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Psychology - What to Watch Out For

Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.

Outline and Links to Topics:

Let's look at some of the words
Why do I say that psychology is"strange fire?"
The Four Main Streams of Psychological Theory
    Psychoanalytic -- Sigmund Freud & Carl Jung
    Behavioristic -- B. F. Skinner
    Humanistic -- Carl Rogers
    Existential or Transpersonal -- Abraham Maslow
Does Psychology Have The Answers For The Problems Of Life?


Leviticus 10:1-10 warns us not to "offer strange fire before that Lord." That means that we are not to involve ourselves in activities, philosophies, practices, etc. that do not line up with the teachings of the Word of God, the Bible. I believe there are a number of areas that many Bible believing people, churches and Christian organizations are offering strange fire unto the Lord and one of the most deceptive and damaging is -- Psychology.

Colossians 2:8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Let's look at some of the words.

spoil (4812)
The word means, "to seduce". To take captive or make a prisoner. The word in this context refers to the destructive efforts of false teachers who rob believers of the riches that are available in Christ.
philosophy (5385)
The Greek word is philosophia (fil-os-of-ee'-ah) actually means a friend to wisdom or love of wisdom. The word came to mean the doctrines, beliefs, ideologies of the unsaved and Gentile philosophers.
vain (2756)
means hollow, empty, meaningless.
deceit (539)
means anything which is deceptive.
tradition (3862)
An ideology, belief, doctrine or instruction communicated from one to another. In this verse the ideologies are those developed by men.
rudiments (4747)
Rudiments means principles or basics. In this context these principles are from the world of mankind.

Now, when I put it all together I believe Paul was sounding this warning...

Watch out! You will encounter numerous people promoting deceptive, empty man made ideas that sound good but are based on the worlds wisdom and not God's wisdom. If you are not discerning you will be brainwashed and be led away from the sufficiency that is in Christ.

Note the next two verses. Colossians 2:9-10  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

Though there are many "strange fire" doctrines that have wormed their way into the Fundamental Baptist Churches, organizations and the thinking of Christians, none has undermined the sufficiency of Christ and the Word of God like psychology. As you will see, the four mainstreams of psychological theory are incompatible with the Bible.

Why do I say that psychology is "strange fire?"

The Bible is being replaced by psychology as the standard for dealing with the hard problems of living. Many pastors are giving their people a steady diet of psycho babel from the pulpit and in their counseling. In fact the most listened to theologian in America today is not a theologian at all. Dr. James Dobson is a psychologist. Now, I appreciate Dr. Dobson's intervention on behalf of traditional Christian values. Don't get me wrong. But he's got a whole generation believing that the root of their problems in life is that they don't love and accept themselves enough. That's not what the Bible says (Eph. 5:29; Phil. 2:3; James 2:8) . Our problem is that we love ourselves too much. Man's greatest need is to be right with God, not to love ourselves and accept ourselves more. Offering psychological solutions for the problems is life is strange fire because that is not where we have been commanded to go!

Where have we been commanded to go? To the Bible! Since God created us, He knows what makes us tick. God has provided us with reliable information on "how to live?" 2 Peter 1:2-4 says,

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

This passage simply says that God has provided all that we need to live a victorious, God-honoring life. As a person looks to God and the guidance given in His Word, then implements the principles that he finds there, he will change in the areas of thoughts, emotions and actions...he will learn how to live. Why can I say that with authority? Turn to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

All scripture is given by inspiration of God (God breathed), and is profitable [a useful guide] for doctrine [what's right], for reproof [what's not right], for correction [how to get right], for instruction [how to stay right] in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect [whole], thoroughly furnished [competent] unto all good works.

Simply stated, the Bible tells us what's right, what's not right, how to get right and how to stay right. That is what people need today! Answers for meeting the challenges of daily life. The truth is, most people go to psychologists and psychiatrists looking for help with the problems of life. Research psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey found that about 5% of those who come to a psychiatrist are people with organic brain disease while about 75% are people with problems of living. 20% will require closer examination to make a final judgment" to determine which category they fit into. Torrey continues that at least 75% of those who come to a psychiatrist do not need treatment but actually need to be educated in how to live.1 Frankly, I would estimate that by the time the remaining 20% of the cases are examined that at least 15% would fit in to the "need to be educated in how to live" category, bringing the total to 90%. This study shows that most people are looking in the wrong place for help. The Bible has the answers for life's problems. Therefore, they need to look to the Bible and a biblical counselor for help.

