Listening to the Grace to You radio broadcast entitled “Forgiveness In An Age Of Rage” yesterday caught my interest as John MacArthur asserted that psychology bears a great deal of responsibility for the widespread anger in society today. In many respects, I agree with him. Psychology encourages people to “get in touch with their feelings,” insisting that even negative feelings must be validated.
MacArthur focuses his teaching on forgiveness as the antidote for anger, and I definitely think he’s on track. What I write today shouldn’t diminish or negate any of his points. But I would like to expand on his comments regarding the effects psychology has on anger because I really think he identified a serious problem.
My personal experience with “Christian” psychology bears out his allegations. Admittedly, counselors always tacked on obligatory exhortations to forgive those who wounded us (usually our parents), but the overwhelming bulk of the counseling centered on our victimization and thus our right to be angry. I remember actually demanding that my mom validate my feelings.
Funny — I felt no interest in validating her feelings.
I eventually admitted that I have a problem with anger. And that my anger, far from being the righteous indignation that Christians should have, is sin. Sin that breaks God’s law. A sin that Jesus said is equal to nothing less than murder.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ~~Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)
When psychologists (Christian or otherwise) invite us to experience or anger, assuring us that it’s a valid response to being offended, they actually encourage us to engage in sin. That sort of encouragement can never lead us into God’s holiness. As a matter of fact, it will almost certainly lead us into unholiness.
Anger can be overcome, not through psychology, but as we die to self and obey God’s Word. It’s a simple principle made difficult by our selfishness and determination to gratify our sinful nature. Biblical counseling can show us how to put anger to death by applying Scriptural principles; psychology will only feed anger by validating it.
We dare not validate a sin that the Lord Himself strongly condemned!