Psychology and the Bible
Until I had declared a dual psychology
major, I had never noticed how resistant and hostile some
Christians are to psychology. I therefore undertook this
article to help alleviate some unfounded fears about the
science of psychology.
Please contact me with any of your questions regarding psychology and its relationship to Christianity, and visa versa. I would love to add your concern to this page.
Table Of Contents
is the Science of Psychology?
What is the Bible?
What is Pop Psychology?
The Limits of Psychology
The Complaints Levied Against Psychology
1. "Freud wasn't a godly man."
2. "This isn't the approach Jesus took."
3. "Jesus met everyone's needs."
4. "Psychology says we're products of our environment."
5. "Psychology says we're not responsible for our actions."
6. "Psychology enables people to adopt a victim mentality...."
7. "Psychology says self-esteem is more important than ____."
8. "Psychology denies soul and spirit."
9. "All truth isn't God's truth."
10. "Psychology alleviates suffering in a way that excludes Jesus...."
11. "Paul warned people will become lovers of themselves."
12. "Psychology teaches venting your feelings, but the Bible disagrees."
13. "Psychology deals with past problems, but the Bible says this is unprofitable."
14. "Anti-depressants don't help anyone."
15. "Psychology comes from a secular world view, so it's bad."
16. "Psychology deals with recovered memories, therefore it's bad."
17. "Psychiatric drugs have horrible side effects."
18. "There are too many different psychotherapies."
19. "Time limits, lack of an intimate relationship, and a fixed price are issues...."
20. "Psychology claims the Bible is insufficient."
21. "Psychology teaches us that there is no hope for mankind."
22. "Freud committed suicide."
23. "The problem is sin, not mental illness."
24: "The MBTI is based on astrology / Carl Jung was an occultist"
25: "The Four Temperaments are based in the occult."
26: "The Twelve Steps and codependency theory are heresy."
27: "Why look elsewhere if Jesus is the answer?"
28: "Codependency is a vague term."
29: "Compulsion is a Freudian invention."
30: "The term enabler unjustly labels someone who isn't a sinner [cf alcoholism]."
31: "Psychotherapy is a professionalized conversation containing the opinions of men...."
32: "Counseling is preaching."
33: "The craze to learn ... Bible verses related to certain issues of life is paralytically intimidating...."
34: "Anyone who can lead someone to salvation and/or sanctification is competent to be used by God...."
35: "Only God heals, so I am going to keep praying."
36: "Structure is bad, and ungodly."
37: "Counseling makes people focus on themselves and their problems."
38: "Counseling gives the client center stage in his own drama...."
39: "Counseling presupposes the counselor is some kind of expert."
40: "Counseling is trusting some 'expert' rather than trusting God."
41: "What did the church do without the biblical counseling movement?"
42: "The only way God teaches anyone something is through suffering."
43: "Psychologists deny suffering, or fix suffering before someone learns...."
44: "Counseling has replaced preaching in importance."
45: "Christian psychology validates the Bible through psychology."
46: "Hypnotism is of the devil."
47: "Psychotherapy and counseling produce victims."
the following characteristics:
1. Scientific mindset: empirical evidence is used as the basis of psychology. Skepticism is the reigning mentality: prove everything, or question everything. All potential sources of bias are sought to be eliminated through both the peer review system and repetition of experiments until enough empirical data is compiled to form a theory or law. Logic, not faith, is the currency.
2. Systematic observations and experiments. All possible sources of outside data that would confound or even invalidate studies are sought to be eliminated through many control methods such as placebo groups, randomized assignment of participants, double blind studies, etc.
3. The knowledge system of science: no observation can disagree with a different science like medicine or natural / physical sciences. It works in harmony with other objective sciences.
4. Though psychology is a science in that it utilizes the scientific method and as many other scientific models as possible, it has a few slight limitations. First, because human beings aren't "black and white", "yes or no", "zero or one", it cannot produce "hard" scientific laws. Humans are very diverse and variable: we are all unique. Psychology can come to the level of "strongly suggest", but because there may always be one out of a billion people who are not altered or affected the same as all other people, no "laws" exist. This does not mean that psychology is not valid: science builds other theories and hypothesis on the theory of gravity. It simply means that you cannot expect psychology to come out with "laws". Very often, psychology is descriptive, not prescriptive.
norepinephrine jumps over synapses in your brain, but it can tell you where the beginning of wisdom is (the fear of the Lord).
Pop Psychology is the non-scientific fringes
of psychology. Pop psychologists often sell books and
appear on talk shows (Oprah, Maury, etc) on television.
Basically, pop psychology is wrong. They often deny the
value of guilt, reframe everything to be positive, etc.
Such beliefs are very dangerous: guilt
is a good emotion.
First, all the counseling in the world, Biblical or psychological, cannot force someone to change. Until the person is willing and ready to change, change will not happen. We see this in human experience and in spiritual growth (or lack thereof) of believers.
Second, man cannot reform himself in God's eyes. Purely secular counseling can do many good things, such as reduce bad thoughts and suffering in clients, but it cannot completely cure them. Only Jesus can change hearts and minds.
Third, there is no curing the flesh, not in this lifetime. Though it is completely possible to, upon salvation, become completely sinless, the sin nature hasn't left. Complete curing is possible through Jesus, but it is not probable due to our flesh.
