Many have asked us to do a brief debunking of psychotherapy that would be short, easily understood and easily learned, which one could use when confronted with the issue of psychoheresy. We have enumerated numerous reasons why Christians should entirely reject the kind of psychology that has to do with psychological counseling theories and therapies. When this kind of psychology is mixed in with Christianity and assimilated into the church, we call it psychoheresy. There are currently about 500 competing psychotherapies in the marketplace with thousands of techniques that often contradict one another. We know from research that the psychological methods and techniques are only of minor importance in helping individuals with their problems and that the number one reason for change is the person who comes for help, not the helper or the psychology used.
The following two reasons constitute a two-edged sword against psychoheresy. This two-edged sword cuts effectively both ways. The following two reasons should be enough to reject these psychological sorcerers of the soul.
Reason One: Science or Pseudoscience?
The dictionary defines pseudoscience as “a system of theories, assumptions and methods erroneously regarded as science.” Since psychotherapy is based on psychological theories, it would be reasonable to ask if these psychological theories can be considered science. Attempting to evaluate the status of psychology, the American Psychological Association appointed Dr. Sigmund Koch to plan and direct a study that was subsidized by the National Science Foundation. This study involved eighty eminent scholars assessing the facts, theories, and methods of psychology. The results of this extensive endeavor were published in a seven-volume series entitled Psychology: A Study of a Science.1
Examining the results, Koch qualifies his concerns by saying, “I am not saying that no subfields of psychology can be regarded as parts of science.”2 However, psychotherapy would be one of Koch’s primary targets when he says, “I think it by this time utterly and finally clear that psychology cannot be a coherent science.”3 (Italics in original, bold added.) Koch suggests, “As the beginning of a therapeutic humility, we might re-christen psychology and speak instead of the psychological studies.” 4 (Italics in original.)
Koch contends that much of psychology is not a cumulative or progressive discipline in which knowledge is added to knowledge. Rather, what is discovered by one generation “typically disenfranchises the theoretical fictions of the past.” Instead of refining and specifying larger generalizations of the past, psychologists are busy replacing them. Koch declares, “Throughout psychology’s history as ‘science,’ the hard knowledge it has deposited has been uniformly negative.” 5 (Italics in original, bold added.)
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is a clinical and research psychiatrist who has written a book titled Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists. In the book Torrey discusses “The Common Roots of Psychotherapy and Its Future,” which is the subtitle of his book. Torrey convincingly argues that psychotherapy, whether practiced by witchdoctors or psychotherapists by whatever name, has common roots and that the practices themselves have much in common. In reference to the psychotherapy practiced by psychiatrists, Torrey says”
The techniques used by Western psychiatrists are, with few exceptions, on exactly the same scientific plane as the techniques used by witchdoctors. If one is magic, then so is the other. If one is prescientific, then so is the other.6
The practice of both is so much a part of the thinking and living of each culture that no amount of scientific proof to the contrary would cause either culture to abandon such practices. Here one would not likely go to a witchdoctor just as a person in a witchdoctor culture would not likely go to a psychotherapist. The ingredients of success of both witchdoctors and psychotherapists as mind healers are very much the same.
This question of scientific and pseudoscientific theories intrigued Sir Karl Popper, who is considered one of the greatest philosophers of science. As Popper investigated the differences between physical theories, such as Newton’s theory of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity, and theories about human behavior, he began to suspect that the psychologies underlying the psychotherapies could not truly be considered scientific.7
Although such theories seem to be able to explain or interpret behavior, they rely on subjective interpretations. Even the claims of clinical observation cannot be considered objective or scientific, because they are merely interpretations based on the theories familiar to the observer.8 These theories depend upon confirmation rather than testability. Popper says: “Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it” 9 (italics in original); and, “Confirming evidence should not count except when it is the result of a genuine test of the theory.10 (Italics in original.) Furthermore, Popper declares that psychological theories formulated by Freud, Adler, and others, “though posing as sciences, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with science; that they resembled astrology rather than astronomy.” 11 (Bold added.) He also says, “These theories describe some facts, but in the manner of myths. They contain most interesting psychological suggestions, but not in a testable form.” 12
Believers are repeatedly warned about the “wisdom of men” in contrast to “the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). Psychotherapy is pseudoscience and the very wisdom of men about which believers have been repeatedly warned. The history of the rise and practice of psychotherapy reveals that it is the wisdom of men that comes from the tree “in the midst of the garden” (Gen. 3:3). In his book The Discovery of the Unconscious, historian Henri F. Ellenberger says:
Historically, modern dynamic psychotherapy derives from primitive medicine, and an uninterrupted continuity can be demonstrated between exorcism and magnetism, magnetism and hypnotism, and hypnotism and the modern dynamic schools.13
The Apostle Paul says: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). Psychotherapies are “profane and vain babblings” and solely pseudoscience that stands in opposition to what God has promised and the Scriptures provide.
Psychotherapeutic psychology has taken over most of the church under the false façade of science. Believers must challenge this wolf (psychotherapy) in sheep’s clothing (scientific disguise). As soon as the promoters of psychology bring up the science word, believers need to bring up the pseudoscience word. In discussions one should use the true word for psychotherapy—pseudoscience—and refer to it as the wisdom of men about which Christians are warned.
