Why should this ministry focus on psychoheresy instead of the many other deceptions that are rampant in the church today? Psychoheresy is a subtle deception that opens the door to other deceptions by replacing and/or adding the unproven and unscientific psychological opinions of men to the Word of God. In doing so, it takes away from absolute confidence in the biblical truth of God. Psychoheresy is a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture for issues of the mind, soul, and will. Psychoheresy is also the intrusion of psychological notions from the wisdom of men into the preaching and practice of Christianity, especially in terms of the nature of man, how he is to live, and how he changes.
Because psychoheresy is the intrusion of psychotherapeutic theories and therapies, we must examine how these psychological ideas can deceive Christians. Turning to psychotherapy for problems of living undermines a believer’s faith regarding matters of the soul. Once a person moves away from faith in the inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God, that person is open to all sorts of deception, even forms of deception that have little or nothing to do with psychology.
Psychotherapy is based on theories of personality, which are simply unproved opinions that originated from atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians. These personality theories are not like scientific theories. They are simply collections of unscientific, secular and, in many cases, anti-Christian beliefs that often contradict one another. The therapy itself is simply talk, which includes talking about the client and the client’s problems and helping the client see himself/herself from the perspective of whatever particular psychotherapeutic theory is being used by the therapist. Psychotherapy (psychological counseling) is the most subjective and, therefore, the most deceptive branch of psychology.
Syncretism and Psychoheresy
Syncretism is defined as “the combination of different forms of belief or practice.” Syncretism is one of Satan’s most deceptive and appealing techniques devised to destroy the true faith and undermine the Christian’s confidence in God’s Word and dependence on Christ.
One of our concerns is with the syncretism of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies with Christianity. As we demonstrate in our writings, psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are actually religious in nature and practice. The euphemism for this kind of syncretism is “integration,” which occurs when two or more ideas or systems are combined. However, those who attempt to combine psychotherapeutic beliefs with Scripture cannot truly integrate them. They are as different as oil and water! One works with the old man of the flesh (carnal); the other works with the new man in Christ (spiritual). They are at enmity with each other, just as the flesh and the Spirit are contrary to each other (Gal. 5:17) and just as the carnal man is at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7). They cannot mix because they are enemies, just as the idols of the nations around Israel were at enmity with God.
These Christians who mix psychology and the Bible are not practicing and promoting ordinary integration, but rather religious syncretism. They are overlaying their psychology with the Bible, which ultimately serves to disguise the psychological religious systems they are using. As we have shown through the years, this psycho-syncretism subverts and subtracts from the faith.
The syncretism of psychology and Christianity appeals to those Christians who believe that what is being discovered about the mind, the will, and the emotions is science, that it is part of God’s creation yet to be discovered in the same way as discoveries are made in physics, chemistry, and biology. Since psychology presents itself as a science and psychotherapeutic ideas are organized into theories, many pastors do not realize that these scientific-sounding theories are simply another competing belief system.
There are subtleties and similarities between certain ideas from psychology and Christianity that increase the vulnerability for one to begin thinking and ministering psychologically rather than biblically. The deceitful heart finds its friendliest friend in a psychologized gospel, where the sinful nature of man is given free reign and where sinful speaking can be expressed without restriction, questioning, or proof. That is why Christians must spend time in the Word and in prayer instead of looking for answers to life’s dilemmas outside Scripture and the church. Psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are not science. They are human speculations about the soul with a pseudo-scientific façade.
There has been so much searching outside Scripture to find ways to minister to suffering saints that a whole cadre of psychologically trained or at least psychologically tainted professionals and lay counselors are prepared to minister the ways of men and the wisdom of men along with Scriptures that seem to support their practice. This is syncretism. Others who are also guilty of syncretism are: (1) those Christian schools and seminaries that positively promote the use of counseling psychology and/or prepare individuals to become licensed to practice psychotherapy, especially those Christian schools that have programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), such as Baylor University, Biola University, Fuller Theological Seminary, George Fox University, Regent University, and Wheaton College; (2) those pastors or others who promote and affirm those psychological ideas and/or refer congregants out to psychotherapists; (3) those authors and organizations that promote a psychological understanding of man; (4) those professing Christians who are deeply committed to this syncretism, which comes from not believing that Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3.)
We want to make it clear that we are not questioning the faith of those Christians who, as psychotherapists, pastors and church leaders, are supportive of psychotherapy and the inroads of clinical psychology. But, we are critical of their practice and support for these activities that deny the sufficiency of Scripture. They are Truth deniers. The Word is true; the theories and practices of psychotherapy that speak in place of God’s written Word and its promises are counterfeits.
