Often, in speaking about the Bible, words such as inerrant and infallible are used. The words final authority are also used. An additional word used with respect to the Bible is the word sufficient. Words can have different meanings and different applications, but the word sufficient, when properly applied to the Bible, is a plumb line to an individual’s understanding and appreciation of the power of God’s Word regarding the nature of man and how he changes. When speaking of the Bible as God’s Word, we are not just referring to the words on the page but to the very presence of God in His Word and the accompanying activity of the Holy Spirit in applying that Word to a person’s life.
The sufficiency of God’s Word can be seen throughout the Bible, but we quote two well-known passages here. One passage clearly shows that God intends His Word to be sufficient in matters of life and conduct and the other indicates the direct involvement of God Himself in and through His Word:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 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 1:2-4).
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. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Considering the depth and magnitude of God’s Word and its application by God, who knows “the thoughts and intents of the heart,” one wonders why so many professing Christians rush after the wisdom of men. The following question will surely reveal the confidence one has in the Word of God in contrast to the wisdom of men: Is the Word of God sufficient to deal with the same problems of living that Christians take to psychotherapists? If the Word sufficient confuses anyone, then use its synonym, the word enough.
This question is usually sufficient, i.e. enough, to distinguish those who truly believe in and trust God’s Word from those who have confidence in the very wisdom of men about which the Scripture warns. Nevertheless, promoters of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies often undermine confidence in God and His sufficient Word by clouding this clear distinction of sufficiency with smoke screens of logical fallacies.
One example of such a cloud cover can be seen in psychiatrist Dwight L Carlson’s article titled “Exposing the Myth that Christians should not have Emotional Problems,” which appeared in Christianity Today (2/9/98). We printed Louis Whallon’s excellent response to Carlson’s article in the May-June 1998 PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter (“Exposing the Myth that Christians need Psychotherapy”). Here we only bring up one problem having to do with Carlson’s confused thinking.
In his article Carlson employs a number of logical fallacies which, when examined, reveal his illogical reasoning. If Carlson’s purpose in writing his article was to demonstrate that he knows how to use logical fallacies he succeeded. For example, he says, “I know it sounds unscriptural to say that some individuals need more than the church can offer—but if my car needs the transmission replaced, do I expect the church to do it? Or, if I break my leg, do I consult my pastor about it? For some reason, when it comes to emotional needs, we think the church should be able to meet them all.” Notice that he is, by inference, equating “transmission replaced” and broken legs with “emotional needs.” This tangible/intangible, physical/mental confusion is dominant in Carlson’s article. This confusion between the physical (transmission/legs) and the mental (emotions) is the same logical error made by many psychiatrists in the past when they labeled problems of living as “diseases.” Thankfully, many in psychiatry have repented of this error, though some psychiatrists such as Carlson continue to perpetuate this myth. The error of confusing the mind and the body opens the door for the medical model to be used in the mental realm.
Quite often people resort to what is called the “medical model” in order to justify the use of psychotherapy. In using the medical model, they assume that mental illness can be thought of and talked about in the same manner and terms as medical illness. After all, these people reason, both are called “illnesses.”
In the medical model physical symptoms are caused by some pathogenic agent. For example, a fever may be caused by viruses; remove the pathogenic agent and you remove the symptom. Or, a person may have a broken leg; set the leg according to learned techniques and the leg will heal. We have confidence in this model because it has worked well in the treatment of physical ailments. With the easy transfer of the model from the medical world to the psychotherapeutic world, many people believe that mental problems can be considered to be the same as physical problems.
The practice of medicine deals with the physical, biological aspects of a person; psychotherapy deals with the social, mental, and emotional aspects. Whereas medical doctors attempt to heal the body, psychotherapists attempt to alleviate or cure emotional, mental, and even spiritual suffering and to establish new patterns of social behavior. In spite of such differences, Carlson uses the medical model to support the activities of the psychotherapist.
People think that if one can have a sick body, it must follow that one can have a sick mind. But, is the mind part of the body? Or can we equate the mind with the body? The authors of The Madness Establishment say, “Unlike many medical diseases that have scientifically verifiable etiologies and prescribed methods of treatment, most of the ‘mental illnesses’ have neither scientifically established causes nor treatments of proven efficacy” (F. Chu and S. Trotter, 1974, p. 4).
Psychotherapy deals with thoughts, emotions, and behavior, but not with the brain itself. Psychotherapy does not deal with the biology of the brain, but with the activity of the mind and with the social behavior of the individual. In medicine we understand what a diseased body is, but what is the parallel in psychotherapy? It is obvious that in psychotherapy mental illness does not mean brain disease. If brain disease were the case, the person would be a medical patient, not a mental patient. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz very sharply refers to the “psychiatric imposter” who “supports a common, culturally shared desire to equate and confuse brain and mind, nerves and nervousness” (Szasz, The Myth of Psychotherapy, 1978, p. 7) It is necessary to understand this distinction to appreciate the difference.
As psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey reasons, diseases are something people have while behavior is something people do. To lump bodies with minds is to either support the atheistic, mechanistic view of man or to commit a gross logical fallacy. The application of the medical model to the mind as Carlson does with his leg/”emotional needs” confusion is to create all kinds of logical problems. 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” (Death of Psychiatry,1974, p. 24).
Dr. Ronald Leifer, in his book In the Name of Mental Health, says
If we grant that in . . . medicine the term “disease” refers to the body, to modify it with the word “mental” is at worst a mixture of logical levels called a category error, and at best it is a radical redefinition of the word “disease.” A category error is an error in the use of language that, in turn, produces errors in thinking. . . . Whatever the mind may be, it is not a thing like muscles, bones, and blood (In the Name of Mental Health, 1969, p. 36-37, bold added).
Leifer discusses the arguments for the medical model and then the defects of such arguments. He concludes by saying:
The principal advantages of this argument are therefore neither scientific nor intellectual. They are social. They prejudice the lay public to see psychiatric practices as more like medical treatment than like social control, socialization, education, and religious consolation. It bids them to presume that the psychiatrist, like other physicians, always serves the individual in his pursuit of life, health, and happiness (p. 42).
Carlson apparently does not believe that the Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit is sufficient to deal with problems of living or why else is he so strongly supporting the use of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies? What Carlson and others who have so little confidence in Scripture need to explain (without resorting to logical fallacies) is why Christians need the twentieth century opinions of men instead of only the Word of God to deal with problems of living. Carlson has written a book titled Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? A more significant question to ask Carlson is “Why do Christians shoot their Bibles?”.