Exposing the Myth that Christians Need
by Louis Whallon
Dr. Dwight Carlson, a psychiatrist, has written an
article in a recent issue of Christianity Today.
In his article titled "Exposing the Myth that
Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems," he
warns of a false gospel ("the emotional-health
gospel") in the church. He claims this new false
gospel is very similar to the false gospel of
"health and wealth" and that it is being
promulgated by men like John MacArthur in his book Our
Sufficiency in Christ and Dave Hunt in his book Beyond
Seduction. By implication his accusation covers an
extensive group of Bible believing leaders. Scripture is
clear regarding anyone teaching a false gospel. Gal. l:
7,8 says they are to be accursed. This charge of
Carlsons is a very serious one.
His Thesis: Christians shoot their wounded
by not being sensitive enough to the emotional
problems of fellow believers.
Answer: Christians often fail to love one
another as they should. This does not justify
questioning the sufficiency of Christ and the
promises of the Word of God.
His Thesis: We shoot our wounded because of
a "myth" that Christians dont have
Answer: This is not true. It is a false
premise. The accused authors acknowledge that
Christians have emotional problems. The issue is what
have Christians historically done with those
problems, and what should they do with them today?
His Thesis: Building on this
"myth" of emotional health for Christians,
teachers like Dave Hunt and John MacArthur, who teach
that Christ is sufficient and the Word of God is
adequate to deal with the deepest personal and
emotional needs, promulgate a false gospel similar to
the "health and wealth gospel."
Answer: This is not true. The health and
wealth gospel is clearly false because it claims
physical health and material wealth when Scripture
makes no such promise. However, the Scripture does
make clear promises and commands regarding our
Eph. 4:31 Put away all wrath, bitterness
1 Pet. 3:8 Have compassion and love and be
Prov. 12:25 Anxiety causes depression; a good
word makes glad.
Phil. 4:6 Be anxious for nothing.
Phil. 4:7 The peace of God will guard your
James 1:2 "Count it all joy when ye fall
into divers temptations."
His Thesis: The church is only qualified to
deal with spiritual matters (salvation, forgiveness,
morality, Gods will, etc.) and some emotional
problems. The deepest personal and emotional problems
should be handled by "professionals."
Answer: None of the accused would deny that
Christians should seek proper medical help for
physical needs. If your thyroid is not functioning
properly you should go to a doctor.
The professionals the author is speaking of,
however, are professionals in psychology. While some
are medically trained, they practice
"professional advice." Their designation as
"professional" comes from being educated
and trained in psychological theories. There are
literally hundreds of these theories spawned by men
such as Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, Skinner, Rogers,
Ellis and Bettelheim. They compete with one another,
and they do not always agree. Carlson did not
indicate which school of thought he favored. He also
failed to indicate whether it was important to go to
a Christian for Christian professional counseling.
Perhaps this is because, unlike Scripture, there is
no body of truth called "Christian
psychology." There are only professing
Christians practicing their own versions of
psychological theories, sometimes using Christian
The books written by Dave Hunt and others document
in great detail the shortcomings of this profession.
The proofs offered include the testimonies of secular
psychologists that their counsel was no more
effective than the advice of a sympathetic friend.
Carlson chose not to respond to any of that evidence.
If however, as he suggests, we are to turn over
Christians with the deepest needs to these
"professionals," we should expect him to
provide some scientific evidence (control studies) to
show it works. This would also identify exactly which
of the various psychological theories he might think
His Thesis: Underlying the false gospel is
the belief that all "negative emotions are
sinful" and that a Spirit-filled Christian
cant experience emotional problems. Martin
Luther and Charles Spurgeon experienced depression.
Moses, Elijah, Job and Jeremiah were depressed
"often to the point of being suicidal." The
Lord Himself was very distressed in the garden:
"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto
death" (Matt. 26:38).
Answer: Carlson again puts forth a false
premise to build a case for his theories. None of the
men he accuses of preaching a false gospel would say
that all negative emotions are sinful. The
Lords agony in the garden was clearly not
Carlson also improperly uses the term
"Spirit-filled Christian" to lend credence
to his argument. We Christians are all indwelt by
Gods Spirit, but we are not always
"filled." This is a moment by moment
reality as we yield to Him (Eph. 5:18-20). Even men
greatly used by God are not always filled. When
filled however, Gal. 5:22-23 clearly says we will
manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our life and our
emotions (love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance).
This condition is in marked contrast to
Carlsons description of himself while in
depression, "devastated, sense of doom,
Since it is Carlsons primary thesis that
Christians need professional help for really deep
needs, his choice of men from Scripture is truly
extraordinary. In using the Lord, he quotes Him in
the Garden as saying, "My soul is deeply grieved
to the point of death." Is he suggesting that
the Lord needed professional counseling for suicidal
Carlson also uses Job as an example. He quotes Job
as saying, "I hate my life. . . depression
haunts my days." He then declares that Scripture
says Job "even with his depression" did not
sin. The description of Job as a man who had not
sinned occurs in the first chapter. It only requires
reading to the end of the book to see the truth. In
fact, God counsels Job for four chapters beginning in
Chapter 38 through 42. In summary, God says, Job, who
do you think you are? Jobs statement about his
depression and his response to it is in chapter
42:5-6, "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in
dust and ashes." Rather than somehow giving
credence to a need for professional help for times of
depression, Jobs example argues for the
opposite. The Lord was Jobs counselor, and He
was adequate to heal him as Job repented.
In all the examples of people in Scripture that
Carlson uses, it is the same conclusion. All went to
the Lord for the resolution to their particular
emotional problem. All were restored and continued
with the ministries to which God called them.
