Thursday, February 15, 2007

Therapeutic Theology: Part 1

It may seem strange to us that Paul would devote several chapters to demonstrating the sinfulness of all people. We might think that he should get to the good news and camp there and help people see the good news as really good. That would feel more positive than lingering as long as he does over the sinfulness of man.

But there are probably some very profound reasons for this lingering over our sinfulness. I think of two at least. One is that the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone simply does not land on us as overwhelmingly good news until we have some deeper sense of our sinfulness and hopelessness before God. The other reason Paul may draw out his demonstration of our sinfulness is that we are so resistant to seeing it and feeling it.

This is what I would call Therapeutic Theology and it is a pervasive problem in almost every evangelical institution in America today. Below are some quotes and assessments of the Therapeutic Theology issue. [My comments will be in brackets.]

"The recovery movement has taken not only America but evangelicalism by storm. In the form of Christian (and not so Christian) books, programs, small groups, and counseling centers, it represents the highest floodwater mark of the therapeutic on the church so far. Twelve-step this and that have been given the authority of the apostolic twelve themselves, and the result has been hailed as renewal.... The triumph of the therapeutic has finally transformed psychology from a mere discipline to a worldview and a way of life. Triumphing as a social revolution, the therapeutic has gained a self-evident status and a taken-for-granted cultural authority that is rarely questioned. "Diagnosis" and “therapy" are as obvious to twentieth-century Americans as "demons" and "witches" were to seventeenth-century Americans. In law they replaced crime and punishment. In religion they have replaced sin and redemption." - Os Guinness, No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age

"Evangelicalism is infatuated with psychotherapy." - John MacArthur, Jr., Our Sufficiency in Christ

It’s Popular. It’s Defective. It’s Erroneous.

"The overall story of pastoral care in the United States has been summed up as the shift from salvation to self-realization, made up of smaller shifts from self-denial to self-love to self-mastery, and finally to self-realization. The victory of the therapeutic over theology is therefore nothing less than the secularization and replacement of salvation." - Os Guinness, No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age

"Like medicine, biology, astronomy, and physics, psychology can collect observable data, but it cannot offer any insight into the ultimate questions. Those answers are found only in the kingdom of grace, only in the gospel, which itself is found only in the text of Holy Scripture." - Michael Scott Horton, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?

Why Has The Therapeutic Movement Become So Widely Accepted?
1. A theological deficiency among pastors.
2. The lack of respect for the competence of pastors and the unquestioned reverence for and deference to psychologists and psychiatrists.
3. The biblical illiteracy that characterizes the average Christian.
4. The attractiveness of the content.
5. The failure to build churches that are relationally strong.

"The triumph of the therapeutic is therefore partly a spur to the church and partly a judgment--a further example of the "unpaid bills of the church." - Os Guinness, No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age

What's The Problem: The Integration of Psychotherapy With Biblical Theology

"Whatever reconciliation I managed to effect between psychology and Christianity, however, was always at the expense of Christianity... True Christianity does not mix well with psychology. When you try to mix them, you often end up with a watered-down Christianity instead of a Christianized psychology. But the process is subtle and is rarely noticed. I wasn't aware that I was confusing two different things. And others in the church who might have been expected to put me right were under the same enchantment as I... These attempts to make common cause with psychology are examples of `Christianity And.' It's a strong temptation to those who fear that Christianity by itself isn't enough. The trouble is that `Christianity And' edges real Christianity aside or prevents it from taking hold." - William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction: The Failure of Modern Psychology

"But what we see today in so much of the literature and preaching of Christian pop psychology is not integration of biblical-theological and natural-scientific knowledge, but a replacement of biblical views of humans, God, and salvation with purely secular notions, baptized with non-contextual verses from the Bible." - Michael Scott Horton, ed., Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?

1 comment:

ddd said...

Hello Casey,

I have replied to your enquiry on my blog. Anyway, you seem rather orthodox, yet you seem to symphatize with the Emerging Church movement. May I know how you came about to such a position?