Larry Crabb

General Teachings/Activities*

-  Larry Crabb is an author, licensed clinical psychologist, and founder and Director of the Institute for Biblical Community (IBC) (formerly the Institute of Biblical Counseling) at Colorado Christian University in Morrison, Colorado, where he is also Distinguished Scholar in Residence (since 1996). (IBC is an organization Crabb founded in the early-1980s while on the faculty at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana [1982-1989]. IBC has been replaced by Crabb's School of Spiritual Direction & SoulCare -- see below.) He has developed a model of counseling that is primarily a psychological system of unconscious needs motivating behavior, which is derived from both Freudian (the unconscious supposedly being a hidden reservoir of the mind with drives and impulses governing a person's thinking and behavior) and humanistic psychology (a hierarchy of needs, with great emphasis on so-called emotional needs). His counseling model is Freudian, Adlerean, and Maslowian in its underlying theories. It is an integrationist model; i.e., it seeks to combine theories, ideas, and opinions from psychotherapy, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and their underlying psychologies, with the Scriptures. (See subreport for an excellent comparison of Crabb's model of counseling with the Biblical model.)

Crabb started New Way Ministries (the "new way" from Romans 7:6) in 2001, which puts on his School of Spiritual Direction and SoulCare conferences. The ministry's launching pad was Shattered Dreams (WaterBrook, 2001), Crabb's book based on the journey of Naomi in the Book of Ruth. It came out during The Prayer of Jabez fever. (According to Crabb, the message of Shattered Dreams was the exact opposite: "God, I don't like my territory, but it's all I've got right now, so help me -- and others through me -- find you in it!") The School of Spiritual Direction, SoulCare conferences supposedly teach participants to "enter the battle for the souls" of those they love -- a "concurrent cycle in spiritual formation begins with brokenness (hurt caused by your and others' sin), which leads to repentance (a realization that God is not there to cooperate with your agenda), which leads to abandonment (you resist the temptation to escape or to curse God, instead abandoning yourself to him), which arouses confidence (the Spirit witnesses to your spirit that you belong to God, and that he is present even in your darkest night), which finally leads to release of what's most alive within you (springs of Living Water)." (Source: "A Shrink Gets Stretched," Christianity Today, May 2003.)

-  Crabb was in private practice in the early 1970s (as a clinical psychologist) when his "eureka moment" came at 2 a.m. as he sat on the back porch of his Florida home, reading Lewis and Schaeffer. He woke his wife, exclaiming, as he recalls: "The deepest longings for significance and security going on inside my clients are needs that God actually intended to meet through the community of believers!" (Bold added.) This led Crabb to merge psychology with theology, giving rise to his first book, Principles of Biblical Counseling (Zondervan, 1975) and then Effective Biblical Counseling (Zondervan, 1977). (Source: "A Shrink Gets Stretched," Christianity Today, May 2003.) (He has since authored 19 more books, and has another on tap for 2004 publication.) Despite massive evidence to the contrary, Crabb continues to maintain that he is completely Biblical in his counseling, but the three following areas of his teaching alone give ample evidence of the unscriptural basis of his counseling model:

(a) "Spoiling the Egyptians" Approach: Crabb believes that the best counseling model is one in which "truth" from both the Bible and the "spoils" from secular psychology are "integrated" into a combined counseling model.

(b) The Need for "Security" and "Significance": The main building block of Crabb's model is the presupposition that man has these two basic "needs" at the core of his being that motivate all of his behavior. (These two needs were originally referred to by Crabb as merely "inputs" that were required to satisfy man's basic primary need: "a sense of personal worth, an acceptance of oneself as a whole, real person." -- Effective Biblical Counseling, p. 61.) He maintains that men are driven ruthlessly to meet these needs, and that these "driving forces" underlie all problems in counseling, and that the counselor's task is that of changing the person's basic assumption about how to meet these two deepest needs. Thus, rather than viewing the "needs" themselves as the evil that they really are (the sins of pride/selfism), instead, only the "improper" strategies utilized in satisfying these so-called "legitimate needs" are condemned as sin. (In fact, Crabb teaches that a Christian can become truly productive in his relationships with others only when he realizes that his own needs are paramount!) Crabb has, thereby, developed a "need theology" where Christians are no longer to ask what is right or wrong, but only what meets their so-called needs and what contributes to their self-concept, thus cutting themselves adrift from objective truth and diminishing the "consciousness" of sin.

