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.

Worldview Knowledge
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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
Learn more and give here…

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…

Generosity Redeemed – A Theology of Generosity

GENEROSITY REDEEMED

The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings.

Generosity becomes clearer when we possess a theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

Many Christians have a shallow, un-enchanted vision of generosity (I suffer from this as well). Often, generosity is a guilt-driven duty or a sentimental desire for psychological well-being or a reciprocal relationship with God, as if God needs anything from us. The deadliest perspective links giving to salvation. Reader beware, dead works will not result in eternal life (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Modern Christians, especially in America, seem to have unintentionally embraced ideas influenced by pragmatism and the Enlightenment regarding generosity. Additionally, adding a dose of moralism renders an unbiblical concoction.

The argument is commonly something like: “The Bible encourages giving as the right thing to do, promoting the expansion of God’s Kingdom while helping those in need. Tax benefits are a bonus!” While not entirely wrong, it’s incomplete and may be misguided. Some Christians use out-of-context proof-texts and persuasion tactics to motivate giving, which can be confusing or manipulative. What’s missing is a full-orbed Kingdom vision and a robust theology of generosity.

Theology, seen through a biblical lens, is more than just knowing things about God. Theology is about intimately knowing God Himself. Knowing God serves as the cornerstone of all Christian faith and activities, including stewardship and its handmaiden, generosity.

Let’s explore a biblical vision of generosity by asking questions of Holy Scripture.

In the beginning, who created?
At the cross, who died?
At the grave, who is risen?
Who is seated at the right hand of the Father?
At the conclusion of human history, who restores all things?
Who is God?
Who am I?
What are God’s purposes?
What is Jesus Christ Lord over?

Whether we realize it or not, our actions and choices in life inevitably reflect our underlying theological and worldview commitments. The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings. Therefore, we need to make sure we have a good theology.

God created the world and deemed it “good.” This signified its intrinsic value because God is creator and God is the source of all good. This declaration demonstrates the richness of the potential embedded in creation, waiting to be discovered and developed. Entrusting man with dominion, God commanded the care and cultivation of Earth’s latent resources for His glory and the good of humanity. We hear echos in the greatest and second greatest commandments.

Jesus answered, “The most important (commandment) is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

Dominion

Dominion in the Bible is often overlooked or misunderstood. It is not about exploitation or oppression rather, theologically, it is stewardship, responsibility, God-given authority, and accountability to God, all directed toward His purposes. Properly understood, dominion is God-centered, not man-centered. As image-bearers, we share in God’s moral character traits, albeit as finite and fallen creatures. All humans are assigned a time and place to serve God’s purposes, exercising dominion over what God entrusts to us. In doing so, we reflect His moral character and bring His glory to the world He created and sustains. Dominion is humanity’s responsible and caring authority under God’s ultimate reign. I believe that exercising Godly dominion is a proper response to God’s grace, kindness, and goodness to us by glorifying Him and enjoying Him.

The first statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us the chief duty of man and what were created for (purpose).

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
(The Westminster Shorter Catechism)

If God is the creator of all things, it means he holds the title deed of every atom in the entire universe. There isn’t anything in all of creation that God doesn’t own, including you and me. The air you breathe, the food you eat – it all belongs to God. He is the one who enables and allows you to breathe, eat, and even understand this sentence as you read it.

A Principle v. A Person

At the foundation of a theology of generosity, you won’t find just a biblical principle; rather, you’ll encounter a person—Jesus Christ. A distinct Christian life will be shaped and guided by principles of generosity that flow from knowing Jesus Christ. Remember, theology is knowing God, not just knowing things about Him.

Only when we retrieve and recover the riches of Christian faith in Christ as the ultimate gift from God, can we undertake any real form of generosity.

The one true definition of generosity, from which all other meanings flow, is God’s definition. Jesus Christ embodies this definition—He is the living and holy reality of generosity. At the center of all reality, Jesus stands as the Truth. When we behold Jesus, we see God’s Christ, God’s Word, God’s world, and God’s spirit, all given as glorious gifts to man. You and I have nothing we didn’t receive.

I encourage you to work out the implications of this in your own life (which is a gift). Generosity flows from a fuller theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

“Whoever is of God hears the word of God.” – John 8:47

Therefore, through our generosity, we can join the likes of the Apostle Paul and, “proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hinderance.” – Acts 28:31

God’s Generous Gift

God has given us everything we need by granting us His divine power, His great promises, and His divine nature to enable our efforts to act on the knowledge of Him (theology). We benefit, partake, and develop the gift of God’s abundant power through Christ our Lord and Savior. Our knowledge of God’s divine power and promises is a gift. So is the ability and opportunity to utilize that power. When we receive the gift of faith, God supplies His power to enable us to supplement it with virtue and knowledge.

In conclusion, one important aspect of the Christian tradition is the spiritual discipline of generosity that contributes to the believer’s sanctification. In other words, when we exercise generosity, we are being conformed to the likeness of Christ’s character.

Notice, I didn’t mention money once in this post. Now, go and workout the implications of a theology of generosity in your life, watch God work and watch the world change.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Praise God the Father who’s the source;
Praise God the Son who is the course;
Praise God the Spirit who’s the flow;
Praise God, our portion here below!”
– Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…