Psychology and Psychotherapy - Part One | thebereancall.org

Dr. Martin and Deidre Bobgan
and T.A. McMahon

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, psychology is “the science of mind and behavior.” Is psychology a science? Well, yes and no, depending on one’s understanding of the term “science.” If one views the study of psychology as simply the pursuit of the knowledge of human behavior, some are satisfied with its definition as a science. Yet that rather vague meaning is far removed from real scientific knowledge gained through a scientific methodology that involves objective observation, evidence, hypotheses testing, induction, repetition, and verification, and ultimately resulting in a commonly accepted cumulative knowledge. Psychology differs greatly, for example, from the sciences of astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, and biology, the knowledge of which has been amassed through objective means.

Psychology hints at being a science but has failed to produce a significant body of information to prove itself in that way. Its primary emphasis is on human behavior, which can’t be quantified in any meaningful manner. The nature of human choices is extremely subjective, involving emotions, values, and consciousness—none of which can be measured; nor can the mind, being a nonphysical part of the human makeup. The issue of whether or not psychology is a science wouldn’t be worth debating except that just the term “science” carries a great weight of influence. Legitimate or not, the “science” label impresses the masses.

Nearly 100 disciplines of psychology cover a wide spectrum of undertakings, from applied behavior analysis to transpersonal psychology. Psychotherapy, i.e., psychological counseling or clinical psychology, is the most prevalent. Americans spend more than $200 billion a year attempting to have their mental and emotional disorders cured, usually through psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy, “also called ‘talk therapy’ or just plain ‘therapy,’ is a process whereby psychological problems are treated through communication and relationship factors between an individual and a trained mental health professional.”1 Psychotherapy is psychoheresy. Its subtle deception opens the door to other deceptions, replacing and/or adding unproven, unscientific opinions of men to the Word of God, thus taking away from absolute confidence in the biblical truth about God.

Psychoheresy denies the sufficiency of Scripture for issues of the mind, soul, and will. This intrusion of psychological notions stems from the wisdom of men and reaches into the preaching and practices of Christianity, especially in terms of man’s nature, how he’s to live, and how he changes. It’s imperative that we  examine how these psychological ideas can deceive Christians. Turning to psychotherapy for the problems of living undermines a believer’s faith regarding matters of the soul. Once a person moves away from faith in the inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God, he’s open to deceptions from many realms.

Psychotherapy is based on theories of personality that are simply unproved opinions originating from atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians. These theories aren’t like scientific theories. They’re simply collections of unscientific, secular, and, in many cases, anti-Christian beliefs that often contradict one another. The therapy itself is simply “talk,” which includes talking about the client and the client’s problems and helping the client to see himself/herself from the perspective of whatever particular theory is being used by the therapist. Psychotherapy (psychological counseling) is the most subjective and therefore the most deceptive branch of psychology.

“Syncretism” is “the combination of different forms of belief or practice.” It’s one of Satan’s most deceptive and appealing techniques, devised to destroy true faith and undermine the Christian’s confidence in God’s Word and dependence on Christ. Psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are actually religious in nature and practice. They’re like oil and water! The euphemism for this kind of syncretism is “integration,” which occurs when two or more ideas or systems are combined. However, psychotherapeutic beliefs cannot truly be integrated with Scripture. One works with the old man of the flesh (carnal); the other works with the new man in Christ (spiritual). They’re at enmity with each other, just as the flesh and the Spirit are contrary to each other (Gal:5:17) and just as the carnal man is at enmity with God (Rom:8:7). They can’t mix, because they’re enemies just as the idols of the nations around Israel were at enmity with God.

Christians who mix psychology and the Bible aren’t practicing and promoting ordinary integration but rather religious syncretism, overlaying their psychology with the Bible. This ultimately disguises the psychological religious systems they’re using, and then this psycho-syncretism subverts and subtracts from the faith. The “integrating” of psychology and Christianity appeals to those Christians who believe that what is being discovered about the mind, the will, and the emotions is science—that it’s part of God’s creation yet to be discovered in the same way that discoveries have been made in physics, chemistry, and biology. Since psychology misrepresents itself as a science, and psychotherapeutic ideas are organized into theories, many pastors don’t even realize that these scientific-sounding theories are simply another competing belief system.

