Archive for April 18th, 2013

One Nation Under Therapy How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self Reliance

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I am reviewing this book from a Christian worldview. Although the book is not religious, it is nevertheless an important work that affirms some of the observation Nouthetic counselors have made about pop psychology. The book argues against much of pop-psychology’s assessment and various pseudo-scientific psychotherapy that is rampant in today’s society. Time and time again the author demonstrate that many popular works advancing ideas that Americans as a nation have serious psychological problems lack actual scholarship, either by falling short of rigorous empirical verification or being blatantly unscientific. I recommend this book. Below are some of my notes from my reading:

– Many secularized doom and gloom prophets have come and gone, defending their latest theories by anecdotes rather than proper social scientific methodologies. For example, the book documents recent advocates who say males today have psychological problems because of our society’s high standard of responsibility imposed upon them that’s unrealistic; then there’s the anti-homework crowd who say school work are psychologically damaging upon minors; and the anti-tag and anti-dodge ball experts who don’t want kids to be “it” or “out” lest these kids feel excluded and get messed up for life.
– The book has a sobering analysis of “unmerited self-confidence” promoted among leading experts of children education with the unintended consequences of producing a generation of narcissists. Self-confidence apart from merit is not a good thing.
– Studies have shown that there’s no correlation between self-confidence and success. The book also bring attention to the self-confidence of some psycho-paths, criminals, etc.
– The book has a serious indictment against some group therapeutic method and its practitioners unwillingness to call something that’s evil for what it is since it attempt to foster an atmosphere of extreme tolerance and understanding. The book records a morally disturbing dialogue during a group therapy session in which a man confesses that he has a problem of raping his sister in which the facilitator went after participants who were repulsed rather than the rapist himself.
– Chapter 3 dealt with the enslaving concept of addiction as a medical disease, which makes victims out of addicts and often disolves the need for responsibility in the eye of addicts.
– The book counters the argument made by advocates who have charts of brain activities showing drug addiction as a rewarding experience by noting the fact that those resisting addiction also show brain activity of being more intensely rewarded and gratified.
– All this “getting connected and talk about one’s feelings” promote self-absorption.
– In a 1973 article titled “Case for bottling up rage” in Psychology Today it criticizes venting therapy: other studies agree and confirm talking about trauma per se has little effect despite what most people think. For instance, Yale studies on Gulf War vets show no differences among those talking about it and those that didn’t.
– Talking about problems also does not significantly help with the lifespan of cancer patients despite what advocates say. The largest study on group therapy for longevity of cancer patients proved that those who talk about their problems only survive 9 more days on average rather than the previous claim of a two year difference
-Perils of overthinking not accounted for in the grief industry which fail to take into account people grieve in different ways and there’s nothing wrong with not “talking about it”
-Grief industry had two presuppositions that need to be reconsidered: strangers are assumed to be always welcomed during grief and grief needs specialized assistance
– The phenomenon known as delayed grief (technically, not the same as repressed grief) in which not grieving now can come back to haunt you later on with the feeling of grief has not been proven empirically.
-PTSD is different than the experience of being traumatized in of itself. Thus PTSD is different from the experience described as “shell-shock,” “combat fatigue,” etc.
– Chapter 5 talk about the origin of PTSD was during the Vietnam War era by anti-war psychologists who originally advanced it as Post-Vietnam Syndrome. They proposed that it was a unique experience to Vietnam veterans suffering from self-punishment for being duped by society in an unjust war with the lack of a proper home-coming which result in the symptom of a delayed traumatic response.
– Contrary to what most people think about Vietnam veterans, studies have indicated that by the 1990s Vietnam Veterans were roughly the same statistically when compared to those of their generation who did not serve or were military veterans who did not serve in Vietnam. These reflect the same statistics as their counterparts in the area of suicide, homelessness, income, divorce rate, employment and level of education.
– Studies on delayed PTSD (defined as past 6 months) indicate that it is very rare.
– Group therapy for PTSD that focuses on re-living Vietnam intensify PTSD and ends up producing more problem instead.
– Crisis counselors and mental health workers for genocides and wars in Bosnia, South East Asia, Kosovo and Rwanda are often unwelcome by those whom they are trying to help since these victims don’t see their problems as a pathological issue. These mental health workers often fail to address the problems the refugees themselves have identified which are more practical in nature such as health, sanitization, employment and financial needs, etc.
– Psychotherapy by means of briefing might end up hurting more than help trauma victims since it can prime them to see themselves and their experiences as pathological issues rather than normal grieving.
– There is the reality that our psychobabble culture might be “overhelping” which itself can produce problems.
– Good quote: “If one’s worldview accommodates the likelihood of horror, one is prepared for it and better able to cope when tragedy does at last strike.” (Page 211)
– Good quote: ” Numerous studies have shown that ideological commitment to a cause plays a protective role.” (Page 211)
– A sense of commitment to a cause checks the likelihood of PTSD.
– As a tangent afterthought, this work made me realize that to interpret those who do immorality in unbiblical and non-moral categories is spiritually and socially dangerous; for instance those who understand criminals as psychological victims approach solutions that fail to account for the responsibilities of criminals: most disturbing is the lady quoted who did not see Jefferey Dohmer was evil among Wolfe’s subjects.

