Nancy Missler & PsychoHeresy - Part One
Reading articles and books and listening to sermons and tapes require discernment regarding whether the teachings are truly biblical. Thus Christians are encouraged to study the Word of God:
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:15,16).
Unfortunately many Christians have already incorporated "profane and vain babblings" into their thinking. Therefore, we are attempting to provide information to help people identify the psychological profane and vain babblings and separate them from the pure Word of God.
The following are quotations from a book published July 1996. Are these statements biblical, psychological, or a mixture of the two?
Things in our life that are "not of faith" and that we don't immediately "deal with" and give over to God, automatically get pushed down into our hidden chambers (our subconscious) and eventually become the hidden motivation for all our actions. All our fears, insecurities, memories, etc., that we bury thinking "no one will see and no one will know" ultimately will end up controlling and directing our lives and forcing us to live a lie.
As God begins to teach us how to "take every thought captive," we'll see that we can get free of, not only our conscious negative thoughts and emotions, but also all the unconscious doubts, fears and insecurities that we have buried deep within our souls and that have motivated us for most of our lives (p. 12, italics in original; bold added).
What is biblical from the above passage? The phrases "not of faith" and "take every thought captive" are both in Scripture. The phrase "not of faith" is used in two places: Romans 14:23 and Galatians 3:11,12.
In both places Paul is dealing with the issue of law and grace. In the first place "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Specifically, this statement has to do with food laws. The other has to do with justification by faith and teaches that attempting to be justified by the law "is not of faith." However, neither use of the phrase "not of faith" supports the remainder of that paragraph having to do with "hidden chambers (our subconscious)" or "hidden motivation."
The phrase "take every thought captive" is probably taken from 2 Corinthians 10:5, which speaks of "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," in which Paul is instructing believers in spiritual warfare.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
There is no indication from this passage of Scripture that Paul is talking about "unconscious doubts, fears and insecurities that we have buried deep within our souls and that have motivated us for most of our lives."
While phrases are quoted or paraphrased from Scripture, the ideas of the two paragraphs quoted above are like ideas of Sigmund Freud, who taught and advanced the idea that people's conscious thoughts and actions are driven by a powerful reservoir of repressed memories no longer directly accessible to the conscious mind. Freud invented psychoanalysis to uncover these hidden regions of the psyche through free association and dream analysis.
Psychological Mythology Common Fare Among Christians
Psychological ideas have become such common fare among Christians, that they are treated as factual information. Freud's theories have so influenced our culture and church that people who may never have studied Freud are, nevertheless, proponents of his ideas. Many Christians believe in the concept of an unconscious reservoir of repressed memories that strongly motivates behavior. These are Freudian notions of repression and powerful unconscious motivation.
Many of these Christians who use Freudian concepts may simply be doing so because they confuse biblical references to the heart or the inner man with the unconscious or subconscious. Or, they define and treat biblical words such as heart and inner man as though they are inner reservoirs of repressed and forgotten material that motivate present behavior. It is important, therefore, for Christians to understand the difference between the "hidden man of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4) and Freudian theories about the unconscious. In the Bible, references to the inner man, the heart, or the "hidden man of the heart" have to do with the inner person that other people do not see. That is not the same as an inner reservoir of unconscious motivation determining present action. Nor do Bible references to the inner man have anything to do with repressed memories that build up until they explode into present negative or violent behavior.
Unconscious repression is a Freudian concept, not a biblical one. While all our external actions originate from our inner life, and while such actions are influenced by sinful thoughts, fears, and attitudes, the statements quoted above refer to "unconscious doubts, fears and insecurities that we have buried deep within our souls and that have motivated us for most of our lives." In other words, this writer has confused the biblical inner man with Freudian ideas.