There is a second reason why psychology is offering "strange fire" before the Lord. All four key streams of psychological theories are based on man's wisdom, the wisdom from beneath which is in direct opposition to God's wisdom. James 3:15-17 describes the two sources of wisdom.

This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

The Bible reminds us and says,

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God...1 Corinthians 3:19

The Four Main Streams of Psychological Theory

  1. Psychoanalytic -- Sigmund Freud & Carl Jung
  2. Behavioristic -- B. F. Skinner
  3. Humanistic -- Carl Rogers
  4. Existential or Transpersonal -- Abraham Maslow

Let's see why these models can clearly be classified as "strange fire."

  • 1. Psychoanalytic Psychology

Sigmund Freud rejected the truth that man was a sinner and that sin was at the root of man's problems. As a result of that, he developed his own theory called the psychoanalytic theory. He said that man's problems stem from repressed desires. He supposed that the unconscious was a vast reservoir of forgotten experiences and repressed desires primarily sexual in nature. In light of this people are not really responsible for their actions. Those who follow Freud say that the only way resolve our problems is to go on an archaeological dig into your subconscious mind and see what you can dredge up from the reservoir of your unconsciousness. How did Freud attempt to get the repressed information to the surface?

First, by hypnotism. As a young physician, Freud had observed that hysterical patients seemed to lose their symptoms after being under hypnosis and recalling material which, apparently, had been completely forgotten. From this, he developed the concept of an unconscious which dominates the activities of a person, and is motivated by forgotten experiences--forgotten by means of repression, and kept submerged by means of resistance.2

Secondly, Freud developed a technique called psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is based on the assumption that various disorders of the mind are the result of the rejection by the conscious mind of factors that persist in the unconscious (repressed memories) and therefore cause internal conflict. By using dream analysis and free association these conflicts can be resolved.

The natural question is, what is dream analysis? Freud's theory was that "dreams are the expression of unconscious thoughts which are repressed when a person is fully awake."3 Therefore he concluded that he could analyze these dreams and get information about the unconscious motivations of the individual.

What about free association? Free association is "the technique of having the patient talk as freely as possible, bringing in whatever ideas, memories, etc. are associated in his mind."4 The counselor then analyzes what has been said and uses the information to "uncover" and "clarify" repressed memories. I see major problems, don't you? The counselor is the final authority and interpretations would be evaluated on the basis of the counselor's value system.

Now, someone is going to say, no one uses Freudian psychology today. Oh yes they do! A middle age single woman I have known for a number of years was having trouble with tension and sleeping. She sought out professional help. After an hour session of "free association" the conclusion of this "professional" was that she had a build up of sexual tension. She was shocked when he suggested, "the best thing that you could do would be to go out and get laid." She was incensed that she had to pay for this psychological advice! Freudian psychology is still around.

This song by Anna Russel characterizes the influence of Freudian psychology in America

I went to my psychiatrist to be psychoanalyzed
To find out why I killed the cat and blackened my wife's eyes.

He put me on a downy couch to see what he could fine,
And this is what he dredged up from my subconscious mind:

When I was one, my mommy hid my dolly in the trunk,
And so it follows naturally that I am always drunk.

When I was two I saw my father kiss the maid one day,
And that is why I suffer now -- kleptomania.

When I was three, I suffered from ambivalence toward my brothers,
So it follows naturally, I poison all my lovers.

I'm so glad that I have learned the lesson it has taught,
That everything I do that's wrong is someone else's fault!

The Bible is clear. We are responsible for our own actions and we will all give account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12). There will be no passing the buck when the sinner stands before God.