This psychologizing of the faith has come to full flower so that those who know better will not for the sake of the Gospel do better. There are many pastors and church leaders who believe as we do regarding psychotherapy, but will not make an issue of this false religious compromise of true faith in God’s Word. We have often challenged Christians who believe as we do regarding psychotherapy to ask their pastors if they have any problem with referring those with life issues to a psychotherapist.
Psychoheresy deceives the soul and leaves it with what O. Hobart Mowrer calls “a mess of psychological pottage.” In his book titled The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, Mowrer asks a penetrating question: “Has evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?1 Christians need to take an objective, hard look at their birthright and the mess of psychological pottage. Without a firm hold on the Word of God they will be led astray and more so as deception will increase exponentially in the days preceding Christ’s return.
When asked about the time of His return, Jesus said: “Take heed that no man deceive you.” How deeply deceived might those Christians be after seeking help from psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies? How will they be able to discover how much they are deceived, if they have already mixed deceptive psychological notions and nonsense into their understanding of the Bible?
A Spiritual Counterfeit
Professional psychotherapy with its underlying psychologies is questionable at best, detrimental at worst, and a spiritual counterfeit at least. On the one hand there is enough biblical and scientific evidence to shut down the secular Psychology Industry and with it the “Christian Psychology” Industry. On the other hand, we are not naive enough to believe that the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting its demise will be heeded by the majority of Christians.
Many will not be interested in reading about the biblical and scientific evidence, because it will contradict their established assumptions about psychological counseling. According to sound research, psychotherapy is not as effective as it is purported to be and in many instances it is harmful. After examining numerous efficacy (effectiveness) studies on psychotherapy, university professor and widely recognized researcher Dr. Robyn Dawes says, “There is no positive evidence supporting the efficacy of professional psychology.”2 Dawes further says “Evaluating the efficacy of psychotherapy has led us to conclude that professional psychologists are no better psychotherapists than anyone else with minimal training—sometimes those without any training at all; the professionals are merely more expensive.”3
In fact, Dr. Lawrence LeShan, when he was president-elect of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, said: “Psychotherapy may be known in the future as the greatest hoax of the twentieth century” (bold added). 4
Although biblical ministry to the soul has existed for thousands of years, psychotherapy is relatively new. It has only been during the latter half of the twentieth century that Christians began to trust psychology more than the Bible in dealing with problems of living. As a result, psychology has displaced much of Christianity and the care of souls. Even for those who are Christians, psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies have contaminated the pure ministry of the Word of God and the life of Christ in the believer.
Today people wholeheartedly believe that psychological counseling theories, dressed in a wide variety of styles and shades, contain the secrets and answers for helping troubled souls. Their confidence in the curative power of psychotherapy has increased in spite of the absence of substantial proof of any great degree of effectiveness.5 Persuaded by the claims of psychotherapists, they fail to question the validity of its claims, refuse to examine research, and blindly believe popular myths about psychotherapy.
In our local and national surveys, we have found that the large majority of churches refer their people with personal marital and family problems to these licensed professionals. Prior to 60 years ago no such referral from church to a psychotherapist’s office ever happened, because licensed psychotherapists did not exist then. Now the church that does not refer out to the licensed therapist or use their books is a major exception.
What is wrong with all this referring away from the oracles of God to the offices of the God-usurpers? The radical wrongfulness of all of the above pastors and places is the revelation that they deny the sufficiency of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit to minister to the trials, tribulations, and suffering of life that are sent to the psychotherapist!
The church has great and godly promises in the Word, which always trumps the current-day prestige, promises, and pronouncements of the psychotherapists, but there are many Christian leaders and organizations that, by their actions, must not believe that. Their very acts contradict their claims to belief in the sufficiency of Scripture.
We have repeatedly said Christians should not become psychotherapists. Neither should Christians go to psychotherapists for help. In spite of our warnings, for which we have provided biblical and scientific support, Christians are becoming licensed psychotherapists and are using their services.
All licensed psychotherapists have been educated in clinical psychology, from which psychotherapy (counseling psychology) comes. When they counsel they must do so according to their secular psychological training and their license. Each State licenses its own psychotherapists, with the two most popular titles being Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist. The standard that psychotherapists must follow is that they are to practice according to the educational requirements for licensing. A licensed-by-the-State psychotherapist who is honest cannot turn the therapist/client relationship into a godly Christian session, as that would be a dishonest use of the license and could lead to suspension of it.