I think a lot of the complaints levied against Psychology are from Christians who don't understand when psychology is useful. Counseling and therapy merely want to help people. Counselors and therapists take the same hyppocratic oath as medical workers.
To say "Christian Psychology" is to say that you're a Christian and a licensed Psychologist. To say "Christian Therapist" you often mean a Christian with a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) type master's degree in psychology. To say "Lay Counselor" you often mean a Christian with a bible degree in some sort of counseling ministry.
Christian Psychologists and Christian Therapists work in the secular (state-licensed) world, wear the psychology hat, and as part of their job, attempt to remain neutral and objective. Psychologists and therapists can address spirituality if the client brings it up, but their goal is to help the person, not proselyte. Most Christians in these jobs work at a secular workplace, or in private practice, but increasingly they also blend the two disciplines, making them an Integrationalist. There are different types of integrationalists, ranging from those who see no problem with anything in psychology (the more liberal, usually) and those who are more conservative, only using research-verified psychological interventions that align with and agree with scripture. I am the latter.
Because of the problems caused by some (not all) faulty lay counseling models, this is actually a growing concern and market, because non-Christian psychologists are running into problems with the expectations of clients who had a (possibly) bad experience in lay counseling. I am not saying that all lay counseling becomes Christian Psychology, but I am saying that there is definitely a place for this. The trust a Christian has for another Christian who believes the Bible is #1, like they do, takes down barriers and walls between the client and receiving valid help.
Lay Counseling is often a purely Bible-centered approach. Lay counseling is a very good ministry, as there are plenty of Christians who have had a bad experience with a psychologist. Also, some people either cannot afford or refuse to see a psychologist. I believe that, for Christians, lay counseling should be their first step if discipleship, the Bible, Jesus, and prayer aren't resulting in resolution. In America, it's very common for lay counselors and Christian Psychologists to work together, with lay counselors referring to Christian Psychologists for presenting problems that are beyond their skill set, and Christian Psychologists referring people to lay counselors when the clinical counseling ends (due to problems being fixed, the severity of problems being reduced, exhausting one's medical insurance's quota on psychologist visits, etc).
So when I say "counselor", this applies to all three professions.
What's the difference between a Psychology degree in Christian Counseling and a Biblical Counseling degree? At Liberty University, the difference between a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Christian Counseling Cognate and a Bachelor of Science in Religion, Christian Counseling Cognate is the background work, as both of these require the same Christian Counseling Cognate. It's just approach, not truth. Please read the links and see what I am talking about: both degrees require CCOU (Christian Counseling) 201, 202, 301, 302, 304, and 305, with 303 optional last I checked. Keep in mind that the BS in Christian Counseling (Psychology) program is licensed by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This is a testament (at Liberty University) of how it is possible to incorporate both the Bible and psychology into a very useful and valid degree program. Coincidentally, Liberty University's Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling is also CACREP accredited: I could graduate from a Christian University and go work in the secular world.
1. "Freud wasn't a godly man." Those who offer this suggest that Freud was the founder of psychology, and if so, all of psychology is bad. First, this is ad hominem: it's an attack on the person and not the ideas. Second, very few, if any, therapeutic interventions are founded exclusively in Freud. Third, Freud is not the founder of psychology: Wilhelm Wundt is.
2. "This isn't the approach Jesus took." Many say this about having psychiatrists on staff at churches. Dr Tim Clinton disagrees: "Jesus met people at their point of need, as should we." Jesus regularly counseled people, and in fact His ministry serves as a model of counseling done perfectly.
3. "Jesus met everyone's needs." First, this is not entirely correct, because there are recordings of Jesus leaving the crowds to be alone with God, and for questioning their desire to be with Him only so they can get another free meal. Also, if I may play devil's advocate: did everyone Jesus healed stay healed? Jesus warned the paralytic at pool of Bethesda (John 5) not to sin or something bad would happen to him: do we know what the rest of this man's life story was? The problem with this logic isn't whether it's true or not. It's that it puts people into a bad situation. For example a friend of mine has bipolar disorder, a chemical imbalance. Counselors and pastors who practice the exclusively nouthetic approach will claim Jesus is all he needs and have him stop taking his medicine. (Thankfully, at least the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors is learning not to behave this way.) But without medicine, my friend would experience many negative life events caused by the unmanageability of bipolar disorder. He has suffered many internal and spiritual conflicts as a result of ill-informed nouthetics. How is he to respond when he gets off medicine and only gets worse, no matter how much he prays, reads his Bible, etc? The nouthetics would claim (ironically, like the overly-charismatic) that he isn't healed because he doesn't have enough faith. Can you see how that could possibly even drive this person to suicide because apparently not even Jesus can fix him?
The other problem with this mentality is that it presumes upon the will of God. God may be desiring to heal or cure within the context of congregational relationships. The church is the ideal place to experience healing in relationship. Also, I've heard stories of people who, upon praying at one church but not receiving their healing, trying a different church the next Sunday. I've read tales of men who, trying to overcome pornography, were baptized at no fewer than four churches. Telling them Jesus will immediately make everything in their life better is presuming upon God, and ultimately a false prophesy. Jesus is all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but often God leaves things in our lives unhealed, or gives us thorns in the flesh (Romans 7) because He wants us to embark on a spiritual journey with Him towards wholeness that an instant cure will deprive them of.
