R. C. Sproul Responds
One year ago we published an article titled "R. C. Sproul and Psychoheresy."1 A reader sent the article to Sproul to which he responded. Sproul claims:
I hold to the classical Christian view of the relationship between general revelation and special revelation, and the thesis that no truth of any kind can be discovered apart from Godís revelation. With Augustine, Aquinas, and all of orthodox Christianity, I believe that all truth is Godís truth.
Before we deal with what Sproul said, we begin by repeating our definition of psychoheresy, because this is fundamental to our critique of Sproul. "Psychoheresy is the integration of secular psychological counseling theories and therapies with the Bible." The dictionary defines integration as "an act or instance of combining into an integral whole." The psychological integrationist combines "secular psychological counseling theories and therapies with the Bible." As we demonstrated in our original article, Sproul supports the psychological integrationist position and is therefore guilty of psychoheresy.
In our original article, we gave both scientific and theological reasons why Sproulís support of integration is contrary to both the Bible and science. Here we provide as evidence four individuals, all integrationists, who are endorsed by Sproul and whose integrationist position he shares.
Dr. Bill White
Dr. Bill White was a co-speaker with Sproul on the Ligonier Ministries conference topic "Psychology: Psychoheresy or Psychohealing?" White is a fee-for-service counselor and has written for Tabletalk, a Ligonier Ministries publication.
One main thrust of Whiteís talk was an attempt to justify integrating psychology and the Bible. What Sproul said following Whiteís talk dovetailed with Whiteís support for the integration position.
Dr. James Dobson
Probably the most popular world-wide promoter of psychoheresy (integration) is psychologist Dr. James Dobson. Sproul endorses the general teachings of Dobson in the area of psychology and has promoted his work in Tabletalk. Dobsonís Tabletalk article promotes an egregious example of selfism for which Dobson is famous.
Dobson asks the following rhetorical question in the Tabletalk article: "What greater source of self-esteem can there be than to know that Jesus would have died for him if he were the only human being on earth?"2
This wild speculation did not originate from Scripture, but rather out of Dobsonís humanistic psychological orientation. It is a self-oriented psychology transformed into a man-oriented theology that we call psychoheresy. We document many of Dobsonís false teachings in our book James Dobsonís Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology.3
Compatibility with this and other heretical teachings of Dobson can be found in Sproulís books In Search of Dignity and The Hunger for Significance, as well as in Tabletalk articles. The bookís inside jacket cover description of In Search of Dignity says:
It is because God has assigned worth to men and women that human dignity is established. From his creation to his redemption, manís dignity is preserved. His origin is significant. His destiny is significant. He is significant. The conviction that permeates each chapter is the importance of daily respect for the dignity of other people which requires a sensitivity to their self-esteem. We are also led to the realization that the most fragile mechanization on this planet is the human ego.
In a Tabletalk article titled "Humanity Hates Itself," Sproul begins with the following:
The Bible commands us to love ourselves when it says, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19). The command says as much about self-love as it says about loving others. We might assume that all people love themselves, but the Bible implies that we do not love ourselves at all (2-14-92).
This statement demonstrates how much the selfism of psychological theories has influenced Sproulís interpretation of Scripture. The verses he cites do not teach self-love. They do not say, "Love your neighbor and yourself." The "as yourself" serves as a example of how much to love others.
Dr. Larry Crabb
We have demonstrated in our book Larry Crabbís Gospel 4 and numerous articles about psychologist Larry Crabb that he is an integrationist. Sproul ran an article by Crabb in Tabletalk with an advertisement for his book Inside Out. We were told by a Ligonier staff member that "R. C. holds to Larry Crabbís view."
In Tabletalkís interview of Crabb on the subject of guilt and sexuality, Crabb says, "Rather than looking deeper into the guilt, most of us hope that prayer or Bible study or something Ďspiritualí will provide."5 To understand what Crabb means by "looking deeper into the guilt," one needs to understand Crabbís commitment to discovering the source of the guilt in the unconscious. Throughout Crabbís writings, he demonstrates that guilt comes from attempting to protect oneself from the pain of unmet personal needs for security and significance, called relationship and impact in his later writings. While what he writes may sound biblical on the surface, one sees throughout his writings, that Crabb is committed to "looking deeper" into the psyche through insights gleaned from Freud and others.
