Secular Psychology – a Pseudoscience?

Introduction

Today in America, we live in a culture blighted with the same basic problem as the historic city of Athens. Our nation, as that city, has become a nation full of idols. Even as Paul was distressed that the overarching thought life of the citizens of Athens was characterized by a mind-set that denied the sovereignty of God, so should we be distressed that our own nation that claims to be “one nation under God,” has been deceived to think similarly. Of even greater concern to those of us who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and have been made children of the sovereign Father of the universe by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, should be the mind-set that characterizes many within “evangelical” Christianity today. For there are many today who profess the name of Christ who do not have a mind-set significantly different than those in the world who are worshiping and serving America’s chief idol—the idol of “self.”

Many professing Christians and their congregations appear more concerned about the glorification of human emotion (self-gratification) and the irreverent charismatic chaos that results (which is really nothing less than frenzied Antinomianism), than they are about glorifying the only, everlasting Triune God of the universe who is orderly2 and desires to be worshiped according to the Bible3 in a manner that is reverent.4

In order to address this concern, I believe it is necessary that we identify the primary influence that has led the church and our nation down this well-paved, idolatrous road of “self-centeredness.” For it is only as we recognize this influence and posture ourselves to be led in battle against it, that the glorious vision of the sovereignty of God can be restored to the church and our nation.

And what has been the primary influence over the last two generations? To be sure, if we were to assign the influence to a single being, we would undoubtedly say that it has been Satan. For Satan himself is a being that personifies self-centeredness and pride. But what antithetical authority within America has been used, more than any other, to exalt “self” in our court system by desensitizing the U.S. citizenry to moral absolutes by excusing immoral behavior and encouraging blameshifting? What authority has been responsible for deceiving countless thousands of troubled people by calling the guilt that is associated with a lifestyle of self-centeredness and self-pity, mental illness? What pseudoscience has undermined Christianity more than any other in America's education systems by systematically indoctrinating multitudes of children, youth, and adults in our public and private schools with atheistic notions? I believe the central answer is the antithetical authority, the pseudoscience of psychology.5 I am convinced that the presuppositions of atheism, evolution, relativism, and nihilism, common within the spectrum of psychotherapeutic approaches being propagated under the umbrella of psychology, have provided one of the most sizable, recognizable anti-Christianforces inourcontemporary American culture. They all deny the sovereignty of God and promote the exaltation of “self.”

So how are we to battle this force that has taken countless thousands captive to hollow and deceptive philosophies, robbing them of a proper notion of the sovereignty of God?

The answer to this question is twofold, and germane to the key purposes for which the church exists on this earth. God will allow us to effectively disable this force with prayer, and by effectively ministering the Word of God.

The spectrum of approaches psychotherapy are summarized the chart below.6

 

 

Prayer

Jesus Christ, in the context of issuing a rebuke to those who had forgotten the place of prayer in the church of God, once said, “It is written ...My house will be called a house of prayer.”7 The church militant as she exists throughout the world today would do well to remember these words of our “Commanding Officer.” For all too often, praying is not one of the identifying characteristics of our lives personally, or collectively as congregations of the saints. I regret to say that if each of us honestly evaluated the importance of prayer in our lives, in comparison to the emphasis we place on works, the majority of those of us who profess faith in Jesus Christ today would sadly have to admit something: that we are rapidly moving toward one of the "valences of error" which surrounds a "works-based" theology, a detrimental theology that has plagued the church throughout history.

To be sure, there is a direct relationship between a living and active faith and our works, and we must never forget that. The book of James certainly says, “Show me a living faith and I will show you works that flow from that faith.” But let us not forget that faith and the means of grace that God has given us to grow in our faith and express our faith in works (works God has prepared in advance for us to do)8 are inseparable. The means of grace, particularly private and public prayer, are an important means by which the sovereign God of the universe fulfills His eternal decrees through us.

The redeemed elect that comprise the church of the living God today need, with firm resolve, to make prayer more of a part of who we are and what we do. Our very identity should be one of prayer, as we are building blocks of God’s eternal house, “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”9 We need to strive for that reputation that the author of the book of James had with regard to prayer. Historians remind us that James' knees were hard and calloused because he spent so much time on his knees in prayer. This is an important historical fact to take into account in a day when personal prayer is little more than a “reverent nod” at mealtimes, and the prayer meeting itself has all but become extinct, attended by only a faithful few.