In regards to addicts, the 12 step programs are right at this point: maybe the addict is not getting better because there is some defect of character within them that is blocking the cure. Again, addicts need a relationship with Jesus, discipleship, accountability, and spiritual growth in the context of a loving church.
4. "Psychology says we're products of our environment." False. Psychology teaches that a balance between nature and nurture determines our current state. If psychology said people cannot change, and there was no hope (for we are no better than our environment), why would psychologists even bother counseling people?
5. "Psychology says we're not responsible for our actions." Again, incorrect, as outlined in #4. Psychology might try to explain what contributed to our actions, but it also researches what can be done to improve our actions. Situations might bring this about, but the same research also highlights that we have a choice. Even addictions counselor training teaches the "addiction is disease" model for its historical usefulness, but since the 90s this model has fallen out of favor, replaced by the biopsychosocial model.
Even if the disease model of addictions exists, that does not excuse behavior. Bad choices cause diseases such as including "obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer." Plenty of people deny their own involvement in developing heart disease caused by their own obesity on their genes and lack of time, hatred for the gym, etc. I've met obese pastors who still make food and fitness jokes from the pulpit to justify their lack of action: don't think denial is only something the lost engage in. All human beings love to deny their sins (cf Jeremiah 2:23, 25, 34-35; 6:14, 16-17; 8:8, 9:4-6). See also Substance Abuse Treatment and the Stages of Change (2nd ed.) by Connors, Clemente, Velasquez, and Donovan, "Many substance abusers stay in precontemplation (no intent to change, etc) by doing something to keep themselves there. They minimalize risks, rationalize dangers and consequences, and/or resign themselves to their addiction" (parenthesis added). Basically, drug users keep making a choice to stay in the destructive behavior cycle. Additionally, the first and possibly some subsequent choices to use the addictive substance or engage in the addictive behavior were intentional.
6. "Psychology supports the victim mentality." Again, not true. "Blaming others for one's misfortune is associated with impairments in emotional well-being and physical health." In fact, it is thought that a lack of guilt is a sign of borderline personality disorder. Psychology has often recommended that people be held accountable for, and take responsibility for, their actions. Responsibility and accountability are wholesome, not harmful. The difference here is that both extremes, blaming others for everything and blaming themselves for everything, are both unrealistic and unhealthy when attached to a scenario that is clearly neither of these things. For example, consider a scenario in which a client did not word an email or letter correctly, resulting in an angry response from the recipient. The client should see that their mistake contributed in part to their response. However, the client should not blame only themselves for the way the recipient lost their temper, either. A client who completely blames themselves or completely blames the recipient is not thinking properly, because this scenario is an example of a situation in which both sides share in the blame.
7. "Psychology says self-esteem is more important than ____." Psychology might explain why self-esteem is important, but I don't recall it ever saying that self-esteem is the most important thing. There is a study that states that self-esteem based on external sources can lead to problems. The Christian view of self-esteem (based around God's love for us) differs from the psychology theories on the subject. But there are examples of many otherwise healthy and successful people who don't have good self-esteem. The psychologist will often recommend and advocate for self-esteem (and/or Maslow's hierarchy of needs). This is more because (see above) a healthy client sees the world and his/herself properly. Having a realistic view of the self is healthy: one should not think they are stupid when they are smart, nor think they are the best singer in the universe if they cannot hold a tune in a bucket. Right now, the self-esteem concept is being studied, so I do not yet have better information. However, keep in mind that addictions psychology keeps referring people to 12 step programs even though these fly in the face of psychological principles of self-efficacy. Psychology would prefer people to think of themselves as capable in fighting addiction, while the 12 step programs teach the opposite.
8. "Psychology denies soul and spirit." This is not entirely true, because it has often been speculated that there is a non-corporeal part of the human. Psychology's Greek word is psyche, or soul. But it's true: officially, psychological science denies what it cannot measure and test. However, I regularly teach resiliency skills, which are based on what is called positive psychology (still a science, and not to be confused with Olsteen or Oprah). One of the lessons I teach for the military is entitled Spiritual Resilience. Even the American Psychological Association has recommended bringing religion into counseling because it can help build bridges towards healing. To say psychology claims we don't have souls is not entirely true. But don't expect science to come out with theology on souls.
9. "All truth isn't God's truth." I disagree: I believe God is the father of all truth and wisdom. I view psychology and all sciences as only discovering what God did and how He made us and our world. Keep in mind, many theologians, like John Calvin, Gutierrez and many others, agree with me. One must be certain that what is being presented as truth is actually truth, however. Psychology doesn't deal in laws, but strong suggestions and possibilities, so one must be careful about this. As with all media and works of science one comes in contact with, always think critically. Don't believe anything unless it's peer-reviewed and verified, and learn to become a good reader of research.
10. "Psychology relieves suffering in a way that excludes Jesus, therefore it is bad." Didn't Jesus say that whoever isn't against us is for us? (Luke 9:50) If relieving suffering without Jesus is wrong, then logically medicine and drugs (even Tylenol) are also bad. If we are doing God's work when we heal someone physically (like medical missionaries), why aren't we doing God's work when we heal people mentally? Aren't even charitable deeds like feeding the hungry and helping the poor also God's work? Did not Florence Nightingale serve God in nursing? Per Phillip Williams, “...brokenness is often a place where people begin to ask the most important questions in life from a theological standpoint….” (Liberty University, 2013).
