The Rise and Triumph of Therapeutic Theology

“Rather than conform thoughts, feelings, and actions to objective reality, man’s inner life itself becomes the sources of truth.”
– Ryan T. Anderson (President, Ethics and Public Policy Center)

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Modern man psychologizes everything. We’ve witnessed the rise and triumph of Therapeutic Theology.

Many preachers and theologians psychologize scripture today. As a result, the Word of God is no longer authoritative and the standard of truth. We now see our individual experiences and emotions as authoritative and the source of truth. In other words, what we feel must indicate what is true. Therefore, anything that threatens or disrupts our individual psychological wellbeing must be false and bad.

I just said the quiet part out loud.

Carl Trueman puts it this way, “Any attempt to express disapproval is therefore a blow not simply against particular ways of behaving but against the right of that person to be whoever they wish to be.”

The Therapeutic Gospel is the new prosperity Gospel. People today don’t care as much about money as they do about feeling good, or at least feeling better. Anxiety and depression levels in America are at all-time highs. As such, people want to hear sermons that make them feel better. Many pastors are willing to shift away from a God-centered exposition of Scripture to a man-centered eisegesis.

Imposing my ideas on the Bible… making it mean what I want it to mean.

Eisegesis is interpretation whereby the reader imposes his own ideas and biases onto the biblical text rather than interpreting the intended meaning of the text. A growing number of pastors use a psychological lens to interpret scripture resulting in therapeutic remedies. Eisegesis allows one to make the Bible mean whatever he wants it to mean. It’s man-centered theology dressed up in biblical-sounding language.

I’ve seen brothers and sisters lulled into a spiritual daze through therapeutic preaching. The preacher weeps on cue and whispers soothing words of inner well-being and feelings. The sharp, two edged sword that is the Word of God is quietly set aside. A hypnotic anesthetic is administered from the pulpit, tickling the ears and silencing God’s Word.

Many Sunday morning sermons are therapy sessions centered around our feelings and experiences. Rather than a clear call to repentance and faith, and submission to the Word of God, we are fed pablum. We hear how Jesus cares more about our feelings than our faith. The Word of God is preached in such a way as to assuage our sinful fears and makes us feel better. After all, God wants us to feel good, right?

Wrong. When we feel the conviction, shame, and consequences of sin, it doesn’t feel good. Otherwise, no one would repent and believe the Gospel. That said, the Bible speaks to human emotions, psychology, and experiences. But, those are not primary… they are not even secondary matters. Truth is of first order.

The Father is the fountainhead of truth, not Freud. (Hebrews 6:18)

Jesus Christ came into this world to bear witness to the truth. (John 18:37)

The Church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

Therapeutic Theology is not just another form of Christian theology, it’s a Christian heresy. Sitting under it is giving approval to it. Sit under therapeutic preaching long enough, it will warp your theology and lead you away from truth… whether you or your pastor realize it or not.

The solution to therapeutic theology is a return to biblical faith and good theology, sound doctrine, and expositional preaching. While pastors counsel people and speak to emotions, they are truth-tellers and shepherds first.

Keep the main things the main things.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.” (1 Timothy 6:3-4)

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

 Resources:

“Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” by Carl Trueman

“Strange New World” by Carl Trueman

“The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud” by Philip Rieff

“A Secular Age” by Charles Taylor

“Marks of a Healthy Church” by Mark Dever

Related Blog Post:

“Is Your Church Going Liberal?” by Lance Cashion

“Most Pastors Don’t Have A Biblical Worldview and It’s a Problem” – by Lance Cashion 

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

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Now more than ever, worldview training is essential. It is not a Christian elective. I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective.

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PREVIOUS POST

The Anti-Pastor

It appears the modern business-growth mindset and pragmatic philosophy tend to attract and cultivate what I can only describe as the “anti-pastor” personality. We must retrieve a biblical foundation for pastoral and elder leadership.

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From my perspective, the corporatization of the church as an institution and professionalization of the minister / pastor class as a career path feed worldly and fleshly desires for prestige and power.

This is not to say that ALL ministers end up in a bad place.