(c) The "Unconscious": This idea is closely related to Crabb's "need" theology, as he views the needs for security and significance as being "hidden" in the "unconscious," causing problems when an individual chooses an improper means of satisfying these needs. Thus, the counselor simply needs to help the counselee know how these needs should be met. In Crabb's system, counselees are to confront and confess the sins of others committed against them so that they can re-experience their own pain and disappointments to find the so-called source of their erroneous thinking, which in Crabb's system is the real sin that lies hidden in the unconscious. The concept of the "unconscious" is found nowhere in Scripture; where it is found is in the teachings of Freudian psychology. (Freud saw the unconscious as a reservoir of drives and impulses that govern an individual beyond his conscious awareness.) As a matter of fact, the idea of the "unconscious" is not only not supported by the Bible, it has no scientific support either! (The Freudian unconscious is entirely different from the ordinary use of the word as defined in a regular dictionary, which gives as one of the definitions of the word unconscious: "not aware of." The Freudian unconscious, as presented in Crabb's writings and as embraced by the field of psychotherapy, is the driving force behind behavior.)

-  Crabb's doctrine of a powerful unconscious is based on the Freudian unconscious as modified by Alfred Adler. We do not deny that Crabb confronts sin, but rather Crabb confronts sin with a Freudian/Adlerean psychological model. It is not a matter of whether Crabb confronts sin; it's a matter of how he confronts sin and how he even psychologically represents sinful behavior, which requires him to have a psychological answer. Psychoheresy is a most subtle and devious spectre haunting the church, because it is perceived and received as a scientific salve for the sick soul rather than as what it truly is: a pseudoscientific substitute system of religious belief. Crabb's own words best define his Freudian model -- from Understanding People:

"Freud is rightly credited with introducing the whole idea of psychodynamics to the modern mind. The term refers to psychological forces within the personality (usually unconscious) that have the power to cause behavioral and emotional disturbance. He taught us to regard problems as symptoms of underlying dynamic processes in the psyche" (p. 59, italics his; underlines added).

Crabb further says, "I think Freud was correct ... when he told us to look beneath surface problems to hidden internal causes" (p. 61). While Crabb does not agree with all that Freud taught, and even sees errors in his theories, he contends that "the error of Freud and other dynamic theorists is not an insistence that we pay close attention to unconscious forces within personality" (p. 61, italics his). In spite of Freud's strong criticism of Christianity, Crabb says, "I believe that [Freud's] psychodynamic theory is both provocative and valuable in recognizing elements in the human personality that many theologians have failed to see" (Understanding People, pp. 215-216).

-  Furthermore, in Crabb's 1988 book Inside Out, in a mere four sentences, he demonstrates his allegiances to the psychotherapies of three godless atheists: Freud, Jung, and Maslow (p. 211):

"At the very center of our soul, we feel shame and fear that is attached to our identity as male or female. Males lack the healthy confidence that they're intact men who can move into their world unafraid of being completely destroyed by failure or disrespect. Females lack that quietly exhilarating awareness that they're secure women who can embrace their world with no worry of having their essential identity crushed by someone's abuse or rejection. ... We will not face our self-protective maneuvering nor be passionately convicted about its sinfulness until we see its function is to preserve whatever is left of our identity as men and women" (Italics his.)

The above quote demonstrates Crabb's combination of Freud's libido (sexual energy), Jung's animus and anima (unconscious elements of masculinity and femininity), and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. (Source: Larry Crabb's GOSPEL. p. 24.)

-  Crabb claims to believe in the sufficiency of the Scriptures, but apparently only in the sense that they are "sufficient as a framework." He thus supplements that framework with psychological "insights," and relegates the role of the Bible to that of merely another "data" source. This weak view of sufficiency is also evident in his belief that a Biblical model "must draw implications from the Scriptures rather than rely on specific passages" (Understanding People, p. 93). (Emphasis added.) He believes that man's problems are rooted in his need for "security" (defined as the need for love, both unconditional and consistently expressed, and permanent acceptance) and "significance" (defined as purpose, importance, adequacy for a job, meaningfulness, and impact), whereas the Bible teaches that man's primary need is for "salvation" and "sanctification." Crabb's ideas concerning the "unconscious" and "needs" are more in line with a Freudian/Adlerean/Maslowian worldview than a Biblical one.

