I’ll never forget the humanistic psychology courses in seminary. I will never forget the literal laugh-out-loud moment we shared when my best friend in the seminary, Bart Martin, read a section from one of our textbooks out loud in the refectory. Recently, I got another laugh that reminded me of that first one, only louder.
Those psychology (ahem, *cough, cough* pastoral theology, that is) courses were taught by professing evangelicals, but required texts included the secular mainstream. One of these was the desk reference to the DSM-IV (now replaced by the DSM-V)—the “Bible” of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the industry standard for diagnoses of mental illness. At least two of us in the class had already read Jay Adams among others and were prepared to make our visiting professor earn his money.
We were required to read the section from the DSM-IV on personality disorders. It was after that first class that Bart read from the very first page of that section, under the heading “General diagnostic criteria for a Personality Disorder.” What is a personality disorder, after all? Answer:
An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. [My emphasis.]
Yes, you read that right. The ultimate barometer for determining whether someone suffers from a personality disorder is not any fixed standard of morality, but the expectations of the individual’s culture.
Now, we could certainly read more into that than may be there, but even being generous, it’s somewhere between marshmallow and Jell-O. “Culture” is in flux, after all. Cultures change over time. What passes for one culture’s expectations could easily be considered to “deviate markedly” in another.
Think of people who would dare to expect the propriety of traditional marriage, Christianity, private property, individual liberty, private schooling. Is that normal? How long ago was that? How long before it’s not? And will we then be considered mentally ill? There are atheist who already argue that all religion is a form of mental illness—and they appeal to the DSM for it.
Think of people who demand social acceptance for sodomy. Not that big a deal, is it? Even if we don’t agree with it we can get along, right? But that’s only what you’ve been conditioned to expect.
We used to have laws against sodomy. Now, we have some laws that demand we support it. It used to be the case that homosexual desire deviated markedly from cultural expectations. Now, it is increasingly a part of cultural expectation to see it celebrated. You can be punished for not doing so.
The DSM itself once listed homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1973, after intense pressure and repeated threats of violence from homosexual activists, the APA removed it. The organization cited changing social norms as a key reason. Even today, APA literature admits it was “encouraged by the social movement for ending sexual orientation discrimination”—a euphemism fatter than the DSM-V itself—as well as “advocacy outside of and within the American Psychiatric Association.” From its newfound position in 1973, the APA joined the lead to “repeal of all sodomy laws.”
Behold how easily that which “deviates markedly” becomes normal.
When Bart read that line we both laughed out loud, though the truth of it is not so funny.
Nevertheless, today the inside joke receives new vigor. Results of a mega-study released by a University of Virginia professor confirms what Bart and I knew about the secular psychology profession from the first page: it’s hooey. The New York Times recently spilled:
The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences. A star social psychologist was caught fabricating data, leading to more than 50 retracted papers. A top journal published a study supporting the existence of ESP that was widely criticized. The journal Science pulled a political science paper on the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior because of concerns about faked data.
Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.
The vetted studies were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory. Therapists and educators rely on such findings to help guide decisions, and the fact that so many of the studies were called into question could sow doubt in the scientific underpinnings of their work.
In short, it’s hooey. It’s a lot of hooey. Psychology journals have been manufacturing hooey for years in the name of science, and when someone put the screws of science to it, it didn’t hold up. Now, generations of psychology professors and scholars, as well as all those who have staked their professions and authority upon the discipline, have had the rug pulled out from under them.
According to one of the liberals’ greatest allies—the New York Times—the core knowledge by which these self-professed “scientists” understand and make decisions about the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning, and memory has been proven exaggerated and unreproducible—i.e., hooey.
This was not some random or fringe study. It was conducted openly with wide exposure by a prominent university. It included a large sample from prominent journals. In most of the cases it reviewed, it recruited the same scholars who performed the original studies, and in as many as possible, the same test subjects. This was about as tightly a reproduced an examination as one could conduct. Yet, the result was that a whopping 75 percent of the reviewed studies failed to reproduce the original claims made by psychology scholars.
Put that in the vernacular: that’s 75 percent hooey.
Even in cases which did reproduce some results, the measurable differences were only half that originally reported.
This study was widely divulged by liberal news outlets—the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Atlantic to name a few. Most seek some kind of positive spin from it: this is the first step is self-correction; psychologists are taking the lead in tackling the problem; this will lead to greater accountability; this is setting an example for other disciplines; etc., etc. These are all merely shorthand for the inevitable: we just need more money for further research!
The bottom line is, however, that a huge bulk of the decision-making core knowledge of psychology has been proven to be hooey, and its peddlers, hucksters.
But perhaps the most unnerving realization of this all is the fact that our societies from the ground up have been overrun by this nonsense. Our core understanding of mankind, humanity, gender, sex, family, marriage, relationships, personality, and so many other facets of society have been overtaken by hooey—and Christians have let it happen to us with hardly a response.
Bart and I were perfectly right to laugh out loud. And we are all perfectly justified in reading this study and laughing even harder at the abject folly of humanistic psychology and its fruits. But we must also cry. We have done very little to spread Christian social theory or biblical psychology among Christian schools, universities, churches, etc., despite the fact that pioneers such as Jay Adams, Van Til, Rushdoony, and others blazed rough trails decades ago. Instead, we have been content to baptize secular models and pretend they are compatible with Christianity. As a result our universities are eaten up with feminism, homosexuality, and many other fruits of secular psychology.
And now, here we stand, with nothing to nail to the door but scrolls of hooey. Christian, you’ve been taken over by hooey.
The simple solution is to derive our core knowledge of social theory and personality theory from Scripture. At its most basic, this will require the acceptance of a fixed standard of morality, ethics, and law. Biblical social theory is simple and predictable. It does not change when “expectations of one’s culture” change. It cannot be manipulated by activists, even with threats of violence.
It would be so easy and simple for the church to lead culture in this way, but the leadership in so many denominations has sold out to the illusion of academic respectability. They want the accolades of secular academia and professionalism. Well, they’ve gotten it. And now it’s come out that the secular academics are full of hooey. And instead of being the lighthouses of culture, the churches, their universities, and their seminaries have become the dispensaries of the hooey, and acolytes of the captains of hooey whose respect and approbation they coveted. Congratulations, you have your reward. And shame on you! We’ve been taken over by hooey, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
By the time Bart and I graduated seminary, we and a few other students had raised such a fuss that the leadership of the institution hired a skilled, Biblical, nouthetic pastor to replace the compromised psychology professors and instead teach biblical counseling. I consider it among my greatest accomplishments while in seminary. I do not know if they have stuck with it, but that one year at least was a triumph over the hooey. I was glad at least to get to see it in my rearview mirror.
This is simply one of the many areas in which Christians need to unhinge themselves from dependence upon secular academies and guilds, and to forge their own way ahead in faithfulness to Scripture. There has been a tremendous amount of work done already. Tons of work lies ahead.