It appears the modern business-growth mindset and pragmatic philosophy tend to attract and cultivate what I can only describe as the “anti-pastor” personality. Basically, this mindset rewards men who do exactly the opposite of what the Bible describes as a pastor, elder, or deacon. Meanwhile, men who exhibit the true marks of a pastor, elder, etc. are not rewarded, or worse punished for their faithfulness. Maybe their congregations are small or they are seen as too rigid? You get the point.

This anti-pastor mindset results in the inability of some pastors to even comprehend the unbiblical nature of their behavior (driven by a set of beliefs) or their lack of theological convictions. This does not excuse sin or responsibility. But, it creates the conditions for bad thinking and self deception to occur. Furthermore, it becomes an environment of theological darkness where error can grow undetected.

In many ways, pastors are products of our culture. Unseen forces shape our thought life, passions, doctrine, theology, and practices. This is why scriptural critique is vital to the life of the pastor and the church. We all need it.

Os Guinness wrote, “The purpose of critique is restoration, not dismissal. The prophets’ messages were special calls to bring God’s people back to the original calling from which they had fallen away.

Faithfulness begets faithfulness, just like dysfunction begets dysfunction. Faithfulness will never emerge from dysfunction. This is why true repentance is absolutely necessary in the life of the Christian.

I’m convinced as we teach biblical worldview to others, the foundation of repentance and faith must be established and taught as first principles. We must retrieve a biblical foundation for pastors and elders.

Below, I share the qualifications and the marks of a Pastor / Elder (Overseer), and a post about repentance.

Qualifications (Pastor, Elder, Overseers)

“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” – Titus 1:6–9

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” – 1 Tim 3:1-7

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” – 1 Peter 5:1-5

Blog Post: “Repentance” 

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION
Now more than ever, worldview training is essential. It is not a Christian elective. I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective.

Worldview Knowledge
Real World Impact
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PREVIOUS POST

The Creed of a Nation

“If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky…”

(Steve Turner)

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

The darkness and chaos in our nation is a direct result of an ill-equipped and disengaged church.

I’m preaching to myself here as well.

In order understand how the church must respond to the spirit of the age (zeitgeist), we must understand what our culture worships. What is the creed of our nation?

British journalist and author, Steve Turner captures our American cultural moment with great precision and masterful wit. He diagnoses the problem. Read it and reflect on it…

“Creed” by Steve Turner

“We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and
after marriage.

We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
and you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes
UFO’s and bent spoons.

Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors.
And the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him. Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust. History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.

If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear…..
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!

It is but the sound of man worshipping his maker.”

Turner’s insights are staggering.

It has been said, “the church is the conscience of a nation.”

I would add the church is also the immune system of a nation. It is time for the Church to emerge from our tin-pot little kingdoms and shine like lights in a cruel, lost, and crooked generation. We are to be salt and light. We are to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead conquering sin and death, winning a people (a bride) of His own. He will return. Therefore, we command people of all nations to repent and believe, lest they remain under God’s wrath. Our private faith must be transformed into a public proclamation and public witness in every facet of life and every sphere of human activity. Because Christ is risen and He is Lord over all.

The Church must return to our ancient creeds. They are all founded on the powerful truth, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And we believe in one holy catholic (1) and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

(1) The word “catholic” refers to the universal church.

He who has ears, let him hear!

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Now more than ever, worldview training is essential. It is not a Christian elective. I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective.

Learn more and give here…

Solar Eclipse Hysteria

Hysteria: ​”a state of extreme excitement, fear or anger in which a person, or a group of people, loses control of their emotions… an extremely excited and exaggerated way of behaving or reacting to an event.” (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary)

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It seems like we find things to get hysterical about. Media and some in government are happy to feed our appetite for hysteria and fear.

Hysteria: ​”a state of extreme excitement, fear or anger in which a person, or a group of people, loses control of their emotions… an extremely excited and exaggerated way of behaving or reacting to an event.” (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary)

The moon is going to pass between the earth and the sun. Oh my gosh! (Just like it has for thousands of years before)

Solar Eclipse Hysteria is the flavor of the month. And many are getting whipped up like a meringue pie topping about it. We are living in an age of hysteria. However, cool heads prevail and always have… in the long term.

