Psychology, Witchcraft, and Behaviorism

Christian Counseling, including Nouthetic Counseling, can provide no evidence or documentation to show that its methods are effective.

As a general rule, Christian Fundamentalists disapprove of psychology. They have produced their own Acme version of professional, licensed psychology known as “Christian Counseling,” a mishmash of theories, practices, and books that as a single entity has proved itself as untrustworthy as it is trustworthy.

In short, when going to a Christian Counselor, your mileage may vary. And even the supposedly more professional Nouthetic Counselors have failed to prove themselves effective across the board and have demonstrated the same incidence of sexual scandal and cover-up as the ala carte Christian counselors.

Some people have been helped by Christian counselors, but many have not been helped; many have reported damage, even abuse, at the hands of Christian counselors. And the complete absence of professional literature and assessment services casts the entire profession of “Christian Counseling” into serious doubt, in my opinion. After years of hesitating, I have finally concluded that I do not recommend Christian Counseling to victims of clergy abuse, but I am a Bible believing Christian. In fact, I know and resort to the Bible far more ably than some so-called counselors, and that alone tells me they are not comprehensively educated in Scripture itself to be in practice.

But psychology itself is often censored by Fundamentalists as atheistic, Darwinistic, and utterly secular. Chief complaints are that psychology lacks any reference to a person’s soul, to issues of absolute right and wrong, to the invisible factors in our lives that influence us: conscience, knowledge, altruism, the Holy Spirit.

How odd then, that pervasively and repeatedly, Fundamentalism pushes a brand of psychology that really does have its roots in an atheistic and downright mechanistic view of humanity, a version of psychology that was founded by an avowed atheist. For Fundamentalism profoundly relies upon the theories of Behaviorism. They hate psychology, yet they love Behaviorism.

Ivan Pavlov was a decent man who spoke against Communist abuses. He was an agnostic who admired yet rejected Christianity

Behaviorism was founded by Ivan Pavlov, a man in many ways to be admired, but he was a scientific agnostic to the end of his days. We know about Pavlov because he documented the theory of classical conditioning: A natural stimulus will create a response in an animal. That is, the presentation of food will make a dog salivate. If you present the natural stimulus with a training stimulus, such as the ringing of a bell, over and over again, then eventually, the training stimulus replaces the natural stimulus.

His laboratory dogs were presented with food as a bell was rung, and they salivated at sight of the food. Eventually, all he had to do was ring the bell, and the dogs salivated.

Others took this further, especially BF Skinner, an outspoken atheist who envisioned a scientific utopia run along the lines of behaviorism. They developed studies that showed that animals could be trained by acting to gain a reward all the way to the point that they would repeat trained behaviors even when they did not receive the reward. He and others of his discipline also showed that animals will avoid behaviors that cause unpleasant consequences.

One critical flaw of Skinner's theories is that human beings are complex creatures made in the image of God, and rats are not.

In a nutshell, that is behaviorism: a theory of psychology that says people will do what they do to be rewarded and will avoid anything that causes unhappiness or pain.

Fundamentalists have applied (or really, mis-applied) these theories to Scripture, particularly to Solomon’s exhortations in his permissive patriarchal society to beat foolish and wayward sons. Solomon had never heard of operant or classical conditioning. His writings are about justice, appeasement of the offended party, and reconciliation achieved by the punishment of the culprit, even if the culprit is your son. Solomon never advocates beating daughters, nor does he advocate beating small children and never infants.

But Christian Fundamentalism has combined Skinner and Solomon to make a theory of child rearing that repeatedly fails, and yet they never abandon it.

The Roloff Homes and Hephzibah House and other homes like them (New Bethany, Reclamation Ranch, Camp Tracy, etc.,) In their theory of raising children, which is based on operant conditioning theories (which were developed by atheists), you beat a child for every infraction, and if that pain is not sufficient, you just keep increasing the severity of the pain. The theory is that eventually the child becomes a righteous person.

The Fundamentalist theory of child rearing is, ultimately, to beat children for infractions. If that doesn't work, beat them some more.

And the theory, of course, does not work. It’s not Biblical, and it probably is taking behaviorism itself way beyond the boundaries of what most contemporary behaviorist researchers intended.

What the Fundamentalists have done is exactly what atheists have done, what BF Skinner himself did: eliminate all belief in conscience, in human will, and in human self-determination. They’ve also consented to the atheistic premise of eliminating consideration of any invisible influences, including the Holy Spirit, love, altruism, or compassion in children.

Stories abound from survivors of these homes about children who risked beatings and starvation and other tortures to help their friends, to escape and tell police, to simply raise the middle finger because they were determined to do so.

The evidence of the failure of their system is abundant, but the Fundamentalists have actually created a recipe of pain that they believe will change children and even some adults into subservient followers. What Fundamentalists really believe in is a sort of witchcraft: spell-like remedies that proscribe beatings and pain that are guaranteed to subjugate others and create importance and majesty for those who can gather in the most unwanted children, beat them and enslave them more so than others, force feed legalism into them, and prance them out onto a church stage every now and then to sing songs and tell their made-up testimonies of being former drug addicts and witches.

Christian Fundamentalist views on child rearing are really just so much hocus pocus.

Yes that’s witchcraft: a belief that if you get the spell right, you get the promised result. If you beat a child enough you get lifelong religious faith out of him or her. Dress him or her a certain way, and sin will leave the child alone. Repeat Bible verses again and again forever, and temptation will not afflict. That’s witchcraft all right. Or at the very least it is spell casting.

Does it work? No. Human beings are more than what Fundamentalism says that they are. The Bible lets us know that. We are fearfully and wonderfully made: complex and profound images of God, in fact. The Christian Fundamentalist view of what a human being is, and the Bible’s view of what a human being is, in fact, are two very different things. Once again, if we look closely enough, we will see that Christian Fundamentalism, in its view of what humanity is, is ignorant of what the Bible teaches and profoundly disobeys what the Bible teaches. But that topic is for another time.

This topic is addressed further in Bitter Root: Atheistic Practices Embedded in Christian Fundamentalism

9 Responses to “Psychology, Witchcraft, and Behaviorism”

  1. Jenny Islander says:

    ISTM that “Biblical” child “training” manuals fit neatly into Christian Fundamentalism because they follow the formula:

    1. Believe that doing X will get Y. Only X will get Y. A, B, M, N, and Q will only bring chaos and despair. X all the way.
    2. Attempt to apply X. X does not work as promised, or work at all.
    3. But all outside X is chaos and despair! You must cling to X!
    4. Therefore, do X more and harder.

  2. jeriwho says:

    Yes, and “X” is most often some idea not taught in the Bible but cobbled together from their own weird culture.

  3. Katiekind says:

    Very insightful! I hope these thoughts will be considered by many.

  4. jeriwho says:

    many what? Sorry, just a little English 101 humor there. It’s hard to take you seriously when there’s a SPAM URL in your website link (which I removed).

  5. Zooey says:

    Very well said!!
    I found myself saying, “Yes. Yes, this is exactly what happens in so many (very sad) cases”.
    Thank you for a very thought provoking & moving read.

  6. jeriwho says:

    Thank you for reading and commenting Zooey!

  7. [...] the most temperate of bloggers, Jeri Massi lets rip on Christian [...]

  8. 1 L Loyd says:

    I never thought about the context in Proverbs.

    I helped raise five children. One thing I learned is that nothing works for all children. They need treated with love, and whatever is suited for them.

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