Part One of a Three-Part Series
A number of our readers sent us an article by Mart De Haan titled “Been Thinking About . . . Counseling” from the June 2000 News and Comments from RBC Ministries. De Haan’s article is a good example of what we call “psychoheresy.” While he does not use the terms “clinical psychology” or “psychotherapy” in his article, it is clear he supports both. De Haan aligns himself with professionally trained “people helpers” and strongly defends the use of extra-biblical material for helping individuals experiencing problems of living. His article clearly promotes “support groups,” “professional counselors,” and “personality tests.” Based on the following definition of “psychoheresy,” it is clear from De Haan’s article that he is guilty of psychoheresy.
Psychoheresy is the integration of secular psychological counseling theories and therapies with the Bible. Psychoheresy is also the intrusion of such theories into the preaching and practice of Christianity, especially when they contradict or compromise biblical Christianity in terms of the nature of man, how he is to live, and how he changes.
De Haan’s Errors
De Haan makes a number of errors in his article. His most egregious errors relate to his perception of Scripture through the distorting lens of a high view of extra-biblical ideas and theories regarding the mind, will, emotions, and behavior. His high view of this extra-biblical material seems driven by his faith in professional counselors and their use of the extra-biblical wisdom of men. De Haan goes so far as to claim that Jesus and others in the Old and New Testaments spoke extra-biblically. He does not explain how the very words of these individuals, which are Scripture, can also be extra-biblical.
De Haan supports his major points about professional counseling and the use of extra-biblical material with generalizations, absent specific examples, and entirely without documentation. Christian leaders who promote professional counseling and recommend personality tests should be responsible enough to provide research evidence for their claims.
One additional great error is his misrepresentation of the position and activities of what he calls “the Bible-only group.” This probably occurs because he knows little about them other than generalities. If he truly knew the group, De Haan would be guilty of using the straw man logical fallacy.
De Haan begins by speaking of two groups of individuals. He says:
Some of us who believe in the Bible are convinced that the Word of God is sufficient to deal with any problem of the soul. We believe that God in His wisdom has given us in the Scriptures all we need to help people who are suffering from depression, addiction, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders mental illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and a host of other problems.
Among those of us who believe in the Bible, however, there is a second group. Those in this second group believe that the Bible itself encourages us to look beyond its pages in our efforts to help others. This group believes that while the cross of Christ is our only solution for sin, there is room within the mercy and compassion of Christ to use support groups, professional counselors, antidepressants, and personality tests as additional ways of caring for one another.
In the context of De Haan’s entire article, it is clear that he is contrasting two groups. The first group he mentions is the Bible-only group. The second is the not-the-Bible-only group. De Haan is essentially contrasting how each of these two groups deals with problems of living.
To help those individuals experiencing problems, the Bible-only group maintains that one only needs the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit to deal with issues of the soul. According to De Haan, the not-the-Bible-only, extra-biblical group believes “that the Bible itself encourages us to look beyond its pages in our efforts to help others.”
Thus in dealing with problems of living, the Bible-only group would avoid (to use De Haan’s term) “extra-biblical” material, whereas the not-the-Bible-only group would seek and use extra-biblical materia,l because they believe “that the Bible itself encourages” it.
The Bible-only view rests on a plethora of verses, such as:
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 (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:3-4).
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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 (Hebrews 4:12).
These, along with many other verses, illustrations, and examples, reveal that, contrary to what De Haan believes, the Scriptures do give a model of Bible-only thinking in the matter of the immaterial aspects of personhood (mind, soul, heart, emotions, thoughts, etc.).
Several times in his article, possibly because of ignorance and lack of training in logic, De Haan confuses the issue by injecting such words as “mental illness” and “antidepressants.” Let us assume, for sake of discussion here, that “mental illness” is a true biological condition and that “antidepressants” are used to treat a biological illness. While the Bible-only group members may minister spiritually to someone with a biological problem, they would in no way ignore the biological possibilities. Remember, the true Bible-only group argues for the Bible only when it comes to the nonphysical soul, spirit, mind, heart, etc. In other words, the Bible-only group would distinguish between the nonphysical use of the word “heart” in Scripture, which refers to the inner man, and the physical organ called the “heart.” The Bible-only group would also distinguish between the mind and the brain, treating the mind biblically and the brain physically. They would certainly question the over-prescription and over-use of such medications that even the experts agree are used for problems of living when there is no evidence of biological involvement.
We assume that those in the not-the-Bible-only group would not avoid people on antidepressants and would attempt to minister to them in addition to their medical treatment. De Haan leaves much unsaid about the Bible-only group. However, we hope he is not naive enough to think that the Bible-only group would discourage medical treatment for biological diseases (including brain diseases) or attempt to “cure” through Scripture alone any true biological problem that can be helped by medication.
