A Critique by Martin Bobgan
Someone sent us a copy of a recent issue of Solid Ground, a newsletter published by Stand to Reason, headed by Gregory Koukl. The article is titled “Is the Bible Sufficient?”After reading the entire article, we concluded that this issue of the newsletter should be renamed Quicksand.
Koukl begins by saying:
Evangelicalism has been embroiled for some time in a controversy of no small proportion. Authors we have trusted for years, whose counsel has elevated our Christian experience and deepened our understanding of ourselves and of God, have been branded “heretics.” 1
While Koukl uses a few footnotes, he fails to use footnotes where they are most needed. There is no footnote to lead the reader to anyone who might be “branding” these individuals as heretics. If he is referring to the two of us, then he is in error. We make it clear in our writings that we use the term psychoheresy as we define it to refer to the teachings of individuals. For example, we accuse Dr. James Dobson of teaching psychoheresy as we define it, but we have never said he is a heretic. We should have the right to define the word psychoheresy because we coined the word. Since he has not referenced us, he must be referring to someone else and needs to indicate his source for purpose of proof. However, he has failed to do this.
Koukl goes on to say:
Why have these men been vilified? Because they promote principles gleaned from psychology and not specifically from the Bible, thus—according to the detractors—producing a poisonous amalgam of godless philosophy and biblical wisdom (bold added).2
From his current and past writings, Koukl has confused the issue of psychology and both miss-presented and misrepresented the sufficiency-of-the-Bible view. He has confused the issue by using the generic term psychology and fails to distinguish counseling psychology from the other branches of psychology. Obviously referring to the sufficiency-of-Scripture promoters, Koukl elsewhere refers to “this wholesale rejection of psychology.”3 The American Psychological Association (APA) has over 50 divisions, all under the rubric of “psychology.” In our writings we continuously make this distinction. Koukl’s failure to distinguish the kind of psychology, about which the sufficiency-of-the-Bible supporters are concerned, both confuses and distorts the issue to his argumentative advantage.
Koukl has not only confused and distorted the issue by his generic use of psychology; but he has falsely represented the other side. He declares: “‘Bible only’ advocates argue that any combination of man’s philosophy and biblical wisdom is poison.”4 We have probably read more arguments on this issue than Koukl, and we have never read anyone in support of the sufficiency-of-the-Bible position “argue that any combination of man’s philosophy and biblical wisdom is poison.” After reading Koukl’s accusations we read back through arguments used by the biblical sufficiency supporters, but found no such exact quote from any of them. Koukl uses only one actual quote from a biblical sufficiency supporter, but it does not support his misrepresentation of the sufficiency position. The only person Koukl quotes is John Broger and his “Self Confrontation ‘syllabus’ [sic],” which Koukl erroneously describes as “nouthetic counseling.”5 (“Nouthetic counseling” was created by Dr. Jay Adams and was not used by John Broger.) We asked an individual involved in the preparation of the “syllabus” and he said, “Since I actually typed every word in the Self-Confrontation manual, I am quite confident that the word poison never was used in that published work.”6
Note Koukl’s language when he asks, “Why have these men been vilified?”7 The word vile means “wretchedly bad” and two of the meanings for vilify are “defame” and “slander.” Who has done the defaming and slandering? Such strong accusations require strong quotes or footnotes, but, once more, no quote is given and no footnote used. It’s another case of accusation without verification. In fact these statements are examples of the logical fallacy of the red herring, which, through the use of strong language (i.e., the words poison, poisonous, and vilified), directs attention away from the real issue.
Koukl’s article utilizes another major logical fallacy to support his position. Overall his presentation of the biblical sufficiency supporters’ position of the adequacy of the Bible is the logical fallacy of the straw man. According to one logic text:
To recognize the straw man fallacy, look for a response that misrepresents an opponent’s argument in order to defeat it more easily. The arguer appears to be attacking the opponent’s position, but in fact the arguer is attacking a misrepresentation of it.8
Koukl makes it appear as if the sufficiency-of-Scripture supporters would not use any wisdom of the world to conduct daily business. The real position of the biblical sufficiency supporters is that, when it comes to problems of living normally taken to a psychotherapist, the Bible itself is sufficient, and with all the years of scientific research NO ONE has proved otherwise! No sufficiency-of-Scripture supporter applies Bible sufficiency to all matters of life! Koukl has avoided dealing with the most central issue of the sufficiency supporters. Ministering to people with problems of living experienced by individuals, couples, and families normally taken to a psychotherapist is the real issue regarding the sufficiency-of-Scripture position, to which Koukl is opposed as he supports the insufficiency-of-Scripture position for such problems.
Think about it. From the Day of Pentecost onward the church exercised a care of souls ministry based on Scripture. The psychological counseling movement began about fifty years ago with the first state licensing occurring about then. Now Koukl and others are being critical of the nearly 2000-year-old sufficiency-of-scripture position and leave the door open to the wisdom-of-man counseling psychology.
