Christian Psychology:

Tool of the Lord or Evil Philosophy?

A Rebuttal to the "Sound" Doctrine

by David W. Horn

 

One of the greatest challenges facing today's Christian mental health professional is the dwindling, though still formidable challenge of those who believe and teach that psychology, especially "Christian psychology," is some sort of unholy marriage between a man-made philosophy and God; and as such, is to be opposed. Rather than attempt to learn from the myriad facts and research projects that continue to add to our knowledge of the human mind and its many facets, these groups steadfastly attack Christians working in the mental health fields as spiritual traitors, spreading a worldly philosophy that contaminates the Christian community.

I recently had an experience in which I was able to learn first-hand just how potent this force can be. Shortly after the purchase of my first computer and modem, I logged onto a small religious bulletin board in the Denver metropolitan area. Its operators called it the "Sound Doctrine," after the church that they operate under the same name.

A little background information is called for here. The "Sound Doctrine" Church is not a church in the commonly understood sense of the word. It is a small group of religious zealots, numbering fewer than forty, who meet in the basement of the home of Tim Williams, its self-proclaimed "pastor." Williams possesses neither ecclesiastical credential nor any formal training in the Bible or in the pastorate. He is assisted by a "co-pastor," Mike Sinak, whom he apparently "shepards." Williams proudly proclaims that "he [Sinak], too, is unqualified..." Though the statement of belief of the "Sound" Doctrine says that no one member is the leader, Williams is clearly in charge. He runs both the "Church" and its sundry other operations, including a short-lived radio show and the computer bulletin board system (BBS).

The "Sound" Doctrine teaches a number of things that most Christians would have little argument with; but a number of doctrines that most Christians would find at least suspect if not abhorrent are practiced. These doctrines, upon investigation, can be shown to be the result of poor exegesis on the part of Williams. They include "hating for Jesus," the forced wearing of "coverings" by female members of the church, the greeting of fellow "Sound Doctrinites" with a "holy kiss," a selective rejection of things "worldly," a near-communal operation, and the belief that saved Christians can go to Hell. There are also a number of other doctrines, violations of which generally result in accusations that the guilty party is not "fully carrying their cross" or has not "fully given his/her life to Jesus." Among these are the wearing of "long" hair by men -- which the "Sound" Doctrine will not define but which they claim is prohibited by I Corinithians 11:14 -- and the support of most forms of contemporary Christian music.

Shortly after I logged on to the "Sound" Doctrine computer bulletin board, I became enmeshed in a "discussion" on the merits, or lack of merits, of psychology, especially "Christian" psychology. I found myself attempting to break through the circular and unBiblical reasoning of Williams, Sinak, and another "Sound" Doctrine BBS user.

Admittedly, I am not always at my best when dealing with such people. We all have "pet peeves" and one of mine is willful ignorance masquerading as Christianity. It soon became apparent that, while Williams and Sinak seemed to be soliciting comments, they were not really interested in anything that disagreed with their viewpoint. Though I am sure that they read the comments I wrote, the showed very clearly that either they were not really all that interested in what I had to say or they were having serious trouble understanding it. Oftentimes they would twist a comment in order for it to appear as if something was said that clearly was not. Furthermore, they "supported" their viewpoint with Bible references that were, upon examination, almost always completely irrelevant. Finally, and most interstingly, Sinak -- though obviously having a severe problem with psychology in general and me in particular -- could not resist practicing his own peculiar form of psychology, often saying "Well, you said this; but you *meant* this..."

I soon became convinced that I was wasting the valuable time that I was given charge of by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit further moved me to detach myself from the discussion. When I informed Sinak and the other "Sound" Doctrine user that I would no longer respond to their poor argumentation, I was chastized by Williams, who said that I would no longer be allowed to say with whom I would communicate and with whom I would not. "You must let others make that determination," he said.

With this bit of tyranny, I informed Williams that I would never again patronize the "Sound" Doctrine BBS. That was March, 1989. I have not called since, though I have had minor run-ins with them on other bulletin boards and computer communications echoes.

What follows is an article that is available through the "Sound" Doctrine BBS. It is indicative of the poor exegesis and lack of scholarship of the subject matter. The article will be quoted fully; with my comments interspersed throughout.

 

"**********************

"CHRISTIAN PSYCHOLOGIST

"************************************************"

 

"There is no such thing as a Christian Psychologist. Unless of course there is a such a thing as a Christian strip tease dancer."

Although it is badly written, this serves well as a "grab-

ber, i.e., it gains the early attention of the reader. Unfor-

tunately, it is also a very gratuitous statement.

"Psychology is a philosophy and a religion."

By redefining psychology in such a way, Williams is able to

twist the facts to support his premise. If psychology is a

"philosophy and a religion," it must be opposed to Christianity,

which is also a "philosophy and a religion;" but which prac-

tices an exclusivity uncommon to religion. By referring to

psychology as a "philosophy and a religion," and by implying that

it must, therefore, be opposed to Christianity, Williams hopes to

automatically call all Christians to his camp.

