Ronald H. Nash attempts to tackle the controversy surrounding psychological counseling in his book titled Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies that Come between Christians. Nash is correct in that there is a “great divide” regarding psychology. But, after reading his chapter on this issue (Chapter 5), we conclude that the subtitle of Nash’s book should have been Confusing the Controversies that Come between Christians.
The book cover indicates that Nash is a Professor of Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Orlando, Florida. Nevertheless the chapter on psychology reveals that Nash misuses logic and leads one to suspect that he may hold a low view of Scripture.
The chapter begins with “Cindy” emerging from her therapist’s office. As she is leaving, she runs into “Rev. Ralph Jones,” her former pastor. In the interchange Cindy finds out that Ralph has completely changed his mind about psychological counseling, even to the extent that “Dan” (the therapist) is now counseling Ralph. During this interchange Ralph tells about his conversion to psychology as an antidote for life’s problems.
Nash compromises his philosophical knowledge throughout the chapter in order to support his love for psychotherapy. This chapter demonstrates that he knows little about psychology and less about the controversy surrounding the issue of psychology and counseling in the church. However, Nash is a professor of philosophy in a seminary and, as such, is guilty of a sophomoric treatment of Ralph’s explanation for his conversion to psychotherapy and of the five issues that follow. By using the narrative form, Nash expresses his views and explains his position on psychological counseling through the words of Ralph (the pastor) and Dan (the therapist).
Ralph explains how his conversion to psychology occurred:
This time Dan was ready for me. He went straight to what he perceived as the main issue before us. He asked me, if I were to need brain surgery, would I hire a heart specialist? If I needed my car’s engine tuned, would I hire a plumber? On both counts I laughed, “Of course not.” . . .
“Would you, he asked, “object if a church member hired a doctor to perform needed surgery?”1
Nash’s presentation is a serious misrepresentation as to what the real issue is. This misrepresentation and misinformation also form the flawed basis for the five other issues he presents later in the chapter.
Notice that Nash presents all tangible, physical, observable situations, such as “brain surgery,” “heart specialist,” “car’s engine,” and “plumber.” What Nash is doing is creating an argument from analogy. One logic text says:
An argument from analogy draws a conclusion about something on the basis of an analogy with or resemblance to some other thing. The assumption is that if two or more things are alike in some respects, they are alike in some other respect.2
The text also says:
To recognize the fallacy of false analogy, look for an argument that draws a conclusion about one thing, event, or practice on the basis of its analogy or resemblance to others. The fallacy occurs when the analogy or resemblance is not sufficient to warrant the conclusion, as when, for example, the resemblance is not relevant to the possession of the inferred feature or there are relevant dissimilarities.3
Is a brain, a heart, or a car’s engine a fair or false analogy to the mind? Is a brain surgeon, a heart specialist, a mechanic, or a plumber a fair or false analogy to a talk therapist? Philosophers will tell you these would be false analogies. Such an analogy would be permitted if the mind were equal to the brain. We doubt that Nash would commit such an egregious error. (We dealt with this issue in our March-April newsletter.)
Try as he may, Nash’s analogy immediately evaporates because brain surgeons, heart specialists, mechanics and plumbers are all trained and practice on the material, visible and tangible level. A brain, a heart, a car’s engine, and plumbing are not equal to the mind. The mind is not material, visible or tangible.
Nash’s confusion between brain and mind may have been the result of equating mental illness and medical illness. This simplistic confusion occurs with most lay people, but should never occur with a philosophy professor.
Although one may result from the other, medical illness and mental illness are simply not the same. Biological and psychological are not synonymous. One has to do with the organic processes and the other with the thought and emotional life. We should have rejected the word illness after the word mental from the very beginning.
The use of the medical model in psychotherapy does not reveal truth; instead it merely disguises psychotherapy with the mask of medical terminology and ends up confusing everyone. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey says:
. . . the medical model of human behavior, when carried to its logical conclusions, is both nonsensical and nonfunctional. It doesn’t answer the questions which are asked of it, it doesn’t provide good service, and it leads to a stream of absurdities worthy of a Roman circus.4
Using the medical model of human behavior and confusing medical with mental through false analogies can lead to justifying support for ESP, past lives, UFOs, Eastern religions, and the occult. Transpersonal or religious psychologies are being supported through such false analogies and usage of the medical model.
