Vol. 4, No. 7
~ Page 10 ~
Our society and the church have been totally mesmerized by the field of psychology. No action or inaction occurs without some reference to psychological factors or lack of counseling. Every evil is seen as a form of mental psychosis. Those with degrees in psychology and counseling are seen as having a higher understanding of what motivates and drives mankind. Any stress is seen as a crisis that needs the reassuring hand of a psychologist or counselor.
"While in the past the common reference point was the Bible and its commentaries and commentators, the common reference today is a therapeutic language ..."1 "People today hunger not for personal salvation ... but for the feeling, the momentary illusion of personal well-being, health and psychic security."2 "Today the church is being destroyed from within by 'Christian psychology' that interprets Scripture on the basis of a bankrupt, atheistic philosophy, which at best turns Christ into a heavenly pyschiatrist."3
One of the ways that this psychologizing demonstrates itself in the church is through the ideas of self-actualization, self-esteem and self-love. These three concepts have become so accepted that to speak against them is paramount to heresy. What is sad is that most do not understand that these are rooted in humanism. Man is most important. Man is the ultimate. Man has the answers for man. Since man is the center of things, it is obvious that man must be made happy. This begins with the individual person making himself happy. Everything is self-fixated.
Mixing this philosophy with Scripture states that before man can love others, he must learn to love himself. Scriptures are twisted and turned upside down to support this claim. Leviticus 19:18 states in part, "... thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ..." and this is repeated in Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:39 and other passages. Those touting self-love actually try to use these Scriptures to justify their belief. They say that we can only love others like ourselves if we first learn to love ourselves. That is not what the Scriptures say. They do not say that we should learn to love ourselves so that we can love others. It is taken as fact in the command that we already love ourselves. The import of the command is that we turn that love toward others.
In Galatians 5:13, Paul tells the Galatians that they are to love by serving others. He did not say that we had to learn to serve ourselves, thus making us complete, before loving and serving others. If I must become self-actualized before I know how to love others, then I must completely turn inward in my thinking. I must concentrate on fulfilling what I desire. I must seek what I believe is best for me. Yet, Christ stated that one must deny himself if he is to follow him (Mark 8:34). In verse 36 of that same chapter, Jesus asks what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet lose his soul. Connecting the two verses in context would demonstrate that there is no room for me to concentrate on fulfilling my self-love. To do so is to lose my soul.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul gives a list of problems in the world. One of those sins listed was "for men shall be lovers of their own selves." While it is true that there is nothing wrong with having a healthy estimation of one's self, it is wrong to be in love with one's self. A proper perspective involves understanding that one is unique as created by God. The pride that might come from that uniqueness is tempered by a humility bowed before the great power and authority of God. A full realization of one's value can only lead to what Paul stated in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." That does not sound like having to learn to love myself before learning to love others.
"The alternative of self-love is not self-hate, but rather love in relationship with God and others. The alternative to self-esteem is not self-denigration, but rather an understanding of the greatness of God dwelling in a weak vessel of flesh."4
We are commanded to love our God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). Where does one read that an individual is to first learn to love himself before loving God with all his heart, soul and mind? I challenge anyone to find one example in the Bible where God commanded anyone to learn to love himself. Instead, they will find that God commands them to learn God's Word, learn to love God and learn to love others.
Man has not changed. The challenges that man faces have not changed. Since Adam and Eve fell, there has been sin in the world. The people during Old Testament and New Testament times faced all kinds of temptations. They had divorce. They had drugs. They had opulence. They had poverty. Yet, never once did God indicate that they needed to teach their children to love themselves or to esteem themselves. Instead, he taught that they were to humble themselves. He instructed that they were to love him and love others.
We need to always be on guard against the philosophies of the world. Satan is quite skilled in his ways of seducing. Sometimes what on the surface may sound very good, may be, in fact, a trap. The self-love and self-esteem philosophy is one of those. Many have fallen into the trap of teaching it as a scriptural theme. They truly believe that they are helping children in a biblical way by teaching them to love and esteem themselves. The truth is however, that they are not only teaching a false doctrine, but are contributing to the sin of narcissism that they believe they are avoiding.
This has been a very brief look at this problem. So much more could be stated and reviewed. It is my prayer that everyone would take a much closer look at something that has become a major source of trouble within our society and the Lord's church.
1 Bernie Zilbergeld, The Shrinking of America, 1983, p.5.
2 Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism, 1979, p.13.
3 Dave Hunt, The Cult Explosion, 1980, p.70.
4 Martin Bobgan, Psychoheresy, 1987, p.68.