The six pillars of secular psychology versus the six foundational truths of Biblical Counseling in Gary Almy’s How Christian is Christian Counseling? is eye opening. Secular psychology has made large strides in infiltrating the church. It is not uncommon to hear Christians claim to believe that God has given us ‘everything we need for life and godliness’ (2 Peter 1:3) and then submit to the teaching of psychology. It may be helpful to see these six pillars of psychology as they are weighed against the biblical data.
First, environmental determinism in psychology teaches that man is a victim of the circumstances around him. Whether that is an abusive childhood, poor work environment or someone has done them wrong in some way, that event or situation plays a determining factor in shaping that person. In direct opposition to that presupposition, the Bible teaches that man’s problems stem from Original Sin. Man is born sinful, he doesn’t become sinful. Man is not a sinner because he sins; he sins because he is a sinner.
Next, psychology teaches that the repository of the unconscious, or repressed memories determine a persons makeup. According to the psychological community, the unconscious is a storehouse of all past events and can be tapped into to find out about a person’s past. Ironically, this unconscious, on which psychotherapy bases much of its information is so nebulous that it can’t be pinpointed as to where exactly it’s located. On the other hand, Biblical Counseling teaches that a proper understanding of the human heart/soul/mind is a foundational truth. There is no unconscious, but only a heart that is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). This trend toward the unconscious is probably the inevitable result of people wanting to surround themselves with people who will tell them what they want to hear. People are not only looking for answers, but are looking for answers that will release them for their responsibilities. They have found that in the psychology and psychotherapy community. This leads directly into the third of the six pillars; insight.
Third, the idea that someone has a secret knowledge into the workings of the so-called unconscious is what the psychological community calls insight. By this, the psychotherapists are able to probe and retrieve whatever lurks deep within a person and thereby determine the cause or causes of whatever the problem seems to be. According to psychology, this is the only way to reach “maturity”. Insight oriented psychology seems to be the staple pillar for integrationists. However, there is no standard for this practice. Each therapist has his own idea of what should take place and what results it should produce. Conversely, Biblical Counseling teaches that rather than look inward for insight by a man-centered method, Scripture calls for a conviction of sin. Sin is the abnormal state of man and thus, the result of his problems. Apart from this conviction, true help will never be found. Customers of the psychotherapy industry will continue to flounder in their problems as long as they live, in spite of brief, seemingly helpful occurrences. This seems to be exactly what the therapist wants, despite the fact that they say they want to help people.
The fourth pillar of secular psychology is the therapist. As already mentioned, according to the psychology community there is an unconscious which stores man’s deepest, darkest secrets. This is job security for the therapist. This pillar teaches that the therapist has the ability, through a special knowledge to retrieve whatever is in the unconscious . Apart from his or her expertise, man will never be “well”. Therapists are viewed as the final authority for the soul and only he has access to the knowledge needed to understand it.
In direct opposition to this is the biblical record, which shows that all believers have the ability and means to counsel one another. God is the final authority for the soul and as such has given believers everything necessary to carry out this important task. This was one of the areas that became clear to me in my undergraduate courses that I was missing something. Throughout the courses, I was referred to Freud, Jung, Adler and Maslow, but I can’t remember a time when a professor said, “the Bible has something to say about this.” It was always spoken about in terms of needing a specialist to help.
Next is the pillar of self-sufficiency. Psychologists propagate that man can take control of and deal with his own problems. This does not mean that he does not need a therapist, but that he can do it without God or any supernatural help. This idea plays right along with the rest of society. In America, there is a mindset that we do not need anyone or anything. We want to do it on our own – whatever “it” might be. This is particularly true when it comes to spiritual issues. For some reason, we have this democratic worldview that says if I do this and this and this, I’ll be okay. So, when a therapist comes along and tells us that we can take control of and deal with our problems ourselves, he becomes our best friend at that point. The Bible stands in stark opposition to that. It speaks of the process of sanctification, which is impossible without the abiding help of the Holy Spirit. A believer’s sanctification does not depend on self-empowerment, self-actualization or self-determination, it depends on God. I think this is a large part of the reason for the rejection of biblical counseling and Christianity in general. People do not like to wait for anything, particularly if it is in the hands of someone else. But, he might be a little more patient if it’s in his control. But as I think about this, it seems contradictory. One the one hand people want to be in control of their destiny, but on the other they want someone to tell them what to do.
The final pillar of secular psychology is the pleasure principle. Psychology teaches that if a person is not happy and healthy, then there is a problem. People love this. Who does not want to be happy and healthy? It is partly the result of the self-sufficiency idea. Man wants to be self sufficient, so if he’s not happy and healthy, he must be a failure at it. This view shuts out any other person that may be involved in the person’s life. All the attention turns to self and whatever it takes to make self happy. Again, the Bible has a radically different approach to life. It speaks of a sacrificial lifestyle. It talks of denying the self and serving others. It calls for delaying the gratification of self to attribute to the satisfaction of someone else. There is a pleasure principle in Scripture, but it is to be looked forward to with joyful expectation and waited upon with sacrificial obedience to the demands of Christ. As believers we will receive the pleasure that we long for, but only when we are ushered into the presence of the Lord.
Seeing these six pillars of psychology as weighed against biblical teaching should cause Christians to flee from modern psychological counseling. It is very subtle in Christian circles, but it is still the subjugation of Scripture to another source of perceived truth.