28 Things You Didn’t Know About “Christian” Psychology

When it comes to what’s called psychology in the Church, Matt Tarr of ParkingSpace23 believes that much of what’s termed “Christian” psychology operates on a theology of man that’s antithetical to a biblical worldview.  According to Tarr, so-called “Christian” counseling “largely espouses a form of positivism (or neopositivism), optimism, and a philosophy of self-esteem that contradicts a biblical view of man’s wretched, sinful condition.”

Pastor Tarr’s view is that the Bible believing Christian who’s in need of counseling must look for a person with a biblical view of mankind.  Moreover, Christians must not heed the advice of someone who’s steeped in the unbiblical philosophy of self-esteem because it’s anti-theology.

Counseling

Like any pastor, I make it a major discipline in my life to read a lot. I must; I cannot allow my tools to grow dull. And, like any pastor SHOULD, I spend a significant portion of my week counseling the flock of God. Of course, that means a significant portion of my regular readings come from books on counseling. At any given time, I’m always working through five or more books to help me diagnose the soul and apply biblical principles to the hearts of the hurting, weary, or fainthearted. It is in fact a sad reality that many pastors have absolved themselves from the responsibility to counsel. Some because it isn’t a priority and they don’t make the time. Others because they have actually been taught not to by their colleges and seminaries. And a few don’t feel adequately equipped. Whatever the reason, pastors who don’t counsel their flock refer their sheep to another authority: human philosophy.

Of course, they aren’t aware that they are subjecting their congregations to human philosophy. They thought they were sending them to “Christian” psychologists and psychiatrists. What they either don’t know, or don’t care to know, is just how antithetical Christian psychotherapy is to a biblical worldview. They then send their unsuspecting and undiscerning congregation to learn anti-theology.

I’m gravely concerned, and it was one evening as I was reading from a contemporary Christian psychologist that I thought to myself, “People (and pastors especially) must know the theology of Christian psychology. They must know what it actually is. Shortly after that, I picked up another book by a secular psychologist, then another, and another, until I thought sometime in January that I would post one brief statement a day about Christian psychology during the next month on social media. That was this last month in February. Each day offered only a brief comment, but they were hopefully meaningful. I hope you’ll find the following helpful:

Day 1 – Christian psychology claims both the Bible and psychology are important in the diagnosis and counseling of “soul problems,” and that both can be compatible. It should be telling, however, that there are virtually no Christian psychotherapists who have any advanced training in theology or the Bible. The exceptions prove the rule, and that exposes where their real authority lies.

Day 2 – Christian psychology claims to be “biblical counseling.” In actuality, it is humanistic atheistic psychology that uses the Bible and proof-texts to support its secular theories. That helps make it look more “Christian” than it is. Their training will expose just how important they think the Bible really is in counseling (cf. Day 1 below…).

Day 3 – Christian psychology has become one of the greatest influences in the American church, and defines what we now think about the mind and soul. Yet, psychology itself is devoid of religion, and is even openly hostile towards it. In fact, in 1961 O. Hobart Mowrer asked, “Has Evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?” 55 years later, I fear we have.

Day 4 – Christian psychology does not originate with the Bible. Rather, psychology of the West was first developed by heretics such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Aquinas, long before the God-hating Freud entered the scene.

Day 5 – Christian psychology does not view the Bible as possessing a comprehensive analysis of human nature (contrary to what the Bible says about itself), and places true biblical counseling (i.e. “nouthetic” counseling) in the realm of “folk psychology” 2

Day 6 – Christian psychology views what the Bible says about the human nature as inferior to the authority of modern psychology.3 In other words, the collective wisdom of men is more authoritative on matters of the soul than God’s Word.

Day 7 – Christian psychology is indebted to the work of Thomas Aquinas, who is considered to be the first Christian Integrationist (psychology + the Bible). They depend much on his views, though he was a rank heretic who was instrumental in the formation of Roman Catholic theology. 4

Day 8 – Christian psychology can only function with an unbiblical understanding of the human constitution, making a false dichotomy between the soul and mind (or “psyche”). Biblically, they are one entity. In fact, the term “psyche” comes from the Greek word that means “soul.”

Day 9 – Christian psychology refers to itself as an “empirical science” when in actuality, it is a philosophy that uses “eisegetically” derived conclusions (they impose their presuppositions into the results) from case studies in order to validate its approach to counseling. That is not true empirical science. It ignores data that contradicts their methods, and over inflates the significance of evidence that seems to support them. This also why there are so many competing psychological methods.

