Criticisms of James Dobson’s work are hard to find, largely because popular Christian writers and broadcasters, despite their influence, are rarely accorded a thoughtful critique (Tim Stafford, “His Father’s Son,” Christianity Today, 4/22/88, p. 22).
Over thirty years ago we began comparing and contrasting psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies with what the Bible teaches. In addition to looking at the various counseling theories and methodologies, we examined research having to do with that kind of psychology. During that time we read all or parts of thousands of research studies and hundreds of books.
Nearly twenty years ago we completed our first book, The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way, which we had hoped would stem the rising tide of psychology in the church. However, since then psychology has strengthened its grip and widened its span throughout Christendom. In our book PsychoHeresy we began naming names of leaders in the movement who amalgamate psychology and Scripture. Following that we wrote Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, in which we specifically and more extensively critiqued the works of Dr. Gary Collins, Dr. Lawrence Crabb, Jr., Dr. Paul Meier, and Dr. Frank Minirth.
In this current volume we critique Dr. James C. Dobson, who is influential in promoting the psychologizing of Christianity. The original title was Prophets of PsychoHeresy II. However, we have changed the title and reduced the length of this revised version. Just as in Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, we use the word prophet to mean a spokesman for a cause or movement. The heresy involved is the departure from absolute confidence in the Word of God for all matters of life and conduct and a movement towards faith in the unproven, unscientific psychological opinions of men. Thus we call it “psychoheresy.”
As in our other books, when we speak of psychology we are not referring to the entire discipline. Our concern is with that part of psychology which deals with the very nature of man, how he should live, and how he should change. That includes the theories and methodologies behind psychological counseling, clinical counseling, psychotherapy, and the psychological aspects of psychiatry. The same theories have also influenced certain aspects of educational psychology, especially the theories of behaviorism and humanism. Because these theories deal with the nonphysical aspects of the person, they intrude upon the very essence of biblical doctrines of man, including his fallen condition, salvation, sanctification, and relationship of love and obedience to God.
We have changed the title in this updated version to James Dobson’s Gospel of Self-Esteem and Psychology. We contend that self-esteem teachings compromise the preaching and hearing of the true Gospel. Psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies undermine the clear Gospel with the wisdom of men about which Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. When these theories and methodologies are added to the Word of God, one ends up with a counterfeit means of sanctification.
Because of his tremendous influence in bringing psychology and self-esteem teachings into the church, Dr. James Dobson’s work is an appropriate subject for examination. Therefore what he has written and said is examined from both a biblical and scientific point of view.
We are aware that there are pluses to Dobson’s ministry. However, after all the pluses and minuses are added together, we conclude that Focus on the Family is an organization that too often honors man and his opinions over God and His Word. While there are times when Dobson presents biblical ideas in a sound manner, too much of what he espouses and teaches is based on unproven notions from secular psychology. Then, because he does teach some orthodox biblical concepts, such as the need for salvation and the value of prayer, his listeners may easily conclude that when he teaches psychological concepts he is not departing from a firm biblical foundation. In fact, Dobson assures his readers that his teachings “originated with the inspired biblical writers who gave us the foundation for all relationships in the home” (Dobson, The Strong-Willed Child, p. 234, emphasis his).
Contrary to what he claims, we demonstrate that some of Dobson’s basic assumptions and many of his specific teachings actually originated from secular psychological theorists whose opinions are based on godless foundations. Thus, Dobson uses the Bible as a sanction for dispensing unbiblical ideas to unsuspecting readers and listeners. The use of psychology to help people eclipses the Scriptures at Focus on the Family. Self-esteem and psychology are the two major thrusts that too often supersede sin, salvation, and sanctification. They are another gospel.
All of the research presented in the original volume has been even more conclusively supported by further research, right up to the present. The research documentation clearly demonstrates that Dobson is dreadfully wrong about both self-esteem and psychology.
There is now a plethora of theological and academic evidence to support the contents of this present volume and to severely contradict Dobson’s position. Dobson’s gospel of self-esteem and psychology is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it is neither theologically nor academically supported.
It is imperative that the church look again at the example of the Bereans in the book of Acts. They “searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” What things? The things that Paul and Silas told them. Too many Christians fail to search the Scriptures to see whether or not the pronouncements of popular preachers and teachers are true. Even those who search the Scriptures concerning other matters refuse to examine the teachings of those who promote psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies and mix them with Scripture.
James Dobson’s Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology may be obtained through this ministry. See Books.
(From PAL, V6N6)