True psychology (i.e. "the study of the soul") can be done only by Christians, since only Christians have the resources for understanding and transforming the soul. The secular discipline of psychology is based on godless assumptions and evolutionary foundations and is capable of dealing with people only superficially and only on the temporal level. [Footnote: Cf. the comments of a psychological counselor cited in Bobgan, PsychoHeresy 5-6.: "At the present time there is no acceptable Christian psychology that is markedly different from non-Christian psychology. It is difficult to imply that we function in a manner that is fundamentally distinct from our non-Christian colleagues."]. The Puritans, long before the arrival of godless psychology, identified their ministry with people as "soul work." Scripture is the manual for all "soul work" and is so comprehensive in the diagnosis and treatment of every spiritual matter that, energized by the Holy Spirit in the believer, it leads to making one like Jesus Christ. This is the process of biblical sanctification. - John MacArthur, THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE. (This essay is adapted from Chapter 3 of John F. MacArthur, Jr., Our Sufficiency in Christ [Waco, TX: Word, 1991] 55-77).
"Christian psychology" as the expression is used today is an oxymoron. The word psychology no longer speaks of studying the soul. Instead it describes a diverse menagerie of therapies and theories that are fundamentally humanistic. The presuppositions and most of the doctrine of psychology cannot be successfully integrated with Christian truth. In addition, the infusion of psychology into the teaching of the church has blurred the line between behavior modification and sanctification. The path to wholeness is the path of spiritual sanctification. It is foolish to exchange the Wonderful Counselor, the spring of living water, for the sensual wisdom of earth and the stagnant water of behaviorism. The Lord Jesus reacted in a perfect and holy way to every temptation, trial, and trauma in life -- the most severe ones that any human life could ever suffer. It should be clear that perfect victory over all life's troubles must be the result of being like Christ. No "soul worker" can lift another above the level of spiritual maturity he is on. So the supreme qualification for psychologists would be Christlikeness. If one is a truly Christian psychologist, he must do soul work in the realm of the deep things of the Word and the Spirit and not be following around in the shallows of behavior modification. Why should a believer choose to do behavior modification when he has the tools for spiritual transformation? This would be like a surgeon wreaking havoc with a butter knife instead of using a scalpel. The most skilled counselor is the one who most carefully, prayerfully, and faithfully applies the divine spiritual resources to the process of sanctification, shaping another into the image of Jesus Christ. - John MacArthur, THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE
The stampede to embrace the doctrines of secular psychology may be the most serious threat to the life of the church today. These doctrines are a mass of human ideas that Satan has placed in the church as though they were powerful life-changing truths from God. Most psychologists epitomize neo-gnosticism, claiming to have secret knowledge for solving people's real problems. Some of them even claim to perform a therapeutic technique they call "Christian counseling" when, in reality, they are using secular theory with biblical references tacked on to treat spiritual problems. - John MacArthur, THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE
HOW SCIENTIFIC ARE THE BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES? Psychology is not a uniform body of scientific knowledge, like thermodynamics or organic chemistry. It rather refers to a complex menagerie of ideas and theories, many of which are contradictory. Psychology has not proven itself capable of dealing effectively with the human mind and with mental and emotional processes. Thus it can hardly be regarded as a science. Many will object to classifying psychology as a pseudo-science, but that is exactly what it is -- the most recent of several human inventions designed to explain, diagnose, and treat behavioral problems without dealing with moral and spiritual issues. Little more than a century ago, the debate was over a different kind of "behavioral science" called phrenology. Phrenology held that personality characteristics were determined by the shape of someone's skull. The phrenologists' diagrams were maps of the head with specific areas labeled, showing which zone of the brain determined a particular emotion or characteristic. A phrenologist would feel people's skulls, diagnosing their problems by the location of bumps on their heads. If you think behavioral science has advanced greatly since then, ask yourself how reasonable it is to surround an adult in the fetal position with pillows so he can get back in touch with his prenatal anxieties. Given the choice, someone poking around on one's head sounds preferable. Modern psychologists use hundreds of counseling models and techniques based on a myriad of conflicting theories, so it is impossible to speak of psychotherapy as though it were a unified and consistent science. - John MacArthur, THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE
WONDERFUL COUNSELOR It is significant that one of the biblical names of Christ is Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9:6). He is the highest and ultimate One to whom Christians may turn for counsel, and His Word is the well from which they may draw divine wisdom. What could be more wonderful than that? In fact, one of the most glorious aspects of Christ's perfect sufficiency is the wonderful counsel and great wisdom He supplies in times of despair, confusion, fear, anxiety, and sorrow. He is the quintessential Counselor. That is not to denigrate the importance of Christians counseling each other. A crucial need exists for biblically sound counseling ministries within the body of Christ. The important role of those who are spiritually gifted to offer encouragement, discernment, comfort, advice, compassion, and help to others is unquestionable. The truth is that one of the very problems leading to the current plague of bad counsel is the failure of churches to do as well as they could have in enabling people with those kinds of gifts to minister effectively. The complexities of the contemporary scene make it more difficult than ever to take the time necessary to listen well, serve others through compassionate personal involvement, and otherwise provide the close fellowship necessary for the church body to enjoy spiritual health and vitality. Churches have looked to psychology to fill the gap, but it has not worked. Professional psychologists are not a substitute for spiritually gifted people, and the counsel psychology offers cannot replace biblical wisdom and divine power. Moreover, psychology tends to make people dependent on a therapist, whereas people with spiritual gifts always turn people back to an all-sufficient Savior and His all-sufficient Word. - John MacArthur, THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE
The spiritually mature always turn to God for help in times of anxiety, distress, confusion, or unrest in the soul, and they are assured of wise counsel and deliverance. The reason for this assured deliverance is that every need of the human soul is ultimately spiritual. Such a thing as a "psychological problem" unrelated to spiritual or physical causes is nonexistent.God supplies divine resources sufficient to satisfy completely all the spiritual needs. David understood that. His writings reflect the depth of human experience, emotion, and spiritual insight of one who had fully experienced the extremities of life. He knew the exhilaration of going from shepherd to king. He wrote of everything from absolute triumph to bitter discouragement. He wrestled with pain so deep he could hardly bear to live. His own son Absalom tried to kill him and was then killed. He suffered from horrible guilt because of immorality and murder. His children brought him constant grief. He struggled to understand both the nature of God and his own heart. Of God he said, "Great is the Lord" (Ps 145:3), while of himself he said, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin" (Ps 51:2). He told God what he felt and cried out for relief, though he admitted God had every right to punish him. At the end of some of David's psalms he looked out a window of hope, and sometimes he did not. But David always went to God because he understood God's sovereignty and his own depravity. Christians of this day and time, following David's example, should rest assured that their all-sufficient Savior alone has the answers to their needs and the power to apply those answers. They should stand convinced that those answers are to be found in the truth about God revealed in His Word, which is itself absolutely sufficient. The sufficient God has revealed Himself in His sufficient Word. - John MacArthur, THE PSYCHOLOGY EPIDEMIC AND ITS CURE PURITAN HARD DRIVE