Is Crabb Now Anti-Psychology?
|Is Larry Crabb taking a bold move in the right
directionaway from psychological counseling
theories and methods to biblically ordained ministries?
Some of what he is now saying reveals that he does see
shortcomings in psychotherapy. Some of what he is now
saying sounds like what some of us have been saying all
alongthat the cure of souls belongs in the church
and that mature believers should be the ones to minister
to those suffering in the depths of their souls.
The words "Larry Crabbs Antipsychology Crusade" on the cover of the August 14 issue of Christianity Today could easily lead people into thinking Crabb is finally repenting of his psychologically based "biblical counseling" model and his years of therapizing. Is he really on a crusade against professional therapy and integrating psychology and Christianity?
Kevin Dale Miller interviewed Larry Crabb for Christianity Today (August 14, 1995, pp. 16, 17). Just beneath the title, "Putting an End to Christian Psychology," were these words: "Larry Crabb thinks therapy belongs back in the churches." Those words reminded us of Crabbs 1978 article titled "Moving The Couch Into The Church," which was published in the September 22, 1978 issue of Christianity Today. In that article Crabb wrote:
Thus in 1978 Crabb was proposing three levels of counseling ministry: encouragement, exhortation, and enlightenment, with enlightenment at the top. By examining Crabbs 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:
During the Eighties Crabb added more titles, including Encouragement (1984), Understanding People (1987), and Inside Out (1988). When we would describe Crabbs 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 Crabbs 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:
Crabbs doctrine of a powerful unconscious is based on the Freudian unconscious as modified by Alfred Adler. Crabb says in Understanding People:
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 Freuds strong criticism of Christianity, Crabb says, "I believe that [Freuds] 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!
Is Crabb Changing His Doctrine?
Is Crabb now in 1995 changing his doctrine or simply his audience? In the current Christianity Today interview it appears that rather than or in addition to training counselors with the theories developed in Understanding People and Inside Out Crabb wants to train elders (pastors and other mature believers).
In both the interview and in his talk at the recent Moodys Pastors Conference, Crabb shared what sounds like a new vision for the church, but which also sounds like his 1978 articleto equip the church to minister more effectively to help "people enter into a deeper, closer relationship with the Lord" (CT, 9/22/78, p. 19). This is indeed a lofty, admirable goal. But, how does he as a psychologist propose to do that? He said he does not know, but unless he clearly repudiates his earlier books and publicly repents of processing people as described in Inside Out, one must assume that he will continue to use an integrationist approach as he attempts to move the couch into the church.
In his talk at Moody Crabb said, "In our culture the work of individual shepherding has largely been turned over to the Christian Counseling Movement and that movement has professionalized shepherding into something that only vaguely resembles the Bibles idea of shepherding." We agree with his concern that people choose psychotherapists over godly elders when they experience problems in their lives. However, there is no word of repenting from Crabbs own involvement in helping the church to form that erroneous conclusion. He himself had clearly insulted pastors for being superficial and ineffective in personal ministry because they do not understand the dynamics of the unconscious (e.g. psychodynamic theory of Freud). (See Understanding People, p. 129.)
We also agree with Crabbs second major thesis of his talk at Moody:
To those words we say, "Amen." We have been saying the same thing for more than 25 years! However, we still must question how he views the troubled soul. Does he still view it from a psychodynamic perspective or has he changed his doctrine of the soul and his psychological doctrines of sanctification? Would he still teach the necessity of feeling the pain of the past before one can change his "current relational style"? There was a lot of that in Inside Out, for instance:
In his Inside Out Film Series, Crabb taught that exposing the unconscious needs, fears, pains, and wrong strategies is a necessary means for personal Christian growth. He said that this is the way people become truly dependent on God:
Will Crabb continue to teach those doctrines as he attempts to help "release a generation of elders" to fulfill their calling? He said in his talk at Moody:
Crabb says, "we must catch a vision of what biblical eldering might look like in our culture." Then he attempts to "develop a biblical framework." He correctly refers to several passages having to do with caring for Gods flock. However, certain key words and phrases suggest that Crabb has not moved away from psychotherapeutic notions"profoundly listening to peoples stories," "identify deep struggles," "soul work," "deepest longings." Some of what he said in this talk has the same flavor as Inside Out. For instance, in the talk he said:
The only difference seems to be that elders will do the processing rather than counselors. As he teaches the elders "to elder" will Crabb continue to say: "Until we sense the deep discomfort we feel in relating as men and women, we havent touched the core of our struggle" (Inside Out, p. 210)?
Will he still teach the following?
Will he still teach that these feelings of shame relate to doubts about ones sexual identity and "provide powerful motivation to protect ourselves from further wounds"? He taught that such feelings are so powerful that:
As we point out in our book Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, the above quotes demonstrate Crabbs combination of Freuds libido (sexual energy), Jungs animus and anima (unconscious elements of masculinity and femininity), and Maslows hierarchy of needs.
Even if Crabb himself is moving away from reliance on psychological notions and towards reliance on Scripture, he still gives great credence to those who practice psychotherapy. Even while he recognizes the part therapists have played in undermining the work of elders, he said this in his talk:
Towards the end of his talk Crabb referred to when he had a full-time counseling practice and said:
No, Crabb is not antipsychology. He is not opposed to psychological counseling. He is not "putting an end to Christian psychology."
Typical of those immersed in the psychotherapeutic milieu, Crabb was open about his own personal struggles. In attempting to demonstrate that he knows what its like to struggle deeply, he revealed shortcomings of others. He confessed that, even while he was writing the book The Marriage Builder, his own marriage had died. In his talk to the pastors at Moody Crabb said:
While the intent may have been to confess his own failure in relationship, he also implied that his wife had also failed.
Later in the talk, while attempting to demonstrate his struggle and victory to reflect Christ to his son, Crabb revealed his sons failure. He said that one of his sons "was asked to leave a Christian university school where my books were used as texts." The reason for the dismissal was serious enough for Crabb to say, "My boy was asked to leave and had I been Dean, I would have asked him to leave."
Revealing the sins of others in order to be open and transparent in our psychological society and psychotainted churches flies in the face of real love as expressed in 1 Peter 4:8.
One of our concerns about Crabbs model of counseling has to do with implementing an openness about ones personal life, past and present, that not only reveals the sins of others, but magnifies them. We discuss this concern in Prophets of PsychoHeresy I. For further reading on this topic, see Jim Owens paper, "Inside and Back Out with Larry Crabb," Owens book Christian Psychologys War on Gods Word: The Victimization of the Believer, and Debbie Dewart's paper, "Recovery or the Bible or . . . Crabbs Third Way?" (To order these, please use the enclosed card.)
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. He speaks some of the same things some of us have been saying out of the right side of his mouth, he but continues some of the same psychogarble out of the wrong side. If he 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 teachings. Instead, he adjusts his language to fit his next goal: training elders to elder. (Why is it that psychologists and other social change agents have a penchant for taking nouns and turning them into verbs?) And from what Crabb said at the Moody conference, it sounds as if he will continue the same processing of reliving painful disappointments.
In spite of the Christianity Today headlines, it is obvious that Crabb still supports his past books, his psychologized model of "biblical counseling," counseling for pay, and the ungodly and unbiblical American Association of Christian Counselors.
PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110
Return to: Article Topics | Titles | Top