The issue is not about using man’s reasoning; it is about using man’s wisdom, the very wisdom of man about which God warns his people (1 Cor. 2:5), where God has already spoken. That is the real issue that Koukl failed to address and has distorted and confused by his generic use of the word psychology.
While Koukl claims to be a “centrist on the role of psychology in the life of the Christian,”9 his current article and past paper on which it is based contradict this claim. It is transparent that his writing on the biblical sufficiency position will be endorsed by Christians who support psychotherapy and rejected by those who trust the adequacy of Scripture. No such articles and no such writers as Koukl are centrist when that result occurs. The simple truth is that, based on Koukl’s writings, the door is left open to psychotherapy and slammed in the faces of those who support the sufficiency of Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
In his argument against the sufficiency of Scripture, Koukl is either creating another straw man or he actually misunderstands the reasoning behind people using 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as an example of sufficiency. He says:
2 Timothy does not teach that the Scripture is adequate. The word “adequate” modifies the believer, not the Scripture…” (p. 2).
We know of no one who believes in the sufficiency of Scripture who thinks that the word (adequate [NASB ], perfect [KJV]) in verse 17 modifies the word Scripture. Rather than misapplying the modifier adequate or perfect, those who believe in the sufficiency of Scripture use the thought and meaning of what the two verses are saying:
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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
If the Scripture does all these things, bringing a believer to spiritual maturity “thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” then it is sufficient for problems of living normally taken to a psychotherapist. Koukl evidently does not appreciate the magnitude of what this verse says as it applies to everyday living or realize that when believers contend for the sufficiency of Scripture they recognize that the Word of God works together with the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. Apparently Koukl is not aware that there are many New Testament verses that the sufficiency supporters use.
Scriptures such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in the context of the entire Bible and together with 2 Peter 1:3-4 (all things that pertain unto life and godliness) and Hebrews 4:12, which declares that the Word of God is living and powerful and that it is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” indicate that the Scriptures are more than sufficient, more than adequate for living the Christian life with all its trials and challenges and with the kinds of problems that can be helped by conversation, which is what goes on in psychotherapy or psychological counseling. Where the insufficiency lies is not in the Scripture itself, but in a person’s insufficient response to it.
One of Koukl’s arguments supporting his insufficiency-of-Scripture position is his view of what he calls “Wisdom from the Heathen.” Koukl’s position implies that if the Bible contains wisdom taken from heathens, then Christians can use wisdom from psychology heathens or others. Koukl says:
The Wisdom Literature of the Amenomope is a body of work from the Middle East that pre-dates Proverbs. It’s of interest because it contains a section of material almost identical to Proverbs 22:17-24:22. It’s highly probable that the authors of the latter part of Proverbs borrowed this material from the Amenomope and inserted it into the inspired text (bold added).10
Note Koukl’s use of the words “highly probable.” According to whom is it highly probable? Some time back we called the office of Stand to Reason and were told to contact Professor Edward Curtis of Talbot School of Theology regarding this so-called wisdom from the heathen used in Scripture. We spoke with Curtis who explained that there are two methods of revelation. One is vertical (directly from God), which, according to Curtis, includes all of the Bible except for the wisdom literature. The other is “horizontal,” as with the wisdom literature, which applies to the Amenomope. Since we were referred to Curtis for an explanation by Stand to Reason, we assume that one of Koukl’s arguments against the sufficiency-of-Scripture position is his belief in “horizontal revelation,” which permits the Holy Spirit to use the sayings of Amenomope.
We have a bibliography of almost 30 references on the subject of the Amenomope sayings, and the writers do not all agree. Two of writers say:
There is no organic connection between the two accounts. The similarities can be explained adequately by common life experienced shared by both Israelites and Egyptions.11
Even if the majority of the writers side with Koukl, it is still uncertain as a basis for his argument.
Our explanation for the similarity would be that proverbs, maxims, adages, and other such sayings are based upon common experience, and similarities occur in different cultures and languages. While Proverbs 22:17-24:22 may be similar to other sayings and may have been written at a later date than the Amenomope, these verses are nevertheless a direct revelation from God, not “borrowed.” This demeaning of Scripture is a far-fetched excuse for adding the secular theories and therapies of psychological counseling to the Bible.
Let’s say, for sake of argument, that Koukl is correct and that the Holy Spirit through “horizontal revelation” imported sayings from the Amenomope into Scripture, How does that apply to today’s practice of mixing psychotherapeutic theories and therapies with the Bible? How does his argument justify Koukl’s leaving the door open to such psychological ideas? No matter how Koukl makes his case, present-day psychological teachings cannot be analogized to any Scriptural importation of Amenomope sayings, as he claims. If that is the subtle analogy that Koukl is making, then he has committed the logical fallacy of false analogy.