11. "Paul warned people will become lovers of themselves." (2 Timothy 3:2) True, but this accusation is way out of context. Psychology does teach that we should learn to "love ourselves." The Bible says "...husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." (Ephesians 5:28, HCSB). Jesus said that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:39). If God wants everyone to love their neighbor like they love themselves, and wants husbands to love their wives like they love themselves, but it's bad to be a lover of yourself, does this mean then (logically) the Bible has a contradiction or a falsehood? I don't think there's a contradiction: I think those quoting 2 Timothy 3:2 are doing so out of context because they are looking for absolutely anything negative they can say about psychology. The context of 2 Timothy 3:2 is that mankind will become increasingly sinful. I think the context of Ephesians 5:28 is how men should love their wives like themselves. Obviously, this means to love our wives with all our hearts. The context of Matthew 22:39 is a summary of moral law.
12. "Psychology teaches venting feelings, but the Bible disagrees." Yes, psychology does sort of teach venting; however, never to the harm of others. The Bible sort of does, too. "Be angry and do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger." (Ephesians 4:26, HCSB). From what I have read, psychology teaches people to find productive ways to use their feelings. And the Bible says the same: don't take anger to bed.
13. "Psychology deals with past problems, but the Bible says this is unprofitable." Those that say this usually quote Philippians 4:8, but that verse doesn't say "the past". Paul remembered Timothy's tears in 2 Timothy 1:4: did Paul just break the very commandment he recorded? I don't see a definitive verse that claims that remembering the past is bad in and of itself. Indeed, often looking back on the bad things we did (in order to learn from them, not to condemn ourselves), the good we did, and the trauma that was inflicted upon us (cf several books on sexual addiction by Dr. Carnes and Dr. Laaser) can be helpful.
14. "Anti-depressants don't help anyone." Actually, in this study on treatment-resistant depression, the figure stated is 10-30% "of them do not improve or show a partial response...." This means 70-90% of people with depression show positive response to anti-depressants. God can heal more effectively and more fully than psychology alone. But one cannot say anti-depressants are completely ineffective: it's a lie. Indeed, it would be sinful, if presented with a client with a chemical imbalance, not to prescribe treatment.
15. "Psychology has a secular world view, so it's bad." This is not logical. Many of the observations and experiments of psychology are objective, and as such, the viewpoint of the person making the observation is irrelevant. Besides which, all truth is God's truth. It's their findings, not their personal views, that make psychology good or bad. Is the Haynes manual that tells me how to fix my car bad because it has a secular world view?
16. "Psychology deals with recovered memories." This is a controversial subject, and I get it. There have been past instances of psychologists accidentally "planting" memories in people. However, this has mostly been fixed with further research into the field. Psychology isn't perfect: it's made mistakes in the past. One of the ways the scientific method helps is it learns from its mistakes and tries to remedy them. But it's illogical to say that one mistake makes a whole field of study invalid. Indeed, one could easily point fingers back at Christianity (the Healer Controversy, televangelists, etc): do we abandon Christianity for the failings of Christians? Of course not.
17. "Psychiatric drugs have horrible side effects." Well based on a 2012 study, the top ten prescribed psychiatric drugs at this time were Diazepam, Venlafaxine, Quetiapine, Duloxetine, Trazodone, Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Lorazepam, Escitalopram, and Alprazolam. Of all of these, serious side effects are rare. However, keep in mind that there is a paradoxical problem with anti-depressants among those who are depressed. Depressed people are more likely to commit suicide. Anti-depressants are intended to fix depression and thereby reduce their rate of suicide. However, all anti-depressants must contain a suicide warning on them due to the risk of a rebound into depression that may follow if the patient stops taking the medicine. Currently, Venlafaxine's suicide rate is debated because more recent studies that controlled for suicide risk factors in the patient's life made the suicide risk appear statistically insignificant. With Duloxetine (not available in the US) it's a choice between debilitating depression and nausea.
For people like the bipolar and the depressed, often it's more dangerous not to help them than it is to give them these drugs. Indeed, I've watched bipolar people who refuse to medicate wreck their lives and their families, and I've heard of people who kept trying to kill themselves until they were given anti-depressants. I've heard of schizophrenics even raising an ax to strike their own children when not medicated. Isn't helping people not kill themselves, not destroy everything around them, doing God's work, at least in part?
I'll agree that the corollary complaint, that psychologists (really, psychiatrists) rush to medicine seems valid. But given the fact that usually it takes 12 sessions to (as) fully (as possible) remedy someone's situation, and most insurance only covers 10 sessions, I can understand why there's a rush to get the person on medicine so that sessions are as productive and effective as possible. Indeed, someone who is highly depressed, on the manic side of a bipolar manifestation, or suffering from a panic attack, isn't going to be mentally present and aware enough for a session to be effective.
18. "There are too many psychotherapies." First, there are only five categories of psychotherapy. Second, there are at least five Christian intervention models. I've read Christian authors who say there are thousands of models of therapy: to exaggerate, even in ignorance, is to lie. This statement is mainly aimed at dischordians like the Bobgans. I would strongly urge anyone who reads a Christian author's book that tells lies to throw the book away. Lies are unacceptable, especially coming from Christians. Last, the number of therapy models doesn't make psychology good or bad. It's like a tool box: you want more tools, not fewer.