In his book Understanding People, Crabb suggests that ignorance of the crucial role of the unconscious allows error to spread throughout the entire evangelical church.6 He says, "Perhaps the major error of evangelical churches today involves a shallow and deficient understanding of sin ... many pastors preach an Ďiceberg viewí of sin. All they worry about is what is visible above the waterline." 7
Crabbís use of psychology for dealing with sin and sanctification reveals that he does not find enough help in biblical means of dealing with sin, guilt, and spiritual growth. He explains in the Tabletalk interview:
If in fact guilt continues over a long-since stopped sin, then the real issue is not to confess more effectively or to try to believe more deeply in the efficacy of the Cross. That is self-defeating. The real issue is an ongoing sinful pattern, and it may not be sexual at all. ... The reason people struggle with ongoing guilt has to do much more with the quality of their relationships than with truly believing God forgave them 20 years ago.8
In other words, people struggle with guilt because their deep need for relationship has not been met. And to discover that deep need, one must have someone help the individual look deeply into the unconscious to find the source of the pain and to repent of the sinful pattern of self-protection. While Crabb has made a number of shifts and changes through the years, he has neither repudiated these earlier teachings nor requested to have his early books put out-of-print.
Dr. John Coe
Dr. John Coe is Associate professor at Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology. Rosemead believes in, promotes, and teaches the psychological integration position. We have exposed Coeís erroneous justification for the psychological integration position in our previous article on Sproul and in our book CRI Guilty of Psychoheresy? (Chapter 2).9 Coe presents an insufficiency of Scripture view necessitating an openness to the psychological theories and therapies taught at Rosemead. Sproul supports this view and carried an article on this theme in Tabletalk.
White, Dobson, Crabb, and Coe are all psychological integrationists; all are promoted by Sproul. Adding this to the comments in our original article, one must conclude that Sproul supports integration and is therefore guilty of psychoheresy.
Is All Truth Godís Truth?
The "All truth is Godís truth" referred to by Sproul is the shibboleth of all integrationists. It is Sproulís misuse, misapplication, and theological distortion of "All truth is Godís truth" that leads him to support the integrationist position. In addition to articles on our web site and sections in our books discussing the abuse of this statement, we recommend reading Dave Huntís chapter titled "Is All Truth Godís Truth?" in his book Beyond Seduction,10 in which Hunt asks, "Should we not consider it odd that God has apparently inspired men such as Freud, Jung, and now more recently Maslow and Rogers with Ďtruthsí hidden from the apostles and prophets and all of the leaders in the entire history of the church until the present time?" (p. 157). Hunt distinguishes between human discoveries about the human physical body and Godís revelation about the soul and spirit. He says,
What is meant by truth is seldom elaborated [by the integrationists]. Are we talking about scientific facts involving the brain and body, or about Godís truth involving the soul and spirit? Jesus said, "Thy word is truth," not part of the truth. Psychotherapy deals with a subject upon which God has spoken with finality and about which He claims to have communicated in His Word the whole truth. There are no parts of this truth missing from the Bible and left in limbo, only to be discovered somewhere in the secular world (p. 137).
Hunt accuses those who use the phrase "All truth is Godís truth," in an attempt to justify integration, of undermining the authority of the Bible (p. 138), and warns, "We must cease adding to and taking away from the Bible. God has specifically forbidden this and has prescribed heavy penalties for it" (p. 145).
We also recommend reading Dr. Jay Adamsí book Is All Truth Godís Truth?11 The following describes his book:
The statement that "All truth is Godís Truth" has become the slogan of integrationist counselors. Under this rubric many of the false and harmful ideas of non-Christian counseling have been incorporated into the practices of the church (back cover).