Before I move on, I want to make you aware Carl Jung. Jung broke with Freud over sexual repression being the primary root of our problems but still believed the unconscious being the root of our problems. But Jung to was a Christ rejecter. At an early age "he renounced the austere and formal Protestant Christianity in which he was raised."5 He instead exposed himself to seances and persistent poltergeist activity. "He had his first psychic vision at the age of three."6 And He also affirmed "the reality of spirits and spiritualism, on the evidence of telekinesis, messages of dying people, hypnotism, clairvoyance...and prophetic dreams."7

Now, fasten your seat belt, because Carl Jung gave a startling revelation near the end of his life. He candidly admitted that, far from being the science he had represented them to be, everything ("all my works, all my creative activity") derived from horrendous experiences with haunting spirit entities that nearly drove him insane...It was during this time that "Philemon" became his "spirit guide."8

Psychology is strange fire Christian friends. We must distinguish between what is holy and unholy and not feed on the husks of the worlds philosophy.

  • 2. Behavioristic Psychology

Let's move on to the second psychological theory. This theory is called the Behavioristic theory and it was developed by B. F. Skinner. Skinner looked at man from an evolutionary point of view. Man was just an animal. The way to solve man's problems was by behavioral modification, a system of rewards and punishment. This would enable man to better fit into the social order designed by the intellectually elite.

The fact is, we are not animals and we are not the product of evolution! The Bible says in Genesis 1:27 "...God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Skinners theory is "strange fire."

  • 3. Humanistic Psychology

The third theory was developed by Carl Rogers and is called the Humanistic Theory of Psychology. In this view problems stem from our conscience and guilt. These two things need to be done away with because they are holding back our freedom, creativity and joy. What we need to do is love ourselves and accept our ourselves because self-love & self-acceptance is the key to solving our problems.

Folks, our greatest need is not to love ourselves and accept ourselves, our greatest need it to be right with God, get saved and live for him. It is far more important that God accepts us than to spend our time learning how better to accept ourselves. But why did Rogers adopt such a anti-biblical view? While he was in seminary studying for the ministry he rebelled and renounced the Bible and his conservative Protestant upbringing. He rejected the biblical view of man and offered his second-rate substitute. 1 Samuel 15:23 says, For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft..." so it is little wonder that later in his life, when he came face to face with eternity that he took to attending seances and looked to the Ouija board for answers about the hereafter.

  • 4. Existential/Transpersonal Psychology

Finally we come to the fourth major theory developed by Abraham Maslow. This view is called Existential or Transpersonal Psychology. In Maslow's view there were no absolutes. You determine your own reality. The answer to your problems is Self-Actualization, discovering that you are "god." You just need to accept that fact and live accordingly. American Health magazine sums this view up quite well when it said, "There's a new breed of shrinks in the land. But instead of couches and Rorschach tests, their accouterments are tarot cards and astrological charts...[these are] the shrinks of the yuppie generation... belief in the occult is stronger than ever."9

Does Psychology Have The Answers For The Problems Of Life?

Research shows that psychology is not doing such a good job at resolving the problems of life. The Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health did a survey and this is what they found -- "of those persons who actively sought help for personal problems, the vast majority contacted persons other than mental health professionals, and generally they were more satisfied with the help they received than were those who chose psychiatrists and psychologists."10

Oil and water don't mix. Holy and unholy don't mix. Psychology and the Bible don't mix. Psychology in being offered as the answer to the problems of life in the censers of many Bible believing churches across our land and the Lord is grieved. We must get back to the Bible for our answers. Likely, there will be some who don't want to hear what I have just shared with you. I will conclude by sharing two verses for your consideration --

Galatians 4:16  Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

2 Timothy 4:3-4  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.


  1. Joint Commission on Mental Health, Action for Mental Health, 1961. p.103
  2. The New Universal One-Volume Encyclopedia; Franklin Dunham - Editor; p. 637
  3. Ibid.
  4. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language; 1968; p. 577
  5. Hunt & McMahon, America The Sorcerer's New Apprentice; p. 111
  6. Ibid.; p. 111
  7. C, G. Jung; Psychology and The Occult; Princeton University Press, 1977; p. vii
  8. Hunt & McMahon ... p. 111
  9. American Health, April 1995, Lise Spiegel, "New Age Shrinks"; p. 18
  10. Bergin & Lambert, "The Evaluation of Therapeutic Outcomes," Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change; p. 149
  11. E-mail: FirstBaptistChurchOC@gmail.com

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"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

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1 Corinthians 2:9

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