19. "Time limits, lack of an intimate relationship, and a fixed price are issues in problem-centered counseling." This is not logical. First, time limits are very valid, but a therapist will go over time limit when necessary to help someone. They also answer phone calls and consider themselves "on call" day and night. Second, as for a lack of an intimate relationship, that's not a valid complaint. Your therapist can't be your friend: that's an entangling relationship. Even Dr Tim Clinton and Christians put in place healthy relationship boundaries in counseling. (Dr Tim Clinton, Caring For People God's Way, p 49, #6). It is even recommended that pastors don't become friends with those they counsel. Even Jesus had boundaries that prevented Him from being overly influenced by His own disciples, as evidenced when Jesus told Peter "Get behind me, Satan." It would take too much space here to explain, but basically, you cannot become so intimate with a client that the relationship is no longer helping them. The complaint of lack of an intimate relationship is completely invalid. Third, as for a fixed price, this is also invalid: many psychologists now have sliding price scales in an effort to help those whose financial assets are limited. Psychologists don't make a lot of money anyways, not in light of the many years of training it takes to become one. (Based on this report, becoming a counselor can take 6-8 years plus internship and cost $45,000, and a doctorate in psychology can take 10-15 years to earn and cost $95,000.)
20. "Psychology claims the Bible is insufficient." Clinical Psychology is an objective science, so religion is not something it deals with. It tries to remain neutral and not pick sides, so no, it's not going to come out with a statement that the Bible is sufficient. But this begs the question: do you refuse to see medical professionals because they also do not believe (officially) that the Bible is sufficient? Keep in mind that God is called our Healer in multiple ways and in multiple passages in the Bible: the parallel to psychology is undeniable. So your unsaved psychologist isn't going to state this. Christian psychologists, however, usually believe the Bible is sufficient: go see one of them. Still, again, like in #3, we need to carefully peel back the onion layers as to what is meant by "The Bible is sufficient." Do you mean that you should refuse surgery because the Bible is enough? Do you throw all your Tylenol in the trash because the Bible is enough?
That statement would only be logical if the Bible speaks completely and exhaustively on all subjects, which it does not. The book of Proverbs has excellent financial wisdom, but it doesn't tell you which car to buy or how much to save for retirement. Most of what lay counselors and pastors give as advice about finances isn't directly stated in the Bible. Does this mean they don't believe the Bible is enough? Again, the Bible isn't a financial handbook. It's the manual for the spiritual life. Where it touches our lives, it is accurate, but it is not exhaustive on non-spiritual topics. I love the Bible, but it does not contain, for instance, the twelve step process, though many of the steps are found in the Bible's principles. If AA helped a Christian break free from alcoholism, does that mean the Bible is insufficient? Not at all. Also, the Bible doesn't say what car to buy, but I can help someone using the principles of Proverbs and recommend that they do like Forbes suggests and not buy a new car. I can also recommend, using Proverbs, again, that they only pay cash for their vehicle (which is echoed by Forbes). Getting into a black-and-white mentality over the Bible and psychology is illogical and divisive, and there are admonitions in scripture on not being divisive for no reason. This divisive mentality makes Christians who have seen a psychologist feel like they betrayed faith. Jesus had many opportunities to make this point in the Bible, if it really was about absolutely never consulting anyone for help other than God and the Bible, but He did not.
21. "Psychology claims there is no hope for mankind." Why would psychologists and counselors dedicate their lives to help people if there is no hope? That's like saying medicine teach us there is no hope for our physical bodies. Psychology does not teach moral systems such as determinism, subjectivism, Christianity, cultural relativism, or even hedonism. The goal of psychology isn't to tell someone what to believe about morality, necessarily. The goal is to study human behavior in an effort to heal minds and explain the psyche.
22. "Freud committed suicide." There's a word missing here: "assisted." This is ad hominem spread by Christians who have an irrational hatred for psychology. And I already disproved Freud being the father of psychology. Freud is more likely to be seen in psychology as the mascot for what is wrong in psychology than the champion of all that psychology can be. Freud did not commit suicide, but was given doses of morphine sufficient to kill him. It was more of an assisted suicide late in life, an act that current medicine carries out ("secondary effects"). Even if Freud committed suicide, it doesn't matter. Vincent van Gogh committed suicide, but I still love his art.
23. "The problem is sin, not mental illness." True. But psychology doesn't get into sin. Counselors can definitely tell someone that what they did was wrong, but their goal is to eliminate the wrong actions and thoughts. As such, counselors, Christian and state-licensed alike, deal with sin and its effects daily. But while I would not, in a secular psychology job, use the word sin unless/until the client did (or expressed a Christian belief system), I can call sinful actions wrong and bad, which are synonyms. And therefore I can do the first step in witnessing: I can "get them lost." I can show them their own evil. Sometimes sin is caused by mental illness (though there is no excuse), sometimes by cognitive dissonance (wrong thoughts). But at the root of it, the problem is human nature: sin nature. Now if someone is having a hard time staying away from wrong actions (since psychology alone cannot absolve us of sin), I am encouraged to ask them to seek a faith-type group. But I cannot proselyte in a state-licensed position. However, if given consent by a Christian client, I can very much turn the therapy sessions into what will appear to be, in all respects, lay counseling. But I have more tools than the lay counselor, even if I and the lay counselor both have the #1 tool.