De Haan mentions “personality tests” in which he and the not-the-Bible-only group place confidence. It is doubtful that De Haan has any technical knowledge about personality tests or that he would even know the definitions of the technical terms of “validity,” “reliability,” and “norms.” We have written on this subject in two of our books (Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing and Missions & PsychoHeresy). Here we include just three of the numerous quotes we have used from the experts.
Dr. Anne Anastasi, in her text Psychological Testing says, “The construction and use of personality inventories are beset with special difficulties over and above the common problems encountered in all psychological testing.” 1
Dr. George K. Bennett, when president of The Psychological Corporation, which publishes and distributes personality tests, said, “Personality tests are of little, if any, value in employment.”2
George Dudley, a test researcher and president of Behavioral Science Research Press of Dallas, believes there should be more humility about testing. He says:
Testing is a way to get at the truth sideways, and if you believe that the only way to get at the truth about another person is to administer a test, then you’re not only fooling yourself, but you’re also demonstrating a very negative view of mankind. You’re saying that truth cannot be determined by asking the subject, or those who know the subject, but only by asking a testing expert.3
Two Grave Errors
Two grave errors made by De Haan and many in the not-the-Bible-only group are (1) between science and pseudo science and (2) between the truths of Scripture and guesses, opinions, hunches, and personal ideas that originate from the wisdom of men. The extra-biblical wisdom of men supported by De Haan and his not-the-Bible-only group is the very wisdom of men that God has warned us about (1 Cor. 2:5). This wisdom, promoted by the not-the-Bible-only group is the extra-biblical, psychological wisdom of men, consisting of a vast hodge-podge of theories and therapies that do not meet the requirements of being a science. It is this earthly wisdom that occurs in the psychotherapies used by the people helpers promoted by De Haan.
Wisdom of Men
But, what do the critics have to say about these wisdom-of-man theories? We have quoted many on this subject. In her article “Theory as Self-Portrait and the Ideal of Objectivity,” Dr. Linda Riebel clearly shows that “theories of human nature reflect the theorist’s personality as he or she externalizes it or projects it onto humanity at large.” She says that “the theory of human nature is a self-portrait of the theorist . . . emphasizing what the theorist needs” and that theories of personality and psychotherapy “cannot transcend the individual personality engaged in that act.”4
Dr. Harvey Mindess has written a book titled Makers of Psychology: The Personal Factor. He says:
It is my intention to show how the leaders of the field portray humanity in their own image and how each one’s theories and techniques are a means of validating his own identity.5
The only target I wish to attack is the delusion that psychologists’ judgments are objective, their pronouncements unbiased, their methods based more upon external evidence than personal need. Even the greatest geniuses are human beings, limited by the time and place of their existence and, above all, limited by their personal characteristics. Their outlooks are shaped by who they are. There is no shame in that, but it is a crime against truth to deny it.6
Science or Pseudoscience?
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 people-helper therapies could not truly be considered scientific.7
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.”8 (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.”9
Since what De Haan supports from the professionals is extra-biblical, as he admits, he needs to provide academic support, which he fails to do. From De Haan’s support of the not-the-Bible-only position, his support for the extra-biblical wisdom of men, and his promotion of professionals, one can conclude that he is a strong supporter of psychotherapy. However, there is a plethora of research contrary to De Haan’s position.
Faith in Myths
Robyn Dawes, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, is a widely-recognized researcher and offers much academic research support for his thesis that professional psychotherapy is a “house of cards” and that psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are built on myths. In his book House of Cards, which bears the subtitle Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth, Dawes says:
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.10 (Italics in original; bold added.)
In his introduction, Dawes says:
Virtually all the research—and this book will reference more than three hundred empirical investigations and summaries of investigations—has found that these professionals’ claims to superior intuitive insight, understanding, and skill as therapists are simply invalid.11
In reply to his critics, Dawes says:
Critics of my arguments may well be able to drag out a single study, or even several, that appear to contradict my conclusions. As I pointed out earlier, however, the generality of my conclusions is dependent on multiple studies conducted on multiple problems in multiple contexts.12
Dawes says, “Every state requires that practicing professional psychologists be licensed.”13 Throughout his book and particularly in a chapter on licensing, Dawes makes a strong case for abolishing licensing for professional therapists. He says:
What our society has done, sadly, is to license such people to “do their own thing,” while simultaneously justifying that license on the basis of scientific knowledge, which those licensed too often ignore. This would not be too bad if “their own thing” had some validity, but it doesn’t.14
Faith in Secular Tools
Keep in mind the preceding quotes from the academic literature and compare them with the following statement by De Haan in support of the not-the-Bible-only group: “But we believe that secular tools, when used carefully, can help us obey God when He tells us to seek understanding, help one another, and relieve the oppressed.” De Haan produces no research support for the use of “secular tools,” no definition of what “when used carefully” means, and no evidence that any of what he proposes “can help us obey God” or is in any way connected to “can help us obey God when He tells us to seek understanding, help one another, and relieve the oppressed.” Has it ever been established that the extra-biblical psychological wisdom of men, supported by De Haan, can draw us one iota closer to God more than using the Bible only? De Haan deeply believes so, but produces no evidence for what he imagines to be true.
