Some thoughts on 'Psychobabble' (Part 1 of 2)

t’s tempting to gain a helping hand from the learned men and women in the fields of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, etc. in order to minister to the hurting and poor in spirit.  And why not?  There are a lot of unique problems out there, so it seems to make sense to send sorrowful and troubled souls to the "trained professionals."  Yet, we must wonder if we are feeding our sheep to the wolves.  To answer this, it is first necessary to examine the foundations of modern method.

To do that, I recommend you read Richard Ganz’s PsychoBabble: The Failure if Modern Psychology and the Biblical Alternative.  He explores each individual responsible for modern psychology giving the reader a basic understanding of what these men actually believed.  By learning their frameworks and what drove them as people is fundamental to the debate within Christianity over whether we should use  psychology as a complement to the Bible.  The conclusion of the text is that no Christian can, of good conscience, justify using these men to advise godly living.

This is a little more than a basic book review, as I want to give a synopsis this week and next of some of Ganz's key points.  

Sigmund Freud
            Ganz reveals that the “foundation of Freud’s thought was the belief that people are ruled by their unconscious minds.Essentially, Freud saw man as an instinct-driven beast dominated primarily by the drives of sex and aggression”  (31, emphasis in original).  Of course, in one sense, Freud is correct: Genesis 2:7 says man became a living nephesh, the same word used of the living “creatures” (animals) in Genesis 1:24.

            However, even though the soulish nature of natural man is similar to that of land animals, that does not mean that he is an "instinct-driven  beast."  Genesis 2:7 also says that God “breathed” into man, something not said of the animals.  Later, even unregenerate man bears the image of God.  Thus, to reduce man to the status of an animal to devalue the imago dei, the image of God; to diminish human dignity.    

            Freud also taught counselees that they were “not responsible for their actions.  Someone else is to blame” (32).  Such shifting only serves to feed our proud sin nature.  By way of example, Ganz here points out that infamous “blame game” in the Garden of Eden.  Sure, Adam may not have sinned if Eve did not give him the fruit.  Sure, Eve may not have eaten if the serpent didn’t first entice.  But such does not dismiss Adam and Eve’s culpability—they were disobedient and deserved punishment.  What has the Christian to do with the advice to blame-shift, then?  Such only serves to distract people when confronted with their sin, robbing them of the opportunity to affect real change within themselves as well as teaching them to ignore their consciences.

            Why does Freud fall into such error?  He “viewed religious behavior as at best a ‘neurosis’” and “did not believe that man possessed a soul” (33)—he was a naturalist.  He denied the spiritual (God, the soul, etc.).  He even dismissed value in religion (note that it was “at best” a “neurosis”).  What good is it, then, for a Christian leader to send a hurting brother or sister to a Freudian psychologist who believes the person’s faith is a contributing factor to his problems? 

Carl Gustav Jung

            Jung took a more mystical stance than Freud and, as a result, become more appealing, but Ganz again provides the discernment we need.  Jung’s “spiritual dimension” extolled a “collective unconsciousness.”  He  simply borrowed the Freudian concept of “unconsciousness” and infused it with mystical overtones that seem to be Eastern in origin.  For Jung, “The collective unconsciousness is also the dwelling place of God” (34), similar to the Hindu concept of Nirvana, the reported plane of unity and peace to which all must strive.   
When it came to Christianity, Jung’s believed that “Jesus became the symbol of sacrifice and deity, not the true Savior.Jesus functions symbolically as an archetype for redeemer, meeting the need shared by all people of redemption” (34, emphasis in the original).  Theological questions important to the salvation of the soul, such as whether or not Christ’s work could atone for sin or if Jesus even existed at all, are unimportant.  As Ganz says, “Jung’s Jesus is more like a spiritual guide than the Lord of history.”  Thus, while a counselee may receive fine humanist advice, his real spiritual needs may be reduced to that of symbolism, leaving Christian shepherds unable to recommend Jungian counselors.

To be continued...

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