James R. Beck & Psychoheresy


A brief profile on Dr. James R. Beck provides a glimpse at how much the Bible has been supplemented and compromised at Denver Seminary. (See PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, Vol. 10, No. 1.) Beck is a professor of counseling at Denver Seminary. His articles and books amply furnish examples of his adding to and compromising the Bible. In an article in Focal Point (Vol. 17, No. 4), which is a publication of Denver Seminary, Beck says, "The church has two major vehicles available to accomplish its goal of shaping believers into the image of Christ. Spiritual formation through worship, edification, instruction, discipleship and other ministry forms is the most familiar mechanism. . . . The second major vehicle available for the maturing of God’s people is psychotherapy." (Bold added.)

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul saying, "The second major vehicle available for the maturing of God’s people is gnosticism"? Or, if such a practice as psychotherapy had existed at the time, would the Apostle Paul have listed it as "the second major vehicle available for maturing God’s people"? NEVER!

Paul was opposed to such a heresy as gnosticism and he would be opposed to joining Scripture with psychotherapy or using psychotherapy at all (e.g., Gal. 3:1-3, Col. 2:6-8) for there is no valid biblical or scientific justification for its use with Christians suffering from problems of living. After all, it was Paul who, by the Holy Spirit, wrote the words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Also consider 2 Peter 1:3-4.

What did the church do from its inception throughout nearly 2000 years without Freud et al.? We would say the true body of Christ did very well without Freud et al. Beck and others apparently believe those earlier Christians would have fared better with current psychological insights.

Not a Coherent Science

In another Focal Point article titled "Psychology—To Use or Not to Use? That is the Question!" Beck speaks of the "expansion of human knowledge," "new discoveries," and "reliable information," and yet he gives no specifics with respect to psychotherapy. In fact, there may be rationalizations but there is no valid academic or biblical justification for adding psychology to Scripture as he does. Beck’s justifications for adding to the Bible involve the same old misuse of Scripture and distortion of logic that we have discussed elsewhere. (See The End of "Christian Psychology," Chapter 2.) We have demonstrated throughout our books that psychotherapy is not a coherent science, but rather a discipline based upon unscientific theories and few verifiable facts.

Evolution& Psychology

In an article by Beck and a therapist colleague, James W. Banks, we read the following:

We propose that an examination of the creationist-evolutionary conflict earlier in this century [20th century] will help us understand the current anti-psychology movement. Our belief is that the characteristics, dynamics, and socio-historical course of evangelical anti-evolutionism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are very similar to the characteristics, dynamics, and socio-historical course of evangelical anti-psychology today (James R. Beck and James W. Banks, "Psychology and Evangelicals," Carer and Counsellor, Vol. 6, N. 4, p. 20).

Beck and Banks discuss what they call the "centrist" position, which harmonizes "approaches to evolution and Christianity" and "Darwin and the Bible." They compare the "centrist" position on evolution with the "centrist" position on psychology, which harmonizes psychotherapy and Christianity and Freud et al. and the Bible.

Beck and Banks apparently support the "centrist" position on both evolution and psychology. We would describe their "centrist" position as anti-science, anti-logic, and, most of all, anti-Bible.

In this article Beck and Banks misrepresent the positions of "anti-evolutionists" and anti-psychotherapy. For example, Beck and Banks say, "Anti-evolutionists share with those in the anti-psychology movement a general distrust of science and an inability to distinguish benign scientific contributions from more antithetical findings." WRONG!

Beck and Banks say, "Anti-psychology authors reject New Age psycho spirituality but are unable to distinguish it from scientific theories of the human psyche." WRONG AGAIN!!

Beck and Banks say, "Creationists claim that they are defending the inspiration of the Bible. Anti-psychology authors usually make no such claim." AND, WRONG ONCE AGAIN!!!

What terribly compounds Beck’s false representation and sheer ignorance of the anti-psychotherapy position is the fact that he has been on our PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter mailing list for years!!!