Specific Petitions

The specific petitions of our prayers regarding our concern that our nation has become a nation full of idols, should revolve around petitions which plead before the Father the case of the urgent need for the establishment of God's law,10 both in His church and in our nation. We need to pray fervently that the Lord Jesus Christ, who once said that He came not to abolish the law, will work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to send a revival in our land, a revival that, in its very preemptive phases, establishes and reestablishes within the church and our society, the moral law of God. For again, modern psychology and other powerful forces that Godhas permitted to prevail at this juncture in history, are effectively usurping the authority of God's law by placing above it man's opinion, and his judgments about right and wrong.

Let us pray that God, in His grace and in accordance with the decrees of His will that have been put into effect to accomplish His plan of salvation, will wipe away the deceptive Antinomian spirit that has in our day “fogged” the spectacles of faith of many a saint and congregation. Let us pray that the Antinomian spirit which will one day be personally embodied in the lawless one, will lose its stronghold in the United States of America. Let us pray that the phrase “In God We Trust,” cast millions of times over in our U.S. mints might become a phrase that reveals to our country and world what it should. It should mean that a good number of Christians have offered themselves to be sovereignly placed by God as leaders in the private and public sectors of our American society to demonstrate public dependence on God (via prayer) and to point our nation back to the principles of His Word/Law.

Let us pray that as Christians occupy positions of leadership in our society, the general population will see the great benefits of trusting God and being governed by His precepts, the benefits of goodness and harmony for all creatures that live under heaven. If our petitions contain some of these elements, we may have confidence that we are praying in accordance with some of the divinely inspired petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. For in it we are praying, “Our Father, it is our desire that you be recognized as the only sovereign and true God, that your name is both hallowed and depended upon on earth as it is in heaven.” We are praying, “Our Father, it is our desire that your creatures on earth obey your will as do your creatures in heaven.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be found faithful in our prayer lives remembering that the effectual fervent prayers of God’s children “availeth much.”

Ministering the Word of God

I said earlier that prayer is one way that we, as God’s children, can be used of God to disarm the antithetical force of modem psychology. The other is by effectively ministering the Word of God. God’s people must pray that He will enable them to minister the Word in two ways: First, the full counsel of God must be proclaimed by ministers serving in all the congregations of the saints. Second, each believer must also faithfully minister the Word of God to the world around them by rightly filling the offices that God ordained they fill while on their earthly pilgrimage, the offices of prophet, priest, and king.

Proclamation of the Full Counsel of God

The Word of God is going out today, but the manner in which it is going out can probably be best described as extremely unbalanced. For example, much is heard from pulpits today about the love and mercy of God, while little is heard about the justice of God. Dear people of God, this should not be, for people cannot understand the love and mercy of God until they first understand that He is perfectly holy and just. They cannot understand the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” until they first realize that the holy, just and sovereign King of heaven and earth justly demands that all sin be punished—eternally and without exception!

A presentation of the gospel that emphasizes the love and mercy of God without emphasizing God's justice borders on heresy, for it produces within the mind of the hearer an inaccurate understanding of God as He has revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture. And just as God's love and mercy cannot be understood apart from an understanding of His justice, neither can His justice be understood unless a proper emphasis is placed upon His moral law. We do not come to know our misery, or our need for a Savior as those who have sinned against a holy, just God who rightfully demands that all sin be punished, unless we first know the standard that God uses as a measure of human holiness.12

]. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminister Seminary, spoke almost prophetically in reference to the necessity of proclaiming the law of God. And his words need to be heeded by the church today. He said, “A new and more powerful proclamation of the law is perhaps the most pressing need of the hour; men would have little difficulty with the gospel if they had only learned the lesson of the law.”13 A powerful proclamation of the law of God by the church will do much to further the gospel, restore within the church and our nation, a vision of the sovereignty of the Triune Ruler of the universe. This in turn will help deflate the ego of man, which is always ready and willing to be puffed up by the many winds of doctrine that originate from the spiritual icebergs within the spectrum of psychotherapy.

