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, therapeutically informed art of 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-counsellor who WILL mention those things every time.

6 thoughts on “Christians don’t need Secular Therapists and Psychologists

  1. I 100% disagree with this post and it actually makes me very very angry. Pastors and Elders are generally not trained to deal with some of these situations. Someone in the middle of depression because they are abused do not need to be slammed over and over with how terrible of a person they are before God due to sin. They already believe they are beyond awful and even God couldn’t love them.

    Aside from that, mental illness requires more than “oh you’re sinful and need Jesus”. Yeah, that’s true. But not particularly helpful in all situations.

    Your post is what lends itself to abuse by those in spiritual authority and it’s disgusting.

  2. I think your post is rooted in a profound misunderstanding of how “secular” therapy (by which I suppose you mean every therapy that does not hold its patients to the same religious standards you hold yourself to) works.

  3. Liz, I took pains to qualify that I believe the pastors should be trained and qualified. I know of some churches that have trained counselors on staff, and that their function is to meet the needs of their congregants, and they also help the extended church body, as other churches recommend their own members there when their pastors don’t have the necessary skill. I’m not advocating putting a suicidal woman in the care of a 22 year old youth pastor.

    Secondly, I never said that it would be good or beneficial to slam someone with charges of sinfulness and wickedness- only that it is crucial for any therapist to have that view of man because every god-glorified solution springs out of that. It is fundamental to a proper worldview of mankind, and that’s why I believe it to be important.

    I also never said that it boils down to “you’re sinful and you need Jesus” . What I did say though was that what they ultimately require for health and wholeness is found in some way in the person and healing of Jesus Christ. That is not a “believe in Jesus and you’ll get well!!!!” Far from it. Rather it is the recognition that all they are going through is known and upheld by the God who loves them- and that having a biblical worldview is far more conducive to the slow and painful process of healing than a secular humanist worldview would have.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems you really didn’t read my post, and are reacting to perceived misgivings and jumped-to conclusions- the things i didn’t say verses the things i did

  4. Neff-can secular counseling and therapy offer relief to people and make them better and rid them of their earthly woes? Sure. Of course. I never denied that.

    Its not about having the same standards. Rather that secular humanism operates under a certain worldview- one that does not have God at it center- and so by its very nature cannot adequately diagnose and heal man in a way that he needs at the core of his soul and spirit, in a way that lines up with how god designed us to be, thin, feel and act.

    I’m also not advocating “just pray and god will heal you”, even though I believe he may or may not heal. I understand that all reasons why a person might seek a counsellor- such as marriage problems, job problems, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, etc are multifaceted and complex issues. But that’s the point- a biblical worldview can better unravel them at their essence far better than a non-biblical worldview could.

  5. NJ. Where have I said that the solution is “just stop sinning?” What an impossible feat. I don’t believe anyone can do that, and I don’t prescribe to moral therapeutic deism. I think that if the pastors advice was to just “stop sinning” that it would be a terrifying, menacing, traumatic assessment that they would never be able to bear.

  6. First and foremost we are all and will always be sinners and have been ransomed from our transgressions by the Agape Love God Himself Poured Out On the Cross. These include the behavioral, physiological and psychological manifestations sin has plagued man since the Fall. While I don’t believe many viewpoints of leading secular psychology theorists(Freud, Erikson, Maslow and Piaget) I believe Carl Jung was closest at getting an idea of what central role spirituality has in the “Human Condition”.

    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation.” 2 Corinthians” 5:17. This Scripture verse has importance in my awakening and I want to show you how a revered Christian Psychologist at John Brown University helped me through his diagnosis of my ADHD. I spent years self medicating through booze and self absorption and run ins with the law. I was saved in 2004 and never have drank since, My selfish behaviors shifted to high risk activities such as Tornado Chasing and Riding Sportbikes at very fast speeds but still feeling dissatisfied and depressed with no real vigor outside of Worship, Fellowship and Service. I did not enjoy my job. I prayed faithfully for an answer. This went on for 4 years until I was referred to a Christian Doctor and was first diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. I took medication for a year in addition to behavior changes. I felt the symptoms improving but there was still an issue with impulsive behavior. I was referred to a Christian Psychologist and took a series of assessments and was found to have Adult ADHD. I was told to begin specific behavior changes and placed on non-stimulant medications. It worked for awhile but I began having side effects and switched to Adderall. I was told meds will last only six months and we would we rely on behavior therapy after that. I am now in recovery.

    So, my point is 1. there are Christians in the medical field that believe in and practice modern day psychology but only as a small part of the recovery process. Ultimately it is through a relationship with Christ can eternal results be achieved 2. Through prayer and reflection, I was able to identify continuing negative aspects my selfish behavior and make the needed changes and this I believe was from guidance of the Holy Spirit and the opening up of doors to get the right doctors and 3. Adderall helped tremendously. There is concrete evidence that many mental and behavior disorders are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters that is why i self medicated. This is from observable scientific data and not speculative. To denounce this discipline of science as many Christians do is a reflection of an insular trend in the church and hurts our ability to help and save the lost.

    The Andrea Yates tragedy in Texas is an example of what could happen when treatment is told to be stopped by pastoral leadership without training.

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