Contradictions

Beck and Banks also demonstrate their ignorance of natural revelation by broadening the definition to include the psychological "wisdom of the world" (1 Cor. 1:20, 2:6, 3:19), which would include the Freudian et al. wisdom as long as it is "not contradictory to Scripture" and uses the Bible as the "touchstone of truth," which are the two criteria that Denver Seminary uses. We have looked for years but never found even one Christian psychotherapist who would admit that what he does (no matter how Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Rogerian, etc.) is contrary to Scripture or in any way violates biblical truth. (For our discussion on natural revelation, see CRI Guilty of Psychoheresy? Chap. 2.)

Beck has been a consultant to CB International, which is the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society. In our book Missions & PsychoHeresy we list CB International as one of the mission agencies that has sold out to mental health professionals and psychological testing to screen missionary candidates and to minister to missionaries in need. We suspect that Beck was involved in promoting and/or supporting these practices.

In the Denver Seminary Academic Catalog 2001-2003 Beck says, "When an apparent conflict between Scripture and scientific investigation arises, Christians in the helping professions are compelled to give priority to the Bible. The counseling department incorporates in its curriculum the most scholarly studies from the disciplines of theology and counseling." (Bold added.)

Notice the fudge factors, one in each sentence. Who decides when "an apparent conflict" occurs and what are "the most scholarly studies"? The answer is that each individual person decides. Two Christian psychiatrists claim that nearly all the Freudian defense mechanisms are found in Scripture. Rather than revealing the Freudian source of defense mechanisms, psychiatrists Paul Meier and Frank Minirth attempt to validate them with the Bible and their own personal opinion. On one of Meier and Minirth’s broadcasts it was said, "There are forty defense mechanisms that we know about and nearly all of these are described in Scripture as well as in the psychiatric research."

Other Christian counselors claim that the application of the four temperaments to individuals in the Bible will lead to a greater understanding of them. There is no psychotherapeutic idea used by any Christian practitioner which that practitioner would claim is "contradictory to Scripture" or would violate Scripture as the "touchstone of truth." All psychotherapies, no matter how silly or satanic, can be rationalized as conforming to Scripture by the user. And, that includes every psychoanalytic, behavioristic, humanistic, transpersonal, and eclectic Christian psychotherapy.

We have demonstrated elsewhere that there exists a conflict between the psychotherapeutic wisdom of men and Scripture and that "most scholarly studies" are on our pro-Bible side versus Beck’s pro-psychotherapy side. That is one of several reasons why no public debate has taken place on this issue, though attempts at arranging debates have been made a number of times.

Erroneous Assumptions of Efficacy

Until researchers began to study the efficacy of psychotherapy, people assumed that it was safe and helpful. Since that time, however, there have been harsh criticisms of psychotherapy, reasonable suspicions of its supposed success, and alarms at the degree of its dangers. In his book The Myth of Psychotherapy, Dr. Thomas Szasz declares, "My point is rather that many, perhaps most, so-called psychotherapeutic procedures are harmful for the so-called patients . . . and that all such interventions and proposals should therefore be regarded as evil until they are proven otherwise."

After reviewing numerous studies on the effects of psychotherapy, Dr. Robyn Dawes, a professor and nationally recognized researcher at Carnegie-Mellon University, says in his book House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth, "There is no positive evidence supporting the efficacy of professional psychology. There are anecdotes, there is plausibility, there are common beliefs, yes—but there is no good evidence."

Christian Psychology?

Is there a distinctly Christian psychology that is taught at Denver Seminary? The following confession was made at a meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies (CAPS), an organization of psychologists who are professing Christians:

We are often asked if we are "Christian psychologists" and find it difficult to answer since we don’t know what the question implies. We are Christians who are psychologists but at the present time there is no acceptable Christian psychology that is markedly different from non-Christian psychology. It is difficult to imply that we function in a manner that is fundamentally distinct from our non-Christian colleagues . . . as yet there is not an acceptable theory, mode of research or treatment methodology that is distinctly Christian.

From the unconscious determinants of Freud to the congruence, accurate empathy and positive regard of Rogers, and from the archetypes of Jung to the I’m-OK-You’re-OK of Harris, the field of psychotherapy is saturated with confusion and subjectivity. The whole array is simply subjectivity garbed in the pseudosophistication of a scientific sounding vocabulary and garmented by academic degrees and licenses. But it nonetheless stands naked before the eyes of true science and research.