24: "The MBTI is based on astrology / Carl Jung was an occultist" Carl Jung was not an occultist. Often his memoirs are (intentionally) misquoted. This is nothing more than ad hominem. The MBTI, it is not based on astrology. If it were, you'd simply input your birthday (like with astrology). Instead, it is based on 100+ questions about the person, and does not ask any question about birth dates. This means that if some (probably well-meaning) person comes and claims that the MBTI is astrological, they are wrong. I am not going to mince words: the Bobgans have said things like this before, and their words are nothing more than ad hominem. They give Christianity a bad name by spreading lies, and make themselves look bad by stating many things in ignorance, things they could've steered clear from if they had given the topics even a minute of research. It has not escaped my notice that their statements are very unbecoming of anyone with a doctoral degree: ad hominem has no place in the church, in academia, or among educated people in general.
Can the MBTI be a useful self-discovery tool? Yes. Can it be used in a secular capacity to lead a person towards maturity? Yes, and even in a Christian capacity. However, it is not on equal footing with the Bible: it's merely a useful tool. The MBTI is not, strictly speaking, science.
25: "The Four Temperaments are based in the occult." No, they're not. There is no evidence. Again, the Bobgans have struck.
26: "The 12 steps (Alcoholics Anonymous) and codependency theory are heresy." First, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded by Christians. The 12 steps aren't found in the Bible, strictly speaking, but are taught in principles. Second, Martin and Deidre Bobgan over-use the word heresy until it becomes meaningless. This appears to be a guilting / shaming technique: an emotional appeal, which is ironic because the Bobgans claim that emotional appeals are the problem with psychology. The Bobgans start their books off with what appears to be a repulsion based on either their popularity, money, or success. Writings like this smell of envy and/or jealousy. The Bible doesn't directly address addiction, but it does in principles. But doing the work of helping people break free from addiction is doing the work of God, even if indirectly. Would God prefer people to stay addicted, or be healed? What is the #1 thing people use as an excuse not to receive Jesus Christ? "I need to clean up my life." Did not Jesus say that the one (doing the work of God) who is not against us is for us? Did not Jesus reprimand the Pharisees for disbelieving His methods? See the original twelve steps.
The Bobgans claim it's about money, which is laughable: Alcoholics Anonymous states that there are no membership dues or fees.
27: "Why look elsewhere if Jesus is the answer?" Because not everyone you meet is going to believe in Jesus. Do we refuse to help people who are suffering only because they're not Christians? Does a doctor refuse to treat a patient that is not a Christian? Is it not the kidness of God (Romans 2:4, HCSB) that leads us to repent? Shouldn't we be helping people? Doesn't the Bible say that we're to rescue those being led away to death? (Proverbs 24:11, HCSB). Isn't alcohol and addiction in general leading people towards destruction? Then shouldn't we help them escape it? What bothers me about this very black-and-white view of Christianity, behavior, and heresy is that it's very self-righteous. It's refusing to help people who are in suffering until the situation is perfectly aligned with your narrow view of what the Bible says. Doesn't Hebrews 13:16 tell us not to neglect to do good, because this is pleasing to God? Doesn't 1 John 3:17 say that whoever sees his brother in need yet doesn't help him doesn't reflect the love of God? Doesn't Matthew 25:35-40 say that works such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned are all righteous acts that God will reward in the final judgment? No one is forcing Christians to adopt secular psychology. Those who prefer lay counseling are doing nothing wrong: let them seek the lay counselor. But a Christian whom God has called into secular mental health counseling isn't doing anything wrong just by holding this job.
28: "Codependency is a vague term." I agree, it is, in the press, but not in the twelve step programs. I prefer addiction and addicted as my terms. I resist those who want to make such terms as codependency so broad that everyone has it. A general principle: I basically ignore anything in psychology older than 10-20 years. As a science, psychology is vastly improving, and new discoveries are being made, while hypothesis are becoming theory and becoming tested to the point where they can be relied upon. So if the psychology book or source is older than ten years, I ignore it . I also engage in critical thinking to ensure that I fully scrutinize the claims of everything I read, not just limited to psychology.
29: "Compulsion is a Freudian invention." Wasn't Romans 7 written before Freud was born? Paul had a problem with compulsion also: compulsive sin. He said "I don't understand what I am doing, because ... I do what I hate. For the desire to do ... good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For ... I practice the evil that I don't want to do. I see a different law ... waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin.... What a wretched man I am!" (Rom. 7:15-24, HCSB) This is the very definition of compulsion. So for any Christian to say compulsion is/was a Freudian invention is to tell a lie, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Martin Bobgan has a doctoral degree, but I searched the internet and could not discover his area of study. I would feel sorry for him if it was theology, for Romans 7 was easy for me to find.
30: "The term enabler unjustly labels someone who isn't a sinner [cf alcoholism]." Maybe, but psychology and the legal system do not excuse people from the consequences of their actions. In addition, the Bible says "So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn't do it" (James 4:17). Anyone who allows an alcoholic to continue to drink is sinning, either by omission or commission. But this strays into what constitutes "enabling." Basically, if you are unaware that someone is sinning, you can't be an enabler. An enabler knowingly contributes to sin.