-  There is no apparent "progression toward Biblicality" in Crabb's writings over time; i.e., one is unable to find any movement from the unbiblical to the Biblical in Crabb's counseling model, from his first book in 1975 (Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling) through his latest book in 2002 (The Pressure’s Off). Yet, when Crabb's notions would be described, people invariably would say, "But, have you read his latest book?," as if he had repudiated his earlier writings. However, each time we found that though his language had changed to sound more evangelical and less psychological, certain psychological concepts remained in place. They were simply described differently (Sep-Oct 1995, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter). (Even though Crabb's model has become somewhat more complex over time, its increased complexity is not the result of the incorporation of a deeper theological framework, but of a greater commitment to psychological principles.) Jay Adams states that, "there has been no basic change in his [Crabb's] views. Differences in later books stem only from the use of varied biblical images with which the system is painted and repainted" (Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, p. 105). [The Crabb section of this book has been reissued as Larry Crabb's Gospel.]

For example, in his earlier books, Crabb uses the word unconscious directly and explains its hidden nature and power for motivation. In Inside Out, he relies on metaphors and descriptive phrases such as "heart," "core," "beneath the surface," "hidden inner regions of our soul," "dark regions of our soul," "beneath the waterline," "underlying motivation," "hidden purpose," and "reservoir of their self-protective energy." The very title, Inside Out, suggests the Freudian notion of the unconscious. Crabb clearly presents the unconscious as a real and powerful part of every person. He also suggests that doctrines of the unconscious are indispensable to the church! Since the writing of Inside Out, Crabb has written other books and spoken publicly about counseling and the church. In each instance investigated, it is clear that Crabb still supports his past books. (Source: July-August 1997, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter.)

The prime example of Crabb making superficial changes in his model over time is his subtle renaming of the man's so-called "need for significance" to "need for impact," and the woman's so-called "need for security" to "need for relationship." (See Understanding People, p. 15 -- "Readers familiar with my earlier books will recognize movement in my concepts but not, I think, fundamental change. For example, my preference now is to speak of deep longings in the human heart for relationship and impact rather than personal needs for security and significance [italics his]). In fact, in a 1991 book, Men & Women: Enjoying the Difference, Crabb carries this "renaming" of needs a step further -- into the realm of the God-given male/female sexual relationship. A man's need for significance/impact becomes the longing for "separateness, achievement, and entering," while the woman's need for security/relationship becomes the longing for "involvement, attachment, and invitation." Crabb states that, "I do not think it stretches things too far to regard physical sexuality as a wonderful picture of personal sexuality: men feel complete as they strongly enter; women feel enjoyed as they warmly invite." (Emphasis added.)

-  Nevertheless, an interview with Larry Crabb in the 8/14/95 Christianity Today (pp. 16-17), Crabb seemed to be saying that he had changed his position on the integration of psychology and the Bible; i.e., that the cure of souls belongs in the church and that mature believers should be the ones to minister to those suffering in the depths of their souls, not psychologists and psychotherapists ("Larry Crabb's Antipsychology Crusade," were the words on the cover of CT). But was Crabb really repenting of his psychologically-based "Biblical counseling" model and his years of therapizing? Was he really on a crusade against professional therapy and integrating psychology and Christianity?

Just beneath the title of the article, "Putting an End to Christian Psychology," were these words: "Larry Crabb thinks therapy belongs back in the churches." (Those words reminded us of Crabb's 9/22/78 CT article titled "Moving The Couch Into The Church.") It is, thus, obvious that Crabb in 1995 was not changing his doctrine, but simply his audience. He makes it clear in the 8/14/95 CT interview, that rather than or in addition to training counselors with the theories developed in Understanding People and Inside Out, Crabb wants to train elders (pastors and other mature believers) with these same psychoheretical theories! Even though Crabb admits in the article, "I haven't got a clue what I'm doing," one must assume that he will continue to use an integrationist approach as he attempts to move the couch into the church and help "release a generation of elders" to fulfill their calling.