The elements that are supposedly alike are that all services by the individuals are services provided by trained and educated individuals. And, Nash is subtly but falsely implying that since all of the individuals are knowledgeable in their specialties, they are equally to be trusted. But, as a philosopher, Nash should know better. His type of reasoning justifies the use of a witch doctor as easily as it does a psychotherapist.
If we look at the basis of the analogy as being the importance of a specialist, then we need to see if a psychologist is a specialist in the same way a heart specialist, brain specialist, mechanic or plumber is. Is the psychologist the specialist of a Christian’s heart, mind and soul? Does the inclusion of secular theory, which has no consensus among the over 450 schools of thought, make the Christian psychologist a specialist of a Christian’s heart, mind and soul? If Nash is indeed saying that such a psychologist is a specialist of the soul he is implying that God left His people without necessary specialists of the soul from the inception of the church until the advent of modern psychology.
Since one of the primary topics of consideration in the Bible is the nonphysical aspect of man, is it not strange that the Bible reveals nothing about a psychological specialist of the soul? At most such unscientific psychological theories are referred to by Paul in terms of “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Even the research literature on psychology does not support the use of a specialist any more than an amateur.
Nash says through his fictional Ralph, “We discussed the value of psychology. Here are the five issues we examined in depth.” The five issues and discussion that follows are not “in depth,” but do demonstrate how low a philosopher (Nash) is willing to stoop to raise psychotherapy to a level of credibility.
As one reads the five issues, one wonders why Nash, a professor of philosophy, would distort and misrepresent what he must have learned to earn his degrees. One wonders what other gross misteachings are being propagated by Nash in order to defend a foregone conclusion about psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies.
If Nash protests that he is not using a false analogy, then his point must be that of an insufficient Bible. In other words, talk therapy is needed to deal with problems of living that the Bible cannot touch. Our conclusion is that Nash has misused logic or misrepresented the sufficiency of Scripture or both.
This chapter by Nash is more a demonstration of demagoguery than logic, is a shameful revelation of Nash’s ignorance of psychotherapy and the philosophy of science (a discipline about which he should be informed), and reveals Nash’s perverted use of logic.
Nash is evidently infected with the same psychotherapy virus that has invaded R. C. Sproul, another professor at RTS. At a conference in Orlando, Sproul demonstrated the same love for psychology and disregard for logic when he and Bill White spoke on the topic: “Psychology: Psychoheresy or Psychohealing?” The description of the seminar asked these two questions:
- Is the practice of psychology an aid to greater obedience or a distortion of the biblical view of man?
- Do psychological theories and methods have a place in the ministry of the church?
Nash, Sproul, and White would all answer yes. We would answer no!
In White’s address, he mentions that when he needed surgery, he sought out a surgeon. White says: “I was relying on extra-biblical sources of knowledge.” He mentions how he prayed but also did his homework. But, all of White’s examples are not only “extra biblical”; they are also extra psychological. He offers examples that have to do with real science, such as his example of “atherosclerosis,” in his attempt to prove his support of pseudoscience (psychotherapy). White addresses the same subject as Nash and commits the same errors of logic.
Following White’s talk, Sproul presents himself as knowledgeable in philosophy and then commits the same logical errors as Nash and White. Hamstrung by his misuse of logic, Sproul presents a very unbiblical view of general revelation and demonstrates extreme ignorance of what is and what is not science.
In his acknowledgments to his book, Nash mentions Dr. Gordon Clark. While Nash acknowledges Clark, Clark would want nothing to do with Nash, Sproul, or White on psychology. Clark said in his book The Biblical Doctrine of Man:
That the gospel may be proclaimed in its purity and power, the churches should eliminate their Freudianism and other forms of contemporary psychology and return to God’s Word, to which nothing should be added and from which nothing should be subtracted.5
Nash, Sproul, and While should pay attention to what Gordon Clark has said and believe that God has indeed given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
1 Ronald H. Nash. Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993, p. 100.
2 Robert M. Johnson. A Logic Book, 2nd Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1992, p. 256.
3 Ibid., p. 258.
4 E. Fuller Torrey, The Death of Psychiatry (Radnor: Chilton Book Company, 1974), p. 24.
5 Gordon Clark. The Biblical Doctrine of Man. Jefferson: The Trinity Foundation, 1984, pp. 87-88.
(From PAL V2N4)