Larry Crabb: "Dr. Doublespeak"?
Recently Larry Crabb wrote the following in a recent email to a person who referred him to our web site: “I do not believe that the concerns expressed by the psychoheresy web site accurately reflect my views.” However, we assume that Crabb’s “views” are reflected in what he has written and said. We have quoted extensively from Crabb’s writings and speaking over the years. While we quote extensively from Crabb’s writings, to our knowledge he has never quoted from our work to demonstrate that what we say does not “accurately reflect [his] views.”
In this same email, Crabb asserted: “I have never believed that psychology could ever serve more than a catalytic role in a biblical view of human distress and Christ-dependent response.” According to the dictionary, a catalyst is “1. Chem. A substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. 2. Something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected. 3. A person or thing that precipitates an event or change.”
If we take the definition of “catalytic” literally, then Crabb has given psychology a powerful role—a catalytic role—in change and ignored the powerful role it plays in the lives of believers. This “catalytic role,” according to the application of the definition is not minor; it is major! However, Crabb’s “only catalytic” remark makes it sound as if his use of psychology has been only slight and restricted, when indeed it has served as a major role in what he originally wrote about “human distress” and how he viewed a “Christ-dependent response.” While psychology has certainly not been changed in its “catalytic role,” it has certainly had a tremendous impact on the lives of believers. In attempting to diminish the role psychology has played in his writings by giving it a mere “catalytic role,” he has perhaps confessed to more than he intended, but the following plus all we have written in Larry Crabb’s Gospel and elsewhere earn him the title of “Dr. Doublespeak.”
Psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies should have no place in the church! For both biblical and scientific reasons, biblical and psychological teachings with respect to who man is and how he changes are incompatible. One cannot hold both through any other means but doublespeak. George Orwell authored a book in which he used and defined the term doublespeak. One writer describes it this way: “At its worst, doublespeak is a language designed to limit, if not eliminate, thought.” It “enables speaker and listener, writer and reader, to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time and believe in both of them.” The reason Crabb doublespeaks is because he doublethinks—another Orwellian term described as “the mental process that allows you to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time and believe in both of them.”
As we shall show, Crabb’s earlier writings belie his “never believed” statement. In Crabb’s 1978 article titled “Moving The Couch Into The Church,” which was published in the September 22, 1978 issue of Christianity Today, Crabb wrote about three levels of counseling ministry: encouragement, exhortation, and enlightenment, with enlightenment at the top. By examining Crabb’s books one can see that the enlightenment to which he was referring is heavily dependent on psychological theories devised by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Albert Ellis, and Abraham Maslow.
Crabb wrote Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling in 1975 and Effective Biblical Counseling in 1977. From the very beginning he argued that Christians could and should glean from secular psychological theories. To illustrate how secularists might have something to offer Christianity, Crabb wrote:
Man is responsible (Glasser) to believe truth which will result in responsible behavior (Ellis) that will provide him with meaning, hope (Frankl), and love (Fromm) and will serve as a guide (Adler) to effective living with others as a self- and other-accepting person (Harris), who understands himself (Freud), who appropriately expresses himself (Perls), and who knows how to control himself (Skinner) (Effective Biblical Counseling, page 56).
During the Eighties Crabb added more titles, including Encouragement (1984), Understanding People (1987), and Inside Out (1988). When we would describe Crabb’s notions, people 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.
Central to Crabb’s model of man are two dominant unconscious needs which motivate behavior. In his earlier books Crabb calls the two unconscious needs “security” and “significance.” Later he changed his terminology to “longings” for “relationship and impact.” Crabb clearly indicates that his change in words does not involve any change in the doctrine. In Understanding People, he says:
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 (p. 15, italics his, bold added).
Crabb’s doctrine of a powerful unconscious is based on the Freudian unconscious as modified by Alfred Adler. Crabb says in 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).
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” (pp. 215-216).
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!