Many Christians like to disguise this as "love" when you "cover up a sin." I cannot agree. I think we often harm people by letting them continue to sin. In addition, if the behavior is also criminal, one becomes an accomplice. Often, alcoholic Christian spouses don't get better because no one (especially not the non-alcoholic spouse) erects boundaries to protect themselves from this person's destructive habits. Is love helping someone destroy themselves? God didn't stand back and continue to watch us destroy ourselves: He sent Jesus to rescue us. But this delves into addiction, codependency, and boundaries, topics outside of this page.
31: "Psychotherapy is a professionalized conversation that contains the opinions of men and the very wisdom of men against which the Bible warns." (Against Biblical Counseling For The Bible, the Bobgans, 1994). First, no, it's not just a conversation. Guided discussion is sometimes used, but that's only one of many tools. Second, no, it's not merely the opinions of men. It's based on evidence. Maybe this was the case in Freud's time, but not today. Counselors are not anti-Biblical: there are many counselors (Shelemiah's son Zechariah, Ahithophel for king David before Ahithophel turned, etc) the Bible speaks favorably of. Also, it is said that counsel belongs to God (Job 12:13, HCSB). The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of counsel (Isaiah 11:2, HCSB). Jesus regularly counseled His disciples. The concept of counsel is not only secular. Third, let's imagine that Mother Teresa and Hitler were both brought back to life and were asked what I should do about my stubborn son. Let's imagine both of them gave me the same advice: teach him how to behave properly. Is the advice given by Hitler, though identical to that of Mother Teresa, somehow wrong only because Hitler said it? No. So when a therapist gives you advice that agrees with the Bible, should you obey it? Yes. If God was the Author of wisdom (as many verses say), then all truth is God's truth, therefore all (true) wisdom is from God. Fourth, the distinction the Bible is making when it says the "wisdom of men" is wisdom that a) disagrees with God and b) leads us away from God.
32: "Counseling is preaching." Negative. They might sometimes overlap, but they are not the same. This is a sign of the Bobgans' rabid use of Law of the Instrument, i.e. "if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The parakletos type of Christian counseling models the Holy Spirit's ministry to the believer, though doesn't duplicate it. If all you can do in counseling is preach at people, why would they listen to you for 30-60 minutes when they can simply come to church? I am not saying that preaching is what some people need, nor that this is against God's will, nor that the lost can't benefit from it. I'm saying it's naive to believe all counseling is preaching. See Dr Tim Clinton on the difference between preaching and parakletos type counseling.
33: "[The] craze to learn ... Bible verses related to certain issues of life is ... intimidating to those who desire to minister the Gospel." The authors wrote this during their tirade against lay counseling. How is it intimidating to memorize Bible verses? To even keep a list of verses that help? And does not the Bible recommend to us that we memorize it? Doesn't this sort of run contrary to the premise of the Bobgan's book? Ministering the gospel and counseling don't sound related to me. They sound like they're similar, but not the same in setting and situation. Is this how Jesus operated? I'm tempted to say it's not, in certain settings. Again, they're making the Law of the Instrument fallacy. I've met far too preachers who view everything as their job, everything as preaching, and therefore are very polarizing. Many don't seek them to get help because they view everything so black-and-white that they preach at everything and to everyone. What ever happened to comforting rather than preaching? Doesn't Isaiah 40:1 tell us to comfort God's people? Doesn't God comfort us? (2 Corinthians 1:4, HCSB). If someone is expelled because of sin and repents, aren't we to comfort them? (2 Corinthians 2:7, HCSB). Aren't we supposed to comfort the discouraged and help the weak? (1 Thessalonians 5:14, HCSB). The solution to everything isn't preaching. Ministering consists not only of preaching, but comforting and encouraging.
34: "Anyone who can lead someone to salvation and/or sanctification competent to be used by God to give wise counsel without specialized counseling training?" (ibid) If the Bobgans believe this, why did one of them get a doctoral degree? It is harmful to a client to continue to preach general principles at them without the more advanced wisdom of how to help people get unstuck. If they're not getting better when you keep explaining something one way, try another way. Try new and different Biblical approaches. And since counselors do so much more than just preach at people, time would fail me to then talk about how many other practical things we counsel people on that aren't directly stated in the Bible. Is the principle of "time out" in the Bible? It works great for children without violating Biblical principles. Didn't Nathan the prophet get King David to understand his sin using a story?
35: "Only God heals, so I am going to keep praying." That is true, but I think there are times when this becomes a spirit of laziness and/or stubbornness. For instance, I know of some people whose children have ADHD. The Bible doesn't speak on ADHD. One can resort to continuous spankings and such, sure, but that might be illegal and/or counterproductive. But there are so many other wise things that can be done so that one is not constantly resorting to spanking their child. There is evidence that suggests that a change in diet can help such a child. There is evidence that medicine can help calm that child, even if only temporarily, so that they can learn to restructure their minds. (How effective is trying to get them to stop and pay attention? It's very difficult.) Resorting to only training and spanking, the two things listed in the Bible, I think is a false logic, because, again, the Bible wasn't intended to be exhaustive on every subject. But my point is this: "put feet on your prayers." I don't pray that God keeps my car working but then neglect to perform routine checks and maintenance on it. I don't ask God to protect us from break-ins and then leave the door unlocked.
36: "Structure is bad, and ungodly." (ibid) Then pull out all your bones. Most often, I find people that hate structure usually have something to hide that they aren't proud of. Accountability is structure. The hierarchy and rules of operation of the modern church found in the Bible are structure.