"Psychology is not a science."

In fact, psychology *is* a science. A "science" is defined

as a "systematic study." Science is what scientists do. It

follows the "scientific method" so well defined by Popper. Work-

ers in psychology observe, hypothesize, experiement and observe,

and theorize in the manner prescribed by science and the scient-

ific method. Williams is neither well-educated in science nor in

psychology. Though he is a proclaimer of "Truth," it is clear

that this statement is nothing more than uninformed opinion.

"You cannot show me a[n] id, ego or super-ego."

This is true; but I cannot show you an atom, a radio wave,

or a a charged alpha particle, either. This is a gratuitous

argument. Most of what we define as "science" has never been

directly observed in the manner that Williams would like us to

believe is required. If he ever actually sees gravitation, for

example, then he is one up on both Newton and Eistein.

"Not only that, but psychologist[s] cannot even agree on what the truth is concerning human behavior."

What Williams seems to be doing here is accusing psycho-

logists of being scientists, i.e., they compare notes, question,

experiment, and argue. The fact is that a number of psycho-

logists have little trouble agreeing on the "truth," whatever

*that* means, regarding human behavior. Differences of opinion,

however, do persist in how to treat various mental conditions.

"When I was majoring in psychology one message came through loud and clear. Psychology has all the questions, but no answers."

In fact, psychology has a number of answers. If you add

psychiatry you have even more answers. However, as is true with

any science, psychology will not claim to have *all* the answers.

What is clear here is that Williams either wasn't "majoring in

psychology" for very long, or he had serious trouble understand-

ing it.

"That is why it changes concepts every 6 hours. Yesterday Freud was in with his Penis envy and castration complexes. A few years ago it was Maslows heirchary of needs. Today it is left - right brain voodoo."

The first sentence in this paragraph is utter nonsense and

reveals Williams' obvious anti-intellectual bias. Psychology no

more "changes concepts every 6 hours" than any other science

does.

The reader may notice that, by the selective use of terms

such as "Penis envy," "castration complexes," and "left - right

brain voodoo," Williams hopes to sensationalize certain aspects

that many would find distasteful. This gives his article a

"National Enquirer" air that probably was intentional.

It should be noted that Williams refers to all of the above

as if they are or will be pass‚ very soon. In fact, Maslow's

heirarchy of needs still enjoys considerable popularity, espec-

ially among government institutions and the military.

"'Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria.' Jeremiah 2:36"

When questioned as to the relevancy of a number of Bible

verses that he provides, Williams will often state that unless

one truly "carries his cross" as he [Williams] does, then the

relevancy escapes them. This allows Williams to dodge such

questions.

"What is considered wisdom today, like yesterdays ideas, will 'disappoint' us tomorrow."

Once again we see that Williams seems to be accusing psycho-

logists of being scientists.

"The reasons there is no such thing as a Christian Psychologist is because the Spirit of God does not dwell with someone offering man's

wisdom!"

No evidence of this is provided. Williams does not distin-

guish between this use of a product of "man's wisdom" and his own

use of another product of "man's wisdom," the computer.

All of the things that we use in day-to-day living are the

products of man's wisdom. Psychology is a study and the results

of that study are simply tools used to help our fellow man.

Furthermore, Christian psychologists do use prayer and Bible

reading as part of the therapeutic process. Williams' argument,

therefore, is invalid.

"They have prostituted themselves to the world's ideas. They have been taken captive and are taking others captive."

This sort of thing may or may not sound good from the pulpit

of this self-proclaimed "pastor;" but it is obviously uninformed

opinion, not fact. All science is the result of "man's ideas"

and, contrary to what Williams declares, not all of man's ideas

are necessarily evil. Unless Williams and his church are prepar-

ed to forswear use of all products of "man's ideas," then we must

recognize the hypocrisy of such a position as his.

"For psychology is based upon the world, not Jesus Christ."

Psychology is based on the human mind, arguably the greatest

of God's creations. Though asked for clarification many times,

Williams has never provided a clear definition of "the world" nor

has he ever shown how he and his group are so different from "the

world."

"And God says we are to guard ourselves against such."

"'See to it that no one takes you captive through hallow [sic] and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.' - Colossians 2:8"

We see now why it was so important for us to allow Williams

to redefine psychology as a "philosophy." It is clear that he

already has his mind made up on the subject and so needed a Bible

verse that seemingly backs him up.

I remember an old saying that I was taught years ago: We

don't teach the Bible, the Bible teaches us.

"A[n] individual who tries to go by the title of 'Christian Psychologist' has only been taken 'captive through hallow [sic] and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world.'"

Here we have been more or less quoted the verse again.

"Jesus said to leave such blind guides! They offer you no lasting hope. 'See to it that no one take you captive'!!"

Again this is a basic repetition of Williams' position.