Subjectivity exists wherever psychotherapy exists whether in or out of the church. Just because this subjective (supposedly scientific) practice is used by Christians and sometimes baptized by adding Scriptures does not raise it to the level of truth. Attempting to sanctify psychotherapy by adding Bible verses only secularizes Scripture.

Confusion

The result of all attempts to sanctify psychotherapy has only led to as great a confusion of approaches concocted by Christian practitioners as by non-Christians. Behind all the rhetoric supporting the marriage of Scripture and psychotherapy is the reality of confusion. There is almost as wide a diversity of theories and techniques among Christians as among non-Christians. Differences between Christian professionals exist on even the most basic and important elements of psychotherapy. For example, one group emphasizes the unconscious determinants of behavior and another group avoids them all together. One group of Christians will use a system such as primal therapy and another group will call it demonic. It is perplexing and paradoxical how such a mess could have mesmerized Christians.

It is clear that the prevailing psychotherapeutic systems merely reflect the current culture. In fact, American psychotherapeutic approaches are almost nonexistent in some parts of the world. They are not universal but rather socio-culturally restricted. We know that the truths of Scripture transcend culture and time. They are eternal. Which so-called truths discovered only by psychotherapists are eternal?

Dorothy Carey

In his book on Dorothy Carey, Beck uses her story to promote his own psychological ideas. Beck refers to Dorothy Carey as an "insane woman" and one with "mental illness." Beck knows the difference between the brain (a physical organ) and the mind. However, without distinguishing the two, he uses the terms "mental illness" and "psychological disturbance" in the same paragraph (p. 13).

Beck switches from Dorothy Carey being an "insane woman" to her having an "emotional disturbance." He says:

Dorothy may have been the first to struggle on the mission field with emotional disturbance, but she certainly was not the only one to go through these kinds of trials. Early evangelical missionaries to the South Seas struggled with intemperance, some even with alcoholism (p. 15).

There is a huge difference between these two terms unless Beck equates insanity with "emotional disturbance." Szasz says, "Typhoid fever is a disease, spring fever is not. Pneumonia is a literal disease, pyromania is a metaphorical disease."

If Beck believed that Dorothy Carey had a biological brain problem he would not confuse the issue by referring to others who "go through these kinds of trials." Also, if Beck did not switch Carey’s condition from "insane" to "emotional disturbance" he could not have equated her situation to those with "intemperance" and "alcoholism" unless he believes that these are biological problems as well. Beck’s obvious switching and bridging occurs in a number of places.

Just as Beck confuses brain diseases and metaphorical diseases, he also confuses much about Dorothy Carey. Beck’s twisting of the mental and the physical into an amalgam that confirms his psychological mindset characterizes what he does with the history of Dorothy Carey (p. 175 ff.).

Beck mentions comments about Carey made by other authors and concludes that, regarding what they say, "no evidence exists" (p. 15); "We simply do not know" (p. 16); and "pure fiction" (p. 19). However, these same remarks by Beck about other authors could also be directed at Beck’s book on Dorothy Carey. In one place Beck describes what he did as "reconstruction" (p. 13), but we would describe it as speculative deconstruction to promote his own psychological preconceptions that he teaches his Denver Seminary students.

Psychologizing Christianity

Beck is merely one example of the compromise of the Bible with psychotherapy—in a word, psychoheresy.

In 1986 Dr. J. Vernon McGee, in his article titled "Psycho-Religion—The New Pied Piper," complained about the psychologizing of Christianity. He said, "So-called Christian psychology is secular psychology clothed in pious platitudes and religious rhetoric." Elsewhere he wrote, "I see this matter of psychologizing Christianity will absolutely destroy Bible teaching and Bible churches."

Beck practices, teaches, and promotes psychoheresy. But he is not alone. The chancellor, president, seminary board, and faculty all bear the guilt to the extent that they have supported or ignored this poisonous presence of psychoheresy at Denver Seminary.

PAL V10N2 (March-April 2002)


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