A man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (Proverbs 17:27).

The problem for the ‘cool heads’ is when the ‘hot heads’ instigate or buy into hysteria on a large scale – perhaps a national scale? This leads to a chain reaction of hysteria. A string of preventative actions are taken and potentially bad decisions are made. Admittedly, nefarious actors could take advantage of the hysteria (never letting a good crisis go to waste).

Post-COVID, we have the “in the interest of an abundance of caution” crowd finding things to be cautious about.

TXDOT has issued a restriction for trucks, “Special Eclipse Size and Weight Permit Route Restrictions for April 8, 2024.” This runs from midnight to midnight along the eclipse corridor.

In Bell County, Judge David Blackburn issued a state of emergency disaster declaration: “In order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of both residents and visitors, Bell County has determined that extraordinary measures must be taken in the form of a local disaster declaration” States and municipalities are issuing similar declarations.

Don’t make emotional decisions…

Whether these are good ideas or not is subjective. We’ll see. However, be careful when the media and influencers on social media attempt to get you whipped up like said meringue topping. Emotional decisions are not wise decisions.

At the end of the day, the ‘cool heads’ are ready for actual crisis like natural disasters or manufactured crisis caused by hysteria. Be ready! Always be prepared spiritually! Then, prepare mentally and physically.

Remember, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings…” (Hebrews 13:8-9)

Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!

It will probably be cloudy on Monday during the eclipse by God’s providence.

If not, enjoy the music of the spheres!

“This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.” (Maltbie D. Babcock)

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Now more than ever, worldview training is essential. It is not a Christian elective. I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective.

Learn more and give here…

Most Pastors Don’t Have A Biblical Worldview and It’s a Problem

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

Matthew 15:8-9

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If the Apostle Paul attended a Sunday service today would he recognize the American church as the Church he help found? Probably not.

George Barna and Arizona Christian University published an alarming study in 2022. Here is a direct quote from the American Worldview Inventory 2022:

“Among all Christian pastors in the United States, slightly more than one out of every three (37%) possesses a biblical worldview

 

Among Senior Pastors, four out of 10 (41%) have a biblical worldview—the highest incidence among any of the five pastoral positions studied. Next highest was the 28% among Associate Pastors. Less than half as many Teaching Pastors (13%) and Children’s and Youth Pastors (12%) have a biblical worldview. The lowest level of biblical worldview was among Executive Pastors—only 4% have consistently biblical beliefs and behaviors.

 

Much like other Americans, the pastors who do not have a biblical worldview are unlikely to fully embrace a competing worldview (such as Secular Humanism, Marxism, or others). In fact, less than 1% of pastors embody a worldview other than Biblical Theism (i.e., the biblical worldview).

 

Instead, their prevailing worldview is best described as Syncretism, the blending of ideas and applications from a variety of holistic worldviews into a unique but inconsistent combination that represents their personal preferences. More than six out of 10 pastors (62%) have a predominantly syncretistic worldview.” (1)

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” – Matthew 15:8-9

What price will our children and grandchildren pay for this drift? What must you speak up about today that if you don’t, you will regret tomorrow?

Eric Metaxas said, “It is far easier to ignore God’s call than to acknowledge it and rise to fulfill it, but it is more difficult and painful than anything to live with the results of ignoring God’s call. Let the reader understand…”

Diagnosing the Problem

As individuals and the church, we are prone to place blame and responsibility for our failures, problems and weaknesses outside ourselves. Just as we face significant challenges and threats from the outside, we fail to realize most problems and failures begin on the inside. On the same note, we are the solution (Christ being the ultimate solution). As faithful Christians, we must be sober-minded and honest about our weakness and sin. As the Church we should remove the log from our own eye before removing the speck from someone else’s.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” – 1 Peter 4:17a

As I survey the landscape of the American evangelical church, I am grieved and disgusted. The church is cowering in the fear of man. Preachers and theologians dress up their cowardice using a camouflage of thin theological justifications and proof-texts (albeit out-of-context). “Leave theology and interpretation of scripture to the experts!” is the cry from comfortable ivory towers far above the burning cities. This is gnosticism in new garb. The professional ministerial class is over-confident in their seminary degrees and under-informed about the realities of the world around them.

