Tragedy Compounded |

T. A. McMahon

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves...." - 2 Timothy:3:1-2

The above Scripture is a prophecy. It’s one that can be clearly documented as being fulfilled in our days, which are undoubtedly the “last days” prior to the return of Jesus Christ. “Perilous times” have indeed entered the religious and secular arena of our day. Biblical discernment has been all but abandoned in the church. Hatred among those who are normally civil now seems unrestrained. Political viciousness across party lines is unprecedented. Pro-abortion legislation is being cheered. Yet those are just a few of the “perilous” effects of loving “their own selves.” Second Timothy chapter 3 verses 2 through 13 give us more: “…covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith…[these] evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” One cannot separate those sins from the aggressive implementation of self-love; they are the inevitable consequence.

The love of self has always been at the heart of sin. We’re first made aware of it in heaven. Lucifer declared, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah:14:14). He then promoted that self-deification to Eve: “…ye shall be as gods” (Genesis:3:5). Since self-love has been at the root of mankind’s sin problems from the beginning, why then does the Word of God make a specific issue of it in the “last days”? I have a thought or two about that.

In my three-quarters of a century of life, the winds of change have blown furiously. The prevailing attitude in my early years was that selfishness was never regarded as an endearing social quality or a beneficial trait. Rarely did anyone enjoy the company of those who were all about themselves. Fast-forward to the 1960s. My contemporaries in my late teenage years transformed the culture in the US seemingly overnight, going from regarding selflessness as a virtue to being dubbed the “The Me Decade” by writer Tom Wolfe, and the “culture of narcissism” as observed by historian Christopher Lasch. This became obvious to nearly everyone.

How could such a drastic change in culture take place so quickly? The contributions are many, from a prosperous middle class that nurtured self-indulgent offspring to spiritual self-seekers trying to discover their “true selves” (mostly through mind-altering drugs). Eastern mysticism seemed to legitimize their spiritual quest, and the homogenized Western version known as the New Age Movement made it all the more popular. Yet the foundation (although of sand) for its astounding growth was the pseudo-science of psychotherapy, commonly referred to as psychological counseling. Furthermore, the relationship of psychotherapy to Eastern religions was noted decades ago by Psychology Today, which stated that Eastern spiritual beliefs “…seem to be making gradual headway as psychologies, not as religions.” Religious scholar Jacob Needleman concurred: “A large and growing number of psychotherapists are now convinced that the Eastern religions offer an understanding of the mind far more complete than anything yet envisaged by Western science.” He added that the gurus who have invaded the West are communicating their spiritual concepts in the language of modern psychology.

The extraordinary emphasis on self is the common denominator. Eastern mysticism and psychology are two peas in the same pod of self. The supreme goal of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other variants of Eastern mysticism is self-realization, i.e., to realize one’s ultimate destiny, which is godhood. Self-actualization is psychology’s counterpart, having as its goal “self-fulfillment,” i.e., realizing one’s self-potential, which leads to self-deification. Neither is scientific; both are religious aspirations.

Psychotherapy, like Buddhism, is atheistic, and most of its practitioners are atheists as well. The rejection of God leaves the counselors with only one option in order to fix their clients’ numerous problems of living: self itself. The secular counselor’s fundamental belief is that self is innately good and therefore contains what is needed to resolve the issues that trouble mankind. Is self inherently good? If it’s not, then self can’t fix itself. As the saying goes, a leopard can’t change its spots. Likewise, if evil is within the makeup of self, it cannot deliver itself from it.

The Word of God, on the other hand, reveals the true nature of man: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah:17:9-10). “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew:15:19). 

Only God knows the heart. Moreover, as our Creator, He alone can change a person’s heart. That change can come about only through an individual’s new birth, i.e., being born again (John:3:3-12). “Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)...” (Ephesians:2:5).