Instead of knowledge being added to knowledge with more recent discoveries resting on a body of solid information, in this case, one system contradicts another, one set of opinions is exchanged for another, and one set of techniques replaces another. Psychotherapy changes along with current cultural trends. Just the knowledge that there is an accumulation of about 500 separate psychotherapeutic systems, each claiming superiority, should discourage anyone from thinking that so many diverse opinions could be scientific or even factual. Psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are amassed in confusion, with their pseudoknowledge and pseudotheories resulting in pseudoscience.

The dream of a scientific study of human nature and a scientific method of treating unacceptable behavior was most alluring. The hoped-for science of behavior promised much to those who had been struggling to unravel the vast complexities of individual personalities in equally complex circumstances. Thus, through study and imagination, psychologists pursued the dream of
discovering scientific methods of observing, explaining, and transforming human behavior.

Clinical psychology and its active arm of psychotherapy have indeed adopted the scientific posture. However, from a strictly scientific point of view they haven’t been able to meet the requirements. In attempting to evaluate the status of psychology, the American Psychological Association appointed Sigmund Koch to plan and direct a study that was subsidized by the National Science Foundation. This examination involved eighty eminent scholars in assessing the facts, theories, and methods of psychology. The results of this extensive endeavor were then published in a seven-volume series entitled Psychology: A Study of a Science.2

Koch describes the delusion of people regarding psychology as a science: “The hope of a psychological science became indistinguishable from the fact of psychological science. The entire subsequent history of psychology can be seen as a ritualistic endeavor to emulate the forms of science in order to sustain the delusion that it already is a science3 (italics his).

Koch says: “Throughout psychology’s history as ‘science,’ the hard knowledge it has deposited has been uniformly negative”4 (italics his). He contends that much of psychology is not a cumulative or progressive discipline in which knowledge is added to knowledge. Rather, what is discovered by one generation “typically disenfranchises the theoretical fictions of the past.” Instead of refining and specifying larger generalizations of the past, psychologists are busy replacing them. He adds, “I think it by this time utterly and finally clear that psychology cannot be a coherent science5 (italics his). Koch suggests, “As the beginning of a therapeutic humility, we might re-christen psychology and speak instead of the psychological studies6 (italics his). And he would certainly criticize psychotherapy for living under “the delusion that it already is a science” when it is not.7

Another reason why psychotherapy cannot legitimately be called a coherent science is because it attempts to deal with deep human complexities that can’t be directly observed or consistently predicted. Furthermore, the therapist and client are each individually unique, and their interaction lends an additional dimension of variability. When one adds time and changing circumstances, it’s no wonder that the therapeutic relationship escapes the rigors of science. In considering the dilemma between science and personal individuality, Dr. Gordon Allport says: “The Individual, whatever else he may be, is an internally consistent and unique organization of bodily and mental processes. But since he is unique, science finds him an embarrassment. Science, it is said, deals only with broad, preferably universal, laws….  Individuality cannot be studied by science, but only by history, art, or biography.”8

We could add that the individual not only escapes the formulas of science, but also defies the descriptions of literature. Nevertheless, if one must choose between the two, it appears that literature has more ably revealed human beings. Language describes the complexities of individuality far better than formulas. Language and literature, rather than personality theories and psychotherapy, better portray human nature and provide a glimpse into the depths of the soul, but it is the Bible that best portrays and gives accurate truth about mankind.

There are subtleties and similarities between certain ideas from psychology and Christianity that increase the vulnerability for one to begin thinking and ministering psychologically rather than biblically. The deceitful heart finds its friendliest friend in a psychologized gospel, where the sinful nature of man is given free reign and where sinful speaking can be expressed without restriction, questioning, or proof. That is why Christians must spend time in the Word and in prayer instead of looking for answers to life’s dilemmas outside Scripture and the church. Again, psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are not science. They are human speculations about the soul, with a pseudo-scientific facade.

