Also See Exposing the Myth that Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems
The Intrusion of Psychology into Christian Theology
It can hardly have escaped anybody's notice! Among the many and dramatic changes which our society has experienced during the last few years has been the shift into a counselling and therapeutic culture.
Numerous articles have been written about this new approach to the problems of hurting people. Some psychologists have expressed alarm, but others have welcomed the changes as being one of the manifestations of the development of a more caring society. But is our 21st century society with its newly arrived army of therapies and counsellors really more caring?
Today we see masses of counsellors of almost every hue; there are marriage counsellors, there are bereavement counsellors, there are job change counsellors, there are road accident counsellors, there are Christian counsellors, there are post-abortion counsellors and I am told that there are now even 'pet loss counsellors'!
This shift into what we might call 'counsellism' has often greatly amused older people who, in their younger days, just had to steer their own course through life's problems without any access to psychological help!
We now even witness former policeman attempting to sue their previous employers because in the past they witnessed serious road accidents or horrible crimes, yet were offered no 'counselling' at the time! Former soldiers too are starting to complain bitterly because of the trauma which they experienced in various armed conflicts. They complain that there lives have never been the same again since these experiences, therefore...somebody must be to blame!!
And here we see one of the biggest effects of our therapeutic and counselling culture: there is a loss of the desire to shoulder individual responsibility - somebody (it seems) must always be to blame for ones problems!!
Vancouver-based psychology writer Tana Dineen who wrote Manufacturing Victims , says that the problem is that psychology has now decided to break free from its traditional role in order to be a decider of moral issues:
The problem, Dineen said, is that psychology now steps far outside its area of expertise -- genuine, definable personality disorders -- to pontificate on all the issues of human life. "I keep seeing psychologists taking larger and larger roles, commenting on everything from child rearing and spanking to moral and legal issues, with no real knowledge base," she said. For Dineen, Psychology has no expertise in moral issues which it should leave alone. And when psychologists pronounce on social issues such as spanking and child murder, they do so without any real evidence. Yet, despite constant warnings from psychologists like Thomas Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness) and Paul Vitz (Psychology as Religion), the public still accepts its authority. "It's become a very arrogant profession, abusing its power," Dineen said. (Source: 'Our Therapeutic Culture', The Website of Tana Dineen. http://tanadineen.com)
This therapeutic and counselling culture is beginning to have a dramatic effect on young law-breakers. No sooner, it seems, do they commit a major crime, than an army of the new 'clinical psychologists' arrive on the scene explaining why the crime could not have been the young person's fault!! Oh no! It is asserted that the fault lies with society, the child's parents, the child's schooling - the desire always appears to be to blame anybody rather than the actual culprit!! As more and more educators and writers are beginning to note, this is effectively teaching young people that it is perfectly acceptable to dodge responsibility and to blame others for ones own problems.
I recently watched a BBC television documentary about a young man's slide into violent crime. This young man, whom I won't name, is currently serving life imprisonment for double murder. The program set out to explain how an apparently pleasant child turned into a violent criminal. Who was to blame? As soon as I noted that the question, 'Who was to blame'? was going to be asked, I already knew that excuses were going to be made for a lad who was plainly old enough to be personally responsible for his actions! The next question which the program set out to answer was whether the parents were to blame. Again, I quickly felt that the father would be held accountable. Of course, parents do have some responsibility for the way their children grow up, and fathers a particular responsibility, but I am sure that I am not the only one to have noticed that suddenly fathers are almost always more smeared than mothers in this regard, whatever the facts.
Well, in this particular case, my suspicions were certainly proven correct. It would not be wholly fair to say that the program said that the young man was in no way responsible for his horrific murders, but the finger of true blame was certainly pointed elsewhere.
After cataloguing and detailing some of his childhood and youth experiences, a 'clinical psychologist' was brought into the program, apparently to decide and apportion the fullest measure of blame for this young man's evil acts. I was a little stunned (but hardly surprised) that the clinical psychologist was a very young lady, certainly far too young to have raised, or probably even started, her own family; therefore whatever academic qualifications she may have attained, her knowledge of the real, day-in day-out world of child rearing, that knowledge which can only come through sheer experience, was going to be sparse to say the least.
This female clinical psychologist squarely blamed the father for his son's lapse into violent crime. On what basis? Because the father had administered physical discipline in the form of smacks, or 'spanking', while his son was young, and plainly often rebellious. The father stated that the severity of his punishment was always dictated by the seriousness of his son's misbehaviour. Upon discovering that the father had applied such physical punishment, this very young clinical psychologist had no hesitation in asserting that the father had taught his son violence and was the prime reason the son had become a violent criminal!!