Any licensed-by-the-State psychotherapist must serve clients without discrimination. That means a Christian who is licensed by the State to be a psychotherapist must perform professional services for married lesbians and gays, homosexual singles, Satanists, cult leaders, etc. For example, if two married gays come to a psychotherapist licensed by the State, she6 must do her best to assist the gay couple with all of her professional training to help them live more happily with one another. Some of these Christian psychotherapists will tell you that they would rather lose their license than to do that. However, no Christian should be involved in such unfaithfulness to begin with.
Sin or Sickness?
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. McNeill 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” (bold added). 7
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. Dr. Thomas 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.’”8 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 reality. 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 that 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 religion, was recast as the cure of (sick) minds, and became an integral part of medical science.9
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. 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.”10 Thus we have the shell without the power, without the life, and without the Lord.
Rejecting the Living Waters
Christianity is more than a belief system or a theological creed. 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, and every emotion. One cannot adequately treat a Christian apart from Christ’s indwelling presence. Neither should one segment the mental and emotional from a Christian’s faith.
Christians who have God’s Holy Spirit living in them are spiritual beings; therefore they need spiritual solutions, not merely psychological attempts. Yet, for too long Christians have looked to the church to answer our theological questions and have looked elsewhere for answers to problems of living.
It is understandable that the world would reject the Living Water in seeking to understand and help individuals suffering from problems of living. 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 personal and relationship problems. Many ministers even left their pastorates to become licensed psychotherapists.
In the past sixty 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. 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. No one has ever proved that psychotherapy produces better results than biblical ministry in the church from the day of Pentecost onward.
Authoritative and Sufficient Bible
The Bible is the only authoritative document that is sufficient regarding the soul. God Himself created humans. He gave them a soul and His Word concerning matters of the soul, including “all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). The soul itself is a person’s nonphysical inner life, the core of one’s being. No psychological theory, psychotherapist, or psychological counselor can even approach what the Bible is able to do regarding the soul:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb. 4:12-13.)
The soul resides in every person in his inborn nature, which is common to all who are “in Adam”; that is they have inherited the sin nature. The human spirit is made alive when people are “born again” (John 1:12-13; 3:3-5) and have the life of Christ in them. This plays out in Galatians where the “flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). This battle within every believer between the flesh and the spirit continues on until believers enter into glory with Jesus Christ.
The Word of God reveals a person’s “thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Word of God is not only powerful and authoritative; it is God-breathed and sufficient to enable a Christian to live a life pleasing to God:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17.)
The Word of God ministered by the Holy Spirit in the fellowship of believers has far more to offer than the psychological wisdom of men. God’s plan for salvation and sanctification is clearly laid out in the Bible.
Instead of turning to psychotherapy, believers need to turn to Scripture, which describes both what God accomplishes in a believer and how the believer is enabled to respond.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:6-10.)
Just as Christians receive salvation by grace through faith, they are to live each day by grace through faith. Just as Jesus is central in salvation in that He offered Himself for their sins and gave them new life, Jesus is to be central on a daily basis—moment by moment. Their new life is to be grounded in Christ and built up in Him. They need to be established in the faith (the teachings and doctrines) by remembering what Christ has done and responding accordingly. And they are to be thankful, not just a bit here and there, but “abounding therein with thanksgiving”! Christianity is not a part-time activity. It must be full-time—when life is easy and when it gets hard.
The passage next warns about psychotherapy: “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world,” all of which spoil believers by taking away from their dependence on Christ and God’s Word. The passage extols Christ, in whom is “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” and who is “the head of all principality and power.” Christ has made believers to be “complete in Him.” Believers need to encourage one another with such passages of Scripture, because there is a tendency to forget these truths, which are so very essential and life-giving.
1 O. Hobart Mowrer. The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc.,1961, p. 60.
2 Robyn Dawes. House of Cards: Psychotherapy Built on Myth. New York: The Free Press/Macmillan, Inc., 1994, p. 58.
3 Ibid., pp. 101-102.
4 Lawrence LeShan, Association for Humanistic Psychology, October 1984, p. 4.
5 APA Commission on Psychotherapies, Psychotherapy Research: Methodological and Efficacy Issues Washington: American Psychiatric Association, 1982, p. 192.
6 Because counseling is essentially a female friendly activity and because women comprise the large majority of the counselors and counselees, the professional journals will often use the feminine gender alone when referring to the counselors and counselees.
7 John T. McNeill. A History of the Cure of Souls. New York: Harper and Row, 1951, p. vii.
8 Thomas Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday/Anchor Press, 1978, p xviii.
9 Ibid., p. xxiv.
10 Ibid., p. 26.
PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, November-December 2017, Vol. 25, No.6)