communion had been a fatal experience for me. It had proved hollow; more than that, it had proved to be a total loss. I knew that I would never again be able to participate in this ceremony. “Why, that is not religion at all,” I thought. “It is an absence of God; the church is a place I should not go to. It is not life which is there, but death.”[9]

Because of Jung’s essential misunderstanding and misconceptions, Christianity, the church, and Holy Communion seemed hollow and dead.

From this one significant incident, Jung could have proceeded to deny all religions as Freud did, but he did not. He evidently saw that religion was very meaningful to many people. Thus, he accepted them all, but only as myths. His choice to consider all religions as myths was further influenced by his view of psychoanalysis. According to Viktor Von Weizsaecker, “C. G. Jung was the first to understand that psychoanalysis belonged in the sphere of religion.”[10] Since for Jung psychoanalysis itself was a form of religion, he could hardly reject all religions without rejecting psychoanalysis.

Freud and Jung each turned his own experience into a new belief system called psychoanalysis. Freud attempted to destroy the spirituality of man by identifying religion as an illusion and calling it a neurosis. Jung attempted to debase the spirituality of man by presenting all religion as mythology and fantasy. Many contemporary psychotherapists have not moved very far from these two positions. They continue to present religion as an illness at worst and as a myth at best.

Freud and Jung had enthusiastic followers who helped promote their ideas. Furthermore, the media assisted by giving uncritical publicity to the psychoanalytic movement with books, movies, and TV romanticizing this mania. The academic world furthered the cause of psychotherapeutic thinking by failing to identify the shortcomings of the new cult. Even medicine promoted psychiatry by incorporating it as a medical specialty. And worst of all, church leaders helped to propagate the theories of Freud and Jung by embracing the ideas they liked and ignoring the rest, not discerning the antichristian cancer which would eat away at the very soul of the church.

Abandoning trust in God, both Freud and Jung led their followers in the quest to find answers to the problems of life within the limited ideas and standards of men. They developed a philosophy, a psychology, and a psychotherapy of self-deification. In the psychoanalytic humanistic and existential streams, actions, words, and thoughts are inevitably directed inward. In the psychoanalytic stream, the unconscious and its pathways through free association and dreams constitute the doctrines of this faith. In the humanistic stream, the self and its pathway of direct experience and feeling are the substance of salvation. In the existential stream, the self is still glorified, but to a higher level of exaltation with so-called higher consciousness as its supreme goal.

Because they rest on different foundations, move in contrasting directions, and rely on opposing belief systems psychotherapy and Christianity are not now, nor were they ever, natural companions in the healing of troubled souls. The “faith once delivered unto the saints” was displaced by a substitute faith, often disguised as medicine or science, but based upon a foundation of humanism which is in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. In considering the relationship between psychotherapy and religion, Jacob Needleman observes:

Modern psychiatry arose out of the vision that man must change himself and not depend for help upon an imaginary God. Over half a century ago, mainly through the insights of Freud and through the energies of those he influenced, the human psyche was wrested from the faltering hands of organized religion and was situated in the world of nature as a subject for scientific study.[11]

From its very beginning, psychotherapy was developed as an alternate means of healing, not as an addition or complement to Christianity or to any other religion. Psychotherapy is not only offered as an alternate or substitute method of healing troubled souls, but also as a surrogate religion.

Arthur Burton says, “Psychotherapy . . . promises salvation in this life in the same way that theology promises it in the afterlife.”[12] In speaking of what psychotherapy has done to religion, Szasz contends that “contrition, confession, prayer, faith, inner resolution, and countless other elements are expropriated and renamed as psychotherapy; whereas certain observances, rituals, taboos, and other elements of religion are demeaned and destroyed as the symptoms of neurotic or psychotic illnesses.”[13]

In referring to the displacement of the spiritual with the psychological, Szasz says:

Educated in the classics, Freud and the early Freudians remolded these images into, and renamed them as, medical diseases and treatments. This metamorphosis has been widely acclaimed in the modern world as an epoch-making scientific discovery. Alas, it is, in fact, only the clever and cynical destruction of the spirituality of man, and its replacement by a positivistic “science of the mind.”[14]