Some of De Haan’s comparisons between the two groups are riddled with distortions. He says:
“But,” says the “Bible-only” group, “helping people cope with their problems may remove the pain God is using to bring them to Himself.”
“Okay,” says the other, “then maybe we should also withhold the milk of human kindness from the poor, a cup of cold water from the thirsty, and a loaf of bread from the hungry to avoid making anyone too comfortable.”
De Haan has entirely misrepresented the “Bible-only” group by quoting them as believing that “helping people cope with their problems may remove the pain God is using to bring them to Himself.” A possible reason De Haan misrepresents the “Bible-only” group is that he has never believed the way they do and knows little about what they actually believe. While God may use circumstances to bring a person closer to Himself, no “Bible-only” person we know would recommend withholding valid help. Because De Haan has so drastically misrepresented the Bible-only position in the above script, his not-the-Bible-only group’s response makes no sense.
De Haan’s next point has to do with a reference to the use of wine for “a heavy heart” and “counsel” when needed. He says:
At this point, someone blows a whistle and says stop! What does the Bible itself say? Does it tell us that a wise person will use only Scripture to help people who are hurting? What about Proverbs 31, which warns about the dangers of alcohol while prescribing wine as an antidepressant “for those who have heavy heart”? (vv. 4-7). What are the implications of Proverbs 20 when it says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out?” (v. 5).
De Haan obviously believes that “wine” and “counsel,” though in Scripture are extra-biblical. And, therefore, he concludes from these so-called extra-biblical references in the Bible that one can also use other extra-biblical notions not in the bible. His further implication is that the Bible-only group would not follow the Bible on these matters, because they are “extra-biblical.”
Following his own reasoning, De Haan could consider the rod from Proverbs 13:24, “He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” as being “extra-biblical” and then naively assume that the Bible-only group would never abide parents using the rod to correct their children, since it would be “extra-biblical” according to De Haan’s understanding of “extra-biblical.”
De Haan then turns to Proverbs 20 in his vain attempt to justify people helpers using extra-biblical material. But this Scripture should have been a wake-up call for him to realize that Proverbs 20:5 supports biblically-based personal ministry rather than extra-biblical theories and therapies. De Haan has, by personal fiat, expanded the word “counsel” in Proverbs 20:5 to include the beliefs of his not-the-Bible-only, extra-biblical group. However, there is no biblical or scientific justification for including the questionable, extra-biblical wisdom of men in addition to the counsel of God Himself.
De Haan then says, “Does the Bible point to itself as the only solution for problems of the heart? No. The Bible teaches us how to look beyond its pages while remaining well within the counsel of God.” Thus far De Haan has provided no reasonable biblical evidence for “looking beyond its [the Bible’s] pages.” Aside from twisting the Scripture to fit his preconceived not-the-Bible-only, extra-biblical position, De Haan gives no extra-biblical examples from professional counselors that one could test.
Part Two of this series will examine De Haan’s attempt to prove that the Bible promotes the use of such extra-biblical material as psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies.
1 Anne Anastasi. Psychological Testing, Sixth Edition. New York: Macmillan Publishers, 1988, p. 23.
2 George K. Bennett quoted by Martin L. Gross. The Brain Watchers. New York: Random House, 1962, p. 243.
3 George Dudley, quoted by Martin Lasden in “The Trouble with Testing,” Training, May 1985, p. 83.
4 Linda Riebel, “Theory as Self-Portrait and the Ideal of Objectivity,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology (Spring 1982), pp. 91-92.
5 Harvey Mindess, Makers of Psychology: The Personal Factor (New York: Insight Books, 1988), p. 15.
6 Ibid., pp. 15-16.
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. 346.
10 Robyn M. Dawes, House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth (New York: The Free Press/Macmillan, Inc., 1994), p.58.
11 Ibid., p. 8.
12 Ibid., p. 71.
13 Ibid., p. 133.
14 Ibid., p. 8.
(PAL V8N5 * September-October 2000)