Crabb has not repudiated his past and continues to inject psychology into his teachings. Crabb is still speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He speaks some of the same things the anti-psychologists have been saying out of the right side of his mouth, he but continues some of the same psychogarble out of the wrong side. If he had a straight message, he would be apologizing for the balance of his life for all the havoc he and other psychologists have caused in the church. We have yet to hear him confess and repent of the serious errors of his horrendously unbiblical teachings. Instead, he adjusts his language to fit his next goal: "training elders to elder." (Why is it that psychologists and other social change agents have a penchant for taking nouns and turning them into verbs?) In spite of the Christianity Today headlines, it is obvious that Crabb still supports his past books, his psychologized model of "Biblical counseling," counseling for pay, and the ungodly and unbiblical American Association of Christian Counselors (Sep-Oct 1995, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter).

[Postscript: 10/2/95 Christianity Today -- Letter to the editor from Larry Crabb (referring to the 8/14/95 CT article): "... the interview contents did not at all support the front cover billing ('Larry Crabb's Antipsychology Crusade') nor the title given to the interview ('Putting an End to Christian Psychology'). I am neither crusading nor do I want to put an end to Christian psychology. ... Positioning me as an antipsychology crusader who wants to end Christian psychology is badly inaccurate and places me in company where I don't belong. I am a friend of Christian counseling; I am not part of the antipsychology movement; and I am grateful for many godly men and women who faithfully represent Christ in their professional counseling." -- So much for the wishful thinking of those who perceived Crabb as repenting of his commitment to psychotherapy.]

-  The quips below from a more recent Christianity Today article ("A Shrink Gets Stretched," Christianity Today, May 2003) are presented as an indication of Crabb's continued love of psychology, and to demonstrate how he seemingly incorporates psychology  into his every active thought process: 

-  Various other unbiblical aspects of Crabb's model are as follows:

(a) Claims man was "created for relationship," whereby the Scriptures state that man was created to glorify and to praise God (Isa. 43:7,21; Jer. 13:11). Crabb's view is understandable in light of his failure to distinguish between believers and unbelievers in his model, apparently seeing no real difference in basic desires based upon regeneration.

(b) Has no higher regard for Biblical truth than any other "truth"; e.g., "To speak of biblical truth as somehow more authoritative than scientific truth is really absurd. Truth has authority over error, not over another truth. One truth may enjoy greater relevance to a scientific question than another truth, but no truth is more authoritative than another truth. The authority of truth lies in its truthfulness, not in the place where it is found" (Understanding People, p. 40). (Emphasis added.)

(c) Typical of most so-called Christian psychologists, Crabb demeans the efforts of the pastor/theologian as being indicative of the shallow help being offered, in contrast to the profound offerings of psychologists; e.g., "Unless we understand sin as rooted in unconscious beliefs and motives and figure out how to expose and deal with these deep forces within the personality, the church will continue to promote superficial adjustment, while psychotherapists, with or without biblical foundations, will do a better job than the church in restoring troubled people to more effective functioning ..." (Understanding People, p. 129). (Emphasis added.)

(d) Views Christians as superficial and ineffective, and thereby in need of deep probing into the unconscious. He believes that everyone is involved in "denial" and "self-protection," and views the Christian life as being "unspeakably sad." Crabb writes that, "Before we'll see how sinful we are as a self-protective agent, we must first feel how disappointed we are as a vulnerable victim" (Inside Out, p. 177). (Emphasis added.) (This theme of entering into the pain of our victimization is absolutely essential to Crabb's methodology [See Chapters 10-12 of Inside Out], but is the utter antithesis of New Testament teachings on sin and sanctification [see Romans 6-8].) It logically follows then, that Crabb seems to identify the "feeling of pain" (a sort of self-induced catharsis that can lead to tears) with true salvation, while it is actually nothing more than a psychological technique used in getting Christians to "open up." Since it cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit or the Word of God, nor can it induce spiritual change, it at best can only superficially modify behavior.

(e) Views repentance as the identification of self-protective strategies (which are wrong in Crabb's view because "their purpose is to avoid more relational pain"), and as the substitution of "self-protective manipulation with vulnerable obedience" (Understanding People, p. 149). For Crabb, the essential for real change is "forgiveness and involvement." Biblical repentance, on the other hand, is man turning from sin to God, rather than from "protective strategies" to "involvement." The repentant sinner's primary concern is not with the amplitude of his own pain, as Crabb so emphatically teaches, but with the magnitude of his offense against a Holy God.

