In the third episode of a three-part series, pastors Derek and Cliff apply a Christian worldview to the claims of modern psychology.
Derek: Welcome to the With All Wisdom Podcast, where we’re applying biblical truth to everyday life. My name is Derek Brown and I’m here today with Cliff McManis. We are both pastors and elders at Creekside Bible Church in Cupertino, California, and professors of theology at the Cornerstone Bible College and Seminary in Vallejo, California. And today we are on part three of “What is a Worldview and Why Does it Matter?” Apparently, it matters quite a bit, because we’re going on part three here, and it’s necessary. And so we are just glad—if you’ve hung with us—thank you for hanging with us. We think this is so vital for Christians to learn how to think according to a Christian worldview, and to think consistently. We want to continue in our conversation.
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So Cliff, let’s get back into it. We were in part two, applying a Christian worldview to a headline—and that was exciting—and to other issues. And so now we want to drill down even more and continue to apply a Christian worldview and biblical thinking to other topics. So let’s get into that. What did you have in mind to talk about?
Cliff: Well, I want to start off with asking you to, again, employ the Christian worldview thinking to a very controversial—and very important—topic. We’re going to get into that in a second.
Before we do, can I do a little commercial first, please? Because we’ve been talking about worldview for the last two episodes. [Here is] just some recommended reading on a Christian worldview, if you’d like to study [on your own]. One book that Derek and I both have is called Think Biblically, and the subtitle is “Recovering a Christian Worldview.” It’s by John MacArthur. Pastor John is the editor of this book. He’s got a chapter in it, and it is written by the faculty of the Master’s College. It’s a great book. A chairman of each of the departments wrote a summary of how you should think as a Christian in a biblical manner on a given topic—whether it’s history, economics, science, etc. I’s an awesome book.
A couple other helpful ones: well, any Francis Schaeffer book. Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth. That was a great book. I read that one with my family years ago. Good stuff. Here’s another really good one that not a whole lot of folks know about. It’s called Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview by W. Gary Phillips, William Brown, and John Stonestreet. I’ve found that to be a rare jewel. And even more of a rare jewel is one called Contours of a World View by Arthur F. Holmes. Have you heard of Arthur F. Holmes?
Derek: Sounds familiar, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by him.
Cliff: He was Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College for, like, forty years. The guy was amazing. This is a good little book. [For] those of you who might be interested to see what Arthur Holmes is like, he’s got eighty-one lectures on the history of Western philosophy from a Christian point of view on YouTube. [These] lectures [that he did in the nineties] are an hour long, from 500 BC all the way up until the modern day.
Derek: I’m gonna check that out! That is awesome.
Cliff: And then there’s always David Noebel’s [work], Understanding the Times. I always found that to be good, too.
Derek: So those are recommended resources for helping you think with a Christian worldview, and a consistent Christian worldview.
Cliff: So, can we get to the topic at hand? Starting off in the area of psychology. Especially in the church, that’s so relevant, because people are always needing help. Everybody needs help. We’ve talked about that—seeking counsel. And I think the first recourse of most people in this day and age—and [particularly] where we live, here in America—is if you need help, you go see a psychologist.
Derek: That’s right. It’s the first impulse.
Cliff: Yeah. And especially if you have deep-seated problems. A pastor is not adequate or sufficient to deal with it, but that’s why you’ve got to go see the expert, the specialist, the psychologist, or psychiatrist. But anyway, I wanted to see if you had any thoughts on how we apply a Christian worldview to the sticky, naughty, thorny question of psychology, Derek?
Derek: Yeah, that’s a great question because it is the case even within the church and with Christians who believe the Bible, who believe in Christ, who are born-again. [They] will look to psychology, or even what we would call an integrationist way of viewing psychology, which is simply saying you can kind of blend Christian principles with psychological insights and discoveries and use that to help people. And Christians will embrace the findings of modern psychology and even psychologists as legitimate and [view them as] people who can give them genuine help with their problems in life. And so you have believers who readily embrace a lot of the insights and findings of modern day psychiatry and psychology. And the reason why it’s important to think Christianly about it is because I’m afraid that a lot of that embracing and absorbing of the claims of psychiatry and psychology are done naively.
It’s done uncritically, you might say. There’s just an assumption that these things are true and right and good when, in fact, under[neath] the claims made by a psychiatrist and psychologist is a worldview that is actually antithetical to a Christian worldview. And it’s sometimes shocking for Christians to realize that. Just take one category. You mentioned in the last episode that you have these categories of theology, right? You’ve got systematic theology, you’ve got the doctrine of God, you’ve got the doctrine of Christ, you’ve got the doctrine of the Spirit. We also have the doctrine of man, which we would call anthropology, and Scripture gives us a very clear anthropology, and we’ll talk about that in a moment. But the anthropology of modern psychology and psychiatry is very different from a Christian anthropology.
And the reason that’s important is because, when we’re talking about people and their problems, we’re talking about the human person and what you think about the human person. And what you think about the human person is going to determine how you interpret their problems and how you’re going to treat their problems. So a Christian worldview would say, in terms of anthropology, that man or humankind is both body and an immaterial soul. We’re both physical and we are immaterial. And our mind is distinct from our brain. It is not collapsed into one. It’s not the same thing. It’s not a mere construct. Because we know from divine revelation that the immaterial mind is distinct from the physical brain. And that is antithetical to a modern psychological anthropology, which would say the mind and brain are collapsed into one—that the mental capacities or the mental activities can be distilled down into biology, into the functions of the brain. And therefore, for that reason, your assessment of a person’s behavior or their thinking is going to be now assessed primarily—at least now in more modern times—along medical lines. Now a person’s wrong behavior or wrong thinking—things that both a Christian and a secular counselor would say, “Hey, those are problematic behaviors”—but the Christian is going to have a different interpretation than the psychologist, who says these behaviors are rooted in the person’s brain and their biology, primarily. And they’re not moral issues. They are issues that are medical and they need to be treated medically.