The belief that psychotherapy can remedy the behavioral problems of mankind is a terrible delusion. In practice it is utterly destructive. Why? Because the problems are all related to sin! Clinical psychologists can’t go there, even if some may acknowledge sin’s relevance. Besides the fact that they are helpless to do anything about sin, psychologists’ counseling licenses frequently prohibit them from adding the recognition of that trait to their practice. So they are stuck with the impossibility of trying to make self the solution for their clients.

What then of “Christian psychologists”? Anyone who take that title and practices with that mindset is actually steeped in and is a purveyor of utter contradictions. The so-called wisdom of man cannot be reconciled with God’s Word. “The flesh profiteth nothing” (John:6:63). Introducing psychotherapeutic concepts from the perverted minds of men (if in doubt, read their biographies!) such as Freud, Jung, Rogers, Maslow, and the like, is akin to adding cyanide to a pure drinking well. That’s what “Christian” psychology is. It has nothing to offer other than the corruption of biblical truth mixed with the false theories of the “professionals.” Furthermore, to add the designation “Christian” to psychology borders on blasphemy; it is a blatant distortion of what the God of the Bible has declared, and especially the sufficiency of Scripture: “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” (2 Peter:1:3).

Of all the leaven that Christian psychologists have induced Christians to accept, the most spiritually destructive, I believe, is the core teaching of psychology: self. During the 1970s and ’80s, numerous books written by Christian psychological counselors flooded the church. Influential evangelical preachers quickly echoed their teachings, many believing that the “doctors” of psychology were speaking from science. Although they may not have known that psychotherapy comprises completely subjective theories that have nothing to do with science, they nevertheless failed to be Bereans by not comparing the teachings of the “professionals” with Scripture. 

What has ensued are new doctrines in Christendom that are being fulfilled in our day as the prophecy of 2 Timothy:3:1-2 indicates. What are these new and well accepted doctrines? Self-love, self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, self-acceptance, etc., etc. Two of the leading advocates of the self-heresies in the ’70s and ’80s were Dr. James Dobson and Robert Schuller. Schuller wrote Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, which was sent out gratis to 250,000 pastors throughout the US. In that book, he declared, “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem” (p.14). He further clarified his blasphemous example of self-esteem in Living Positively One Day at a Time: “Jesus knew his worth; his success fed his self-esteem.... He suffered the cross to sanctify his self-esteem. And he bore the cross to sanctify your self-esteem” (p. 201). Dr. Dobson, holding true to the cornerstone of his degree in psychology, sees self as the solution to humanity’s behavioral problems: “If I could write a prescription for the women of the world, it would provide each one of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and personal worth (taken three times a day until the symptoms disappear). I have no doubt that this is their greatest need” (What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women, p. 35). Those views of self are diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches, and, tragically, they are widely accepted today throughout Christendom.

Of late, the tragedy has been compounded. Heartbreaking events have taken place, which have persuaded those who have been deeply affected by the incidents to turn to the mental health community for solutions. The incidents I’m referring to are suicides. I have no personal experience with anyone close to me committing suicide. I do, however, have a great deal of experience regarding the functioning of mental health practitioners. My father was a psychiatrist and the head of a mental hospital. A number of my relatives held various positions in psychiatric institutions. I grew up in the mental health community. I need to mention my experience in this because it has given me a great deal of compassion for those suffering from mental disorders, which includes not only people in general—but the practitioners themselves. Concerning the latter, psychiatrists have six times the number of suicides compared with the general populace. The proverb, “Physician, heal thyself” comes to mind, but the practitioners can neither heal themselves nor others. Psychotherapeutic “self” concepts exacerbate the mental problems of the counselees rather than solving them.

I’m thankful for the words of comfort from Greg Laurie for the grieving family and friends of his counseling pastor Jarrid Wilson, the young man who recently committed suicide. Laurie noted that it’s not the last thing Jarrid did before he died that determined his salvation but what Jesus did. That’s the assurance that I’m sure ministered to Jarrid’s wife, Juli, and their two young children. It’s the biblical assurance that we all have if we have believed on our Lord and only Savior who paid the full penalty for everyone’s sin—past, present, and future.