There has been so much searching outside of Scripture to find ways to minister to suffering saints that a whole cadre of psychologically trained (or at least psychologically tainted) professionals and lay counselors are prepared to minister the ways of men and the wisdom of men along with Scriptures that appear to support their practice. This is syncretism. Others guilty of false integration are: (1) Christian schools and seminaries that positively promote the use of counseling psychology and/or prepare individuals to become licensed as psychotherapists, especially Christian schools that have programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), (2) pastors or others who promote and affirm those psychological ideas and/or refer congregants to psychotherapists, (3) authors and organizations that promote a psychological understanding of man, (4) professing Christians who are deeply committed to this “integration,” which comes from not believing that Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness (2 Pet:1:3).

The delusion nevertheless continues despite this disclosure by members of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, a group that includes psychologists and psychological counselors who are professing Christians: “We are often asked if we are ‘Christian psychologists’ and find it difficult to answer since we don’t know what the question implies. We are Christians who are psychologists, but at the present time there is no acceptable Christian psychology that is markedly different from non-Christian psychology. It is difficult to imply that we function in a manner that is fundamentally distinct from our non-Christian colleagues....”9

We are not questioning the faith of Christians who, as psychotherapists, pastors, and church leaders, support psychotherapy and clinical psychology. We are critical, however, of their practice and support for these activities that deny the sufficiency of Scripture. The Word is true; the theories and practices of psychotherapy that speak in place of God’s written Word and its promises are counterfeits. This psychologizing of the faith has come to full flower so that those who know better will not for the sake of the Gospel do better. There are many pastors and church leaders who believe as we do regarding psychotherapy but will not make an issue of this false religious compromise of true faith in God’s Word. We have often challenged Christians who believe as we do regarding psychotherapy to ask their pastors if they have any problem with referring those with life issues to a psychotherapist.

Psychoheresy deceives the soul. O. Hobart Mowrer, in his book titled The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, asks a penetrating question: “Has evangelical religion sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?”10 Christians need to take an objective, hard look at their birthright and the mess of psychological pottage. Without a firm hold on the Word of God they will be led astray and more so as deception will increase exponentially in the days preceding Christ’s return.

When asked about the time of His return, Jesus said: “Take heed that no man deceive you.” How deeply deceived might those Christians be after seeking help from psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies? How will they be able to discover how much they are deceived, if they have already mixed deceptive psychological notions and nonsense into their understanding of the Bible? Twice in the book of Proverbs (14:12; 16:25) we’re told that there’s a way (the world’s way) that seems right to a man, but it is separated from God’s truth and leads to death.

Nearly all of those who believe they’ve been helped by psychological counseling eventually recognize that their mental and emotional problems have neither been resolved nor lessened. In part II of this series, we’ll address the myth of psychological counseling being efficacious and the value of ministering God’s way through the sufficiency of His Word and the enablement of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter:1:3).

TBC

Endnotes

1)  https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-psychotherapy/.

2) Sigmund Koch, ed., Psychology: A Study of a Science (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959-63).

3) Sigmund Koch, “The Image of Man in Encounter Groups,” The American Scholar, Autumn 1973, 636.

4) Sigmund Koch, “Psychology Cannot Be a Coherent Science,” Psychology Today, September 1969, 66.

5) Ibid., 66.

6) Ibid., 67.

7) Koch, “The Image of Man in Encounter Groups,” op. cit., 636.

8) Gordon Allport, Pattern and Growth in Personality (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 1961), 8-9.

9) Sutherland, P. and P. Poelstra, “Aspects of Integration” (Paper presented at the meeting of the Western Association of Christians for Psychological Studies, Santa Barbara, CA, June 1976).

10) O. Hobart Mowrer, The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1961), 60.

The Bobgans website is: www.psychoheresy-aware.org

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