Harmful Errors of Modern Psychology
Is psychology a science in the same way that medicine is?
For the rest of this lecture, I’m gonna talk some about what’s wrong with competing theories. And it’s not that I hate all psychologists, and it’s not even that psychology has nothing whatsoever true to say in the sense that they can be well-informed observers of human behavior, but psychology in its essence, and especially in its origins, and much of its present practice is really a competing religious theory with that of the scriptures. It’s called a science, but it’s different from other sciences, and it’s also a world view. Just using an example that when I, I injured my shoulder some months ago, and they did an MRI, and they could see that tendons were torn completely. And medical science really gave me three options. I could have limited motion like this for the rest of my life, I could have open surgery, which was the old way of doing it, which would require very long recovery, or they could do arthroscopic surgery where they kind of poke five holes in, and they tie everything up. And there’s research that shows after six months I can probably swing a tennis racket, again.
Should the pastor deal with the spiritual problems while the “mental health professional” deals with emotional and mental problems?
On the other hand, when it comes to psychology, there are over 250 different competing theories of human behavior. There are many, many different approaches. And there are some who are psychology who will say, “Well, the pastor can deal with spiritual issues, while if there’s a mental health issue, you should turn that over to the professionals who are licensed therapists and trained in psychology.” But the issue is that there’s an overlap of the issues that we’re addressing. There are issues, if you go to a licensed therapist with, you have a marriage problem, or a conflict, these are issues the Bible addresses, and it has specific answers. Often times the perspective of the psychologist is either non-directive where you just make up your own mind and do what seems right to you, and the scripture says, “There’s a way that seems right to a man, and in the end is judgment, it’s death.”
Psychology and theology both deal with the same fundamental issues of meaning and value from widely differing perspectives.
The very word psychology comes, psukhe is the soul. Psychology is the study of the soul; it’s the study of the inner person of man. Both the Bible and psychology is telling people how to live. Szasz writes that, “Psychotherapeutic interventions are not medical but moral in character, and are, therefore, not literal but metaphorical treatments.” And, so, there are ethical, moral issues being addressed. Szasz writes how, “Psychology is the religion of the formerly irreligious with its language, which is not Latin but medical jargon; with its codes of conduct, which are not ethical but legalistic; with its theology, which is not Christian but positivism.”
Many of the early leaders who were the founders of psychology were very open in their rejection of biblical Christianity. Freud is said to have opened his practice on Easter Sunday. Skinner was named the Humanist of the Year; and Humanist of the Year is not a person who loves humanity, but it’s a person who is a secular humanist, excluding God from his worldview. And there are many psychological approaches and therapies which go against the religious belief, and even sometimes that will try to undermine the religious belief of a client. Psychology has become a huge influence on our culture. It has an influence in education, and teachers are trained in psychology, they have counselors trained in psychology in schools. It’s an influence in the judicial system, and people will be evaluated by psychologists, and that will determine the kind of sentence they get, or whether they’re guilty or not guilty by reason of mental incompetence. It’s very powerful.
David Powlison writes that, “Psychology to our society is as Islam is in Morocco.” It’s part of the world view. But it’s not scientific in the same way that medical science is, or chemistry, biology, physics. They can be very helpful. Again, I’ll say something positive. That I think in terms of observation and description, psychology and the research that’s done can be interesting and helpful. They can observe the stages of grief people typically go through. They can describe behaviors of someone that they give a diagnosis of bipolar, or depressed, and they can list out these things. Biblical counselors, most of us own copies of the DSM, Diagnostic Statistics Manual, where they describe these problems; and we see people who fit those descriptions. But the difference is not in the description, it’ll be in the prescription, that they don’t have the answers for the problems and it’s because they don’t understand who man is and what man needs.
As I mentioned before, there are so many different, and even contradictory psychological approaches. Jay Adams writes, “If there were over 250 different viewpoints on how to do air traffic control, you’d never get in an airplane.” Freud and Jung are Psychoanalytic, Skinner and Watson Behavioral, Rogers Humanistic. There’s Transpersonal where you make your own reality, somewhat related to eastern mysticism. There’s Cognitive where man’s a computer that needs to be programmed. Richard Ganz in his book Psychobabble describes a lady named Desperate Debra, and she’s got all these problems, and her life is a mess. But the question is who does she call? And he wrote the book so long ago, he talks about going to the yellow pages. I could say now you go on the internet, and you Google psychologists or counselors in your area, in San Diego. Well, which one? You get 300 different people who pop up, and they all do it differently because there is no one way of doing it. And, again, it really is based upon the beliefs and the perspectives.
Sometimes they will overanalyze. Ganz quoting Szasz saying, “We’re told if a patient is early for his appointment, he is anxious. If he’s late, he’s hostile. If he’s on time, he’s compulsive.” He says, “We laugh because it’s supposed to be a joke, but actually some take these things very seriously.” Secular humanistic psychology has presuppositions that are unbiblical which keeps them, even if, again, they’ve identified the problems, and that can be useful research. They spend millions of dollars in universities, and they identify problems people have, but they are not able to provide the solutions because their world view is skewed. And from our standpoint, we can evaluate the world view based on the Bible. Fundamentally they have a faulty view of man. Think about it. If your job is to help people, and you don’t understand anything about people, you’re in trouble. I, for example, would not be the person you would want to repair your vehicle because all I know about vehicles is where you put the key and where you put the gas. I’m ignorant about vehicles.