In Genesis Chapter 3, the Bible so perfectly diagnoses the human condition. It seems that we all desire to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil rather than from the Tree of Life. William Law (b. 1686), whose writings greatly influenced Wesley, Whitefield and others, once made this statement: “Man needs to be saved from his own wisdom as much as from his own righteousness, for they produce one and the same corruption.” Several of the current popular fields of knowledge, particularly philosophy and psychology, can easily lead us to eat from the Bible’s forbidden tree.
Back in the early 1960s I was a young, impressionable, pastoral student in seminary. I remember how Pastoral Psychology was just beginning to become a popular field of study. We pastors were told essentially that from then on any serious problems of living would need to be handled by those specially trained in Pastoral or Clinical Psychology. From that point on, it seems that many pastors including myself sought to shy away from the simple Bible ministry to hurting individuals, which had held sway in the church from earliest Christian times.
EATING FROM THE WRONG TREE
Much of this great shift in thinking happened as a result of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his popularization of counseling and psychotherapy. It seems that the US and much of the western world got swept away by his thinking in the twentieth century. This was particularly true of the US. It is important that we stop and take a long look at this man and his followers.
Doctor E. Fuller Torrey, who served as a clinical and research psychiatrist in Washington, D.C., has written the book called Freudian Fraud, The Malignant Effect of Freud’s Theory on American Thought and Culture. He has much to say about the man. Freud was deep into the occult and periodically consulted soothsayers, who were alleged to have telepathic powers. He was an Honorary Fellow in the American Society for Psychical Research. Once he remarked that if he could live his life over, he would devote it to psychical research rather than psychoanalysis. Not only was he deep into the occult but he was extremely enthusiastic about the use of cocaine in his work and at times he used it himself. (Torrey 9-10)
Torrey mentions that the core of Freudian theory was, and has continued to be, the importance of sexual traumas in early childhood, and how this sexual emphasis was the main factor in the rapid spread of the Freudian doctrine. (Torrey 6, 17) However, continued testing has revealed that many of Freud’s theories are incorrect, and that genetic factors are now believed to be the most important determinants for the development of personality traits. (Torrey 224)
Torrey quotes Nobel Laureate Peter Medawar who suggested that Freud’s theory will be seen in retrospect as “the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century.” Another writer has remarked of Freud, saying: “His place is not, as he claimed, with Copernicus and Darwin but with Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, tellers of fairy tales.” (Torrey 256, 218)
HOW THE UNDUE EMPHASIS ON PSYCHOANALYSIS HAS AFFECTED US
We do not mean this as an attack on the whole field of psychology. Many good results have come about from those psychologists and psychiatrists who have labored faithfully in this field. However, the undue emphasis on psychology and psychoanalysis in dealing with normal problems of living has caused us great trouble and ruin in several areas. First of all it has affected Christianity in general and Bible counseling in particular. We need to realize that pastors in the first century were dealing with more serious problems of living than we deal with today. Some of these problems were life-threatening, such as martyrdom and even imprisonment for the faith. Yet, the problems were obviously dealt with through pastoral ministry and the ministry of friends in the church. In spite of these severe problems the early church remained healthy and victorious.
By our wholesale introduction of psychology into religion we have almost eliminated simple Bible ministry from pastors and especially the kindly and wise ministry and prayer of others in the Body of Christ. This ministry is plentiful and it is free. Psychologist Martin Bobgan quotes Dr. Robyn Dawes who says that from evaluations, “professional psychologists are no better psychotherapists than anyone else with minimal training—sometimes those without any training at all; the professionals are merely more expensive.” (Bobgan, Stop Counseling 40) Dr. Hans Eysenck in his research has noted that, on the whole, psychoanalysis treatment ranks slightly worse than those who receive no treatment at all. (Bobgan, Stop Counseling 83)
We also need to understand that Freud, Jung, Rogers and other leading psychologists were enemies of Christianity. Freud, who was Jewish, desired to inflict vengeance upon the church for its traditional anti-Semitism. (Bobgan Psycho Heresy 13) Patrick Glynn states it succinctly: “Freud believed the credibility of religion must be destroyed. It was, quite simply, the ‘enemy.’” (Glynn 59) Glynn says of Freud: “In The Future of an Illusion (1927) he branded faith as a form of mental disorder, a ‘universal obsessional neurosis,’ rooted in ‘infantile’ and ‘narcissistic’ patterns of thought – a neurosis that he predicted humanity would ‘outgrow.’” (Glynn 57) Freud’s heirs, both C.G. Jung and Carl Rogers renounced Christianity entirely. Jung is very clear in confessing, “We psychotherapists must occupy ourselves with problems which, strictly speaking, belong to the theologian.” (Bobgan Psycho Heresy12) Actually the very root word for Psychology is based on the Greek “psyche” meaning “soul,” and has to do with the innermost person. Saving and caring for souls has been the traditional work of the church. Karl Kraus, a Viennese journalist, once wrote: “Despite its deceptive terminology, psychoanalysis is not a science but a religion – the faith of a generation incapable of any other.”(Bobgan Psycho Heresy 23)
Second, the great overemphasis of professional counseling has greatly affected the family and the individual. In the past, believing families and individuals were protected by the church and its biblical beliefs. Many recent studies have documented the natural help that comes from Christianity. Studies have shown that committed Christians are healthier and happier than others. (Glynn 77) They recover from surgery more quickly than non-believers. They are less likely to abuse drink, use drugs or commit suicide. (Glynn 63-64) So obviously, the church has many tools to deal with the normal problems of living. Now that psychology has been introduced into Christianity on a massive scale many of these blessings are being removed.