(f) Greatly overstates the change capability of therapy and technique, and claims that both go deeper than either the Word or the Spirit in effecting change. This ignores the most elemental form of salvation theology -- that all growth is the result of divine grace. There is absolutely no similarity between Crabb's method of change (i.e., sanctification) and the Bible's.

-  According to Freud, the id drives the behavior, and what happens in the first five years of life (psychological stages of development) will shape the behavior. According to Adler, what drives behavior is the need for worth (also referred to as striving for superiority) and what shapes behavior is what happens in a person's early life. In both Freud's and Adler's systems, the drives and the early childhood experiences, plus resulting misconceptions, form the content of the unconscious. In Crabb's system, the needs or longings drive behavior and the early disappointments of not having the needs met (what Morrison identifies as the "individual's unique experience of depravation of the things a normal human soul longs for") shape the thinking and behaving, and all of this is in the unconscious. In all three systems, the person develops strategies to protect himself, identified by Freud as ego defense mechanisms, such as denial (and by Crabb as "self-protective" strategies").

The main difference between Crabb and his psychological mentors is that Crabb contends that the essence of sin is when people attempt to meet these needs apart from God -- thus the idea of autonomy as the essence of sin. Crabb's system is designed to reveal to people that they have unmet needs and that they have sinned in their wrong thoughts and strategies to meet those needs and to protect themselves from further pain. Thus, if only people can realize that God Himself meets those needs/longings, then they can recognize their dependence on Him. And they can overcome their sin of autonomy and have their unconscious needs/longings met. This is the essence of Crabb's system of psychological sanctification. (Source: Martin & Deidre Bobgan unpublished paper.)

-  The Bobgans say this about Crabb's model in their 1998 book Larry Crabb's GOSPEL (excerpted and/or adapted from Larry Crabb's GOSPEL, pp. 5-7, as reproduced in the July-August 1998, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter):

From his background in psychology he comes to Scripture with a viewpoint that sounds both appealing and workable. However, the way he hopes to solve problems and lead people into a closer walk with the Lord depends heavily on psychological theories and techniques. Though Crabb has been sensitive to the criticism of his work through the years, when people criticized him for using psychological terminology rather than Biblical, he worked to improve his expression. Along the way he has discarded much of the psychological vocabulary while keeping the psychological concepts, but making them sound more Biblical. When he discovered that aspects of his work did not fully satisfy and that he had not yet reached his goal of bringing the best of psychology and the Bible together for the entire body of Christ, he expanded his eclecticism.

Crabb's book Connecting (1997) is a good example of this process; it includes some admissions, as do his other books. He gives the impression that he is constantly discovering more about the very best way to help people change and grow in their relationship with God and with one another. Yet, his basic model of man and methodology of change remain firmly tied to the psychological theories presented in his earlier books. Each book has enough truth in it to make it appear that the most recent version of his approach is even better and more Biblical than the previous one. He is careful, however, to justify the value of his previous work so that no one will misunderstand and think he has discarded his former ideas or repented of his former teachings. Clearly, his original model is still intact even though he has expanded his eclecticism.

Moreover, Crabb's amalgamation of psychology with the Bible impinges on the gospel message. Even his theologically correct statements feed into his psychotheology. For instance, he says:

"The gospel really is good news. When the internal troubles of people are exposed, when unsatisfied longings are felt in a way that leads to overwhelming pain, when self-centeredness is recognized in every fiber, then (and not until then) can the wonder of the gospel be truly appreciated" (Understanding People, p. 211). (Emphasis added.)

While the first sentence is correct, the remainder of the above quote adds psychological requirements beyond the requirements of Scripture. Crabb interprets the message of the cross according to his psychological ideas about the nature of man and how he changes. Thus, Larry Crabb's gospel becomes the good news that Jesus meets the needs/longings/passions which motivate all behavior from the unconscious. Sin becomes wrong strategies for meeting the needs/longings/passions. Confession is telling our stories and gaining insight into those wrong strategies. Full repentance comes through getting in touch with the pain of the past. Hence, the gospel message itself is directly tied to a psychological construct. Not only is the doctrine of man psychologized, but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are made subservient to Crabb's psychospiritual theories.