Adams presents the problem of what integrationists include under "All truth is Godís truth" when he says:
All revelation from God is inerrant. This fact poses a new problem for the integrationist. He can call some theory, idea, or method supposedly discovered in nature "Godís Truth" if he wishes, but if he thinks for a minute, how is he to establish it as such? In no other field of endeavor has there been so much disagreement. Psychologists retool throughout their lifetime to keep up with the latest newly-uncovered system (or parts thereof) (p. 24).
Which theory is True and which is not? Why should there be a mixture of truth and error if God has truly revealed Truth? Did God want to confuse us? Revelation, whether General or Special, is always inerrant. In Special Revelation, we can turn with confidence to any part of it and be sure that we are dealing with Truth. In dealing with nature, on the other hand, integrationists tell us that we must separate truth from error, revealed materials from non-revealed materials. If there were Truth mixed with error, who gets to decide what is revelation and what is not? (p. 25).
God,, in His common grace does allow unbelievers to investigate His universe and discover physical laws, but such discoveries do not deserve the title "revelation," nor are they worthy of the measure of certainty with which men ought to regard a word directly from God (which is precisely what all revelation is). Further, there is a huge difference between understanding aerodynamics, for instance, and knowing the complexities of the human soul. While superficialities can be observed about mankind, the depths of human nature elude scientific investigation, and morality is beyond its comprehension. Natural reason can draw some conclusions from observation, but these again are at the superficial level and subject to human distortion. Anything beyond the superficial ends up being speculation and opinion.
Scripture is clear about who is able to know and understand the inner man. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jer. 17:9). Knowing the inner workings of the human heart, soul, mind, and spirit is Godís domain. Because He is the primary Person molding each of His children who have been born again by His Spirit, this is His prerogative to know and to reveal.
Classical and Orthodox?
In Sproulís response to our exposing his psychoheretical (integrationist) teachings, he refers to "the classical Christian view" and to "Augustine, Aquinas, and all of orthodox Christianity" for his support.
Would Augustine, if he were living today, support Sproulís integrationist position as he claims? Which of the over 450 psychological theories would Augustine say is "Godís truth" and which of the over 10,000 techniques would he say is Godís revelation?
Augustine came against three precursors of psychotherapy, namely Gnosticism, Pelagianism, and Platonism. All three early movements in the church were precursors of psychotherapy and Augustine was opposed to all of them. We will only present Augustineís opposition to Gnosticism.
In modern-day insight-oriented psychotherapy, participants focus on themselves, their own "stories," their own emotions, their own feelings. The therapy is directed toward self-validation, self-actualization, self-development, and self-cure. It requires the participation of a therapist, who affirms, accepts, clarifies, and encourages the client toward self-understanding and the achievement of a better, more effective, more independent "higher self," with an expected state of pleasure, devoid of guilt and shame (p. 157).
Ever since the Fall, mankind has desired to know everything. Man naturally seeks to explain all that he perceives. He demands to understand his reality fully and tends to have no respect for limits placed upon such understanding. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:5) Being like God, knowing good and evil, having all the answers: This is the essence of the desire. From the dawn of creation, the desire for human solutions has tempted mankind to stray from simple faith, simple trust, and simple obedience.
In his book Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown describes the Christian heresy known as "Gnosticism," which "asserts that over and above the simple Gospel, which is all the ordinary spirits can understand, there is a secret higher knowledge reserved for an elite" (p. 39). Augustine totally opposed the gnostic ideas and how these very gnostic ideas reside in modern-day psychotherapy. The ancient Gnostics and their modern-day heirs, the psychotherapists, teach a gospel different from that presented in Scripture. They present an unbiblical view of our human problem and offer an unbiblical solution. They see our problem as the thwarting of our innate goodness by a hostile and responsible environment; the solution they offer is insight and effort.
One of the early psychotherapies was Freudís psychoanalysis. Silvano Arieti, an enduring icon of the psychotherapy community, speculated as to why it took until the late nineteenth century for someone like Freud to appear on the scene and originate psychoanalysis. One of the major reasons for this delay, according to Arieti, was the work of Augustine. Arieti credits Augustineís ideas about sin, his "moral evaluation of behavior" from a sin-perspective, with forestalling Western man "from studying the psychological, nonjudgmental motivation of phenomena. Augustine would clearly be opposed to modern-day psychotherapy and therefore be opposed to the integration position.