"Even if Psychology says something that is in agreement with God's Word it has no power. Even though the two might agree, there is really no agreement."

Good scholarly exegesis would tell us that if psychology is

as diametrically opposed to Christianity as Williams claims that

it is, there can be no agreement of any sort (II Cor. 6:14).

Furthermore, psychology claims no power of its own. If the two

can agree, therefore, it is God's power that causes such agree-

ment.

"One is the dung of this world and the other is the Living God who is able to deliver."

This is more "National Enquirer-type" sensationalism; and

any user of the "Sound" Doctrine can tell you that Williams is

quite fond of using terms such as "dung" to refer to things that

he, personally, has a problem with.

"'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does an unbeliever have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?..."Therefore come out from them and be separate," says the Lord.' -2 Corinthians 6:14-18"

"To hear some 'Christian Psychologist' talk poor Paul was at a disadvantage because he didn't have our understanding of psychology. Pity him, he only had the Holy Spirit and a relationship with a living God."

This argument is based on nonsense. As a "Christian psych-

ologist" I have never heard ANY other "Christian psychologist,"

either in person or in print, talk as if "poor Paul" was either

at some sort of disadavantage or was in any way lacking in an

understanding of psychology. Since Williams has both misused a

Scripture and has drawn an erroneous conclusion from it, we can

easily see how Williams' entire line of reasoning is lacking in

scholarship, good exegesis, and even honesty.

"The only reason people turn to such concepts of this world is that they do not know the power of the cross."

Although this is emphatically stated, it is clear that this

is unjustified condemnation of those who seek aid in dealing with

mental health problems. The fact is that many Christians have

the true power of the Cross confirmed for them through their

counselors, who claim no power of their own; but rely on the

power of the Holy Spirit to provide the psychological healing for

their clients. Christian psychologists are simply tools that the

Lord uses to heal His children.

"'No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began....Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?...For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.' -1 Corinthians 1 & 2"

This verse supports Williams' position ONLY if we accept his

redefinition of terms. As we have seen, we have no reason to do

so, therefore, this passage is irrelevant.

The reader may find it interesting to discover also that

Williams and his followers often consider themselves privvy to

this "secret wisdom" of God spoken of in this passage of I Cor-

inthians. This becomes evident when issues such as proper cloth-

ing and hair length on men are discussed with the "Sound" Doc-

trine.

"Don't give way to the foolish wisdom of this world. Instead, leave that so called Christian Psychologist and pray for God's secret wisdom."

Although Williams is quick to provide this advice, he is not

even remotely willing to take the responsibility for the conse-

quences should this advice be followed and result in tragedy,

which it sometimes has. Therefore, it would be best if the

client "not give way to the foolish wisdom" of the "Sound" Doc-

trine's self-proclaimed "Pastor" and stay with your counselor

UNLESS you feel that that counselor is not being used of God to

provide HIS healing.

Williams and I would agree on one thing, here: Pray. It is

best to allow GOD, not this self-proclaimed "Pastor," to help

you to make this decision one way or another.

"For indeed, the wisdom of this world is 'deceptive', 'hollow' and based on the 'human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ' and if you listen to it you will be taken 'captive'!"

This is certainly true some of the time; but not all that

Williams would proclaim as unGodly is necessarily so. In the

meetings of the "Sound" Doctrine, Williams word may be law; but

in the real world, it is best that we let God, rather than this

para-Christian cult leader, help us to make those decisions.

God has a better track record; and He will certainly be better

served in this way.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The role of the counselor is well-spoken of in Scripture,

and the counsel of men is not always frowned upon by God.

Anyone interested in researching this further might want to

check out some of the volumes mentioned in the following biblio-

graphy:

Hart, Archibald D., Ph.D., Counseling the Depressed

Friesen, Garry, Th.D. and J. Robin Maxson, Th.M.,

Decision Making and the Will of God

Adams, Jay E., Ph.D., The Christian Counselor's Manual

Collins, Gary R., Ph.D., Christian Counseling

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr., Ph.D., Effective Biblical

Counseling

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr., Ph.D., Basic Principles of

Biblical Counseling

Doering, Jeanne, M.A., The Power of Encouragement

Baker, Don and Emery Nestor, Ed.D., Depression

Backus, William, Ph.D., Telling Each Other The Truth

Backus, William, Ph.D., Telling Yourself the Truth

The article that is critiqued through this report is found

on the "Sound" Doctrine BBS in Aurora, CO. It is a text file

that is designated "SOUNDPSY.DOC."

As author of this critique, I am solely responsible for the

contents. This article may be transmitted electronically or

passed along ONLY in unedited form and it must be complete.

Other usage of this article will be by permission only. I may be

contacted through The Electronic Library Exchange, Denver, CO,

at 303-935-6323. I will also entertain any questions or comments

through that number. A text file on the "Sound" Doctrine Church

may also be obtained by contacting me at that number.

 


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