Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology

by Ed Bulkley

Ed Bulkley is currently pastor of LIFE Fellowship in Westminster, Colorado, where he also oversees an extensive counseling ministry. Though Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology comes highly recommended by many pastors, church leaders, and so-called "Biblical counselors," we can find little to recommend it. There are a number of problems with Bulkley's book, theology, and even with his degree. Some of our major concerns are detailed below:

-  As one looks at the cover of the book, one sees after Bulkley's name in large letters the designation "Ph.D." The material BDM requested and received from LIFE Fellowship is littered with "Dr." Ed Bulkley. But what kind of a doctorate is this?

Bulkley received his Ph.D. from Trinity Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana -- a non-accredited correspondence school (accredited by a non-recognized accrediting agency). There are many non-traditional schools, colleges, and seminaries in America that do meet the minimum standards of accreditation. But Trinity Theological Seminary is not one of them. Bulkley's correspondence Ph.D., which is prolifically used at his church, is not acceptable in academic circles nor in academic institutions. For example, no accredited seminary would be interested in employing someone based solely upon such a degree. Bulkley, like many other pastors, seems caught up in the desire for prestige and respect that accompanies the using of academic-sounding letters after one's name.

-  Concerning his theology, Bulkley describes himself as a "Calminian." Bulkley says "we believe in the sovereignty of God which allows for the free will and responsibility of man" (personal letter on file). In truth, Bulkley holds to the extreme Arminian belief of the "carnal" Christian (Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology , pp. 348-350). This is just one example of Bulkley declaring one view (Calminian) and practicing another (Arminian). This difference between what Bulkley says and his true beliefs pervade this book.

-  With respect to the charismas or gifts of the spirit, Bulkley says he believes "in the spiritual [charismatic] gifts and their practice as directed in the balanced instructions of the Bible." Bulkley indicates that his church does not "promote tongues," but does encourage a "freedom of worship." Because Bulkley "believe[s] that all the gifts are valid" for today [gift of healing, too(?)], he admits that some have labeled LIFE Fellowship as "charismatic" (personal letter on file). Bulkley's charismatic position would certainly be harmonious with his Arminian position. And, the use of women in leadership in Bulkley's church (Trust, p. 3) could also be due to his charismatic theology, as could be his church's participation in Promise Keepers, a highly charismatic and psychologized movement (4/95 personal PhoneCon).

-  To his credit, Bulkley believes that the place for counseling is in the church (Trust, Cha. 13). However, this is another example of verbally stating one position and practically holding another one. In contrast to his the-place-for-counseling-is-in-the-church position, Bulkley recommends the Christian Counseling and Education (sic) Foundation (CCEF), a counseling ministry outside the church (Trust, pp. 290-292, 358). [To make matters worse, CCEF is an organization that practices psychological integrationism (see Bobgan, Against Biblical Counseling, Chapters 5 & 6).] What sounds like a strong position about counseling ministries needing to be in the church, turns in to a strong support for a ministry outside the church. And, like CCEF, Bulkley charges fees for counseling -- $50 per hour at LIFE Fellowship (personal letter on file)! (Is this not the peddling of the Word of God for profit? -- 2 Cor. 2:17.) [Though this fee is charged only to non-members, there is still no rational for such a charge, unless Bulkley also charges non-members for attending services at his church. We doubt he would do this.]

-  Another discrepancy in Bulkley's position is how he says he believes that Christians can't trust psychology, yet he praises or excuses the psychologizers themselves. By so doing, Bulkley leaves the impression that he, at some level and in some ways, actually does trust psychology, but never says where or how. And, it leaves the impression of greater generosity towards those who promote psychoheresy than those who fight it. In fact, Bulkley is quite critical of the vanguards and veterans of the battle against psychoheresy (Trust, p. 8). [Specifically, Bulkley singles out Martin Bobgan in a storyline interspersed throughout the book. He implies that Bobgan is "sarcastic and writes fiery critiques" (pp. 61-62), and refers to him as a "psychologist" when quoting from the Bobgan's book Psychological Way/Spiritual Way (p. 221).]

-  The following four examples from Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology should cause Christians to question Bulkley's true allegiances:

(a) Joseph Stowell/Moody Bible Institute (MBI) -- Bulkley quotes a statement of Stowell's that is very favorable to psychology (the statement implies that Bible-only solutions to life's problems are "simplistic" and "unqualified"), and then justifies this psychologizer and his institution by telling us how much he "respect[s] this man of God and believe[s] that he is fully committed to the Lord and to the Scriptures." According to Bulkley, Stowell is to be excused because "he has not adequately researched the issue" (p. 24). Perhaps part of Bulkley's reluctance to criticize MBI is related to the fact that his two oldest daughters are currently "enjoying their studies" at this psychologized institution (p. 288).

(b) James Dobson/Focus On The Family -- Bulkley says, "I appreciate James Dobson for his strong stand on family values. I do not for a moment question his love for the Lord. ... Dobson and [Gary] Collins [in] their many books reveal two sincere Christian gentleman who love Christ and the Scriptures ..." (p. 216). Dobson teaches a psychological gospel of self-love that is heresy at best and blasphemy at worst. One wonders how much heresy and blasphemy a man has to teach before Bulkley would question the man's "love for the Lord"?