Church Inc. Business

A modern Tower of Babel has been constructed through empire-building and marketing of religious goods and services (entertainment and programs). This feeds Christian consumerism. It seems like many churches have been transformed into businesses.

Institutionalism, elitism, pragmatism, moralism, and pretension have overtaken the original mission of the church. The incremental secularization of the church combined with pragmatism and a focus on church growth over Kingdom growth have resulted in a consumer-focused mission over a Christ-focused one.

The clarion call of the modern American evangelical church is, “Let us make a brand for ourselves, create more parking, and more views on YouTube! Lest we become irrelevant!”

When a church behaves like a business, preachers and pastors are replaced by a specialized managerial class of administrators that embrace a business mindset over a biblical mindset. Many of these administrators and executive pastors have specialized administrative degrees from seminaries. The problem is that seminaries are poor at teaching business administration, it’s not their purpose. If you want to run a business, get an MBA from a University not a D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry) from a seminary.

The D.Min. was created in the 1970’s and marketed by seminaries to those seeking upward mobility but did not have time, commitment, or resources to obtain a Ph.D. David Wells wrote, “This is the old market mechanism at work. In the 1970’s many seminaries were hard pressed financially, and the D.Min. was a lucrative new product to sell. At the same time, many ministers were hard-pressed psychologically as they sensed the decline in their profession…” (2)

Should it surprise anyone that, “The lowest level of biblical worldview was among Executive Pastors—only 4% have consistently biblical beliefs and behaviors?” (3)

Professional administrators have replaced called and committed pastors as the business of Church Inc. has replaced the ministry and witness of the Church. As a result, the goal is to use marketing strategies to entice people to come to a church ‘worship experience.’ As such, many evangelical pulpits promote therapeutic moralistic deism over biblical faith. Think of a rock concert and a TED talk followed by a therapeutic message making sinners feel better about their sin and a God who winks at sin. Aaron Renn, says it’s a “curious blend of moral posturing and play-it-safe proclamations” which are becoming the dominant evangelical perspective today.

It seems like the modern evangelical worship service is built around entertainment and performance for the experience of attendees. It begs the question, exactly who is the worship experience for? What is the purpose of worship? Can we entertain the lost into the Kingdom? Perhaps we can get everyone emotionally riled up and feeling good or watching online? Is the tithe just a tip or a transaction in the eyes of most Christians? Consumers demand, “Entertain me, make me feel good, and in return I’ll throw some cash in the offering plate. But, keep the sermon short, I have a 1:00pm tee-time.”

The Reality

We’re a preference-driven society… Don’t like how the preacher looks? Leave! Don’t like the sermon? Leave! Don’t like the music? Leave! After all, there are thousands of worship experiences at your fingertips. Don’t forget we have an espresso bar serving hot Lattes in the back of the sanctuary for your worship enjoyment.

If “sightly more than one out of every three (37%) pastors possesses a biblical worldview” then, our churches will look like the world and use the tactics of the world to be accepted by the world.

Here’s an idea that Chuck Colson put forth, “It’s time for the church to be THE Church” and stop being like the world. This is going to require a multigenerational recovery of a biblical worldview among those who are called to ministry. That recovery must begin now.

“You may be able to articulate a biblical worldview but if your biblical worldview doesn’t arise from the deep and growing love of Jesus Christ and the love for others (particularly sinners – just like us) then, you may have a biblical worldview but it doesn’t have you?”

– Dr. Bill Brown, Ph.D. (Colson Center for Christian Worldview)

 

Footnotes:
(1) https://www.arizonachristian.edu/2022/05/12/shocking-lack-of-biblical-worldview-among-american-pastors/
(2) Wells, David F. “No Place for Truth or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology” (1993)
(3) https://www.arizonachristian.edu/2022/05/12/shocking-lack-of-biblical-worldview-among-american-pastors/

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Now more than ever, worldview training is essential. It is not a Christian elective. I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective.

Learn more and give here…