It is not only a matter of the “destruction of the spirituality of man” but a destruction of religion itself. Szasz further contends:

. . . medical psychiatry is not merely indifferent to religion; it is implacably hostile to it. Herein lies one of the supreme ironies of modem psychotherapy: it is not merely a religion that pretends to be a science, it is actually a fake religion that seeks to destroy true religion.[15]

He warns about the “implacable resolve of psychotherapy to rob religion of as much as it can, and to destroy what it cannot.”[16]

A current answer given by a psychiatrist to the question of whether there is conflict or compatibility between religion and psychotherapy is this:

Psychiatry has a quarrel with only those forms of religion which emphasize the doctrine of original sin. Any belief that tends to focus on the idea that man is inherently evil conflicts with the basically humanistic approach to problems that psychiatrists must follow. [17]

God’s view of man according to the Bible is not compatible with the psychoanalytic view of man. Nor is the biblical condition of man accepted or promoted by any of the many brands of psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy has attempted to destroy religion where it can and to compromise it where it cannot. A supernatural void has been left as a result, and the need to believe in something has been filled by making a religion out of the ritual of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy has debased and virtually replaced the church’s ministry to troubled individuals. During this time, the priests and ministers have been devalued and have been intimidated into referring their parishioners to the new psychotherapeutic priests. The people no longer look to the pastors and ministers for such help. Neither do they look to the Bible for spiritual solutions to mental-emotional problems.

Szasz tells us that “the psychiatrist displaces the priest as the physician of the soul.”[18] The psychotherapists have not only displaced the priests and ministers but have themselves become god figures. One book refers to “the ‘Jehovah effect,’ in which the therapist recreates patients into his own image.”[19] In fact, this same book reveals that those patients who become more like their therapists are rated as most improved by their therapists. The psychotherapist has attained the level of adoration, mystery, and divine regard once accorded to the clergy. He has even become the object of worship because he is supposed to have all the answers and understand all the mental mysteries of life.

Now the cycle of deception is complete. The psychotherapist offers man a new, less demanding, less disciplined, more self-centered substitute for religion, for that is what psycho­ therapy is; a new false solution to mental-emotional problems, for that is what the psychological way is; and a new god figure, for that is what the psychotherapist has become. Now people flock to this surrogate religion with its unproven ideas and abstract solutions. They flock to the new high priest and worship at strange altars. People have fallen for the false image of the psychotherapist priest and for the theology of therapy.

Cure of Souls or Cure of Minds?

From the very beginning of the Christian church there was a method and a ministry for dealing with mental-emotional problems. The method depended upon the Word of God, which describes both the condition of man and the process of relief for troubled minds. The ministry was a prayer and healing ministry which dealt with all nonorganic mental­ emotional disturbances. This entire process was known as the “cure of souls.” John T. McNeil in A History of the Cure of Souls describes this ministry as “the sustaining and curative treatment of persons in those matters that reach beyond the requirements of the animal life.[20]

One aspect in the process of the cure of souls dealt with sin as a basis for mental-emotional problems and included forgiveness with healing through repentance and confession. This practice was later formalized and became one of the sacraments of the Catholic church. The Sacrament of Penance, which includes repentance, confession, and forgiveness, has been one of the most important functions of the Catholic church.

James, the head of the first Christian church in Jerusalem, exhorted, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Confession was used in the early church as a means of both forgiveness and healing. The biblical doctrine of confession and forgiveness was a means of mental-emotional healing from the very inception of the church and actually dated way back to the early days recorded in Genesis. In the twelfth century confession and absolution became one of the Catholic sacraments, but this merely formalized a practice which already existed.

Martin Luther opposed the system of indulgences in the church, but he strongly supported the practice of confession. He wrote, “Of private confession I am heartily in favor. It is a cure without an equal for distressed consciences.”[21] He further declared, “I would let no man take confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures of the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me.”[22]

The biblical pattern of confession for mental-emotional healing remained an important part of the church until the rise of psychotherapy. As well as continuing through the Catholic practice of confession, the cure of souls was a vital aspect of early Lutheranism and remained an important function throughout the entire Protestant movement until the church relinquished this ministry to psychotherapy.