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 For the purpose of this post, I will first be covering the reasons why you should choose biblical counseling rather than psychology.  There are many reasons why you should choose biblical counseling rather than psychology. For the purpose of this post, I will not be covering all the reasons you can account for due to time limitations.  But one of the reasons—which I think is relevant to the times we are living in, is the Bible’s coherent perspective of the nature of man.  Its coherent perspective on the nature of man also corresponds to reality.  Since we believe there is only one God, the Bible will be the only source that has the sovereign authority to determine man’s nature. Before I do that I would like to first cover a few introductory talking points that I think would provide a foundation concerning the dangers of the use of psychology in spiritual matters.  The following talking points are: theology and psychology; is psychology in the Bible?psychology defined and described, biblical counseling in the Word of God, and the hermeneutical implications.[1]

God’s Word and Psychology

Nowhere has the effects of psychology been more hostile than in the area of “pastoral counseling.”[2]  Psychologists, psychiatrists, and integrationists will try to inject psychotherapy into Christianity, which undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.[3]  Some of the training that they try to inject into Christianity comes from the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, the analytical psychology of Carl Jung, the existential psychology of Søren Kierkegaard, and the liberal theologian named G.T. Ladd, who became a psychologist.[4]  Those are just  few key people mentioned.  There are many more.

Psychologists intrude pastoral counseling by substituting psychological hermeneutic for evangelical hermeneutics.  You would expect unbelievers in trying to intrude biblical counseling with psychology, but to have Christians replace evangelical hermeneutics with integration hermeneutics is very problematic.  Their unbiblical hermeneutics is nothing more than psychology’s promotion of a hedonistic love.  Hence, they subjugate Scripture and undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.[5]

Is Psychology in the Bible?

Here is the straightforward answer: psychology is not in the Bible.  In order to qualify that, let me explain to you why psychology is not a biblical extraction that came from the Bible.  Some will contend by saying that the word psychology comes out of the transliterated Greek original that is based upon two Greek compound words: ψυχή/psychē (soul, mind) and λόγος/logos (word, law).[6]  Even though there have been endless attempts in trying to support the claim that the word psychology is rooted in Scripture – there are no etymological ties.[7]

These proponents of psychology who try to read modern ideas of psychology into the biblical terms is no different than one who equate the word dynamite with the New Testament word δύναμις (dunamis); and doing that is an example of seeing the ancient timeless truths in light of the modern rather than seeing the present in light of the ancient timeless truths.  Here is what D.A. Carson has to say in regards to this topic:

Our word dynamite is etymologically derived from δύναμις (power, or even miracle).  I do not know how many times I have heard preachers offer some such rendering of Romans 1:16 as this: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the dynamite of God unto salvation for everyone who believes’—often with a knowing tilt of the head as if something profound or even esoteric has been uttered.  This is not just the old root fallacy revisited.  It is worse: it is an appeal to a kind of reverse etymology, the root fallacy compounded by anachronism.  Did Paul think dynamite when he penned this word?…Dynamite blows things up, tears things down, rips out rock, gouges holes, destroys things.”[8]

Clearly, Apostle Paul did not have the idea of dynamite – a 19th century invention created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.[9]  Therefore, Scripture’s use of the term ψυχή (psyche) does not validate the use of psychotherapy in Christian counseling.[10]  Bringing in modern or contemporary meanings into the text is illogical and fallacious.   It is nothing more than a subjugation of ancient timeless truths under the hand of modern meanings.