Even though each of these ideas suffered defeat under the pen of Augustine and the authority of the early church, it was obviously not a permanent defeat, for all of these ideas are alive and flourishing today in modern psychotherapy. This resurgence is greatly strengthened as the church has adopted these ideas into its own amalgam of "Christian psychology." If Augustine were among us today he would surely set his mind prayerfully to pen and his voice to pulpit, fighting these ideas and their spokespeople. Surely his ardor would be against those who have tried to "integrate" these ideas into the church through Christian psychology.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
In addition to Augustine, Sproul uses Aquinas for his defense. According to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (EDT), Thomism is: "The school of philosophy and theology following the thought of Thomas Aquinas.... It developed in various phases and has experienced periods of support and neglect." EDT describes the periods of "support and neglect" and reveals that shortly after Aquinas died, "there was still much opposition to his Aristotelianism on the part of church authorities, and in 1277 in Paris and Oxford, several propositions derived from Thomasís teachings were condemned."13 Apparently the "church authorities" at the time did not regard all of his teachings as classical or orthodox. The fact is that many Roman Catholic doctrines, which are regarded as classical and orthodox by the Roman Catholic Church, are rejected by Protestants. For example, the Roman Catholic doctrines of the infallibility of the Pope and purgatory are certainly classical and orthodox to the Roman Catholic church. Aquinas supported both of these Roman Catholic doctrines. Now, just because Augustine and Aquinas taught a particular doctrine is not sufficient justification for calling it classical and orthodox or for accepting it as biblical.
Unfortunately Sproul teaches an unbiblical blend of Thomism and Scripture that deifies human reason and transmogrifies the doctrine of general revelation.
Sproul says in his letter referred to earlier, "I have to say the article [our original article] was quite poor in both its exposition of my position and its refutation." Note how careful we are to quote Sproul and support our accusation of psychoheresy on his part in both the original article and this present article; note how careless he is not to quote what we have said, but merely to contradict us on his say-so alone without any evidence. Contrary to what Sproul says, a long-time staff member of Ligonier ministries, who is familiar with Sproulís teachings, said that "Sproul is on the integrationistsí side."
Sproul said in his response, "I have little recollection of the lecture referred to in the article as it was given almost 20 years ago." The brochure for the conference is dated February 20-22, 1992. Simple arithmetic indicates that instead of "almost 20 years ago," it was only about 12 years prior to the article appearing in our newsletter. Moreover, the tapes of the talks were still available at the time of our writing the article and surely would be available to him for review. Sproul is not only in error about when he gave the talk, but also in error in his support of psychological integration (psychoheresy).
Sproulís teachings have been tarnished with psychoheresy for years, which is why he supports the psychoheresy of White, Dobson, Crabb, Coe, and others. Sproulís application of the biblical teaching of general revelation is neither classical nor orthodox as he claims, but rather comical and heterodox. Our two articles and the tapes of the conference talks confirm that, contrary to what he says, R.C. Sproul is indeed guilty of psychoheresy. If Sproul has changed his mind about his support of White, Dobson, Crabb, and Coe, and if he no longer supports the integrationist position, we would rejoice and be happy to report such a dramatic change.
1 PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, November-December 2003, Vol. 11, No. 6.
2 Tabletalk, December 1988, p. 5.
3 Available from Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries, See materials sheet.
4 Available from Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries, 1-800-216-4696.
5 Tabletalk, October 1989, p. 7.
6 Lawrence J. Crabb. Understanding People. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987, p. 126-130.
7 Ibid., p. 129.
8 Tabletalk, October 1989, p. 10.
9 Available from Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries.
10 Available from The Berean Call, 1-800-937-6638.
11 Available from Timeless Texts, 1-800-800-8141.
12 Available from Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries, 1-800-216-4696.
13 Walter A. Elwell, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd
ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001, p. 1198.
PAL V12N6 (Nov-Dec 2004) - Martin & Deidre Bobgan; PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries