Some people have wondered why we don’t just expose the spiritual dangers of clinical psychology and its psychotherapies without naming names. They evidently think that simply describing the unbiblical teachings would suffice. But, would that be enough? Why do we name names?
We began naming names shortly after 1979, when our first of 21 books, The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way, was published.1 In that book we described how psychological counseling theories and therapies were coming into the church, but did not identify by name those Christian leaders who were guilty of what we later called “psychoheresy.” We mistakenly thought that Christian readers would make the applications.2 However, without names attached to what we saw happening in the church, very few Christians seemed to be able to connect what we were saying to the many pastors and church leaders who were guilty of replacing or supplementing the soul care ministry of the saints to one another with counseling psychology.
As clear as we thought we were and as much as we naively believed that our book would stem the rising tide of counseling psychology in the church, it didn’t happen. On the contrary, the problem grew rapidly and those whom we did not identify became more popular. What puzzled us at the time was how some Christians could express agreement with us and yet support Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, James Dobson, Paul Meier, Frank Minirth, and other integrationists. Therefore, we began naming Christian leaders who were guilty of psychoheresy and who were spiritually seducing those in the church with their false teachings.
We do not take lightly the responsibility for naming names, but do so out of deep concern that psychoheresy has eroded a central belief of the church that existed until the rise of the psychological counseling movement less than 60 years ago. In their book The Practice of Psychology: The Battle for Professionalism, the authors trace the history of the recent rise of the practice of psychotherapy. They report: “The independent provision of psychological services was virtually nonexistent prior to and during World War II.” 3 This is confirmed in the book The Romance of American Psychology, in which the author says, “Before World War II, professional healers and counselors were few; most individuals allied with psychology did work unrelated to ‘helping.’” The author reveals: “Throughout the entire postwar era, the United States has trained and employed more psychological experts, per capita, than any other country in the world.”4
Prior to this modern phenomenon of professional counseling and prevalent throughout church history, there was a ministry to suffering souls within the church. John T. McNeill traces this history in his book A History of the Cure of Souls.5 Then during the last century, the basis for the care of souls shifted from faith in the sufficiency of Scripture to faith in secular notions posing as science. Like the proverbial camel’s nose in the tent, the clinical psychology that existed in the universities nosed itself into the church and shortly thereafter the whole camel came in and eclipsed a biblically-based care of souls.
While one can read about what happened, there is almost no concern about the fact that it did happen and especially that there was no identifying by name those involved in the wholesale substitution of talk therapy for the almost 2000-year-old ministry of soul care. As we have often said and repeatedly demonstrated: The present-day church has strained at many theological gnats but swallowed the camel of psychotherapy to such an extent that the sufficiency of Scripture for the issues of life has been overlooked for “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20), which is an apt description of psychoheresy.
When we wrote the original edition of our book Psychoheresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity over 25 years ago we named many popular Christian leaders. Dr. Jay Adams endorsed the book and said:
Some people will say the Bobgans are hitting too hard—naming names and all that—but I don’t think so. Whenever someone writes for the Christian public he sets forth his views to the scrutiny of others, but if others think what he says is dangerous to the church they, like Paul (who named names too), have an obligation to say so.6
In another place Adams said:
Any Christian who sets himself up as a teacher in the church of Christ and publicly teaches anything thereby opens himself up for criticism by others (cf. James 3:1). If they think what he is teaching is harmful to the church, they have an obligation to point it out just as widely as it was taught. Such public warning or debate on a topic should not be considered a personal attack at all.… What a critic of a public teaching does in pointing out his disagreement with that teaching has nothing to do with personal affronts or lack of reconciliation; he is simply disagreeing at the same public level as that on which the teaching was given in the first place.7
Both in church history and in the Bible names were named, for example: Arius, Pelagius, Sabellius, and Socinius. All were named publicly and extensively. History reveals that public critiquing was always part of the church. In fact, the various church councils often included fiery debates between various men. During the Reformation there was much public naming of names and open debates. That’s what the 95 theses on the Wittenberg door were all about. Luther named and debated men publicly so that others could judge.