Dr. Tanya Dineen, a psychologist with many honors to her name, left the industry entirely after seeing its abuses. She says, “The Psychology Industry is separating people from their families, promoting stereotypic and hostile views of men and women, degrading friendship and generally promoting distrust and suspicion.” (Dineen 98) Since women far outnumber men in the counseling process the psychologist unfortunately often removes the woman out from under the covering of family headship. Dineen adds: “What is now called ‘psychology’ is… ‘junk science’, …with no soul or science, no boundaries and no method; swept along by the shifting ground of popular belief and ephemeral demands for expert opinion.” (Dineen 138)
Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, M.D., cite a 2000 study by Robert Neimeyer of the University of Memphis. He reported “that 38 percent of subjects receiving grief therapy actually fared worse than a matched group not receiving treatment…Typically, grief is self-limiting and the vast majority of us do not need ‘experts’ to guide us through mourning.” (Sommers 138)
The psychoanalysis fad has had some very destructive results for many individuals. Since psychology is a “for profit” business it is natural for counselors to “manufacture victims” as Dr. Dineen has also verified. It is also natural for them to prolong the counseling sessions. Dineen says, “By and large, psychology is neither a science nor a profession but rather an industry focused on self-interest and propelled by financial incentives.” (Dineen 13)
The psychology fad has greatly focused upon individual self-esteem. This has also lately become the focus of our whole educational system in the US. Sommers and Satel comment on this trend saying: “A growing body of research suggests there is, in fact, no connection between high self-esteem and achievement, kindness, or good personal relationships. On the other hand, unmerited self-esteem is known to be associated with antisocial behavior- even criminality.” (Sommers 6) These writers go on to say, “high self-regard is very often found in people who are narcissistic and have an inflated sense of popularity and likeability.” (Sommers 31) All this seems far removed from the simple Bible teaching that advises: “… Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:3).
The psychology industry has tried its best to remove individual responsibility for problems while blaming the problems on others or else labeling the problems as “diseases.” For instance, abuse of alcohol is no longer a sin but a disease. Many other things that were once just plain old sins are now considered diseases. Dr. Thomas Szasz, who was professor emeritus of psychiatry at the State University of New York, had this to say: “People do not have to be told that malaria and melanoma are diseases. They know they are. But people have to be told, and are told over and over again, that alcoholism and depression are diseases. Why? Because people know that they are not diseases.” (Szatz xxiii) Sommers and Satel add, “The problem with therapism is that it licenses tolerance of the intolerable…It also shows how the real victims are disregarded. When sin becomes syndrome, ethically inexcusable behavior is granted absolution and innocents suffer.” (Sommers 84)
There are many other areas where psychology has changed our way of thinking in the western world. Let us just site one last area where psychology has caused us harm. Patients are now told that they must talk about their feelings and release them or express them. Sommers and Satel say of this: “The intervening years have produced a sizeable and compelling body of research demonstrating that the expression of feelings is not a sure pathway to fulfillment. On the contrary, it often leads to unhappiness.” (Sommers 112) They also cite a call in 1973 from the President of the American Psychological Association, for a moratorium on the use of “venting” in therapy. They note how data have continued to be published in journals confirming that talking about negative experiences does not necessarily lessen the anxiety of these events or promote their cure. Instead, talking per se seems to have little effect on recovery. (Sommers 112)
WHAT CAN WE DO?
We need to forsake the Tree of Knowledge and return to the blessed Tree of Life that is found only in Jesus and in his word. We need to note the word of God found in Matthew 7:17-18 which says, “…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” We recall that a tree is known by its fruit. Sigmund Freud, as we have mentioned, was a bad tree. Unfortunately, in the church we have been feasting from this bad Tree of Knowledge for many years. Now we are beginning to pay a dear price for this transgression. Paul warns us as he also once warned his favorite young pastor Timothy: “… guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
Let us return to simple Bible-based ministering. We need to make a distinction between pastoral and church ministry to the individual and the professional fields of Pastoral Counseling or Biblical Counseling. These latter fields are often fee-based as well as based in Freudian psychoanalysis. Bible-based ministry is most often free and is done by a loving pastor or by church friends. It is focused on getting the person well and whole and not upon continuing the sessions for personal and professional gain. It is solely based upon prayer and upon the Bible or God’s holy word. That word will continue through all ages, even forever (Isa. 40:8).
We must remember that we only gain our salvation, maturity and wholeness in Christ and in him alone. The Bible speaks of him,“ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). The Bible affirms, “… you are complete in Him…” (Col. 2:10 NKJ). Jesus still says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. Freudian Fraud, The Malignant Effect of Freud’s Theory on American Thought and
Culture, (NY: Harper Collins Books, 1992).
Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Stop Counseling! Start Ministering! (Santa Barbara, CA: East Gate Publishers,
Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Psycho Heresy, The Psychological Seduction of Christianity (Santa Barbara,
CA: East Gate Publishers, 1987). For free electronic versions of these books see: See
Patrick Glynn, God:The Evidence:The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World
(Rocklin CA: Prima Publishing, 1997).
Dr. Tana Dineen, Manufacturing Victims, What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People (Montreal:
Robertt Davis Publishing, 1996).
Thomas Szasz, The Medicalization of Everyday Life (Syracuse: The Syracuse University Press, 2007).
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Sigmund Freud. Public domain.