Such psychological notions filter down from a psychological source, such as Freud, through integrationists, such as Larry Crabb, Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, Gary Collins, James Dobson, Charles Solomon and many more psychologically-trained individuals. These ideas then become part of the general psychological mythology that people believe and follow. People then read, interpret and teach what they suppose is biblical, without recognizing that their presuppositions are from psychology rather than from Scripture.
Psychological ideas are so rampant in the church that we cannot possibly know about every book, author, or teacher who is expounding them. Therefore, when we do critique an author who is promulgating psychological nonsense, we pray that our readers will become alert to the kinds of ideas that are embraced and will then be able to discern for themselves.
The paragraphs about "hidden chambers (our subconscious)," "hidden motivation for all our actions," and "unconscious doubts, fears and insecurities that we have buried deep within our souls and that have motivated us for most of our lives" were written by Nancy Missler in her new book titled Be Ye Transformed. According to the back cover of the book, she has been giving seminars on the same topic for ten years.
Because of the influence of Nancy Missler through her own ministry, through the Koinonia House ministry with her husband, Chuck Missler, and also through Suitable Helpers (a Promise Keepers' female tag along), her teachings need to be examined and evaluated. Therefore, we will take a more thorough look at her book Be Ye Transformed, especially "Section Five: Searching the Hidden Chambers" and "Section Six: Setting the Prisoners Free."
The intent of the book is admirable: to help people become transformed into the image of Christ and to love one another with God's love. However, Missler's means to such admirable goals are fraught with psychoheresy.
Sometimes the most subtle kinds of integration come from those who have not been trained in psychology, but have absorbed psychoheresy into their Christianity under the influence of psychologists who are popular among Christians. Missler has apparently assimilated teachings of such individuals, perhaps without knowing that these are psychological notions (wisdom of men) without scientific substantiation. Her bibliography includes books written by such integrationists as Larry Crabb, Gary Collins, and Charles Solomon as well as a few of us who criticize psychology.
Missler's integration of psychological concepts with the Bible may be the result of ignorance, rather than intention, because she warns against using psychology. Besides revealing her own naivete regarding her own use of psychology, Missler leads her readers into thinking that her system is purely Scriptural, uncontaminated with psychology.
Missler's Assimilation of the Freudian Unconscious
On the one hand, Missler may have never read Freudian theory; on the other hand, she has assimilated Freud's theories to the extent that her teachings end up being very Freudian. These Freudian concepts are imbedded in the so-called "hidden chambers (our subconscious)" of believers, according to Missler's version of the human temple of God having the same architecture as the temple Solomon built. In her version of the temple, the outer court "represents a believer's body (soma), the inner court represents the conscious part of a man's soul (psyche), and the chambers which were built around the walls of the temple represent "hidden chambers (our subconscious)."
Anyone familiar with Freud's theories about the human psyche will clearly see that Missler's "subconscious" is like Freud's theory of an unconscious filled with repressed drives, feelings, and memories that direct and motivate behavior. Missler promotes this popularized Freudian myth restated in the common vernacular of psychospeak. For instance, she says:
The secret, hidden, wooden chambers around the main sanctuary, I believe, represent the subconscious part of a believer's soul (heder). This is the place in our soul where we store all of our hurts, doubts and fears, etc., thinking because it's hidden, "no one will see and no one will know." Experts tell us that everything we think, say and do is stored in these secret recesses for future use. These are the hidden things that trigger our "conscious" thoughts, emotions and desires and that eventually produce our actions (if not caught and given over to the Lord) (p. 165, emphasis in original, bold added).
Who might be the "experts" to whom Missler is referring, but psychologists? Missler would do better to rely on Scripture than on the unscientific speculation of "experts." No one has yet proved the existence of any storage place with "hidden things that trigger our 'conscious' thoughts, emotions and desires and that eventually produce our actions." The idea that "everything we think, say and do is stored in these secret recesses for future use" has no basis in fact. This kind of psychology has more to do with metaphysical speculations than with science. (See PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity for more information regarding the nonscientific status of this kind of psychology).