Rightly Filling the Offices of Prophet, Priest, and King

It was mentioned that, along with ministers proclaiming the full counsel of God in the congregations that God has called them to labor in, there is also a need for each believer to rightly fill the offices that God has called him to as he sojourns on this earth as His witness. We need to pray that God will enable each of us to be better prophets: confessing to the world His name and His will; better priests: offering our ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness and continually offering prayers before God;14 and better kings by more faithfully exercising dominion over God’s earthly creation, caring for the needs of others, and fighting against sin while on earth.

Our duty to pray in association with the office of priest has already been emphasized. I would like to spend the remainder of our time focusing on some suggestions relevant to believers filling the offices of prophet and king.

Prophets

I mentioned earlier that the influence of the antithetical force of psychology will be effectively diminished as Christians faithfully minister the Word of God. As ministers of the Word, each believer needs to commit and recommit himself to using the opportunities that are set before him to point people who labor within the various fields of knowledge, to God and His Word. The Word of God alone has the capacity to govern all things well in every sphere of life, and we as God's children need to start living our lives before the world as those who really believe it.

If each of us were able to place on a balance the number of times that we failed or were ashamed to bring God’s Word to bear on some aspect of the field in which we labor when given the opportunity, in comparison to the times that we boldly did so, what would the scales reveal? Would the scales reveal you and me as true prophets of God to the world, or would they reveal us more as prophets for hire? This is an important question each of us needs to ask ourselves from an individual and a collective standpoint, because answering this question will reveal much to us about the conclusions the world is drawing about the prophetic voice of Christ’s body here on earth.
I regret to have to say that the following statement made by author and lawyer Wendy Kaminer, a self-described feminist and secular humanist, concerning the similarities of the modern day pseudosciences of psychology and religion (Christianity), is characteristic of what many in the world would say about the majority of Christians who labor in the various fields of knowledge that are gradually being taken over by humanism. She writes, “Whether psychology has caught up to religion, infiltrated it, or been adopted by it, the most popular versions of both psychology and religion are becomingless andless distinguishable.”15

Why have true religion and something that epitomizes false thinking become indistinguishable? Is it because there are no good Christian theologians that are representative of Christianity today? I believe the answer is an emphatic “no.” I consider myself blessed to know personally some of the finest theologians of this century. Is it that there are no biblically sound Christian philosophers to be found in the small but legitimate branch of philosophy known as psychology? I believe the answer is likewise “no.” Then what is the problem?
The problem is certainly related to the breakdown of sound organizational structures and well-defined roles within those structures serving church and society. The problem is also most certainly related to a lack of respect for authority and a lack of accountability within those sound organizational structures that do exist. But I believe the greatest contributing factor in the overall decay of Christianity, the moral foundation of our society, and the academic foundations upon which each of the various fields of knowledge are built, is related to the lack of a prophetic voice being heard from the mouth of the believer today. I believe that Christians today are falling short in their prophetic responsibilities.

In suggesting that this is what lies at the heart of the problem I am in no way saying that Christians should begin "prophesying" as many pentecostals and charismatics prophesy. For a great deal of the popularized prophecy that comes from their camps is sensational and extra-biblical, and will do more to promote the further decay of the Christian religion, American scholarship, and society in general, than help it. When I say that Christians are falling short in their prophetic responsibilities, what I mean to say, and quite biuntly,17 is that many of us are keeping our mouths shut and letting our minds decay in the light of a myriad of opportunities. God gives all of His people many opportunities to be His means of introducing, affirming, and pointing others to the truths and principles contained within the prophecy of Scripture, and we are forfeiting many ofthese opportunities.

Closed Mouths

Christians today are much too quiet! In saying this I am not suggesting that we should take on an attitude of rebellion similar to that which characterizes numerous special interest groups of our day, for example, an “in your face,” promote your interests regardless of the principles of law and ethics that are violated, kind of an attitude. Christians are forbidden to have such an attitude. What I am suggesting is this: Christians should pray for the courage necessary to effectively bring the Word of God to bear on the governing polides, practices, issues, and research (if applicable) in the vocational fields in which they serve, and the society in which they live. The world can only recognize God's prophets when they are faithful in bringing the Word ofGod to light.

Decaying Minds

Many of us need to pray for the strength we need to pull ourselves out of routines that dull our intellectual senses, such as occurs when we watch countless hours of television or spend countless hours on the computer playing games.