37: "Counseling makes people focus on themselves and their problems." (ibid) This is not correct. Psychology has been advocating solution-focused therapy since the 90s. The first thing Isaiah (ch. 6) did when He saw God is focus on his own sin, "Woe is me for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips...." This is a very good thing to do: now he needs to get right with God. If I know someone at church had to "focus on their car" all weekend because it had broken down, and they need it to get to work, would it be logical, or even right, to accuse them of "focusing on their car"?
38: "Counseling gives the client center stage in his own drama with a ready listener." (ibid) First, how is that any different from people coming to pastors (what the author suggests is the right way to do counseling)? Second, good counselors know that often they are only getting one side of the story. Good counselors see through the drama to the issues that need resolution. The Holy Spirit helps us do this. Second, if that's how counseling works, how is the service they provide any different?
39: "Counseling presupposes the counselor is some kind of expert." Why would you let someone tinker with the inner workings of your mind and relationships if they weren't credible and/or knowledgeable? And why would the Bobgans make a hasty generalization that this is how people think? And because they mention this in their writings as if it is a bad thing, then how does Dr. Bobgan excuse his doctoral degree? Pride has no place in counseling. Pride is a human problem, and is not limited to counselors. I've seen pastors with Masters and Doctorate degrees in Divinity adopt a prideful attitude, such as Dr. Bobgan. Why the Bobgans mention this is not clear, except maybe to find yet any fault possible with counseling.
40: "Counseling is trusting some 'expert' rather than trusting God." The Bobgans are making a faulty generalization, as if they can read the minds of all clients and counselors. Such a generalization is unbecoming someone with a doctoral degree. As a Christian counselor, if meeting with a Christian client, my job is to get them to trust in God, not myself. Additionally, as a Christian counselor in a secular environment, my job is to improve their skills and get them to recognize their strengths, so that they can focus on the solution, not myself. Indeed, making a client depend upon me is counter-productive. Whether the client realizes it or not, and whether or not I say Jesus' name out loud, my job is to heal in Jesus' name.
41: "What did the church do without the biblical counseling movement for over nineteen centuries?" One can go read about the history of mental illness from around 1800 to modern times for insight into how people were treated by the church and others. Christians have been counseling people since the dawn of time. But it should be noted that churches and other agencies in the past didn't necessarily keep the best records. This statement is also not a logical way to prove a point: it appears to be an argument from ignorance. What did people do without pain killers for eighteen centuries? Suffer with their pain, for all we know, but to find out, one would go read up on medical history.
42: "The only way God teaches is through suffering." Then why are there so many admonitions in the Bible to listen to and obey God's voice before suffering comes? Deuteronomy 11:26-28 records God (through Moses) calling the people of Israel to attention, and setting a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. God is teaching them by telling them ahead of time what He will do. This is verbal teaching without any suffering. Indeed, if they would have listened at this point, and obeyed, they would've learned through the blessings and not the curses. There are many other examples of God calling out to people to listen and obey Him. God teaches through more ways than only suffering. The Bobgans are making a huge faulty generalization.
43: "Psychologists deny suffering, or attempt to fix suffering before someone learns from it." First, psychology does not deny suffering, and the Bobgans provide no evidence. Second, the natural response to suffering is to seek a cure for it: this is a human response that is hard-wired into us. Even the lowest of life forms react to and try to avoid pain and suffering. My job as a military resilience trainer is to teach people, among other skills, to see meaning in adversity. As well, because the Bobgans provide no evidence, they are making an argument from ignorance. Let the person reading this article know that military resilience is a psychological science, not just some "feel good" skills in a pseudo-scientific bundle.
44: "Counseling has replaced preaching in importance." Given that the Bobgans do not provide any evidence to this, this is a hasty generalization. Do they mean all counseling, or some? Secular or Christian, or both? The Bobgans have an attitude that, because they are preachers, all solutions must be solved with preaching, which is a law of the instrument fallacy. Basically, they are hammers, so everything looks like a nail to them. But even then, with the emphasis that the book of Proverbs gives on giving and receiving wise counsel, the Bible also suggests that counsel can have godly results.
45: "Christian psychology validates the Bible through psychology." Negative. The Bible validates psychological science, and other sciences, not the other way around, and this is the general stance of the American Association of Christian Counselors. The Christian psychologist should have an immense tool box full of Biblical and psychological tools and skills, and see the world, including their tool box, through the blood tinted glasses of the Bible. In secular counseling, however, I can just as easily, without mentioning God or the Bible, select the same tools I'd use in Christian counseling. I can stay within the confines of Scripture in my actions and still accomplish my mission.
46: "Hypnotism is of the devil." I am not into hypnotism, but where is the proof of this? I cannot answer this except to say the Bobgans don't really provide any proof.
47: "Psychotherapy and counseling produce victims." The Bobgans again provide no proof. I teach the positive psychological principles to students in the Air Force about logical fallacies. One of those I teach against is always blaming others (victimization). There is plenty of psychological research into the victim mentality and its dangers. No modern counselor should ever lead their clients down the road of blaming everything they face on everyone else around them. Indeed, an oft repeated query to clients is "and what is your part in this?" It's not even logical from a secular perspective. Even the DSM-5 lists a sign of narcissism as always blaming others. The victim mentality gets no support from the Bible or from secular psychology: both denounce it.