Research on memory has debunked the myth that memory is like a tape recorder that records every event accurately and keeps it intact. Remembering is not running an inner tape recorder or computer back to an event. It is pulling together bits and pieces of information that logically fit together. Memories are created out of images, overheard conversations, dreams, suggestions, andimagination as well as out of actual events. Memories are also malleable. They change every time they are remembered. Thus, one cannot speak of them as being stored in the ordinary sense of storage.
Missler also relies on these "experts" when she declares:
Psychologists tell us that 80% of our energy goes to suppressing our hurts. In other words, to filling those hidden chambers! (p. 229, emphasis in original).
She fails to provide footnote references for her "experts" and "psychologists."
Missler's view of the soul makes room for psychological explanations for understanding who man is and why he does what he does. She says:
Our souls are made up of our conscious thoughts, emotions and desires. This is the "self-life" to which we have so often referred. (Now, there is a hidden, subconscious part of our soul - those secret chambers - which we will discuss in detail in the next two chapters. Note, however, that these hidden recesses are a part of our soul (p. 188, emphasis in original).
In answer to her question, "where does this 'self-life' come from?" she says:
I believe most of our self-life comes from the hurts, the resentments, the doubts, the pride, the bitterness, etc., that we have never properly dealt with before, and have instead, stuffed and buried in our secret hidden chambers. Self-life is most often triggered when we choose to follow what these old "buried" things are telling us to do over what God is prompting us to do. These hidden things work on our conscious thoughts and emotions which, in turn, cause us to make self-centered, emotional choices and thus, ungodly actions (p. 191, emphasis in original).
According to Missler, the soul is divided into the conscious part and the subconscious part. The subconscious, which she also calls "hidden chambers," is an important part of Missler's teaching about human nature and how Christians can be transformed. She offers the following definition for this hidden region that supposedly plays such a significant role in every decision a Christian makes.
One definition for our subconscious (our innermost part) is: a reservoir of mostly untrue preprogrammed beliefs and assumptions, which strongly influences how we consciously evaluate all that happens to us in the present. In light of these influences (and those of the Spirit) we make our choices which then determine all our actions (p. 216, emphasis in original).
Missler presents a psychological description of the psyche rather than a biblical understanding of the nature of man. This definition not only reveals Freudian influence, but also reflects the psychological teachings of Dr. Lawrence Crabb (see Prophets of PsychoHeresy I for a critique of Crabb's amalgamation of Freudian, Adlerian and other psychological theories).
Chapters Eleven and Twelve of Be Ye Transformed are devoted to "The Hidden Chambers." Missler says:
I believe these secret, hidden, storage chambers [of Solomon's Temple] correspond to our subconscious, the place in our own soul where we also store, hide and bury our wounds, hurts, guilt and memories - thinking no one will see, no one can know. These can be things that are just too painful for us to consciously deal with, so we push them down and repress them there (p. 210, emphasis in original).
Anyone familiar with Freud and his theory of repression will see the unbiblical source of Missler's "hidden chambers." Unfortunately Missler thinks that she has uncovered biblical truth. After all, the subtitle of her book is Understanding God's Truth.
Missler admits that the word subconscious is not in Scripture, but then she goes on to equate the Hebrew word heder with subconscious. This would be admissible if she only used the word subconscious in a generic manner. But, when she describes the subconscious as being filled with buried "wounds, hurts, guilt and memories" that are "too painful to consciously deal with" so that they have to be pushed down and repressed, then she is not simply speaking about that which is simply outside present awareness. She is using the term subconscious much like Freud's powerful unconscious.
Missler cites a few Scriptures in which the Hebrew word heder is or could be translated "innermost part." Since she relies on these verses to support her use of a subconscious that powerfully motivates behavior outside a person's conscious awareness, we will look at how she uses them.
The first is Proverbs 18:8: "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." Here heder refers to the inner person, but there is no hint that these are subconscious wounds, or that they are repressed and buried so that they will drive later behavior.