Reason Two: Psychotherapy Is Religion
Psychotherapy is religion. 14 Once the false façade of science is removed, psychotherapy is seen for what it truly is: a faith system and therefore, by many definitions, a religion. The Wikipedia admits that “Religion has been defined in a variety of ways” and gives one definition of religion as “one’s primary worldview and how that dictates one’s thoughts and actions.” Many writers use similar definitions to define, understand, and critique psychotherapy. One academic after another and even one psychiatrist and psychologist after another regard psychotherapy as a religion.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, in his book The Myth of Psychotherapy says very strongly that “the human relations we now call ‘psychotherapy,’ are, in fact, matters of religion and that we mislabel them as ‘therapeutic’ at great risk to our spiritual well-being.”15 Elsewhere Szasz refers to psychotherapy as religion: “It is not merely a religion that pretends to be a science, it is actually a fake religion that seeks to destroy true religion.” 16 He warns of “the implacable resolve of psychotherapy to rob religion of as much as it can, and to destroy what it cannot.” 17
Christopher Lasch, author of The Culture of Narcissism,would probably agree since he says, “Therapy constitutes an antireligion.”18 It is a fake religion that is “anti” the true religion of the Bible. Karl Kraus, a Viennese journalist, wrote: “Despite its deceptive terminology, psychoanalysis [Freudian psychotherapy] is not a science but a religion—the faith of a generation incapable of any other.” 19
Many experts tell how psychology has replaced Christianity. Martin Gross, in his book The Psychological Society, says:
When educated man lost faith in formal religion, he required a substitute belief that would be as reputable in the last half of the twentieth century as Christianity was in the first. Psychology and psychiatry have now assumed that role.20
One of the best known psychotherapists, Carl Rogers, confesses, “Yes, it is true, psychotherapy is subversive. . . . Therapy, theories and techniques promote a new model of man contrary to that which has been traditionally acceptable.”21 Bernie Zilbergeld, in his book The Shrinking of America: Myths of Psychological Change, says:
Psychology has become something of a substitute for old belief systems. Different schools of therapy offer visions of the good life and how to live it, and those whose ancestors took comfort from the words of God and worshipped at the altars of Christ and Yahweh now take solace from and worship at the altars of Freud, Jung, Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, Werner Erhard, and a host of similar authorities. While in the past the common reference point was the Bible and its commentaries and commentators, the reference today is a therapeutic language and the success stories of mostly secular people changers.22
Szasz says that “psychotherapy is a modern, scientific-sounding name for what used to be called the ‘cure of souls.’” 23One of his primary purposes for writing The Myth of Psychotherapy was:
…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) minds, and became an integral part of medicine.24
The words sinful and sick in parentheses are his. By replacing the word sinful with the word sick and by replacing the word soul with the word mind, psychological practitioners have supplanted spiritual ministers in matters that have more to do with religion and values than with science and medicine. Of course the central aspect of the cure of souls was to bring a person into a right relationship with God.
Because psychotherapy deals with meaning in life, values, and behavior, it is religion in theory and in practice. Every branch of psychotherapy is religious. Therefore, combining Christianity with psychotherapy is joining two or more religious systems. Psychotherapy cannot be performed and people cannot be transformed without affecting a person’s beliefs. Because psychotherapy involves morals and values, it is religion.
The Apostle Paul warns: “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” (Col. 2:8). Paul is warning about religious teachings that have been invented from the wisdom of men, but that either have no foundation in Scripture or are contrary to it. Therefore psychotherapies should be shunned by believers.
The Even Sharper Two-Edged Sword
The two-edged sword cutting open psychotherapy’s false façade of science and revealing it as a faith system is sufficient to trump its claims. However, the most powerful argument against psychotherapy is found in the two-edged sword of Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 says it well: “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.” Using this one verse alone reveals the power of the Word and the powerlessness of psychotherapy. For what psychotherapy can claim the speed and power of the Word? What psychotherapy can pierce “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow”? What psychotherapy “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”? NONE, NO NOT ONE.
Too many of God’s people have forsaken “the fountain of living waters” and hewed out “broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Too many have abandoned the Spirit of the Word for the spirit of the world and, like the Laodicean Church in Revelation 3, have become lukewarm believers to be spewed out.
If, when you are speaking with those who have bought into this unholy mixture, the two-edged sword of pseudoscience and religion doesn’t convince them, use the God-given two-edged sword of the Spirit, which, whatever way it cuts, will glorify God, for as Paul encountered opposition to his preaching and teaching, he declared:
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
May we all be faithful to God’s Word and do just that!
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, July-August 2007, Vol. 15, No. 4)
1 Sigmund Koch, ed., Psychology: A Study of a Science (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959-1963).
2 Sigmund Koch, “Psychology Cannot Be a Coherent Science,” Psychology Today (Sept. 1969), p. 67.
3 Ibid., p. 66.
4 Ibid., p. 67.
5 Ibid., p. 66.
6 E. Fuller Torrey. Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986, p. 11.
7 Karl Popper, “Scientific Theory and Falsifiability” in Perspectives in Philosophy, Robert N. Beck, ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston,
1975), p. 342.
8 Ibid., p. 343.
9 Ibid., p. 344.
10 Ibid., p. 345.
11 Ibid., p. 343.
12 Ibid., p. 346.
13 Henri F. Ellenberger. The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books/HarperCollins, 1970, p. 48.
14 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1987, pp. 11-25.
15 Ibid., cover.
16 Thomas Szasz. The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City: Doubleday/Anchor Press, 1987, p. 28.
17 Ibid., p. 188.
18 Christopher Lasch. The Culture of Narcissism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1979, p. 13.
19 Karl Kraus quoted by Thomas Szasz in “Psychoanalysis as ‘Pastoral Work,’” an essay to be published.
20 Martin Gross. The Psychological Society. New York: Random House, 1978, p. 9.
21 Carl Rogers, quoted by Allen Bergin, “Psychotherapy and Religious Values,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 48, p. 101.
22 Bernie Zilbergeld. The Shrinking of America: Myths of Psychological Change. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1983, p. 5.
23 Szasz, op. cit., p. 26.
24 Ibid., p. xxiv.