In the Bible itself we read that Jesus (Rev. 2:20), Paul (Gal. 2:11-14; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 1:15, 2:17, 4: 10, 4:14), and John (3 John 1:9-10) all named names. In Acts 7 the Bereans checked the apostle Paul’s teachings with the Scriptures. In Galatians we read how the apostle Paul faced off with the apostle Peter. Paul says, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11) and “I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Gal. 2:14).
These naysayers on naming names, who say such things as “touch not God’s anointed” and “judge not that ye be judged,” need to learn a lesson from this one biblical interchange, unless they believe that the apostle Peter was not God’s anointed and that Paul was not judging! What the Bible does speak out against, however, is division caused by elevating personalities (1 Corinthians 1); infighting not having to do with essential doctrine, but motivated by selfish desires—having one’s own way (3 John); and division caused by heresy (Galatians 1 and 2 Peter 2).
Following biblical examples and church history, one should name names publicly regarding public teachings and examples when they are in serious conflict with Scripture. Moreover, Scripture directs us to name names: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). How else can one mark those whose teachings and practices are “offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” without naming names? And, how serious are these psychological counseling theories and therapies as “offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned”? The denial of the sufficiency of Scripture for living the Christian life is a serious violation of both Scripture and the historic care of souls that is based upon the Word of God! Psychotherapy is not based upon the Word of God; psychotherapy is based upon the fallen and failing words of men after the flesh. Thus, we need to heed Paul’s final instruction in Romans 16:17: “avoid them”! Have nothing to do with them! Quit looking for something that might appear to be useful in their teaching.
Some have suggested, on the basis of Matthew 18, that all criticism of teachings should be done on a one to one basis. However, Matthew 18 applies to personal offenses rather than important doctrinal problems that affect the lives of many believers. Matthew 18 does not apply to warning the sheep of serious doctrinal error. For us there was no personal offense. Moreover, pointing out doctrinal error privately will not protect the sheep if the perpetrator of that teaching does not repent publicly and effectually.
Instead of questioning those of us who name names, one should question why there is not more questioning by name those popular pastors and organizations that are in serious violation of the very Word of God that they claim to follow. The most loving thing to do for the Body of Christ is to warn believers of those who propagate false teachings, and the most loving thing to do for the perpetrators of psychoheresy is to continue to speak forth in hopes that they will repent. As we often say, we should never replace the God of the anointing with the present-day “anointed of God” by showering them with unwholesome adoration and unnecessary protection.
While some Christian leaders are speaking out and condemning what we call psychoheresy, they typically refrain from speaking out specifically by naming names. Rarely do we hear even those Christian leaders who agree with us name the names of individuals or organizations that are guilty. Where are the pastors, theologians, and church leaders who are willing to speak out against psychoheresy specifically by naming names? Not only must we name the names of leaders and organizations that condone and promote psychoheresy, we need to examine ourselves to see if we are allowing psychoheresy to creep into our thinking and living. The more secularly minded Christians are in their day-to-day thoughts and activities, the more apt they will be to succumb to the psychological wisdom of men. Therefore we challenge our readers to examine themselves, for, if you believe that the clinical psychological wisdom of man and its resulting psychotherapies can complement or augment the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, you are guilty of psychoheresy!
1 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1979.
2 We coined the term psychoheresy later to describe what we saw happening in the church at the time of our first book.
3 Roger Wright and Nicholas Cummings, eds. The Practice of Psychology: The Battle for Professionalism. Phoenix, AZ: Zieg, Tucker & Theisen, Inc., 2001, p. 2.
4 Ellen Herman. The Romance of American Psychology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996, p. 3.
5 John T. McNeill. A History of the Cure of Souls. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1951.
6 Jay E. Adams, “About this book…,” PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity, Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1987, endorsements page.
7 Jay E. Adams. Grist from Adams’ Mill. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1983, p. 69.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2015, Vol. 23, No. 2)