Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. —John:6:67, 68
Have you ever been convicted by Peter’s response to his Lord and Savior? I have. There are times when I catch myself not going to Jesus. It’s not that I intentionally want to “go away” from the Lord; it’s just that He’s not always my first choice in everyday situations. So when verse 68 comes to mind, especially after having turned elsewhere and reaped less than gratifying results, another thought pops into my head: I must be stupid!
Why didn’t I turn to the One who has the “words of eternal life”? He is, after all, the God of all creation, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Alpha and the Omega, perfect in all His attributes, which includes omniscience. By comparison, the best input I can get from the world is the equivalent of being handed a paddle while going over Niagara Falls.
Some would argue that going to God in certain circumstances is fine, but you wouldn’t go to Him to learn how to fix your plumbing or rebuild the carburetor on your truck. While there were times when I turned to Jesus for help in (literally) bailing me out of an “I’ll-do-it-myself” plumbing solution, I recognize that His Word is not a manual for home repair, auto mechanics, open-heart surgery, and so forth. Even in those endeavors, however, it is a very good idea to seek the Lord for His grace and mercy.
While not instructing mankind in everything, the Bible is the only true, objective source of information for knowing God and living one’s life in the way He requires. Not only does it touch upon all aspects of how we live; it certainly bears upon everything having eternal value. The Apostle Peter tells us that “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,…his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (2 Pt 1:2, 3). That would seem to cover everything worth being concerned about. Again, Peter exclaimed, “You [Lord] have the words of eternal life.” His “words” are found in the Holy Scriptures. So, if we call ourselves Bible-believing Christians, shouldn’t we, then, be those who continually go to the Bible for “all things that pertain unto life and godliness”?
Sadly, that is not the case for most evangelicals. Mirroring the world around them, they seem to have an appetite for psychological counsel. A major reason for this attraction is that, along with the masses, they have the erroneous idea that the substance of clinical counseling is the stuff of science. Certainly the fact that the purveyors of this so-called medically related, scientific wisdom have advanced degrees and are professionals would cause one to think so. However, psychotherapy is not and cannot be a scientific endeavor. The most obvious reason for this is that its subject is human behavior, a study which defies scientific certainty.
True science can only concern itself with the physical side of man—those things governed by physical laws, e.g., physics and chemistry. The nonphysical (man’s mind) is out of bounds to those in lab coats, for mankind’s will and emotion mock the scientific method. Psychotherapy nevertheless maintains its clinical façade because of its pseudo-medical terminology. For example, one might think that a person’s problematic “mental health” indicates that he is “mentally ill,” and therefore he ought to see a doctor and possibly be committed to a “mental hospital.” However, a mind (or anything mental), being nonphysical, cannot be ill; neither can it be examined by a doctor in a hospital for “mental patients.” These terms sound scientific and have influenced multitudes to think of psychotherapy in terms of medical science, but in reality they’re nonsensical.
If psychotherapy isn’t truly the scientific pursuit of humanity’s mental, emotional and behavioral wellbeing, what is it? It’s talk. Rhetoric. Conversation! Research psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, in his book The Myth of Psychotherapy: Mental Healing as Religion, Rhetoric, and Repression, burns off clinical psychology’s scientific mist: “In plain language, what do patient and psychotherapist actually do? They speak and listen to each other. What do they speak about? Narrowly put, the patient speaks about himself, and the therapist speaks about the patient....Each tries to move the other to see or do things in a certain way.” This, then, is neither brain surgery nor any other form of medical intervention; nor is it rocket science. In other words, a Ph.D. or M.D.is not a necessary requirement to handle the medium of “talk.” Yet wouldn’t advanced degrees make one more effective in the psychotherapeutic conversation process? No. The many research studies comparing the effectiveness of professional therapists versus nonprofessionals have given equivalent results. In other words, nonprofessionals do as well as professionals.
If the medium of psychotherapy—talking and listening—doesn’t depend upon advanced classes in conversation in order to be effective, what does one study to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology? Theories about human behavior, mostly: What Sigmund Freud gleaned from Greek dramas, his speculations about infantile sex, psychic determinism, and the unconscious; Carl Jung’s beliefs about archetypal images, the occult and the collective unconscious; Alfred Adler’s “masculine protest” and “inferiority complex” concepts; Abraham Maslow’s humanistic psychology, “hierarchy of needs” theory and New Age obscenities; B. F. Skinner’s stimulus-response behavioral dogmas; Erich Fromm’s godless view of love; Arthur Janov’s primal scream; Carl Rogers’ client-centered therapy, Fritz Perls’ Gestalt, and a legion of other speculative ideas.
What then of these theories? Have they, over the years, formed an historic body of knowledge from which developed true and helpful insights regarding mankind’s nature and remedies for the problems of life? To the contrary, the field of psychotherapy is its own lunatic asylum! If you think that’s a little harsh, check out the lives of any of those mentioned above. Freud was a cocaine addict who lusted for his own mother. Jung was suicidal and communed with a demon. Rogers abandoned his cancer-stricken, dying wife for another woman, but relieved his guilt by contacting her through a ouija board after her death. And the list goes on. (“Physician, heal thyself” comes to mind.) In addition, there are more than 450 different (often contradictory and utterly bizarre) psychotherapeutic systems and thousands of methods and techniques.
