The Christian Research Institute (CRI), originally founded by Walter Martin, is currently headed by Hank Hanegraaff. In 1995 CRI ran a four-part series on “Psychology & the Church” in their journal. Bob and Gretchen Passantino were the authors of this series, which clearly established the CRI position on psychology and the church. From the time of their publication until now, CRI has maintained the position presented in the articles. When people contact CRI to ask about the CRI position on psychology, they are referred to the Passantino series on “Psychology & the Church.”
In 1992 we made a presentation to Hanegraaff and his research staff on the subject of psychoheresy. From then until the appearance of the Passantinos’ articles, CRI sent the following reply to those who inquired about their position on psychology and the church:
CRI is still in the process of evaluating the proper relationship between psychology and the Christian church and formally establishing a position on this controversial topic. We have met with prominent people on both sides of this debate and it remains an issue that must be carefully studied and assessed. If you would like information on this subject from opposing points of view so you can prayerfully study and come to your own conclusions, we recommend materials from Martin and Deidre Bobgan (anti-psychology) and John Coe (pro-psychology).
CRI was correct in saying that our position is “anti-psychology” and Coe’s position is “pro-psychology.” The prominence of Coe’s pro-psychology theology in the Passantinos’ series confirms that CRI chose the pro-psychology position. In opposition to Coe’s pro-psychology paper, Hanegraaff had a copy of a paper opposing Coe’s position, which was written by Doug Bookman, a professor at The Master’s College.
In a letter to Hanegraaff one of us said:
I would like to suggest that you sponsor a debate at Rosemead Graduate School on this issue. I have tried in the past to arrange such a debate or even to speak there with no success. If your staff has heard them and us separately, why not now put the two sides out in public together? . . . I believe you would do the church a great service if you would sponsor such a debate. Please give it some thought and prayer. I look forward to your reply.
Hanegraaff never replied. It cannot be said that Hanegraaff lacked information to make a decision regarding what should be the CRI position on psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies. But, it can be said that his decision is harmonious with the many integrationists we have accused of psychoheresy over the years and would certainly be applauded by the many integrationists quoted in the Passantinos’ articles.
Leaving the door open to psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies is an overwhelmingly popular position in the church. Many are satisfied and others are ecstatic about the CRI/Passantino position on the integration of psychology and the Bible. It is always difficult to combat the popular socio-cultural mores of a society; but it is more difficult to fight against the absorption of these mores into the church. Admittedly, we are presenting a minority view and unfortunately we are left with proving the case against something for which the case has never been made. Based on hundreds of research studies, Dr. Robyn Dawes, professor at Carnegie-Mellon University and a widely recognized researcher on psychological evaluations, declares in his book House of Cards:
. . . there is no positive evidence supporting the efficacy of professional psychology. There are anecdotes, there is plausibility, there are common beliefs, yes—but there is no good evidence.
While the Passantinos refer to Dawes’ book in a footnote, they give little evidence to suggest they read it.
Our response to the CRI/Passantino series may seem a bit belated, coming a little over two years after the series was printed. However, between the time the Passantino series was published and now, we were involved in other ministry projects, including writing two books, Competent to Minister: The Biblical Care of Souls and The End of “Christian Psychology.” Our book titled The End of “Christian Psychology” may be of interest to those who want more evidence for what we say in this critique. The End of “Christian Psychology” includes enough research evidence and information to shut down the “Christian Psychology” Industry. Unlike the Passantinos’ brief research efforts, we have been researching and writing in this area for over thirty years. The End of “Christian Psychology” is a compendium of the latest research in the area of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies.
The Passantinos will claim that they researched the area well but there are gaping holes in their knowledge. For example, after completing their research and even after writing the articles neither one of them had ever heard of the Stephen Ministries. This ministry is a highly visible, internationally known program. Stephen Ministries refer to what they do as a one-to-one caring ministry. Information from Stephen Ministries reports involvement with “6,000 congregations and organizations in 17 countries, representing 78 denominations,” and training over “25,000 church leaders” (letter on file). When asked about this on a radio interview, the Passantinos revealed that they had not even heard about Stephen Ministries. The interviewer had to clue them in.
The book CRI (Christian Research Institute) Guilty of Psychoheresy? exposes the logical fallacies and illogical reasoning used to establish the Passantinos’ predilections for psychology.
The CRI/Passantino trust in psychological wisdom and their commitment to psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies, even under certain conditions, are indeed psychoheresy. The support of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies under whatever conditions is an opprobrium in the church, but few of God’s people realize it.
(From PAL, V6N2)