Psychoheresy in the Pulpit


The primary promoters of psychoheresy used to be people who studied psychology directly and then combined what they learned with Christianity. These were generally psychologists who practiced counseling based upon personality theories of secular psychotherapists, such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, and Thomas Harris. Such psychology was incorporated into the pastoral care classes in seminaries and then seminaries began to train professional psychological counselors. Soon these Christians turned psychologists brought their theories and therapies into the Christian mainstream through their books, radio interviews, and speaking engagements. Psychological counseling became the answer to every dilemma, not only in the world, but also in the church.

As demonstrated in our other writing, these counseling theories and therapies are based on human opinion rather than strict scientific investigation. Furthermore, because of how they attempt to deal with the very same issues dealt with by God’s Word, these psychological theories and therapies constitute a rival religion. Nevertheless, there are many who supplement Scripture with psychological theories (opinions), which are no more than the very wisdom of men about which Scripture warns believers. Not only is Scripture supplemented; it is being supplanted. Scripture’s clear meaning is hijacked by these theories as psychology is used to interpret the very Word of God. After about a half-century of expansion, psychoheresy is everywhere in the church to the degree that even many pastors who want to be biblical are preaching psychological answers for living the Christian life. Thus every believer needs to be a Berean!

We recently heard a sermon titled “The Spirit-Filled Family: Parents and Children.” This sermon is quite typical of many that are a mixture of biblically sound teachings and psychologically contaminated ones. Since this sermon, along with sermon notes, is posted on the web, we thought it would be helpful to our readers to go through the sermon and notes as an exercise in being a Berean in the pew. While not everyone may be able to identify the source of the psychoheresy, there is a question that every believer must ask as he listens to sermons: “Where is this in Scripture?” This question is especially important when the statement to be examined is being used to explain, clarify, or expand on a verse or its application. Besides the example of the Bereans looking to see if what Paul was preaching was truly biblical, Paul gave instructions for everyone to judge what is said when believers meet together: “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge”  (1 Cor. 14:29). Discernment is especially needful today! Therefore we all need to: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:15, 16).

The sermon being analyzed is “The Spirit-Filled Family: Parents and Children” on Colossians 3:20-21, preached by Britt Merrick at Reality, Carpinteria, California, on 11-26-06. Read the full analysis of the sermon. In the analysis we express concerns in the following areas:

Adding Psychological Opinions to the Word of God

Past Determinants of Behavior Confirming the Victimhood Stance

Fragility and Innocence of Children

Why People Are the Way They Are and Do What They Do

Overly Dramatic Presentation

Use of Statistics

Manipulating Scripture

Self-Esteem

In analyzing this sermon, we title the area of concern, state what the preacher said, describe the psychoheresy involved, and then give a biblical solution. The following is excerpted from the full analysis, which is posted on our web site along with a link to the preacher’s sermon and sermon notes.

Confirming the Victimhood Stance

What the Preacher Said:

In warning parents about what might happen to their children if they provoke their children to wrath, the preacher said

As a pastor again, I sit with people.... I have grown men weep in my office.... “My dad never told me he loved me.”... “My dad said I would never amount to anything. And, my mom called me good-for nothing.” ... The human heart seldom gets over things like that.

 
Psychoheresy Involved:

In dramatizing the complaints of these men, the preacher surfaced a victimhood stance, not only for them but for others who had less-than-perfect childhoods.  Psychology has made much of this and has encouraged people to pay attention to how they were hurt when they were children.  This is a great emphasis in psychology because of the false belief that these long-past hurtful things formed the person’s present personality and caused his current problems.  Examples of adults describing their bad childhood to support sermon points will not help those adults get over their “woundedness.”  Rather, it confirms their victimhood. 

Many Christians are still blaming their parents and past circumstances for their present problems. Many Christians believe the Freudian myth that what happened to them in the past determines their present words, actions, attitudes, and behavior. They are still blaming their parents and past circumstances for their present problems. Or they are still complaining that their parents did such and such or deprived them of such and such.  They see themselves as wounded and needing healing. In doing so they are missing a powerful truth from Scripture that would set them free from the position of being a victim of the past needing to be healed.

A Biblical Solution:

The flesh cries out, “I’m a victim!”  However, Christians need to be brought to a place where they see first and foremost how they have sinned against others through thoughts and behavior as they were growing up.

The preacher gave a good solution when he said, “The truth of Jesus has set you free.” The truth of Jesus will indeed set them free if they believe it and follow it to the point of trusting God enough to repent of their bitterness, etc.  Indeed, there is much they can do in response to all that Christ has done for them.

There is great hope in Romans 8:28-29 not only for believers’ present and future circumstances, but also for all that happened to them prior to salvation.  If a grown believer, for instance, who has survived great difficulties as a child sees that God can and does use every circumstance in his life for a purpose, there is hope.  For indeed God does use “all things [past, present, and future to] work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.”   The words of the very next verse speak of God’s foreknowledge.  Therefore God was cognizant of all that was happening to one who would become “conformed to the image of His Son.”

Rather than wallowing in self pity or blaming parents for one’s own sinful ways, a person can become free from the bondage of the past by the truth of Scripture.  Part of that bondage has come through the lies of the enemy that cause people to believe that they are the way they are because of their past and are therefore stuck in the past.  And, part of that bondage comes from hanging on to the old man through thinking about all the bad stuff of the past. Freedom comes through realizing that God allowed those circumstances for reasons beyond human comprehension, but for His glorious purposes to bless His people, to conform them to the image of Christ, to use His children in present opportunities to minister in the Body of Christ, and for magnificent purposes extending into eternity (Romans 8:28-29).  Remember what Joseph said to his brothers: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Indeed there have been Christians whose most difficult childhoods prepared them for serving God in unique and important ways.

Another consideration is that if Christians blame the past for their present circumstances, they are also blaming God for their past and present circumstances. Rather than pathetically looking for healing, they need to repent. They need to turn around and quit looking at the past, quit blaming the past, and put off the old man. Christians have been given a brand new life in Christ.  How can they live that new life if they are looking backwards at what happened to them in the past?  They need to follow Paul through Philippians 3:13-14.

This turning around may not be easy, because the flesh is so accustomed to think according to the old ways of self-pity and blaming the past. But, that’s what it is to put off the old man, to be renewed in the spirit of the mind, and to put on the new man (Eph. 4:22-24). Here also is the road to sanctification, overcoming the flesh by walking according to the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Wouldn’t it be glorious to hear those bitter and weeping men begin to be grateful to God for all He has done to give them the gift of salvation and new life!

Our Prayer:

We pray that this analysis, which is on our web site along with access to the actual sermon and notes, can be used as an encouragement to all Christians to be discerning listeners and readers, rightly dividing the word of truth, so that they might walk according to truth rather than according to the psychological wisdom of the world. We also pray that pastors who read this analysis will do this work ahead of time so that their messages will be pure and holy, uncontaminated with the psychological wisdom of man.

(PAL V15N2 * March-April)


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PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries
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