Karl Popper, regarded as the preeminent scholar in the area of philosophy of science, concluded, after a lengthy study of psychotherapy, that its theories, “though posing as sciences, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with science,” and that “these theories describe some facts but in the manner of myths. They contain most interesting psychological suggestions, but not in testable form.”1 Eighty leading educators, writing in Psychology: A Study of a Science, edited by Sigmund Koch, concurred: “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 science.”2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, prolific authors and critics of psychotherapy, summarize the scene today: “The entire field is amassed in confusion and crowded with pseudo-knowledge and pseudo-theories resulting in pseudoscience.”3
The information critical of psychotherapy is hardly hidden from public view. Neither is it the work of conspiracy groups or wild-eyed fundamentalists. The only mystery is why so few are paying attention, especially those who claim to be Bible-believing Christians—and pastors. Moreover, in psychotherapy the values, favored theories, and beliefs of the therapist rule. The client must conform to what the therapist presents for the process to be effective, and a willing client is normally quite receptive to whatever is presented. So whether or not the client’s problem is resolved, he has been influenced, even co-opted, by the value system of the therapist.
Many evangelical pastors are either intimidated by, or infatuated with, psychotherapy. Somehow these shepherds have been convinced that their lack of education and training in the therapeutic process has rendered them incapable of effectively addressing the mental, emotional, and behavioral problems of their flock. So what do they do? Most become referral services for their local psychotherapeutic community, “Christian psychologists” or otherwise, and others go back to school and add a psychology credential to their theology degree. They may preach and teach the Word on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, but, to their shame, they have unintentionally or intentionally communicated to their congregations that the Bible is inadequate when it comes to problems regarding how we live and relate to others. But surely they wouldn’t refer a person to a psychotherapist for something so mundane as not getting along with a spouse or another family member, or not feeling good about himself, or being depressed, or problems of lust or greed or bitterness or self-control—or would they? Yes, that’s mostly what psychotherapists deal with, and the church provides their clients!
Any problem that can’t be “cured” through talk is out of psychotherapy’s league. Evangelical pastors, who are usually good talkers, and better yet, talkers of “good,” seem to have missed this. But what they also miss, which should be more obvious to them, and critically so, is the heart and soul of psychotherapy: self.
Secular counseling begins and ends with self; professional “Christian” counseling begins and ends with Christianity interpreted through “self” theories. The result of both is antithetical to what the Bible teaches. There is not a verse from Genesis to Revelation which gives one hint of support for the “self” concepts of psychology—even the Christianized versions which have flooded the religious marketplace throughout the last few decades. Self is the problem, and there is no manmade cure, talking or otherwise. Throughout its pages, the Word of God is both implicit and explicit on the subject. Matthew:16:24 issues the mandate: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,” and 2 Timothy:3:1, 2 warns that generation which makes self both its redemption and redeemer: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves....” Thanks to the overwhelming influence of psychology, and Christendom’s complicity, we are in those “perilous times.”
Someone once observed, regarding the capitulation to psychotherapy, that “the church has sold its birthright for a pot of beans.” Yes and no. There is definitely a sell-out involved; but beans are nutritious, whereas psychotherapy is toxic to its core. Its modern beginnings with Freud were based on deceit, as historians have well documented. His professional progeny have simply added and subtracted ingredients to his stew of delusion. Nevertheless, Christian psychotherapists assure us that there are healthy benefits involved because “all truth is God’s truth,” and some of the luminaries of psychology mentioned above have contributed such morsels of truth. What exactly those extrabiblical truths are, we’ve yet to be told. However, even if these so-called “truths” were real, they would have to be served up in the poisonous broth of psychotherapy.
Twice in Proverbs we are told, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov:14:12; 16:25) God obviously wanted that repeated for us, perhaps especially for this humanistically oriented generation which majors on what seems and feels right. But the critical issue is that “man” has become the judge of what is right, and the consequence is death, i.e., separation from God. This is the lie which the serpent fed Eve—that she herself could, like God, be the arbiter of what was good and what was evil. Just as God said it would, death resulted from the choice Adam and Eve made. We have a similar choice today: God’s Word and His way, or the way that seems right to a man.
If we truly know and love the Lord, there is no other way for us. Not only is God’s Word sufficient for all things that pertain to life and godliness, but He has also sealed every born-again believer with His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to enable us to live our lives in a way which is fruitful and pleasing to Him. Furthermore, all believers are called and equipped to minister to one another. The Epistle to the Galatians (6:2) tells us that we are to bear one another’s burdens, and 2 Timothy:3:17 declares that Scripture thoroughly prepares us for every good work. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John:8:31, 32). Later, in a prayer for us, Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John:17:17). So where else are we going to go? He alone has the words of truth and eternal life. TBC