One might argue that while confession has dramatically diminished in the Protestant church, it still exists in the Catholic church. A close examination of the Sacrament of Penance, however, will show that though the sacrament still exists and has even become more diversified in recent years, the attitude about its use has changed considerably through the influence of psychotherapy. At one time the act of confession not only led to forgiveness for the sins of the penitent, but the priest also ministered to the emotional damage which had resulted from the sin. Although the liturgy and ritual of confession still exist, little ministry is provided in the sacrament for mental-emotional hurts.

The attitude towards the sacrament, the role of the priest, and the relationship between priest and parishioner have all radically changed since the rise of psychotherapy. The shift has occurred from one priestly role to another, from a priest who had both a sacramental role in the administration of this rite and a pastoral role in dealing with mental-emotional problems (resulting from sin) to a priest who has merely a sacramental role. The priest has been persuaded to give up his role as counselor and to refer those who have mental-emotional disorders to trained and licensed professional psychotherapists. Priests and ministers have been convinced that they do not have the knowledge or ability to deal with such problems. In some cases, priests and ministers have received training in psychotherapy and use some of these techniques and devices to replace their previous reliance on Scripture and their former confidence in ministering to the mental-emotional results of sin.

There is an exception to this pattern, however. Those individuals who are less educated and are in the lower socio-economic classes continue to seek counsel from their priests. Because poor and uneducated people seem to have escaped the psychopropaganda, they still use the priest as pastor and counselor in the problems and distresses of life. On the other hand, people who are affluent and educated not only seek out the psychotherapist, but are also readily referred by the priest, who voluntarily has abdicated his pastoral role to many.

The priest has relinquished and the psychotherapist has usurped the pastoral role, and both priest and parishioner know it. The professional psychotherapist is the new priest, and a secular rite of psychotherapy replaces the sacred rite of confession. Church people now exhibit more faith in the secular confessional known as psychotherapy than in the sacred confessional known as Penance. The pastoral role has been downgraded and the psychotherapeutic role has been elevated, but psychotherapy has operated as a sterile substitute for the healing balm of confession.

The cure of souls is not solely limited to Penance. The cure of souls includes all aspects of spiritual activities that treat the realm of nonorganic mental-emotional problems. It also involves an inward change through repentance from sin, which results in a change of mind and heart and of thought and behavior.

The cure of souls, which once was a vital ministry of the church, has been displaced by a cure of minds (psychotherapy). The switch from spiritual healing to psychological healing was made subtly and secretly. It began in the secular world and then like a little leaven it infiltrated and infected the whole church.

Within the church (both Protestant and Catholic) a transition occurred in which people who were suspicious and skeptical of conservative Christianity and who lacked knowledge of and experience with the deeper spiritual life accepted a new message. And that new message was a psychological message about man, devoid of the basic biblical principles and, in certain instances, sprinkled with just enough biblical words to make it sound Christian. Many in the church were ignorant of the real meaning of this new message and accepted the new faith in psychotherapy. As a result, a psychology of self became the norm, faith in self became the creed, and the fundamental and eternal truths were laid aside.

Mistakes of the Past

Some of the blame belongs to the church. At one extreme there was too much emphasis on outer ritual rather than on inner change. At the other extreme there was an overemphasis on demonism as the only cause of emotional problems. Historically we have seen the disastrous results of man’s attempts to deal with emotionally disturbed persons. Without scriptural basis but in the name of Christianity, the church tried to treat insanity by some of the most inhumane methods of physically imprisoning, torturing, and punishing. The church also took on the attitude of the Pharisees and adopted the technique of exhortation through condemnation. Thinking that identifying the sin would lead to repentance and change, they forgot to use the methods of compassion, understanding, and love exemplified by Jesus.

Because man’s attempts were combined with certain doctrines of Christianity and perpetrated by the church, the world has pointed an accusing finger at the church in the area of mental-emotional problems. The world has seen only the errors and evils of an ignorant section of the church which was actually not following God’s way of healing as set forth in the Bible. Thus, the world and psychotherapists particularly have claimed to be more humane and compassionate. However, when we look at the present horrors of involuntary incarceration of the insane, frontal lobotomy, the side effects of Thorazine and other drug therapies, the sexual exploitation of women by certain therapists,[23] and the noxious effects of some of the psychotherapeutic techniques, we might ask, “Which are more cruel?”