Crabb continued to demonstrate his faith in psychological counseling theories in his book Connecting (1997), as we show in our book Larry Crabb’s Gospel. In his book Shattered Dreams (2001), one sees vestiges of a motivating unconscious and need psychology when he connects a universal “self-protectiveness” to “our deepest needs” including “how desperate we are for someone to care” (p. 18). These psychological themes of a motivating unconscious and teachings from need psychology continue through his later books, but they are less obvious. Instead, they lie beneath the surface and are expressed in a more biblical-sounding vocabulary.
In addition, Crabb is clear about his position regarding psychological counseling when he says, “I’m not anti-counseling, I’m not anti-professional counseling at all.” He says, “I believe it’s an honorable way to make a living.” To put it bluntly, Crabb is not anti-psychology. He is not opposed to psychological counseling. He is not “putting an end to Christian psychology,” as some have believed. For numerous other statements by Crabb from which he has never repented, see our book Larry Crabb’s Gospel and go to our web site to find articles on Crabb and his teachings.
In a radio interview, Crabb was asked if his views had changed since he had written a number of his books, including his earliest (very psychological) books on biblical counseling. In response, Crabb said:
There is nothing in those books I would renounce, but what I would say is there has been a lot of movement, a lot of maturing that has led me to a position that says something I would not have said five years ago and what I am saying today is not something I said five years ago. I think it’s something I thought, but I hadn’t put it into words.
Thus Crabb renounced nothing in his earlier books, but refers to “movement” and “maturing.” Further in the interview he referred to a “shift in my thinking.” Because of his doublespeaking, both the radio interviewer and the callers admitted being confused about what Crabb was truly saying.
If Crabb has truly moved, matured, and shifted in his thinking (away from his incorporation of psychological counseling ideas), he would repudiate his earlier books. However, Crabb said in reference to his earlier books, “I am not repudiating them.” While Crabb admitted that he “spent too much time tinkering with the flesh,” He failed to admit that his tinkering involved the psychology he supported at the time and blurred the tremendous difference between his earlier support of psychology and his present position as merely a shift, a movement, and a maturing. This is doublespeak.
Crabb may have moved and shifted through the years. However, we have listed, on page 29 of Larry Crabb’s Gospel, the following seven criteria to look for when evaluating Crabb’s reported change:
Crabb has not repented of any of his past teachings, which would be necessary if he has truly changed, as some have reported.
When Crabb repents of his earlier writings and fulfills the seven criteria listed above, we will know that he has truly changed. Failing that, no one should state that Crabb has changed enough from his earlier commitment to psychology in contrast to a full commitment to Scripture.
Crabb has made his position clear and, contrary to what his supporters say, Crabb said:
I cannot repent of previously supporting psychology because, although I have been understood to do so, that has never been my intent. I do acknowledge that much earlier writings could be understood to appreciate psychology in a manner that undermines a biblical world view (email).
While Crabb said that “much earlier writings could be understood to appreciate psychology in a manner that undermines a biblical world view,” those writings can only “be understood to appreciate psychology in a manner that undermines a biblical world view”! Crabb’s intention may not have been to teach what he clearly taught, but we can only go by what he actually taught in his books and lectures.
One cannot be both pro-psychology and pro-Bible. They are different understandings of man, who he is, and how he changes. Supporting both his past psychological teachings and current writings, as Crabb does, is doublespeaking.
While Crabb is beginning to realize some of the things some of us have been teaching for years, he has not repudiated his past and continues to inject psychology into his teachings. Crabb is still speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Out of the right side of his mouth Crabb quotes Scripture, but he continues to support his original biblicized psychobabble out of the wrong side. If Crabb 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 earlier teachings. Instead, he adjusts his language to fit his next goal and writes his next book, all the while not offending his psychological friends, all the while continuing to support his psychological teachings in his earlier books, and all the while explaining his position through doublespeak.
Crabb’s involvement in psychoheresy in his earlier books and the continuing influence of psychological integration in his later books are facts that he would deny. However, no matter how many more books Crabb writes and no matter how biblical he becomes, his past promotion of psychoheresy and his present unwillingness to repent of the vast damage it has done in the church is a contradiction to the very Scripture he claims to promote.
PAL V12N4 (July-August 2004)