Psychology Defined and Described

Psychology is defined as “the science of mind and behavior.”[11]  And this study of the mind and behavior is rooted in a priori claims that stem off from a philosophical system that praises: “behaviorism, humanism, determinism, existentialism, epiphenomenalism (caused by physical phenomena), and utilitarianism.”[12]

Defining psychology is not an easy task because within psychology there are various forms – it is not monolithic.  For example, within this non-unified worldview, it concentrates in these areas: biopsychology, experimental psychology, cognitive psychology, and developmental psychology.[13]

As a footnote, psychology would also lay claim that it can maintain or prove itself to be a strict code of cause-and-effect science.  The problem is that it has not proven itself to be hard science; and moves further and further away by implementing “personality theory, motivation, emotions, human development, sexual orientation, abnormal psychology, social psychology, and psychotherapies.”[14]  Consequently, this leads to an endeavor into the spiritual realm, which belongs to biblical counseling.

Some of the pseudo-science that you see with psychology are its claims in the cause-and-effect realm.  In other words, they believe that the effects such as murder, crime, bad behavior, etc., can be a result of an physical or organic deficiency.  That claim was echoed by psychologists, psychiatrists, and the media regarding the murderer who murdered many in the Sandy Hook shooting.

Another example they would use to lay claim that psychology is a science – due to its contribution in the cause-and-effect realm, would be the case study of Phineas Gage, who was a twenty-five-year-old railroad employee who in 1848, had his skull pierced by a one-inch-diameter metal spike.[15]  Out of this case study, proponents of psychology claim that the damage to his brain caused him to have experience behavior modifications.  For example, he started to become a mean and negative individual.[16]  The reasoning does not hold water because there are people who have experienced damage to their brain, but they were not transformed into a cussing, carousing, or irresponsible person.[17]  We could talk about more case studies, but that is just one example.  Consequently, at the end of the day, there is no direct cause-and-effect between injury and immoral behavior, because people are still accountable for their behavior as Scripture points out (Romans 3:10-19, 23).[18]

Biblical Counseling is in the Word of God

The Bible is sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16).  It is breathed out by God and has the power to change the soul (Psalm 19:7-14).  Also, it is able to penetrate the immaterial part of man (Hebrews 4:12).

In terms of its sufficiency, 2 Timothy 3:16 says,

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

In terms for its power to change the soul the psalmist says in Psalm 19:7-14,

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.  9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.  10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.  12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.  13Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.  14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

And in terms of penetrating the immaterial man (soul/spirit), Hebrews 4:12 says,

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hermeneutical Implications

In regards to hermeneutical implications, I believe Dr. Thomas’ statement, which is germane to our context, says it best.  Here is what he says,

General revelation’s noticeable impact on biblical interpretation has resulted from applying a broader definition of general revelation than is justifiable.  Reasons why general revelation should not include such matters as science, mathematics, literature, and music are the following.  First, ‘general’ cannot refer to the content of the revelation.  Second, biblical references to general revelation limit it to information about God.  Third, sin distorts human discoveries of the non-Christian world in secular fields.  Fourth, general revelation is readily accessible to all, not just to specialists in certain fields.  Hermeneutics deals with the principles of biblical interpretation.  Unwarranted definitions of general revelation have led to widespread attempts to integrate general with special revelation.  This step is unwarranted because truth exists in varying degrees of certitude, all truth does not possess the same authority, all truth does not fall on receptive ears, and general revelation does not include the fields of secular study.  The emergence of integrative efforts has coincided with a growing tentativeness in biblical hermeneutics because of the influence of secular disciplines on biblical hermeneutics.  Psychology’s promotion of self-love provides a good example of the adverse effects of general revelation and integration on biblical hermeneutics.”[19]

Much can be said and analyzed regarding this excellent description of general revelation and biblical hermeneutics.  Some of the main points that we can learn from this statement is that psychology is not considered general revelation (Psalm 19:1-7; Romans 1:18-20); nor should it act as special revelation (Psalm 19:7-14).  Only the Word of God can convert and change the spiritual man.

At this juncture, we will next move into what the Bible says about man.  Please stay tune for the next installment.  In the next part of this post, we will see that the Bible gives the correct view of man compared to what psychology says about man.

[1]John D. Street et al., Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian Worldview (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2003), 204-219.

[2]Ibid., 204.

[3]Ibid., 204.

[4]Ibid., 205.

[5]Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2002), 113.

[6]John D. Street et al., Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian, 205.

[7]Ibid.,  205

[8]Ibid., 205-206.

[9]Ibid., 206.

[10]Ibid., 206.

[11]Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[12]John D. Street et al., Think Biblically!: Recovering a Christian Worldview, 211.

[13]Ibid., 208.

[14]Ibid., 208.

[15]Ibid., 210.

[16]Ibid., 210.

[17]Ibid., 210.

[18]Ibid., 210.

[19]Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old, 113


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