Christians Don’t Need Secular Therapists And Psychologists

I recently found myself embroiled in a skirmish with some people in regards to the usefulness of secular counseling and psychotherapy to the Christian believer. Specifically it was with a Pastor who was saying that he recommended those in his flock who were experiencing anxiety, depression, and various distresses to go see a secular counselor. In response to this,  I took the position that what he was doing is a bad idea, and that he was failing in his responsibility to protect and raise up those members of his flock that he sent their way. Here’s why:

It is an abdication of his duties to lead his people well because it fails to grasp that most therapy is grounded in secular humanism, which will always fail to address the heart of issues. It is a system that is not equipped to adequately handle things like guilt, depression, shame, bad deeds, selfishness, and could never, ever understand true perspectives of human nature and motivation. As such, I would generally consider it destructive to a human mind and soul. Even a cursory examination of their techniques and their developmental and psychoanalytical theories are all man-centered and are not God-centered, and because they don’t stem out of an accurate reflection of how God designed man to be, think, and act, it cannot properly diagnose the problem.

The secular humanist therapist isn’t going to go along willingly with what the scriptures say about mankind and what our problem is, as well as the solution. For example, here is a portion from Ephesians 2

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

That’s going to give the secular humanist therapist apoplexy! We followed the prince of the power of the air?! We followed Satan!? We were dead in our sins? Children of wrath!? Romans 6 says that all humanity is a slave to sin. That is one hell of a problem to have. Romans 3 says that no human does good and that no one is a good person. How is the secular humanist going to meaningfully interact with those actualities? Do you think they even believe that about mankind? Are they equipped to handle spiritual realities and matters of our intrinsic nature when they don’t even believe in it? How do they account for the Holy Spirit living inside of people and the sanctifying work that he does? How do they deal with our list of sins that we must battle against? In fact, they are hostile to such beliefs- especially the big overarching one- that only being born again through faith in Christ can bring true peace of mind and joy.

My view is pretty simple. Secular humanistic psychology may help a troubled mind and bring some solace, but I neither like or would endorse that, as it has at its core an unbiblical view of man and his human condition. It is all “needs based” with preys on selfishness and ego more than anything, and it is antithetical to the gospel and the human condition as laid out by God. I am also highly skeptical that they will just go along with the idea that man is a slave to sin and that only in abiding in Christ can they find true and everlasting joy. Or how about this- I don’t know many secular therapists who will go along with the idea that ones struggles and emotional and psychological problems may be the result of the harassment of demons. Are we to suppose that they would be adequately trained to address those spiritual realities?

What would be far more beneficial would be that the pastor himself [if he is trained and competent] ought to function as the counselor,  or a trained elder, or at the very least recommend them to counselors who are Christian, who will bring that spiritual understanding to the equation.  We need a theologically informed psychotherapy and a distinctly pastoral and “biblically informed” spiritual and moral counsel. Because here’s the thing- every counselor brings a “message”: an interpretation of problems, a theory that weighs causalities and context, a proposal for cure, a goal that defines thriving humanness. How does a pastor-counselors message compare with their messages? Simply consider what our culture’s other counselors do not say, according to David Powlinson.

1. They never mention the God who has a name: YHWH, Father, Jesus, Spirit, Almighty, Savior, Comforter. They may mention “a god” but he/she is a formless, ethereal blob, and is not the personal deity of the scriptures

2. They never mention that God searches every heart, that every human being will bow to give final account for each thought, word, deed, choice, emotion, belief, and attitude

3. They never mention sinfulness and sin, that humankind obsessively and compulsively transgress against God

4. They never mention that suffering is meaningful within God’s purposes of mercy and judgment.

5. They never mention Jesus Christ. He is a standing insult to self-esteem and self-confidence, to self-reliance, to self-salvation schemes, to self-righteousness, to believing in myself.

6. They never mention that God really does forgive sins.

7. They never mention that the Lord is our refuge, that it is possible to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.

8. They never mention that biological factors and personal history experiences exist within the providence and purposes of the living God, that nature and nurture locate moral responsibility but do not trump responsible intentionality.

9. They never mention our propensity to return evil for evil, how hardships tempt us to grumbling, anxiety, despair, bitterness, inferiority, and escapism.

10. They never mention our propensity to return evil for good, how felicities tempt us to self-trust, ingratitude, self-confidence, entitlement, presumption, superiority, and greed.

11. They never mention that human beings are meant to become conscious worshipers, bowing down in deep sense of personal need, lifting up hands to receive the gifts of the body and blood of Christ, lifting voices in heartfelt song.

12. They never mention that human beings are meant to live missionally, using God-given gifts to further God’s kingdom and glory.

13. They never mention that the power to change does not lie within us.

In other words, they always counsel true to their core convictions.

And that’s not something we need. I’ll take a pastor-counselor who WILL mention those things every time.

Contributed by Dustin Germain]

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9 Responses

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    Praise God you took a stance for truth! It’s a very sensitive topic today it seems among Christian circles, to talk about the problem of Psychology.
    We’ve had a series of posts, gathering of resources and reviews of books on this topic last year that you might be interested to see here:

  2. paperthinhymn says:

    i’ll check it out. thanks!

  3. Be careful. You’re reasoning is similar to those who say we don’t need to go to doctors, just have faith.

    It’s true that there are problems with some forms of psychology but it’s also true that psychology deals with a different realm of the person than does pure spiritual, gospel-centered counselling. People are psychological beings, just as they are physical and spiritual.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m not sure about that. Telling somebody not to go to the doctor because of the lump they found directs them away from the source of help for such things. In the same way, directing people away from biblical council to address their depression, anxiety, guilt, etc…directs people away from help and toward what will either exacerbate the problem outright, or numb the “psychological” symptoms that would otherwise drive a person toward Christ.

      • You’re assuming that people don’t have a psychological dimension that psychology properly addresses and that the church is therapetuic. And you’re argument could, just as well, be used by those who claim that we don’t need to go to doctors: ‘you’re directing people away from the Great Physician and to physicians who can’t ultimately cure them.’ Same reasoning.

  4. paperthinhymn says:

    John, I chose my words with sufficient care to ensure that a thoughtful, rational person would not be able to make such a comparison with the whole doctors/faith thing.

    • Not really. Your argument could just as easily be applied to medicine, such as: we ought to have a theologically informed physician, our pastors, who, according to James 5, ought to be confident enough in their calling to cure our diseases without having to resort to physicians who may not share a Biblical world-view.’ The major difference between that flawed argument and yours is that a psychologist often deals in teaching ideas and can, indeed, teach wrongly. But psychology, per se, can useful.

      • Andrew says:

        The problem I see is that scripture tells us what is wrong with people’s minds and the problem isn’t chemical imbalances or unresolved daddy issues. The problem lies in the fact that our minds are fallen, as are our bodies, and the cure is salvation and subsequently taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

  5. paperthinhymn says:

    I wouldn’t actually agree with this. I do believe people have chemical imbalances that can adversely affect the way they thing, reason, react, etc. I believe they’re the minority, certainly, but we can’t minimize or dismiss them, or necessarily say that salvation and every thought captive is a cure-all for physical ailments. the mind is no different than the body in this respect- that salvation does’t guarantee a healing. But my post is directed towards the 80% of people who do have daddy issues or first world problems.

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