Christians may shun obvious worldliness and yet embrace worldly ideas that are deceitful and dangerous to the soul. Worldly thinking, infected with psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies, is extremely deceptive. It is so deceptive and alluring that pastors and leaders are the very ones promoting what we call psychoheresy as they incorporate psychological ideas into their teachings and send vulnerable souls out to the world for psychological counseling (psychotherapy). Not only do these psychological ideas change the faith by adding the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 2), but numerous Christians are looking less to the Lord and more to the so-called psychological experts.
“Psychoheresy” is a shift in faith from confidence in the Word of God for the issues of life to confidence in the unproven, unscientific psychological opinions of men about what God has already addressed in His Word. In contrast, soul care has historically been the responsibility of the local church and should be provided by those who are part of the church and have been recognized by the church leadership as having the gifts to minister to those in need.
As we have said before, there were no state licenses for counselors less than sixty years ago, but now all fifty states have licensing requirements. There were no insurance reimbursements for counseling, but now most insurance companies provide reimbursement, with the new federal law regarding equity for counseling expanding that availability. Likewise there were no Christian educational institutions offering psychology majors, but now psychology is one of their most popular majors.1 Back then there were no graduate programs leading to licensing for counseling, but now all major state universities and many private universities and Christian schools provide such programs. Fifty years ago evangelical Christianity was almost totally devoid of psychoheresy, but now this subtle menace has infiltrated Christian schools at all levels, mission agencies, denominations, and individual Christians of all persuasions.
We have often said that we are living in the last days and that psychoheresy is one of the clearest signs of the soon coming of Christ. Psychoheresy subverts Scripture with a branch of psychology called “clinical,” out of which come psychotherapists and psychologically trained counselors of almost 500 breeds, and the accompanying denial of the sufficiency of Scripture for the issues of life. The most important aspect of psychoheresy is this denial of the sufficiency of Scripture for living the Christian life. This deceptive denial is the foundation all of our other almost equally serious criticisms of what is mislabeled “Christian psychology.” Unfortunately, most Christians appear blind to the existence and grave consequences of psychoheresy and have no idea about how psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies took over many aspects of the church.2
The apostle Paul warns Timothy and all believers to this day: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20). Psychotherapy and its underlying theories have permeated the church with their “profane and vain babblings” and “science falsely so called.” In stark contrast, God has given believers far more than psychology can offer. Hundreds of Bible verses attest to the sufficiency of God’s Word, such as 2 Peter 1:3: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”
Just because one can use the scientific method to test the claims of psychotherapy does not make it science. In fact, it is better described as religion rather than science. As Dr. William Epstein, in his book Psychotherapy as Religion, concludes:
Psychotherapy is not a science at all but rather the quintessential civil religion of America, reflective of the ideals of radical self-invention and self-reliance that are part of the social psyche of the nation.”3
And, as Dr. Thomas Szasz has said:
Herein lies one of the supreme ironies of modern 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.4
As with Buddhism, the various psychotherapies are non-theistic religions that do not have or worship a god.
On a parallel note, one well-known early church heresy is that of Gnosticism. Irenaeus, an early church father, wrote a treatise against Gnosticism titled On the Detection and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called. Similarly, counseling psychology is not only “science falsely so called”; it is “knowledge falsely so called.” It is out of this false science and false knowledge that there are almost 500 not always compatible psychological approaches and thousands of often conflicting techniques. Yet, these are the tributaries that flow into the river of psychoheresy, all of which pollute the pure water of God’s Word.
In our book PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity we say that one of the many ways that pastors and churches are guilty of psychoheresy is by referring individuals, couples, and families in need of personal and relational help to psychotherapists, including psychologists and marriage and family therapists.
We explain in our book that such referrals mean that those pastors and churches do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for such problems of living. We name a number of churches and pastors that are guilty of psychoheresy with the main reason being referring congregants to psychotherapy. One person we now add to the list is Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, which has spawned 1,650 churches worldwide.5 During his lifetime Smith was the founding senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM).
Though deceased, Smith is still a very well-known and influential pastor, even beyond the 1,650 Calvary Chapel churches. Two years ago, while he was still living, we decided to ask whether or not he and his church referred out to psychotherapists. We called the church and spoke with two individuals, including Smith’s personal secretary, and found that the answer was “yes.” 6 The one person and one clinic to which they referred at that time were Dr. Charles H. Browning, a California state-licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), and his Browning Therapy Group.7
We recently called the Browning Therapy Group and were told that the “Christian Counseling” is done by the MFTs, for which they charge $130 to $175 per 45 to 50-minute session. It is doubtful that any insurance company would cover “Christian Counseling,” so it would be up to the Christians who come to the Browning Therapy Group to pay $130 to $175 for each 45 to 50-minute session out of their own pockets, unless the billing by the therapy group does not indicate that such persons are receiving “Christian Counseling” rather than the secular therapy required under the MFT license. The Browning Therapy Group states under “Insurance Benefits” that “Services may be covered in full or in part by your health insurance or employee benefit plan.”8 Browning says:
Whenever a client elects to use their insurance benefits to cover all or a portion of their counseling sessions, the therapist is OBLIGATED to report and release many of the details of the client’s identity and personal issues to the insurance company. This includes: diagnosis, what may be causing the issues, how well the client is functioning, any impact on work performance, and specific details about treatment, including the use of medication, if any. Most insurance forms require this kind of information, especially when cases are reviewed by the insuring company or agency….