Because of mistakes of the past, the church has adopted a tenuous position. It dares not take a firm stand in the area of the cure of souls because of the accusation that the church, in the past, has equated mental-emotional disorders with demonism. The specter that hangs over the church is the memory of witch trials and witch burnings. But these were mistakes of men in the church; they were not errors in God’s Word.

To its credit the church does not want to be in the witch burning business anymore and it does not want to carry on inquisitions. However, in a desire to avoid one extreme error, it has committed another. It has, in this instance, given up the need for inquiry in its attempt to avoid inquisition. Thus, the church has avoided investigation into the value of psychotherapy and has blindly accepted and adopted its theories and practices. At the same time it has abandoned one of its most vital responsibilities to its members by giving up on the cure of souls ministry as if it were a giant mistake in church history.

Another fear of the church is that of acting unscientific, for the Copernican specter echoes its hollow laugh at the early church fathers who believed that the earth was the fixed center of the universe. This specter causes the church to be fearful of making an error which science will later reveal. Just as the church erroneously hung onto the Ptolemaic model of the universe and was wrong, it is fearful now of rejecting the so-called scientific and medical model of the cure of minds. Thus, in attempting to avoid error, the church has given up the true for the false.

At the same time, with the rise of science and technology, the church has become more materialistic and less interested in the spiritual aspects of life. As psychotherapy became attached to science and medicine, it became attractive to the church as a seemingly legitimate means of relieving the disturbed soul. As a result, more and more people sought answers to their problems outside of the church.

Sin or Sickness?

Whereas once the church believed in, spoke of, and practiced the cure of souls, it has shifted its faith to a secular cure of minds. Szasz very ably describes how this change came about: “with the soul securely displaced by the mind and the mind securely subsumed as a function of the brain, people speak of the ‘cure of minds.’”[24] The brain is a physical organ; the mind is not. With this subtle semantic twist, the mind (disguised as an organ of the body) was elevated as a scientific and medical concept in contrast to the soul, which is a theological idea. A choice was made between a so-called scientific concept and a theological one. The average person does not see that both mind and soul are abstract concepts. One is an abstraction of psychotherapy, and the other is an abstraction of religion.

At the same time a physical organ (the brain) was replaced by an abstraction (the mind), another change took place. Whereas the church had believed that there was a relationship of sin and circumstances to mental-emotional disorders, the psychotherapist introduced the medical concept of sickness to explain such disorders. Nevertheless, mental suffering is not synonymous with sickness. We have only been deluded into thinking that it is. We easily accepted the word sickness to refer to mental-emotional problems because that was the “loving” and “understanding” way to cover up moral responsibility-ours as well as theirs.

One of the main purposes of Thomas Szasz in writing The Myth of Psychotherapy was this:

I shall try to show how, with the decline of religion and the growth of science in the eighteenth century, the cure of (sinful) souls, which had been an integral part of the Christian religions, was recast as the cure of (sick) mind and became an integral part of medical science.[25]

The words sinful and sick in parentheses are his. These two words mark the dramatic shift from the cure of souls to the cure of minds.

There is a serious problem when people confuse passion with tissue and sin with sickness. Such confusion of words leads to erroneous thinking. And this very confusion and error virtually ended the cure of souls ministry in the church. Through a semantic trick, the mind was confused with the brain and the misnomer of sickness replaced the concept of sin. And the entire subjective, theoretical process of psychotherapy ensconced itself safely in the realm of science and medicine. But, in reality, psychotherapy is a misfit as medicine and an impostor as science.

The recipe was simple. Replace the cure of souls with the cure of minds by confusing an abstraction (mind) with a biological organ (brain), and thus convince people that mental healing and medical healing are the same. Stir in a dash of theory disguised as fact. Call it all science and put it into medicine and the rest is history. With the rise in psychotherapy, there was a decline in the pastoral cure of souls until it is now almost nonexistent. Secular psychotherapy has taken over to such an extent that Szasz says, “Actually, psychotherapy is a modern, scientific-sounding name for what used to be called the ‘cure of souls.’”[26] Thus we have the shell, without the power, without the life, and without the Lord.