Many Christian minds are not producing fruit in keeping with the desperate call for principled leadership and evangelization in their vocational fields. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that many of us have minds that are excessively tired due to visual overstimulation by video devices and the like. The other has to do with opportunity costs. Time that could be spent in prayer and informing our intellects with biblical knowledge which could then be applied in our fields of labor, is being forfeited as we tantalize our minds with visual stimulation.

Prophets of God have a responsibility to be good stewards of their mental lives. Christians should take steps to establish routines that give their minds the rest they need from visual stimulation, and then engage their rested minds in the disciplined tasks of Scripture meditation, memorization, and study, so that the Word more readily overflows into their daily living. When the Word of God overflows into our daily lives, we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, are more apt to speak and apply that Word to the things that are going on in the hours that make up our days. More specifically, we are more inclined to fulfill our prophetic responsibilities when we are good stewards of our mental lives.

Kingship

Along with being effective prophets in our vocational fields by being better stewards of our mental lives, as Christians we also need to fulfill our kingly role by looking with compassion upon the multitudes that are suffering from what can be called mental dystrophy.18
Before the body of Christ can be empowered with the drive needed to exercise compassion towards the multitudes suffering from mental dystrophy, she must first recognize that every person alive on planet earth is born with a degenerating moral disease of the mind which continually inclines it toward evil thoughts. The Bible is replete with teachings that tell us that the mind of unregenerate man is only capable of producing evil thoughts. Genesis 8:21 says that every inclination of man's heart is evil from childhood. Before Christ's body can make a concerted effort to wage an effective war against sin, she needs to tear down the curtains of deceit that have been hung by those who have dared to declare that unregenerate man is anything less than totally depraved. The church needs to believe and propagate the absolute truth that each person is born with a mind that is corrupt, possessed with contempt of God, full of pride, self-love, ambitious hypocrisy, and fraud.

As we believe this truth and see the effects of this truth being played out in the world, will not the church be driven to compassion? Will not the church begin looking with a new compassion upon the multitudes as she looks upon thousands of human beings with sin-diseased intellects that are morally degenerating unto eternal condemnation? Will the heart of Christ’s body on earth not be moved to compassion as she sees the sin ravaged creature that was created in the image of God digging in the world’s morally corrupt rubbish bins for intellectual and spiritual nutrition? Will our hearts not be grieved beyond measure and moved to take action when we see thousands upon thousands of our nation’s precious children being systematically trained to show contempt for God and worship the idol of “self” by the professional idol-crafters working under the antithetical authority of modern psychology? Will not the church be moved to compassion? It surely will!

Our compassion as Christ’s kings should move us to responsively address the needs of those suffering from mental dystrophy. A couple of ways that Christ's church can effectively minister to the needs of the multitude are by providing creative counseling alternatives to the public proffers, and by providing leadership within the existing bankrupt spectrum of psychotherapy.

Creative Counseling Alternatives

As individuals and congregations, think about ways to address the needs of those suffering from mental dystrophy in our society, I think it wise that we consider the notions that have been planted in the typical American mind about the church by the media. As we plan to minister to needs and reach out in our neighborhoods with the good news of the gospel, we need to think about creative ways of presenting ourselves to the public that will foil the negative imagery that has been forced upon us. One of the most effective ways that this can happen is by casting our identity in our communities as providers of quality counseling services. I believe that local congregations would be blessed with many more opportunities to share the gospel and apply the Scriptures to people's lives in their neighborhoods by providing such counseling services. Utilizing remodeled vacant buildings, unoccupied storefront spaces, and church members’ homes as counseling places might well prove to be a more effective way to get the unchurched exposed to God’s Word than by asking them to join us for a worship service a church building.19 Providing such a ministry for a neighborhood would also create a need within a congregation to have members of the supporting congregation trained in the Word of God as nouthetic counselors so an important pastoral objective would also be met.

Leadership in the Existing Structures

Christians should not pull themselves out of the existing psychiatric hospital settings and counseling clinics even though they truly are morally bankrupt. The cause of Christ will be far better served if Christians, instead, stay in these institutions and bring the Word of God to bear upon the policies, practices, and the associated theories that characterize the institutions in which they serve.