With the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act, it is even more likely that client information could be open to and accessed by multiple agencies. In our opinion, the risk to client confidentiality is now even more serious when information is released to insurance carriers….
Browning adds, “Once we release personal or clinical information to outside insurance companies and governmental agencies, it’s out of our control.”9 In contrast, unlicensed pastors and lay counselors are only in rare cases, such as child abuse, required to report or release such information.
Browning is listed in the Psychology Today Directory for which he pays $29.95 per month. We subscribed to Psychology Today for years until their promotion of liberal anti-biblical propaganda caused us to cease subscribing. Their recent article titled “Atheism to Defeat Religion by 2038,”10 added to all the other anti-biblical offerings, was no surprise to us as former subscribers. Browning apparently has no problem with referrals from the Psychology Today directory being added to his CCCM referrals. Unlike many churches, Calvary Chapels do not have formal membership. However, we did ask at CCCM and were told that Browning regularly attends the second service each Sunday. As we have said before, this is a major way that psychotherapists generate clients through churches.
Brian Brodersen, Chuck Smith’s son-in-law, became senior pastor after Smith’s death. We recently called Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and spoke with the secretary to the pastors who are under Brodersen. We asked her if CCCM still recommends the Browning Therapy Group and were told, “Yes.” However, the secretary added that CCCM also recommends Turning Point Counseling (TPC), which has a number of office locations. The secretary gave us the TPC website address and phone number.11 We called TPC and found that their fees run from $100 (interns) to $130 (licensed counselors) and up to $175 (psychologists) for each 45-to-50 minute session. The TPC website lists over twenty therapy office locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties with most all of them in churches!12
We called a day later and spoke with Brodersen’s secretary. She also confirmed that CCCM continues to recommend the Browning Therapy Group. We mentioned that the secretary to the other pastors recommends both the Browning Therapy Group and Turning Point Counseling. Brodersen’s secretary said that the other pastors’ secretary usually gives out such information and that we would be better off speaking with her. At no time during our conversation with Brodersen’s secretary did she object to the other secretary referring individuals to both therapy clinics.13
Psychologically trained and licensed counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists are chained to their training and licenses, both of which determine much of their practice. Not only do Christians who are psychologists dip into the same cisterns of psychological theories and therapies; they are also bound by law to practice in a similar manner. What does this mean? This means that licensed psychologists who are Christians must follow the codes of their state license.
As mentioned earlier, Browning is licensed in California as an MFT. Also, Turning Point Counseling has licensed therapists and psychologists. We have long recommended that Christians should not become licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists and MFTs. One reason is a “Non-Discrimination” clause from the “Code of Ethics for Marriage and Family Therapists”: “Marriage and family therapists do not condone or engage in discrimination or refuse professional service to anyone on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, gender expression, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic, or marital status.”15 All of the national associations, such as the ones for psychologists and MFTs, have equivalent requirements, which must be followed or risk losing one’s license. These requirements for licensed counselors pose serious contradictions to the teachings of Scripture regarding sinful activities and relationships.
Since every state has its own licensing requirements for clinical psychologists and marriage and family therapists, as well as other therapists, such as psychiatric social workers, we contacted our two state licensing offices here in California. We asked the following questions regarding a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person coming in for counseling: Could the psychologist or MFT refuse service to such a person? Could the psychologist or MFT attempt to talk the person out of his/her behavior or orientation? If the LGBT person desires to live more peacefully as an LGBT person, would the psychologist or MFT be obligated to assist with this objective? Of course the answers to these questions apply equally well to a Christian who is a licensed psychologist or MFT, such as at Turning Point Counseling and the Browning Therapy Group.
In each case the answer from our California State offices was that, if an LGBT person filed a complaint because of the refusal to serve him/her, or an attempt to talk the person out of his/her sexual orientation, or failure to assist, an investigation would surely follow. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that at minimum there would be a reprimand and a demand for the licensed psychologist or MFT who is a Christian to follow the “Non-Discrimination” section of the “Code of Ethics” or else lose his/her license!