Day 10 – Christian psychology maintains that its diagnoses are scientific (see day 9). In reality, its diagnoses are subjective interpretations of behavioral observation, not objective. This proves that their authority rests with psychology and secular theory and not the Bible, since the Bible will lead to one “diagnosis” (source of the problem) based on behavioral observation, while psychology leads to another.  Continue reading

Related:

Christians Don’t Take Personality Tests By Jessica Pickowicz

Carl Jung: Psychologist Or Sorcerer By Marsha West

Focus On the Family Endorsing An Unbiblical View Of Marriage? Berean Research

H/T Glenn Chatfield

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4 Responses to 28 Things You Didn’t Know About “Christian” Psychology

  1. Stephanie March 13, 2016 at 3:10 am #

    Do you have some suggestions on places people should go to get support? Pastors are not doctors so what are Christians to do?

  2. Darrel March 13, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    On the surface this SEEMS to be a good article, but if you go to the website by clicking ‘continue reading’ as provided above, you will find that all the writers there are either attending or are graduates from the Master’s Seminary headed by John MacArthur. John MacArthur is a “Master” at double-speak. He and his “church” have been embroiled in the “Christian psychology/counseling” controversy for nearly twenty years. JM’s “lordship salvation” (the latest in a long line of heresies coming from JM) requires that a man submit himself to a Gestapo-like counseling regiment from the day he is “saved” until the day he dies. To object or refuse to submit the “elders” will get you excommunicated from their “church”, publically humiliated, and dismissed from all of JM’s schools.

    The reason why Matt Tarr wrote this article is unclear since the seminary he currently attends promotes ALL of the things he has written against. Perhaps one of his professors required it of him to teach him how to stand up for the lies otherwise promoted throughout the GTY/MacArthur juggernaut—it’s hard to know for sure.

    This is really just another not-so-veiled attempt to raise more questions instead of giving answers to those who need help. It is an attack on the sufficiency of the Scriptures to not only contain the needed answers, but also to communicate them to the believer. The Lord does not do ‘data dumps’ or giga-terra-bite downloads; don’t expect to read the Bible only once and know all there is to know—we will always have something we need to learn. We are to study (the Word) to show ourselves approved by God. This begins with a humble heart, a searching for His answer and not just a “quick fix” that later results in putting God on a back burner. Do you hunger and thirst after His Righteousness? If not, why not? If the hunger is there but anemic, then request the hunger to be increased. Do you lack wisdom as to which way to go? Then request that also and taste that the Lord is good (Matt. 5:6 and James 1:5). The Lord “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” Eph. 3:20. The lord NEVER abandons His children-not ever. Ask and receive; seek and find; knock and it will be opened to you. If you ask Him for bread, will He give you a stone; or a serpent instead of the requested fish? No, never—Matt.7:7-12. Still no answer? Perhaps a cold, proud heart stands in your way—James 4:6. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “as His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” Since He gave “us all things that pertain to LIFE and GODLINESS through the KNOWLEDGE of HIM” it would be a slap in His face to think that His Word does not speak to our every problem of life (such thinking is borne in a proud heart. May the Lord squash our pride and open our hearts to His Word.

  3. Joan Thenot March 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    I highly recommend “The Dark side of Christian Counselling” by E.S. Williams, Wakeman Trust, 2009.

  4. Ian March 14, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

    Psychology in general isn’t that great. Christian psychology seems to be based either on Psychology+a Biblical Veneer or a rejection of all things secular (or empathetic) with a lot of Bible verses hurled at the suffering person in the name of “counseling.”

    Personally, I think the counseling relationship itself is dangerous. Apparently, inappropriate relationships between the counselor and counselee/client are surprisingly common. Having experienced counseling myself, I think there’s a serious problem in seeking to be made whole by talking to an “expert.” There’s a power imablance and also subtle attempts to remake the client/counselee. I’ve also experienced serious confidentiality, HIPPAA violations. There’s generally no legal recourse when that happens.

    I think the growing counseling industry (secular and “Christian”) has a lot to do with social disintegration. People don’t have genuine friends, so we have to pay somebody with at least a Masters degree to listen to us. Families are encouraged to outsource their problems to “experts,” as are ministers. I think that if people–Christians in particular–could be encouraged to cultivate genuine friendships and avoid sending troubled people off to “experts,” the church would be much better off.

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