If Christian servants laboring in such institutions will actively pray that “arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”20 will be demolished, God will open hearts and remove defenses in accordance with His will. Then and only then, will the "strongholds of thought" based upon the principles and doctrines from God's Word replace those that find their origin in the rudiments of the world. When the hearts of those that promote antithetical philosophies are softened, the Christians laboring within these institutions would be wise to gently introduce lines of inquiry that get those involved to focus their attention on the human conscience. I offer this suggestion for two reasons:

1. The conscience is a faculty that is common to, and recognized by nearly all of mankind. Everyone alive today has probably dealt with or deals with the conscience on an ongoing basis.

2. The conscience works in conjunction with the law of God which, when established, provides the necessary foundation for the presentation of the gospel.

The Good Fight of Faith

Have you recognized the battle? Can you see the everlasting consequences of those being held hostage in this battle? Are you willing to be used of the Lord to fight this battle? It is my hope that your answer to all three of these questions is “yes.” If your answer is indeed “yes,” it is my prayer that God will use you to glorify His name as you take up your battle gear, and fight the good fight of faith in the battle against the antithetical force of psychology.

Pastor Jeff Doll is the Pastor of Congregational Life and Outreach at the First United Reformed Church of Chino, California. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling.

Footnotes

1 See Acts 17:16–24.

2 1 Corinthians 14:33.

3 John 4:23: “...the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” Jesus defined truth when He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" Gohn 17:17) .

4 Hebrews 12:28: "...worship God acceptably with reverence and awe ...”

5 On the scientistic side: Sigmund Koch conducted a comprehensive study of the major schools of psychology in the 1950s. The results of his study appeared in an article written in a 1969 edition of Psychology Today. In this article he states that: “Psychology cannot be a coherent science...it cannot be expected to be theoretically coherent.” On the subjectivist side: Former president of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Alfred Freeman, said in an interview with journalist Martin Gross, “There are a number of assumptions in psychoanalytic theory that have never been adequately tested” (Gross, Martin L., The Psychological Sodety. New York: Random House, 1978, p. 195). Dr. R.R. Sears, past head of the Social Science Research Council, in a report issued on psychoanalysis wrote, “Psychoanalysis relies on techniques that do not admit to the repetition of observation, that have no self-evident or denotative validity, and that are tinctured to an unknown degree with observer’s own suggestions” (p. 202).

6 Modified from a chart distributed by Dr. Andrew Peterson: “Methodologies of Psychological Counseling,” Westminster Theological Seminary in California, in conjunction with doctoral studies being pursued through Trinity College and Theological Seminary.

7 Matthew 21:13.

8 Ephesians 2:10.

9 EpheSians 2:22. See also 1 Peter 2:4–5.

10 Meaning here the decalogue as opposed to the civil and ceremonial laws that found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

11 Matthew 5:17. See the importance that the Apostle Paul places upon the moral law of God (the decalogue) in Matthew 7:7.

12 The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 2, Q. & A. 3 astutely asks the question, “How do you come to know your misery?” Answer: “The law of God tells me.”

13 Machen, J. Gresham. What is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1946), p. 141f.

14 Read Romans 12:1 and I Peter 2:5, 9

15 Kaminer, Wendy. I’m Disfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1992), p. 121.

16 Historically psychology was treated as a branch of philosophy which was devoted to an inquiry into the soul and related problems of intelligence and sensation. The scholastics speculated on the question of the human will and the sphere of the soul in the sum total of existence (Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, New York, NY: Rotary Graphic Press Inc., 1957), p. 34–38.

17 You will have to excuse my occasional demonstrations of bluntness. A significant portion of my ethnic heritage can be traced back to the camp from which a certain well-known German Reformed theologian arose and posted at the entry of his study blunt words that I have had to occasionally fight posting on mine, “Friend who enters here, be short or go or help me with my work” (Zacharias Ursinus [1534–1583]).

18 Dystrophy is properly defined as faulty nutrition, faulty development, or degeneration (Webster”s New World Dictionary: Third College Edition).

19 I am not suggesting that the functions of worship and church life should be altered or supplanted by utilizing such a methodology. I am suggesting that such a methodology be considered as viable means for outreach.

20 2 Corinthians 10:5 encourages the Christian to utilize spiritual weaponry versus debates to demolish arguments and pretenses that are set against the knowledge of God.

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