Other requirements for Christians who are licensed psychologists and MFTs have to do with abortion and same-gender marriage. Christians who are psychologists or MFTs would be prohibited from proselytizing, persuading, or dissuading in matters of faith and practice. This would apply to abortion, same-gender marriage, and other belief systems, such as Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Buddhism, Hinduism, occultism, and even Satanism. Therefore, Christians who are licensed counselors, such as Browning and those at Turning Point Counseling, are by license and profession to operate within the bounds of using their psychological training, techniques, theories, and methodologies within the framework of a professional code of ethics, absent their Christian beliefs, no matter how contrary their counselees’ beliefs and practices are to the Bible!
As we have mentioned elsewhere, these anti-discrimination rules also apply to university psychology and counseling programs, which are subject to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. There have been at least two cases of students being dismissed from counseling programs, one because of referring a LGBT individual to another counselor and the other because she expressed her biblical beliefs about sexuality and refused the university’s “remedial training,” which she contended would be against her beliefs.16
A ruling now prohibits licensed counselors from helping LGBT teenagers conform to a “straight” sexuality. One news article reported, “A federal appeals court sided with California on Thursday and upheld the first law in the nation banning a psychological treatment that seeks to turn gay youth straight.” 17
Interestingly, the law says that “therapists and counselors who practice the therapy would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and subject to discipline by state licensing boards.” However, the article noted that “the activities of pastors and lay counselors who are unlicensed but provide such therapy through church programs are not covered by the law.”18 In other words, by law, a pastor and fellow believer are able to help other believers build their faith according to Scripture in contrast to any state-licensed counselor. For Biblical reasons alone, churches should not refer out or have licensed psychological counselors on their staffs.
“Christian Psychologists” in Your Church?
In spite of research to the contrary, in spite of reliance on secular psychological opinions, in spite of the dangers of psychological theories and therapies undermining Scripture, and in spite of the fact that such counseling is governed and restricted by their training and licensure, psychologically trained professional counselors abound in the church, either as members of the staff or as receivers of referrals. Since most people mistakenly think that psychological counseling is good and helpful, these counselors get referrals from pastors and others in the congregation, especially as they develop relationships in churches Thus, with misplaced confidence in psychology, people are easily enticed into the arms of a psychological counselor, either as a source of referral or as a client.
How sad it is to learn that Smith, who throughout his life would preach verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book of the Bible, would miss the clear Scriptural truth regarding its sufficiency for those issues of life that he referred out to a psychotherapy clinic! And how doubly sad that Brodersen is carrying on in the same ungodly tradition of referring congregants out to psychotherapy!
We conclude that while Pastor Chuck Smith during his lifetime emphasized the sufficiency of Scripture in his teaching and preaching, he nonetheless fell prey to the idea that secularly trained MFT Browning and his Therapy Group had something essential to add to what God has already provided in His Word throughout the centuries. If not, why would Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, under his leadership, have been sending believers under his care to those trained in and controlled by fleshly derived systems?
We were not able to confirm by our phone calls to CCCM who started recommending the Turning Point Counseling group in addition to the Browning Therapy Group. However, the practice of referral exists under Brodersen’s leadership, and he must bear the responsibility for allowing ungodly systems to infect believers under his spiritual influence!
1 Cara Marcano, “Growing Christian Shrinks,” Opinion Journal from The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, opinionjournal.com.
2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity, Revised & Expanded. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2012.
3 William Epstein. Psychotherapy as Religion. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 2006, jacket cover.
4 Thomas Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City: Doubleday/Anchor Press, 1978, pp 27-28.
5 Phone call to Calvary Chapel Association, July 25, 2014.
6 Phone call to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, February 1, 2013.
9 Statement prepared by Dr. Charles Browning, ibid.
10 Nagel Barber, “Atheism to Defeat Religion by 2038,” Psychology Today, April 25, 2012, www.psychologytoday.com.
11 Phone calls to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, July 17, 18, 2014.
13 Phone call to Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, July 21, 2014.
14 Parts of this article are taken from “Psychoheresy in Your Church?” PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 22, No. 1.
15 “Part 1— The Standards,” Code of Ethics, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, www.camft.org.
16 Maggie Hyde (RNS), “Christian Counselors Claim Discrimination Over Religious Beliefs on Gays,” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011, www.huffingtonpost.com; “Jennifer Keeton, Anti-Gay Counseling Student Who Refused Remedial Training, Lawsuit Dismissed,”1 Huffington Post, June 27, 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com.
17 Paul Elias, “Court Upholds First Ban on Gay Aversion Therapy,” Santa Barbara News-Press, August 30, 2013, pp. A1, A13.
18 Ibid., p. A13.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, September-October 2014, Vol. 22, No. 5)