The next verse Missler uses to support her notion of the subconscious is Ezekiel 8:12: "Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth."
In this verse heder is translated chambers. Plans are being devised secretly and one could say that such conniving is going on in the innermost parts of their imagination, but how is this related to the subconscious? These imaginations are both conscious and intentional. They are not hidden from the person devising them. Therefore this verse cannot be used to support a subconscious filled with past wounds and hurts that influence thinking and behaving outside conscious awareness.
The next verse Missler uses is Job 37:9: "Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north." She indicates that the word heder is translated south and says: "In the Hebrew what this actually says is, 'out of the storeroom (innermost part) comes the storms, the hot blasts, the tempests'" (p. 210). But what does this have to do with the subconscious? Missler may be using this verse to support the idea that when hurts are repressed they build up and explode into "storms, the hot blasts, the tempests." But, here Missler is imposing another Freudian myth on Scripture that is not there. This verse from Job has nothing to do with anything going on inside of people. This verse has to do with God's power over nature.
The next verse she uses is Deuteronomy 32:25: "The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs." Here heder is translated within. Missler says, "Deuteronomy 32:25 explains that 'terror and destruction are from within'" (p. 210, emphasis in original). But that is not the plain reading of the verse. Deuteronomy is talking about two things that destroy: a sword and terror. The sword is an external destructive force. Terror destroys from within.
This section of Deuteronomy tells about how God will destroy those who oppose Him. These destructive means include "hunger," "burning heat," "the teeth of beasts," "the poison of serpents," "the sword without," and the "terror within." With all these external destructive forces, one would naturally feel terror, and the terror would become part of the destruction. Deuteronomy does not explain that "terror and destruction are from within." Neither does Deuteronomy imply anything subconscious. These terrors would have been at the forefront of consciousness. There is no way that Deuteronomy 32:25 can even remotely support Missler's use of the subconscious.
The last verse Missler uses in her vain attempt to turn the Hebrew word heder into her version of the subconscious is Proverbs 7:27: "Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death." This verse comes at the end of a section of Scripture that warns a young man about the dangers of a harlot. It has nothing to do with the subconscious. But, since heder is translated chambers here, Missler sees a connection and declares:
"Chambers of death" is exactly what our subconscious so often can become, because we haven't known how to allow God, by His spirit to expose these hidden areas, cleanse them, heal them and then fill them full of intimate knowledge of God. (p. 210, emphasis in original).
Using Proverbs 7:27 in this way is a clear example of eisegesis, not exegesis. This kind of proof-texting disregards all rules of logic. Just because a word that can be translated "innermost part" is used in a verse does not mean that this "innermost part" is the same as any other innermost part. Proverbs 7:27 uses heder to refer to the innermost part of death, of the grave, of hell. The innermost part of an apple is not the same as the innermost part of a bomb. But that is the kind of illogical connection Missler makes in her attempt to biblicize her teachings about the subconscious, which in fact rely more heavily on Freudian concepts than on the Bible. When Missler combines psychological ideas with biblical passages and biblical principles, the result is psychoheresy rather than biblical truth.
Missler's connecting heder and the subconscious in this manner is a clear example of how people can read any and every psychological notion into Scripture and thereby distort the understanding of God's clear Word. Missler is not alone in using this kind of eisegetical reasoning. Many integrationists make similar connections in their attempt to biblicize all sorts of psychological concepts. Some have "discovered" all of Freud's ego-defense mechanisms in Scripture, but such twisting of Scripture does not truly make such concepts biblical. It covers the lamp of God's Word with a bushel of vain babblings.
A psychologized perception of the human condition leads to psychologically tainted means of change. Missler presents a psychological model of man, which pushes her into a mixture of both biblical and unbiblical means of transformation. Part Two of this article will further describe Missler's mixture of psychology and theology, and it will also show how her biblical and psychological means of transformation conflict with each other.
PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110
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