-  In summary, Crabb's model effectively denies the Biblical teachings of: the denial of self (a man-centered model rather than a Christ-centered one); the distinction between the regenerate and the unregenerate; the means of grace as having practical efficacy in the life of the believer; the sufficiency of Scripture; Scriptural foundation (versus a psychological foundation); and the Holy Spirit's essential role for empowering and grace in the life of the believer. It is primarily a psychological system of unconscious needs that supposedly motivate human behavior, which system is derived from Freudian and humanistic/Maslowian psychology with its hierarchy of needs, with greatest emphasis on so-called emotional needs, the fulfillment of which result in a sense of personal worth and psychological healthiness. When needs are not met, according to Crabb, they produce intense pain and sorrow -- sometimes without the person even knowing it. Counseling under Crabb's model takes the form of delving into the unconscious by peeling away the "self-protective layers" (i.e., "defense mechanisms") and getting at the real pain and sorrow of unmet needs (many of which began in childhood), then giving counsel on how to meet those needs in a more spiritually healthy way. This inward and rearward focus is far from Biblical (cf. Phil. 3:13-14). Instead of trying to "meet" our natural human "needs," we are to set our hearts on things above and put to death whatever belongs to our sinful nature (Col. 3:1-5).

Note#1: Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, Larry Crabb is a promoter of this ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement -- Crabb was a speaker at PK's 1992 National Men's Conference, and spoke at a 1996 stadium rally. [Crabb also speaks regularly at The Cove (a Billy Graham retreat and training center), at Moody Founder's Week conferences, and on James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program and at family issue conferences.]

Note#2: Crabb was once a Steering Committee member of COR (Coalition on Revival), a Reconstructionist/Dominionist organization dedicated to a social gospel/activism agenda that proposes to impose Biblical standards (e.g., Old Testament law) on unbelieving peoples and institutions. Though Crabb is no longer a Steering Committee member of COR, he did sign its Manifesto, AND he wrote COR's World View paper on Psychology & Counseling. As an indication of what the people affiliated with COR believe, the following is from a brochure announcing the 12th Annual Northwest Conference for Christian Reconstruction. Does this not sound like a different gospel? (All emphases added):  

"The Christian Reconstruction movement believes that the Bible contains not only a message of personal salvation through the blood of Christ shed on the cross, but also a comprehensive law structure which is alone able to provide a just basis for society. It is committed to the view that sovereignty and thus government belong to God, and that all delegated government, whether to family, church or state (civil government), is to be exercised in obedience to the law of God's covenant. Furthermore, salvation involves every aspect of man's life and thus also the relationships he sustains to the world around him. The exercise of dominion in accordance with the terms of God's covenant is therefore basic and vital to the Christian faith. To neglect this is to deprecate the extent of Christ’s victory at Calvary."

That Crabb has no problem identifying with this movement is a bit disconcerting to say the least. (For details of COR's unbiblical strategy for "taking the world for Christ," see COR' documents titled A Manifesto for the Christian Church, Forty-two Articles of the Essentials of a Christian World View, and Twenty-five Articles of Affirmation and Denial on the Kingdom of God. These three documents, along with COR's 17 Sphere/World View Documents, make up what COR calls its "20 COR World View Documents.")

Note#3: Brennan Manning is the author of the psychologically-oriented book The Ragamuffin Gospel. According to Christianity Today (May 2003, "A Shrink Gets Stretched"), Manning has been giving Larry Crabb "occasional spiritual direction for the last 14 years. [See Note#4 for more details on Manning's teachings] ... Manning and Crabb see each other once a year, at best. When they do, they follow a spontaneously begun ritual. 'As soon as we spot one another,' says Manning, 'we both jump up and down, run to one another, and kiss one another on the lips. ... When you see two men in public doing that, there's often only one conclusion. But he's so secure in his identity that we can throw caution to the wind. If anybody's got a problem with that, then it's their problem.'" In this same CT article, Crabb describes a period of his life spent searching for spiritual growth and not finding it in Evangelicalism: "I was finding water for my thirsty soul in classic Catholic writings."