Accepting the Living Waters

Christianity is more than a belief system or a theological creed. Christianity is not just what happens one hour a week in church. Christianity is faith in a living Lord and in His indwelling Holy Spirit. Christianity involves the entire life: every day, every action, every decision, every thought, every emotion. One cannot adequately treat an individual apart from this life force. Nor can we segment the mental and emotional from the belief system of a person. For too long we have looked to the church to answer our theological questions and we have looked elsewhere for answers to our life problems. Christians who have God’s Holy Spirit living in them are spiritual beings; therefore, they need spiritual solutions, not merely psychological attempts.

It is understandable that the world would reject the Living Water in seeking to understand and help individuals suffering from mental-emotional problems. However, as the world rejected the biblical answers, the church began to doubt its own doctrine of sin, salvation, and sanctification in the area of mental-emotional disorders. Many ministers even left their pastorates to become licensed psychotherapists.

In the past eighty years psychotherapy has displaced the soul of man with the mind and has replaced the cure of souls with the cure of minds. The psychological has usurped the place of the spiritual, and even Christians look to psychotherapy rather than to sanctification as a means of dealing with soul problems. It is our position that the Bible provides both a spiritual basis for mental-emotional health and a spiritual solution for nonorganically caused mental-emotional disorders. True mental health involves spiritual and moral health as well as emotional well-being. It is time for Christians to take a fresh look at the Bible and at the provisions which God has available for mental-emotional health. and healing.

[1] Adapted from Martin and Deidre Bobgan. The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1978, Chapter 29, pp. 179-191.

[2] Morris Parloff, “Shopping for the Right Therapy.” Saturday Review, Feb. 21, 1976, p. 14.

[3] Sigmund Freud. The Future of an Illusion. Translated and edited by James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1961, p. 43.

[4] Thomas Szasz. The Myth, of Psychotherapy. Garden City: Doubleday/Anchor Press, 1978, p. 1.

[5] George E. Atwood and Silvan S. Tomkins, “On the Subjectivity of Personality Theory.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences,12 (1976), p. 167.

[6] Szasz, op. cit., p. 1.

[7]Ibid., p. 146.

[8]Ibid., p. 140.

[9] C. G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. by Aniela Jaffe, trans. by Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Pantheon, 1963, p. 55.

[10] Viktor Von Weizsaecker, “Reminiscences of Freud and Jung.” Freud and the Twentieth Century, B. Nelson, ed. New York: Meridian, 1957, p. 72.

[11] Jacob Needleman. A Sense of the Cosmos. Garden City: Double­ day and Co., Inc., 1975, p. 107.

[12] Arthur Burton, ed. Encounter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1969, p. 11.

[13] Szasz, op. cit., p. 188.

[14]Ibid., pp. 104-105.

[15]Ibid., pp. 27-28.

[16]Ibid., p. 188.

[17] Herbert Lazarus. How to Get Your Money’s Worth out of Psychiatry. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, Inc., 1973, p. 229.

[18] Szasz, op. cit., p. 32.

[19] Julian Meltzoffand, Melvin Kornreich. Research in Psychotherapy. New York: Atherton Press, Inc. 1970, p. 465.

[20] John T. McNeill. A History of the Cure of Souls. New York: Harper and Row, 1951, p. vii.

[21]Ibid., p. 167.

[22]Ibid., p. 168.

[23] Elaine Warren, “Sex in Therapy,” Three-Part Series. Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Nov. 26, 1978, pp. A-1, 12; Nov. 27, 1978, pp. A-1, C-4; Nov. 28, 1978, pp. A-1, C-6. Dan Rather and Steve Glauber, “Fifty Minutes,” transcript of 60 Minutes, Vol. x, No. 25, CBS-TV, Feb.19, 1978.

[24] Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy, op. cit., p. xviii.

[25]Ibid., p. xxiv.

[26]Ibid., p. 26.