Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology

by Ed Bulkley (Harvest House:1994)

PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter Book Review*

On the positive side, Bulkley repeats many of the things that the veterans and vanguards of the fight against the intrusion of psychology into the church have already said. There is little new in Bulkley's criticisms, but it is always good to have another voice criticizing the intrusion of psychology into Christianity.

On the negative side, Bulkley "pulls his punches." While he repeats many of the criticisms already made by the anti-psychology/pro-Scripture group, at the same time he curtsies around promoters of integrating psychology and Christianity. Bulkley congratulates himself for not naming names of many of the psychologizers in the text.

Worse yet, however, is when Bulkley soft-pedals his criticism of many psychologizers of the faith by complimenting them. This approach is a definite weakness and stands in stark contrast to Paul's approach with false teachers. For instance, after quoting an "evangelical" leader's favorable remarks about psychology, Bulkley declares: "I respect this man of God [Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute] and believe that he is fully committed to the Lord and to the Scriptures." He excuses [Stowell] ... on the basis that "he has not adequately researched the issue" (p. 24).

Besides compromising many of his criticisms, he takes a reverse ad hominem approach with some of the most ardent promoters of psychoheresy in the church. He unnecessarily defends "Christian" psychologists when he says:

"While I genuinely commend Christian psychologists for their desire to serve the Lord and His people, the issue is not their sincere and genuine faith in Christ. The debate is not about their motives for defending psychological counseling. The question is, Can a Christian trust psychology?" ( p. 33)

Then, why not leave judging the heart to God and simply judge the words and actions of such people? Since the issue is not a "debate about their motives," why attribute honorable motives to those who have seriously compromised the faith with false teachings?

Regarding James Dobson, Bulkley assures his readers that he does "not for a moment question his love for the Lord" (p. 216). He praises the heart attitude and motivation of Dobson and Gary Collins:

"The overall content of the conversation between Dobson and Collins and their many books reveal two sincere Christian gentlemen who love Christ and the Scriptures and who have a genuine desire to help people" (p. 216).

Again, according to what Bulkley said earlier, the issue is not supposed to be motives. Nevertheless, he presumes to judge their motives and hearts and gives them a clean bill of health. While Bulkley's book may warn about psychology, there is little clear warning (by name) of the primary promoters of psychological teachings in the church. Thus, Bulkley's warning is unclear, like Paul's analogy in 1 Corinthians 14:8, "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?"

Instead of genuflecting to their Christian commitment, Bulkley should be attacking the teachings of both of these men for their excesses in psychologizing the church. We wonder if Bulkley has any idea of the damage done to the body of Christ by these two leaders who continue to psychologize the faith.

At the beginning of his book, Bulkley says:

"I have read the bitter attacks made by some critics of psychology and I have listened to and spoken with some of the authors who have written books labeling Christian psychologists and psychiatrists as heretics. In all honesty, I must admit that I agree with them on many points, but I don't like their tone of voice. I don't appreciate their barbed sarcasm and judgmental attitudes. But I understand their frustration that they cannot get a fair hearing in the evangelical community" (p. 8).

We want to make it clear that aside from a 30-second introduction at a conference we [the Bobgans] have never had a conversation with Bulkley. Therefore, he could not be referring to us. Nevertheless, we wrote and asked him to whom he was referring. After several exchanges of correspondence, he still has not answered the question. Not answering or clarifying leaves all the veterans and vanguards of the movement open to possible criticism. He has judged the attitudes of these people as judgmental while he extols the attitudes of many who promote psycho-heresy. This is a sorry state created by Bulkley when it is obvious that he has borrowed heavily from those who preceded him.

A storyline is interspersed throughout the book, in which both biblical and psychological counseling are at times seriously misrepresented. This story, occupying over 100 pages of the book, may keep the reader interested, but it is an added shortcoming of the book.

Even though there is much good material throughout the book, we cannot recommend Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology. Besides the shortcomings stated above, the book is permeated with Bulkley's commitment to the Biblical counseling movement. Bulkley's work is subject to some of the same problems regarding the Biblical counseling movement that we address in our book Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible.

One last comment: L.I.F.E. Fellowship, the church Bulkley pastors, is participating in the Promise Keepers, which is a highly psychological movement. Participating in this movement are many of the very psychologizers about whom Bulkley should be sounding a clear alarm.

* This material has been excerpted and/or adapted from the May-June 1995 PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter (PAL ). PAL is published bimonthly by Martin and Deidre Bobgan, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 6/95