Note#4: Since Manning appears to be one of Larry Crabb's spiritual mentors, it is important to note the seriousness of the error in Manning's theology. The following is adapted and/or excerpted from a web site article titled, "The Willow Creek Dilemma: Why Our Association With Them Is Wrong":

Brennan Manning is a New Age/Christian mystic who used to be a Roman Catholic priest. In the last ten years he has become a popular author and speaker among the "evangelical" church, yet he shouldn't have even gotten his foot in the door. His teachings of "spiritual contemplation" are filled with unbiblical ideas, Eastern mysticism and dangerous New Age meditation techniques, and yet Manning is so charming, seductive, and cunning that he easily takes advantage of undiscerning Christians.

Manning overemphasizes the love and grace of God while ignoring His attributes of justice, righteousness, and holiness. He teaches that Jesus has redeemed all mankind. (Source: Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing by Mike Gendron, Reaching Catholics for Christ website.) In Manning's bestselling book, The Ragamuffin Gospel he writes: "False gods—the gods of human understanding—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept." (My emphasis.) Of course, Manning doesn't point out that God's Word also thinks it is too incredible to accept: "Thou dost hate all who do iniquity" (Psalm 5:5).

It's obvious, however, that Manning has little use for Scripture and he shows his disdain for those who do. He says, "I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word—bibliolatry ... I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants" (The Signature of Jesus, Manning).

Sadly, Manning's answer to ascertaining God's thinking is by using occult meditation practices instead of Scripture. In his book The Signature of Jesus, Manning teaches his readers how to pray by using an eight-word mantra. He says, "the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer" (p. 212). (Say What?) The second step is "without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word [or phrase] inwardly, slowly, and often." If distractions come, "simply return to listening to your sacred word" (p. 218). He also encourages his readers to "celebrate the darkness" because "the ego has to break; and this breaking is like entering into a great darkness" (p. 145). Manning's direction is in direct conflict with Jesus who said, "He who follows me shall not walk in darkness" (John 8:12), and is a practice that sets people up for serious deception and demonic influence.

This dangerous technique, however, is just one of the many New Age mind-emptying methods that Manning teaches in The Signature of Jesus. Some of the unbiblical techniques include: centering prayer, paschal spirituality, the discipline of the secret, mineralization, practicing the presence, inner integration, yielding to the Center, notional knowledge, contemporary spiritual masters, and masters of the interior life.

Is it any wonder that Manning practices these techniques and claims to have had visions and so-called encounters with God? No doubt Manning has truly had these experiences, and so will his followers who try his techniques, but they will not find true intimacy with God. Yes, they may have special feelings and experiences, and they may "feel" closer to God. However, in the process they will actually move away from Him as a result of a counterfeit spirituality.

For example, one of Manning's dreams was about judgment day. In his dream, Manning describes how everyone from Adolf Hitler to Hugh Hefner are seen going before Jesus to be judged, as is Manning. When Manning comes forward, however, God does not really judge. Instead, says Manning, "He takes my hand and we go home." The implication, of course, is that everyone from Hitler to Hefner will be similarly treated. In Manning's teaching, God is a universalist who accepts everyone (The Signature of God, pp. 239-242). In an earlier book titled Gentle Revolutionaries, Manning recounted the same dream and wrote that God told him, "I am not your judge." This part was strangely omitted from his later accounts.

Brennan Manning, then, is a dangerous influence on the Christian world. His books promote the use of psychology, New Age/occult meditation, ecumenism, and universalism, and yet he is still popular in Christian circles. One of his popular books written for children, The Boy Who Cried Abba, is a mystical parable about the journey of a boy who must go into a dark cave called Bright Darkness to find acceptance from God. Again, Manning is leading his readers to embrace darkness and error. Even worse, he is targeting his message to children.

* Must reading for anyone desiring a fuller understanding of Crabb's teachings is Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, pp. 107-220 (Critiquing Dr. Lawrence Crabb, Jr.; the Crabb section of this book has been reissued as Larry Crabb's Gospel), by Martin and Deidre Bobgan, EastGate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, 1989, 360 pages; and a more recent update of the Crabb section of the book: Larry Crabb's GOSPEL, 1998, 205 pages.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 1/2004