(c) Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA)/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) -- Bulkley correctly portrays TEDS and its counseling faculty as being "committed to the concept of integrating secular psychology with biblical counseling" (p. 25), yet the church he pastors in Colorado is directly affiliated with the EFCA and, thereby, indirectly affiliated with TEDS. He also encourages churches to "express their concerns to seminaries and Bible colleges" that promote psychological counseling, especially those "churches that support seminaries through their denominational contributions" (p. 299). Since TEDS is one of the most flagrant in its psychoheresy, why does Bulkley not follow his own advice and withdraw his church from the EFCA denomination, or at least quit supporting it financially?

(d) Don Matzat/Christ-Esteem -- Bulkley quotes favorably from Christ-Esteem where Matzat espouses his "All truth is God's truth" error, and recommends the book as "deserve[ing] careful consideration in this debate" (pp. 244-245). [Matzat follows the teachings of psychiatrist Victor Frankl more than those of the Bible. And, in trying to be relevant in today's professing church, Matzat gives the wrong diagnosis for man's problem. Instead of sin and hell, and the need for forgiveness and heaven, he proposes a "need" for "identity" and "meaning." In the process, Matzat confuses the issues and gives (humanistic) psychology credit it does not deserve.]

-  Overall, it appears not to bother Bulkley at all that "Christian" psychologizers are destroying the church with their heresies. To the contrary, Bulkley has many nice things to say about psychological integrationists in Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology. He refers to Christian psychologists as "my psychological brethren" (p. 7) and "my integrationist brethren" (pp. 271, 351). He says, "I truly believe that they are sincerely trying to help the hurting. I love them and respect them" (p. 271). But are we to love and respect those who teach a false gospel, which psychology clearly is? Or are we to rebuke and correct them?

-  Bulkley even believes that Christians can benefit from the godless teachings of psychology. He says, "I do not dispute the fact that biblical counselors can glean from psychology some helpful ideas, observations, illustrations, and generic methods with which to communicate God's solutions for man's problems. [What about 2 Pe. 1:3? Is God's Word sufficient or not?] But these are not the same as accepting 'psychological' findings as essential truths about man's nature, problems, needs and solutions" [sounds pretty close to it] (pp. 28-29, 32). [One has to question just how much confidence Bulkley does have in the Scriptures. Bulkley says he believes one can be competent to be a pastor, and yet at the same time, be in competent to counsel people effectively (p. 351). Since counseling is merely applying the Word of God, a pastor competent to pastor would also be competent to counsel.]

Bulkley also "readily admit[s] that some of what integrationists write is helpful and biblically solid. ... [yet] as committed to Christ as many integrationists are, their theories of counseling appear to be strongly influenced by unproven psychological concepts. ... [Nevertheless] I genuinely commend Christian psychologists for their desire to serve the Lord and His people" (p. 33). Bulkley doesn't explain how these "committed integrationists" can be committed to Christ, desiring to serve Him, when, all the while, they reject the exclusivity of His all-sufficient Word (2 Pe. 1:3). While these types of generalizations and hypothetical statements are common in Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology; Bulkley gives no specific examples.

-  Bulkley would also have us believe that a man who professes to have a regenerated heart, can continually deny Christ's sufficiency, replacing it with the false religion of psychology, and yet, still be a Christian! On pp. 268-269 of Trust, Bulkley says he believes:

"... that many of them (my integrationist colleagues) love the Lord Jesus deeply and want to serve Him faithfully. But I think they are convinced that the Bible does not deal with many, if not most, of the problems of modern living, and that we must therefore seek solutions in scientific research and psychological findings. They do not seem to understand that to insist the Bible lacks essential truths necessary for man's inner health is to deny the sufficiency of the Scriptures. ... I do not believe most integrationists intentionally deny the Lord, but when they destroy believers' confidence in the sufficiency of Christ's work on the cross, that is the net effect."

Then how can Bulkley say that these integrationists love the Lord deeply? Can men so plainly reject the sufficiency of the Word and still be Christians? According to Bulkley they can!

-  Bulkley also seems to have assimilated some of the psychological/victimization language of which "Christian" psychologists are so fond. He refers to the "healing [of] the damaged souls of suffering people" (p. 5); "deepest hurts" (p. 24)/"hurting people" (p. 259); Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) only "sometimes" being undisciplined behavior (p. 133); the term "mental health," only questioning it, but not rejecting it (pp. 147, 324); the "deepest psychological problems" of humans (p. 262); and "human dysfunctions" instead of sins (p. 266). He even refers to Christ as the "ultimate psychologist" (p. 266)!

Furthermore, Bulkley refers to "alcoholics" instead of drunkards (p. 272); fallen man as "dysfunctional" instead of sinful (p. 274); and "painful dysfunctions" requiring "Christo-therapy " (p. 276). He even claims that poor self-esteem, addictions, ADD, and "virtually every other psychological dysfunction are recorded in biblical case histories" (p. 277). But since he gives no Scripture references, one can only speculate which Bible characters might have suffered from low self-esteem and ADD.

Finally, Bulkley also refers to man's "deepest needs" (p. 299); "dysfunctional minds" instead of sinful ones (p. 310); "nymphomania" instead of gross sexual immorality (p. 311); "painful past"/"wounded heart" (p. 314); "strong-willed" instead of rebellious (p. 315); and "role playing" as a valid Biblical technique (p. 353).

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 6/95