Christianity Today Christianity Today (CT) was founded in 1956 by Billy Graham (he remains Board Chairman) to “restore intellectual respectability” to Christianity through “a new generation of highly trained scholars.” Billy is pleased that CT “has helped change the profile of the American church” –in spite of the increasing worldliness of that “profile.” While offering some good articles, CT has fostered decreasing confidence in God’s Word and increasing reliance upon scholarly humanistic theories and methods. David Wells points out thatWhen Christianity Today began, advertising…[took] up a mere 3 to 7 percent of the space….Three decades later…advertising filled anywhere from 30 to 48 percent of the space…[including] fund-raising businesses, Sunday School peanut butter,…a gold-embossed ring that had been made…”to unite the body of Christ…,” etc.
In 1959…a regular section…explored …biblical revelation,..the person and work of Christ,…the gospel and Christian salvation….By 1989, this column had been replaced by…success stories…pains of a mid-life crisis,…marriage…struggling with homosexuality…with less money than we would like…with a diet.
In these three decades…[CT] moved …to a therapeutically constructed faith the central concern of which was psychological survival….Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness…. By 1989…Christianity Today…looked like a poor cousin to Time magazine …[though] a little more pious…. 2
In 1980, CT launched Leadership magazine for clergy. David Wells writes, Since this is an evangelical publication, it is quite stunning to observe that less than 1 percent of the material made any clear reference to Scripture…. The articles are single-minded in their devotion to the wisdom that psychology and business management offer and apparently as equally single-minded in their skepticism concerning what Scripture and theology offer for addressing the practical crises of pastoral life. 3
CT even devoted the entire back cover of one issue to promoting a Graham-endorsed 300-page occult/science-of-mind manual: John Marks Templeton’s Discovering the Laws of Life. CT supports theistic evolution and Roman Catholicism, calling Pope John Paul II “the successor of St. Peter…[whom] God has called…to forge a united church…[and whose] priority to the Christian message…endear[s] him to the hearts of evangelicals.”4 It has defended heretical teachers, refused to be corrected itself, misrepresented its critics, and failed to include substantive response in its pages.
When CT featured a lengthy article titled “Exposing the Myth that Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems,” I offered an article in response. It was refused. Here is an adaptation of my response: The very title of the CT article misrepresents Christian psychology’s critics and attacks a straw man. Even the quotation cited to support the title (“At the cross you can be made whole”) offers a solution to emotional needs; it does not deny their existence.
Claiming that the heretical “Health and Wealth Gospel [has] an insidious variation” in something he calls the “Emotional-Health Gospel,” the author of the CT article accuses critics of Christian psychology of teaching that “if you have repented of your sins, prayed correctly, and spent adequate time in God’s Word, you will have a sound mind.” Paul said it: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tm 1:7). The author says critics such as “John MacArthur and Dave Hunt” propagate views which “lead us to shoot our wounded.” This is a serious charge that surely warrants a response–which CT would not allow in its pages.
Much space is given to quoting alleged admissions by Luther and Spurgeon of serious emotional problems and citing scriptures which supposedly show that Moses, Elijah, Job, Jeremiah and Paul “suffered from depression” and that even Christ had “negative emotions.” Even if that were the case, it would not support the CT author’s thesis. Moses, Spurgeon, et al. lived long before Christian psychology was invented and triumphed gloriously without it! Comparing the lives of past Christians with “Christianity today” shows that Christians’ lives have not improved with psychology, but rather have deteriorated badly.
The CT author declares, “We must take seriously Paul’s injunction to ‘encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men’ (1 Thes 5:14).” Again, instead of supporting the view that Christians need specialized help from trained professionals, Paul’s statement proves the opposite. He obviously believed that his injunction could be fully obeyed by Christians at that time, centuries before psychology appeared on the scene. So why should we need it today?
The issue is not whether Christians experience emotional difficulties, but what God’s remedy is. He created and redeemed us, and the Bible is His instruction manual for living. Believers throughout the ages have found God’s Word and His remedies sufficient in every situation. Why turn to pitiful and destructive theories invented by humanists who can’t help themselves? Psychologists and psychiatrists have the highest percentage of any profession under the care of psychiatrists, committing suicide, divorcing, and on prescription drugs. Consulting them is like asking directions of someone who is himself hopelessly lost.
If “Christian psychology” has anything of value to offer, then that means the church lacked it for 1,900 years, and the Holy Spirit, through ignorance or oversight, left out of God’s Word part of what we need to live fruitful lives for Christ. The Bible, however, claims that it has “given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pt 1:3-11); and that “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” are “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23),not of therapy.
Problems experienced today for which people seek the help of professional psychologists are not new. The Bible is all about those who victoriously endured rejection, hatred, misunderstanding, jealousy, persecution, uncertainty and every other trial one could imagine, including martyrdom. Consider Joseph. His jealous brothers hated and sold him into Egypt. There, falsely accused of rape, he languished in prison. Did he (or any other heroes and heroines of the faith) suffer for lack of psychological counseling, which the author argues is essential today? Obviously not!