The staggering thing was that no blame was attached to the mother although she had thrown her son out of the family home at age 16, and she was now, apparently, nowhere on the scene. The father, in complete contrast, had wept over his son, had reasoned with him, had reluctantly handed him over to the police when he knew the youth had done wrong (which most would say was a very decent, brave and courageous act), and had visited him in prison. Despite all of this father's obvious love and loyalty to his criminal son, he was squarely blamed for the child's criminality, because he had once applied physical punishment to an obviously difficult and rebellious child!!
The young lady who applied such flawed moral reasoning (never an area of concern for traditional psychology), seemed blissfully unaware that physical, corporal punishment was the norm in the home for countless earlier generations, and so, according to her reasoning, all these previous generations of children should have become violent criminals!!
The truth, of course, is exactly the opposite: the threat and possibility of corporal punishment taught children respect for authority, and was one of the surest insurances that the child would grow up into a decent law-abiding person!
But in the wake of this counseling and therapeutic culture with its often complete distortion of moral values (for example, abortion is acceptable, so is homosexuality, but to accept personal responsibility is to be avoided at all costs!), what should the Christian response be?
I am actually quite disturbed that more and more professing believers in the Christ are selling out to all the underlying philosophies of the counseling and therapeutic culture!
This new psychological approach to human problems actually teaches its own subtle 'gospel'! - the message is,
'Be happy and contented - you owe it to yourself. Whatever your problem, there is a therapy and counselling scheme out there to help you. No longer any need of guilt, fear or anxiety - get the therapy you need!!'
Of course, one of the main reasons that people feel guilt and anxiety is because of a sense of individual and personal responsibility, but this new approach to human problems appears to preach an approach of, 'shift the responsibility and culpability elsewhere........ANYWHERE!!'
Now, while it is never wrong to seek help for one's problems, of whatever nature, we should be aware that this whole approach is very different to the approach toward hurting people which we see outlined in the Holy Bible!
Let us notice how personal responsibility for wrongdoing is never avoided in biblical teaching:
'The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself' (Ezekiel 18:20)
Here we see the clear teaching of personal responsibility for whether one does good or evil in life. Why do people 'hurt'? Because of the events which occurred in the Garden of Eden a very long time ago. Of course, all of us 'hurt' to some extent and at various times because we live in a world in which men and women decided to define right and wrong for themselves without the benefit of the Lord God's directions (Genesis 3:5).
The solution to this world's ills is to be found in Jesus Christ - In Him there is complete peace. Does this mean that believers will never hurt? Unfortunately no, because even as believers we cannot be unaffected by the societies in which we still have to live. For instance, it often hurts us when we see those we love bring harm on themselves by their sinful path in life. Since we have the Holy Spirit, we are also constantly frustrated in many areas of life because we are continually dealing with people, events and circumstances which totally ignore the Eternal God! This is bound to be often annoying and frustrating for us. Therefore, for the present, Christians too can often 'hurt'. But - for our part - we can see that various God-denying psychological schemes which unconverted men and women come up with, are not the answer! The complete and full attainment of psychological peace still lies in the future within the New Heavens and New Earth. So Christians know that life will bring many trials and disappointments but - as believers - we understand why the world is currently the way it is!
So our own approach should be to comfort those who hurt and, as we gain their confidence, to point firmly in the direction of Jesus Christ and the sufficiency of Christ's grace, and His perfect Law of Love as the solution. We should not be in the business of encouraging people to dodge responsibility or to blame others or to seek so-called 'professional counselling' as much as we should encourage them to seek the Living God!
The day will dawn when all will realise that all the therapies and all the counsellors have built their foundations on nothing more than sand! Freud did not have the answers as to why people suffer upon this planet and neither do an army of counsellors who do not acknowledge the authority of the Living God!!
So am I saying that we should never seek the help of a 'counsellor'? Absolutely not. But I am saying that we might be simply travelling around in circles if we don't have the SUPREME COUNSELOR at the center of our lives!
'...And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'
(Isaiah 9:6 b)
'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and their shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away' (Revelation 21:4).
This article is Copyright Robin A. Brace 2003. UK Apologetics. If you want it on your own web site please do the honourable thing and come to us for permission first. It is forbidden to excerpt this article without our permission. Thank you. We really regret having to use copyright warnings but unfortunately a few unscrupulous people have already stolen our material word for word and claimed it as their own.