His Thesis: Carlson uses his own experience
with depression to prove his thesis. He experienced
depression brought on by the suicide of a patient. He
was "devastated, desperate and hopeless even
after additional time in the Word and in
prayer," until he talked with a colleague. He
was sure his brain chemistry was affected by this
external event and theoretically restored by the
counsel he received.
Answer: This account perhaps best frames
the issues in this discussion. An otherwise
physically healthy man was affected by an external
event. This event in life caused him to become so
depressed that he was convinced that his "brain
chemistry was affected." The counsel of a
colleague cured the depression and corrected the
brain chemistry. Carlson offers no scientific
evidence for this altering of brain chemistry by an
event in life. Nor can there be. How would one
measure it? Therefore, the claim of theoretical
restoration of brain chemistry through the words of
the colleague is pure speculation.
The critical issue for this discussion is apart
from brain chemistry. The issue is WHAT WAS THIS
COUNSEL of the COLLEAGUE? What is the content of this
wisdom that healed? If we knew, we could compare it
to what God says about depression and draw some valid
conclusions about ones need for professional
counsel and counselors.
Carlson also seems to be saying that he tried more
prayer and more Bible, but it didnt work. This
is a strange evaluation of his circumstance from a
The solution to a crisis in life for Christians is
not only the time they spend in the Word and prayer
but their willingness to submit to it. It is not some
formula or method of cure, but rather an encounter
with the living God. Job had such an encounter.
Comment: If we are to accept Carlsons
thesis, that Christ is not sufficient and the Scriptures
are not adequate for the deep personal and emotional
needs of Christians, some troubling questions naturally
1. How could God promise us joy in the middle of
all lifes circumstances before psychology
2. Did He make demands on our controlling anger or
not worrying before He gave us the resources to do
3. Do we really believe that persecuted Christians
throughout the ages would say the Lord was not
4. Is "professional help" a viable
solution for anyone without money or insurance? Has
God left Christians in Africa without a necessary
5. How is the fact that man is created in the
image of God, with the immaterial reality of a
soul/spirit separated from God by sin, explained in
Carlsons theories? It is difficult to see this
Christian truth in his heavy reliance on a
persons chemistry, biology, genes, environment
and circumstances of life.
6. What impact does salvation have on a person,
his thoughts, motives, behavior and emotions? Is a
Christian to approach the circumstances of life any
differently than an unsaved person?
7. If professionals are the answer for emotional
problems, as Carlson contends, shouldnt we go
to them for a lack of compassion, or too much envy,
or excessive lust? Which medication should we take or
what counsel will they give?
8. What are we to do with our hymnals? They
dont refer to any need for psychiatry for the
deep personal and emotional needs of Christians.
Conclusion: Carlson has made a very serious
charge against some respected Christian brothers. His
accusations are built upon false premises. He offers no
scientific evidence except his personal experiences and a
vague statement, "From a research perspective the
emerging answer to emotional illness involves. . .
." What research? What is an emerging answer? There
are no emerging answers such as he proposes in Scripture.
His biblical support is even less compelling. His own
examples of men in Scripture not only fail to prove his
case, but prove the opposite. Our God was adequate for
all of them. He has been adequate for suffering men and
women of God throughout the centuries. He is adequate for
the church today. We must continue to go to our Wonderful
Counselor (Isa. 9:6) with our deepest emotional and
personal needs. Who then is preaching the false gospel? I
would respectfully submit that Christ is our counselor,
the Spirit is our comforter and the Word is our guide.
THEY ARE SUFFICIENT!
Relevant Scriptures: If we were to accept
Carlsons thesis, how would we explain these
Scriptures and countless others? Each of the following is
followed by a question or comment related to his thesis.
Isa. 9:6 "For unto us a child is
born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be
upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting
Father, The Prince of Peace."
Question: But not for deep personal needs and
2 Cor. 1:3-4 ". . . the Father of
mercies, and the God of all comfort . . . who comforteth
us in all our tribulation."
Question: Doesnt all mean all?
Ps. 55:22 "Cast thy burden upon the
LORD, and he shall sustain thee. . . ." and 1 Pet.
Question: Through only the little problems of
2 Pet. 1:3 "According as his divine
power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto
life and godliness. . . ."
Question: Does this mean we lack the resources for
the issues of life?
Rom. 8:28 "And we know that all
things work together for good to them that love God, to
them who are the called according to his purpose."
Question: Except for that life event that caused
my brain chemicals to get out of balance because God must
not have been sovereign over it?
2 Cor. 12:9-10 ". . .My grace is
sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in
weakness. . . ."
Comment: This one verse should end the discussion. It
is when we are weakest that His grace is most manifest.
2 Tim. 1:7 "For God hath not given
us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of
a sound mind."
Comment: Carlson accuses the "emotional health
gospel" of saying that if a Christian repents,
prays, and spends adequate time in the Word he will have
a sound mind. To him that is absurd. The truth is that
Scripture says we have been given a sound mind. Of course
we can always fail to utilize what God has given.
Matt. 6:25-34 "Therefore I say unto
you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or
what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall
put on. . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and
his righteousness; and all these things shall be added
unto you. . . ."
Comment: We are not to worry. It is not just some
simplistic Bible verse. It is the clear instruction of
the Lord. It is rooted in the truth that we have a Father
in heaven who loves us and will care for us. Worrying
makes us like the Gentiles, who have every right to
worry, since they have no Father in heaven and they face
eternal judgment apart from Christ.
(from PAL V6N3)