What a contrast between the triumphant saints of old and today’s struggling and self-centered victims of months or years of psychological counseling! Paul testified,
…in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Cor 11:22-29)
Who today endures such trials? Why turn for help to that which for Paul was unnecessary? From prison he wrote, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content….I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me….my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:11-13,19). That same triumph can be ours today.
“I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work,” is a common complaint. Is God then a liar? To the anxious, troubled, fearful and depressed, Paul joyfully declares that God “always causeth us to triumph in Christ” (2 Cor 2:14). Only an uncrucified self prevents that victory. Paul testifies, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal 2:20). Surely Christ “who is our life” (Col 3:4) needs no psychological counseling! Let Him live His life through you!
One of Christ’s names is Counsellor (Is 9:6). Could His counsel ever fail? Christian psychology rests upon the specious claim that the Bible and the indwelling Christ are not sufficient. Its “professionals” promise to make up for that deficiency. Their very craft is an affront to God and His Word! Peter calls us to “rejoice” in every “fiery trial” because we are sharing in “Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pt 4:12-13). The first Christians rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name (Acts 5:41). By the Holy Spirit, Paul commands us (with no exceptions for those who have been “abused,” are “depressed” or have some new syndrome) to always rejoice and to be anxious for nothing; and he promises that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” if we will thankfully commit ourselves into His hands (Phil 4:4-7). This is not theory. Christians through the ages have proved it to be true–and so can we by God’s grace.
Christian psychology claims that the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, sufficient in the past, are insufficient today. The CT author insists that churches and pastors relying solely upon God and His Word lack the expertise to deal with emotional problems; the help of professionals trained in psychology is required. Logic again deserts him:
…if my car needs the transmission replaced, do I expect the church to do it? Or if I break my leg, do I consult my pastor about it? For some reason, when it comes to emotional needs, we think the church should be able to meet them all. It can’t, and it isn’t supposed to. This is why the emotional-health gospel can do so much harm. People who need help are prevented from seeking it and often made to feel shame for having the problem. Thankfully, more and more people in the Christian community are beginning to realize that some people need this extra help. If professionals and church leaders can recognize the value of each other’s roles, we will make progress in helping the wounded….Church leaders should get to know Christian therapists in their communities so they can knowledgeably refer people with persistent emotional problems.
It is an insult to God to suggest that “people need this extra help” which He failed to mention in His Word–an oversight which therefore must have deprived millions of believers of necessary help in past ages! There were no “Christian therapists” to whom leaders could refer their flocks in the early church. Why today? It is equally illogical to compare replacing a car’s transmission or setting a broken leg with attending to one’s spiritual and emotional needs. The Bible makes no claim to deal with the former, but it does claim to deal fully with the latter.
We do not deny that there are hurting people in the church. Sadly, members of Christ’s body are not providing the loving care and counsel which they should. Emotional healing should take place within the context of the love and care of fellow Christians in a local body of believers. Instead, the troubled are being referred to professionals for whom they become a means of income and who see them only during brief encounters with a meter running.
Other professions deal with the physical world. Psychology claims to heal the psyche, or soul, and thereby intrudes into the realm which the Bible claims is its sole province. The brain, a physical organ, can suffer trauma requiring medical attention. The nonphysical soul and spirit can only function properly in a right relationship with God, who “is a Spirit” (Jn 4:24). “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) bring the needed spiritual solution.
“Christian psychology” has become so well accepted that anyone who questions its validity is accused of having no sympathy for those who suffer from emotional problems. That is a false accusation. We only say that real concern for those in need would cause one to recommend the biblical solution, which has been proved adequate by millions of believers for thousands of years. It would seem less than kindness to advise the hurting to draw instead upon worldly wisdom’s contradictory theories which many psychologists and psychiatrists have come to oppose because they don’t work and in fact are often destructive.
But doesn’t Christian psychology use the Bible? Again, it is an insult to God to integrate the theories of godless humanists with the Bible–as though the wisdom of this world, which Paul said is “foolishness with God” (1 Cor 3:19), is a worthy partner for God’s wisdom. There are hundreds of schools of psychology and countless therapies which conflict with each other. Which are to be called Christian?
Psychology textbooks contain no listing for “Christian psychology.” It doesn’t exist. Why? There is no Christian founder of a school of psychology which is distinctly Christian. Every psychologist or psychiatrist, whether Christian or atheist, must take the same courses, give the same answers to pass the same tests and be licensed by the same government bureaus.
In refuting Christian psychology, we are calling the church back to the simple faith which proved sufficient before psychology was invented. God’s promises are still true today, and when, by faith, self is crucified with Christ, and our Lord lives within, we experience the same triumph that such faith has always produced. Let us steadfastly oppose anything which claims to supplement or improve upon God’s Word and thereby denies its sufficiency in all things that pertain to life and godliness. TBC