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THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONNECTION
an interview with William Kirk Kilpatrick,
author of Psychological Seduction.
This article was taken from the magazine: CORNERSTONE VOL. 12 ISSUE 68
How closely related is Rev. Schuller’s theology to secular psychology?
Schuller seems to have gotten his self-esteem ideas in toto from
psychology. He appears to be using the same criteria as they do. The
therapeutic idea of belief is to ask of a thing, “Does it make me feel
good about myself?” or “Does it meet my needs?” But Christ didn’t say.
“If you love me you’ll feel good about yourself.” He said, “If you love
me, you will keep my commandments.”
After all, there are plenty of beliefs that can make us feel good about
ourselves. If faith is reduced to the feeling it generates, we become
prime candidates for psychological seduction, because psychology can
produce good feelings, too.
Schuller is letting psychology call the shots here. Instead of taking
what’s useful in psychology and fitting it within a Christian framework,
he’s taking Christianity and trying to fit it within a procrustean bed of
Not only does Christianity currently stand in danger of being
psychologized, but there’s always the danger of being Americanized,
accepting the current American criteria for being a success.
Schuller’s success theology is very cruel because it’s just for the
winners in life. A society of great expectations is also a society of
great frustrations. If you lead people to believe that by the power of
their mind they can become rich and change their life, and if in fact that
doesn’t happen, not only are they going to feel frustration but also more
guilt for not having enough faith.
How has self-psychology so easily invaded the Church?
Instead of a merging of Christianity and psychological ideas, we
have seen in practice a submerging of Christianity while
psychological ideas tend to float to the top. It’s really
foolishness on the part of Christians who are doing this mixing.
It’s like the Republican National Committee asking committed Democrats
to devise their campaign strategy.
When we begin to import social science language into Christianity,
it carries the implication that all the deep mysteries of the
faith can somehow be encompassed within secular psychological
What makes the psychological idea of self-esteem so dangerous in
light of man’s true condition?
If what Schuller says about self-esteem is true, then people with high
self-esteem wouldn’t sin.
In my own case, the most shameful incidents of my life occurred when my
self-esteem was very high by psychological standards. It was only in
retrospect that I saw my behavior for what it was. Self-esteem can
actually get in the way of self-awareness.
Like the rich man who will have such a hard time getting into heaven,
his riches protect him from the knowledge of how utterly dependent on God
he is. In the same way the man who is brim full of self-esteem is unable
to see how utterly broken he is, how we all are.
The person who is having difficulty in life, whether that difficulty is
mental illness or neurosis, or just plain troubles, they’re in a better
position to understand the desperate state we’re all in, how badly in need
of salvation we are.
Do you see Rev. Schuller’s concept of self-esteem affecting the
doctrine of salvation?
The message of self-acceptance turns the doctrine of salvation upside
down; we have to give up the old self before we put on the new. If we’re
okay the way we are, the good news of the gospel is reduced to the status
of “nice” news. Nice because there was never anything wrong with us in
the first place, and therefore this business about needing a Savior is
C.S. Lewis says that in the long run the Christian religion is a thing
of unspeakable confort, but he also said, it does not begin in comfort.
It begins in dismay. It’s no use trying to go on to that comfort without
going through dismay.
One thing that’s very clear in the Bible is that an encounter with God
is a traumatic experience, because we see ourselves as we really are.
Is there a biblical concept of self-esteem, and if so, how does it
compare to the psychological model?
There is good reason to feel good about ourselves from a Christian
point of view. We’re made in the image and likeness of God, Christ loves
us enough that He gave up His life for us, we are redeemed by Christ, we
are brothers with Christ, we are children of God…there’s plenty of solid
On the other hand, psychology doesn’t offer us much reason for feeling
good about ourselves. It just says we should. It doesn’t really give any
reasons why there is this thing called human dignity.
The Christian model is much more realistic. It takes into account both
the potential glory of human nature and the depths of human nature.
Schuller does try and bring a Christian perspective in there. I mean,
he’d say some of the things I just said, but he seems to have a one-sided
message, he seems to leave out the other part of the gospel. He says
Jesus never called anyone a sinner. That may be technically true, but he
did call the Pharisees a brood of vipers. He called Peter Satan, “Get
thee behind me, Satan.” When Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery,
“Go and sin no more,” what are we to infer? She was in fact a sinner.
Schuller here is trying to fit Scripture into prepackaged psychological
End of Text
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