Some thoughts on 'Psychobabble' (Part 2 of 2)
(Continued from last week.)
B. F. Skinner
By way of contrast to Jung, Skinner was a naturalist of naturalists, granting no mystical overtones. As a result, “He rejected that a person has meaning or significance” (36). His naturalism also left him a determinist, rejecting “free will” and instead teaching that genetic codes direct actions. For instance, if a man has a disposition toward religion, it is only because his DNA is encoded with a need to seek something spiritual (apply as you will now to the thief, a pedophile, a homosexual, etc.).
Thus, these views flow from his naturalism: there is nothing spiritual or supernatural here, and a man is as bound to his base desires as is an animal.
How, then, does Skinner propose to correct societal ills? Quite simply the same way we would train an animal: “behavior modification.” Ganz describes this as “attempting to control a person’s destiny by controlling his or her behavior” (37)—for instance, through drugs. Interestingly, a great deal of psychotherapy today involves pharmaceuticals and psychotropics to operate in the place of a cure, never addressing the original contributing factors. To bring it home, we could consider the sweeping usage of Ritalin and the like to control ADHD in children, usage than could plummet through simple discipline and other alternatives. Of course, drugs make sense if the things Christians used to call “sin” are really simply chemical problems.
(It is important to note here in the interest of avoiding extremes that there are genuine chemical problems to consider. No one disputes, for instance, that pain and fatigue from non-mental sickness wears down a person’s moral inhibitions—an individual is more prone to anger, for instance. Likewise, there are chemical and hormonal imbalances that affect mood and disposition. These are hardly deterministic forces, however, and are far from excusing sinful behavior. As such, an pharmaceutical treatment prescribed by a trained physician is only the first step to godly living, not a means to excuse sin and modify behavior.)
Shifting now to a more positive fellow, Rogers is very alluring to Christians due to his religious terminology. Indeed, he was raised in a Christian home and had some seminary training. Unfortunately, the seminary was liberal in its theology. Therefore, when Rogers was seeking answers for his growing doubts concerning Christianity's effectiveness in dealing with life issues, he found answers elsewhere in the humanistic training at Columbia University.
His humanism shone through when he taught that “human beings are good and perfectible” (38). Likewise, he “insisted there is nothing that can break into a person to help him resolve the dilemma of his suffering” (39). His humanistic thought continued: “There is no revelation … [or] existence of standards and absolutes” (39). Thus, while “his psychology retained a religious or spiritual character” (38) it is perhaps more similar to the naturalism of those who came before him than the supernatural hope offered by Scripture.
Indeed, it seems that the “religious character” of his work, while retaining some Christian idioms, is rather pagan. His paganistic leanings become poignant when
is faced the death of his wife. He looked for answers “in the occult – with its mediums, séances, and Ouija boards,” even claiming to have communicated with his dead wife. Rogers
Considering all of this, a Christian leader should not feel comfortable sending a member of his flock to a Rogerian psychologist.
Erchard is a “New Age guru,” which is an immediate red flag. His teaching was a mystical application of empiricism with a postmodern twist: “something experienced is true; the same thing believed is a lie” (39). One should see the danger of this kind of teaching – there can be no foundational notions in this epistemology (other than the basis that one’s senses are reliable for gathering knowledge). Erchard goes as far to say “You are god in your own universe. There is no God unless it is self.” The dangers of this kind of teaching are hopefully obvious.
It goes without saying that no psychologist today is a sole disciple of one of the above men, gleaning from a number of sources, some even decent for believers to likewise glean. Similarly, "Christian counselors" may even add Scripture to the list of sources to help those in need. However, the above men do not hold to the same convictions Christians do. They must be approached with care by even the most mature among us, meaning that they are the last place we should send the weak and poor in spirit.
Christians must uphold the Bible as the main source for godly living. Second Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Second Timothy -17 read, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is able to both address our present struggles and to give a person hope. As such, those who believe the Bible for passages pertaining to salvation should trust it to also provide what pertains “to life and godliness.”