Note Koukl’s words “borrowed this material.” Apparently Koukl does not realize that, if the “borrowed” material is “almost identical to the original,” then this qualifies for the charge of plagiarism, which is the act of using someone else’s material as one’s own and not recognizing original authorship! It seems that those who believe in this so-called horizontal revelation are in a precarious position of attributing the act of plagiarism to the Holy Spirit.
Unnatural Use of Natural Revelation
In his article Koukl has a section on “Knowledge from Natural Revelation.”12 In his earlier paper he also covers the same subject of natural revelation and quotes Dr. John Coe, who is an associate professor of psychology at Biola University. Koukl refers to Coe’s paper, which is titled “Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical.”13 Koukl and Coe believe that the door should be open to using psychology (and therefore counseling psychology) because of their understanding of natural revelation.
The subject of natural or general revelation is a very complex one. As we just indicated, both Koukl and Coe have written on the subject. However, Doug Bookman, a former professor at The Master’s College has written a paper refuting Coe’s position. Bookman reveals “three primary and fatal flaws” in Coe’s theology, namely his epistemology, anthropology, and bibliology. Bookman summarizes his arguments by saying:
In summary, three primary flaws in Coe’s argumentation have been pointed out. First, that argument is flawed in its epistemology; it embraces the notion of natural theology, assuming a source of absolute knowledge separate from scripture. Second, it is flawed in its anthropology; it accepts a semi-pelagian view of fallen man, taking him to be crippled by the fall but still capable of objective investigation of the moral cosmos. Finally and most basically, it is flawed in its bibliology; the entire argument proceeds upon an understanding of wisdom literature which misunderstands the locus of Biblical authority, which involves a quiescent denial of catastrophism, and which misconstrues the very nature of the book of Proverbs.14
The three fatal flaws are described in more detail in our book CRI (Christian Research Institute) Guilty of PsychoHeresy?15
Coe’s understanding of general revelation is all-encompassing but erroneous. In one fell swoop he even reduces sections of Scripture to less than God-breathed in his attempt to show that God’s revelation refers to that which can be discovered through observation and natural reason. The word revelation refers to an unveiling, a revealing of something that could not be otherwise discovered or known. What mankind gleans through observation, reason, and logic is not revelation, but discovery.
Dr. John Robbins of The Trinity Foundation says: “Decades ago Francis Schaeffer warned the church about Thomas Aquinas and ‘nature eating up grace.’ By this he meant that if you give ‘natural revelation’ an epistemological inch, it will displace Scripture.”16
The Sword of the Spirit or Man’s Wisdom
Koukl misrepresents the biblical sufficiency view, relies upon “horizontal revelation” to further “prove” his misrepresentation, and then unnaturally stretches natural revelation to further “prove” his misrepresentation. All of Koukl’s “reasoning” leaves the door open to the graduate school of psychology at Biola University and its promotion of psychoheresy through its psychology programs. Clearly psychotherapy is a pseudoscience. As we have said elsewhere, 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. In addition, in our article “Two-Edged Swords,” we say:
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.17
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, January-February 2008, Vol. 16, No. 1)
1 Gregory Koukl, “Is the Bible Sufficient?” Solid Ground, May/June, 2007, Stand to Reason, Signal Hill, CA 90755, p. 1.
3 Greg Koukl. “Is Biblical Counseling Biblical? Insight from Scripture and Classical Readers to the Current Anathematizing of Psychology,” 1993.
4 Gregory Koukl, “Is the Bible Sufficient?” op. cit., p. 1.
5 Greg Koukl. “Is Biblical Counseling Biblical?” op .cit., p. 2.
6 Bracy Ball, email, 9/5/2007.
7 Koukl, “Is the Bible Sufficient?” op. cit., p. 1.
8 Robert M. Johnson. A Logic Book. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1992, p.262.
9 Gregory Koukl, “Is the Bible Sufficient?” op. cit., p. 2.
10 Ibid., p. 3.
11 Robert I. Bradshaw, “Wisdom,” www.biblicalstudies.org.uk, p. 3.
12 Gregory Koukl, “Is the Bible Sufficient?” op. cit., p. 3.
13 Ibid., p. 8.
14 Doug Bookman, “In Defense of Biblical Counseling,” The Master’s College.
15 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. CRI (Christian Research Foundation) Guilty of PsychoHeresy? Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1998, pp. 47-56. This book is also posted as a free ebook at www.psychoheresy-aware.org.
16 John Robbins, “The White Horse Inn: Nonsense on Tap,” The Trinity Review, No. 271, p. 3.
17 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, “Two-Edged Swords,” PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, July-August, 2007, p. 7. Posted on www.psychoheresy-aware.org.