The Depth Of Psychology

Love and truthThe other day, as I showed you evidence that Freud had great animosity toward religion, I noticed something in one of the quotations that underscores my primary reason for objecting to psychology’s presence in both Christian counseling and  general evangelical “ministry.” Permit me to share the quote again, this time reflecting on its implications to those who mingle psychology with Christianity.

Our knowledge of the historical worth of certain religious doctrines increases our respect for them, but does not invalidate our proposal that they should cease to be put forward as the reasons for the precepts of civilization. On the contrary! Those historical residues have helped us to view religious teachings, as it were, as neurotic relics, and we may now argue that the time has probably come, as it does in an analytic treatment, for replacing the effects of repression by the results of the rational operation of the intellect. ~~The Future of an Illusion (1927)

Freud’s point was that religion required the advanced “science” of psychoanalysis in order to understand human behavior and therefore help people back to good mental health.  And even though “Christian” psychologists don’t follow Freud’s total repudiation of religion, the incorporation of Freudian and Jungian models into “Christian” counseling betrays an underlying assumption that we need something beyond God’s Word in order to minister effectively.

Those who supplement Scripture with the principles and techniques of psychology generally regard psychology as a provision the Lord has given us so that, in better understanding ourselves, we can more effectively apply Biblical principles to our daily lives. Of course (and maybe this is the problem), they assume that psychology will ultimately eliminate temptation so that they can honor and obey the Lord without effort…which perhaps explains why they feel such an urgent need for something “more.”

I can sympathize with the desire for “more.” I often articulated to myself (but never to others) that  I wanted “more” than the Bible offered in dealing with my sin of anger. The Bible simply says to put anger away and walk in patience and humility. I wanted, however, to understand the  “root causes” of my anger, thinking that such an understanding would eliminate the emotion and in turn eradicate the temptation.

Essentially, my quest for knowledge “beyond” the Bible amounted to the Gnosticism that the apostle Paul spent so much time refuting in his New Testament letters. According to

Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Gnostics claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plain of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.

Psychology, by promising insight into the human personality that one cannot arrive at through Scripture alone, resembles a form of Gnosticism.  It implies that those who developed its theories and practices had insights that stretches far beyond the scope of theology, and therefore becomes necessary in helping people deal with mental and emotional distress.

Yet Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, warned against the adoption of Gnostic philosophies, and I believe his admonition could easily extend to the Gnosticism of psychology.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. ~~Colossians 2:8 (ESV)

Christian counseling must focus, not on the “special knowledge” passed down from Freud, Jung and other theorists.  Biblical counseling recognizes that God’s Word provides everything believers need (see 2 Peter 1:3-4). The Lord, in His generosity, has given us the tool of Scripture to equip us for lives that glorify Him. What more could we need?

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