Why, then, would I call what took place a tragedy, and how is it compounded? Suicide is a tragic act. It’s not necessarily tragic for the one who takes his own life but for the sorrow and heartbreak it causes those loved ones left behind. Whatever drives one to it neither excuses nor lessens the emotional pain it causes others. It’s compounded by those who endorse the psychological way as the solution or supplementary help for healing mental and emotional problems of living. That has been the response by Rick and Kay Warren following the heartbreaking suicide of their son in 2013. Jarrid Wilson, as a counseling pastor of Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship, was a strong advocate of seeking help for depression from mental health professionals. What has compounded the tragedy of the deaths of the two young men is that two of the most influential pastors in America have wittingly or possibly unwittingly encouraged Christians to seek mental help where only the delusion of help exists.

How can I responsibly say that? Not only do I know about the so-called solutions that the professionals offer, but I also know that their “solutions” are diametrically opposed to what the Word of God teaches. If our Creator, who alone knows the hearts and minds of His created beings, has left the solution for mankind’s problems of living to fallen humanity’s “wisdom,” then there is no hope for anyone. 

As believers, we not only have hope, but we’ve been given instructions as well: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings [instructions] of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew:7:24-25). “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?” (Romans:11:34

Furthermore, God has also supplied the ability to carry out His instructions by His Holy Spirit: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans:15:13).

Regrettably, an all-too-common response is, “Well, I tried going by the Bible, but it didn’t work for me.” If that’s the case for all, then God has deceived us. We can’t really purge out the leaven that is contrary to what the Bible teaches. Moreover, the Word of God must not be truly sufficient, as it claims to be (Acts:20:20, 27; 2 Corinthians:9:8; 2 Timothy:3:16-17; James:1:2-4; 2 Peter:1:2-4). If its instructions are not really viable—do we turn elsewhere? 

Wilson’s decision to take his own life was not prevented by the psychological counseling he sought and that others are now recommending. It is indeed tragic that Warren, Laurie, and many other shepherds are feeding and/or condoning a mixture of the Bible and psychology that will spiritually malnourish them at best and will ultimately undermine their trust in Scripture at worst. This is in direct disobedience to our Lord’s command to Peter regarding feeding His lambs, His sheep (John:21:15-17). That food is the only true nourishment. It is provided to us from “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew:4:4). Those who have been called to be shepherds by the Lord are accountable to protect God’s flock from the dangers of man-derived, man-centered psychological theories and other self-oriented therapies that comprise the world’s failed attempts at alleviating mental and emotional problems. They are also to exhort those in their fellowship to minister to one another according to Galatians:6:1-2. Verse 2 says “Bear ye one another’s burdens….” “Ye” is plural, indicating that ministry to one another is a function of the entire body by means of God’s Word and enabled by His Holy Spirit. It is not for a designated individual.

Jarrid Wilson’s suicide should be a wakeup call for the church. We need to abide by “the faith once delivered to the saints,” whereby believers have found an even closer, more powerful walk with the Lord as they turn to Him, trusting Him through the painful circumstances and emotions that occur in life. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John:14:6). How can looking elsewhere benefit a believer’s life in Christ? “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections [emotions] and lusts [desires]” (Galatians:5:24). “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians:4:7). “[W]e have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians:2:16). “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Colossians:2:6-7). 

Are what those verses offer attainable? Aren’t believers new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians:5:17)? How about “Casting down imaginations” and “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (italics added)? That constitutes the only true mental health. If they are beyond the reach of any believers, then biblical Christianity is a fraud, and we have no hope.

On the contrary, I believe that what is written in God’s Word comes with a guarantee: If we will do things God’s way, although struggles with our flesh will likely ensue, conditions nevertheless will work out to His glory and our blessing, even though in different ways than we might have imagined. Doing things the world’s way guarantees failure. Furthermore, the tragedy is compounded as others who desire to follow Jesus may also be deceived.