Cliff: Can I stop you there?
Cliff: Because this is a lot of stuff, but it’s so important. And you’re talking about anthropology, so that is profoundly important when a secular psychologist says he’s going to try to fix your problem, and yet the way he perceives you as a person or as a human is radically different than the way God views you as a person.
Cliff: [In the] Bible, like you’re saying, the theology of anthropology plays into this so significantly. A human being, from God’s point of view, is made in God’s image and, once created, is an eternal being. Like you said, body and soul are one entity, sacred in the eyes of God. [Each person] has an eternal destiny. God’s given us the blueprint in the Bible of how he works and ticks and what the problems and solutions are—what the ultimate problem is.
The Christian pastor and the secular, atheistic psychologist are looking at us the same—they see the same thing. They see a person.
Cliff: It’s like, that observation is the same. But the interpretation is totally different. Before they even talk about a solution, it’s diagnosing what you are as a human. From the secular psychologist point of view, as a human, depending upon where they’re coming from, you are the end result. You’re just an overdeveloped amoeba that evolved out of nothing—purposely, randomly. You’re not a soul with a body, as one entity, made in the image of God. Or maybe you’re just a machine. You’re just another animal. You’re no different than an animal. That’s what they think of you. How in the world are they supposed to solve your problems?
Derek: Well, that’s exactly right. I like how you really made it very clear and simple. You have two very different views of the human person. Two very different views about the person, how they’re made, their relation to God, what they’re expected to do, what they’re made to do, what their end is, their composition, etc. And so you have two antithetical views of the human person—still seeing the same person—but now you are going to interpret their problems and the cause of their problems very differently. What I’m afraid of is that a lot of Christians don’t really consider the underlying assumptions and presuppositions that modern psychologists are working from, and that all of the counsel that they give—all of it, every last bit of it—whether it’s medical counsel like a psychiatrist would give or counsel about how to manage some problems in your life, all that counsel is coming from a particular worldview that consists of their belief about God, their belief about man, their belief about sin, their belief about our greatest problem, and their belief about the remedy to our greatest problem. And that is going to flavor every single word that comes out of their mouth in terms of counseling the person who has problems. And so all we’re trying to get Christians to recognize is that you are going to have very different interpretations—and then suggested or recommended remedies—when it comes to people’s problems. We’re not talking about the psychiatrist or psychologist being rooted with facts and with unbiased viewpoints. No. It’s coming from a worldview, and they’re applying that worldview to people’s problems.
Cliff: A couple things you just said jogged my mind that, I guess as a pastor who is anticipating meeting with somebody to hear about their problems and try to solve their problems versus a secular psychologist listening to them and trying to solve their problems. That reveals probably the greatest clash of presuppositions that I might have as a Christian pastor-counselor with a secular psychologist. And that greatest difference in presupposition—the clash of the worldviews—is before I even meet with the Christian that I’m going to counsel. Before I even meet with them, my greatest heart’s desire and belief is that I think God can fix their problem. I can’t, and I’m dependent upon God to fix their problem. Whereas with the secular psychologist, God doesn’t even enter the scenario. It’s all him or mechanics or drugs or whatever. So I don’t think there can be a bigger clash of two different perspectives before you even walk into the counseling room. God’s going to help me give counsel and God is going to fix this problem because God is all sufficient, versus God’s not even in the picture.
Derek: And so this is just one example of, as a Christian, when you’re confronted with a claim from modern psychology or psychiatry about a so-called mental illness, or even the definition of mental illness, with something we could talk about as well. And you can’t just absorb it or buy into it. It consistently requires you to ask the questions that we just asked. Wait, where is this? What is this counsel coming from? What are the underlying assumptions of this counsel? What are the underlying assumptions of this claim about human motivation and behavior? How can they understand these things if they’re not operating from a Christian worldview? And recognizing that their interpretation will be very different from one who is is operating from a Christian worldview. So this is what we’re encouraging Christians to do—to think critically like this and ask those kinds of questions to get behind the claims and get behind the things that people are saying and the counsel that they’re giving.
Cliff: Yeah. So I don’t know if this has happened to you, Derek, as a pastor-elder in the church. It’s happened to me. Either just a Christian that goes to your church might reveal to you, “Yeah. I’m going to go see a psychologist” or “I’m seeing a psychologist.” What might be the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear that maybe one of your members, or just somebody who you know is a Christian, tell you that? What are what are some thoughts or questions that come to your mind immediately?
Derek: I think I would want to know why it is that they need to go to psychologists and what it is that they don’t think they can find from the pastor. That’s what I would want to know. I would probably assume that they’ve got a problem that they’ve been unable to overcome on their own and that they’re sincere about seeking help. Perhaps they don’t know where to get it. And this seemed like something that made sense. So those are the kinds of things that come to my mind. It’s also possible, too, that, like you’ve mentioned already, we live in a culture where the psychologists and the psychiatrists are viewed as the professional who can help people with serious problems. And so it’s understandable in that sense, but those are kinds of the things that go through my mind.
Cliff: Yeah. That’s one of mine—wait, why are you doing that?
Cliff: Why are you going to see a psychologist about whatever the problem might be? And as a pastor who believes in biblical sufficiency, [I am] wanting to know, do you not believe in biblical sufficiency? In other words, you know, it’s like, well, tell me your problem. I’ll let you know if the Bible addresses this. Because it could very well be that it’s a problem, for instance, like anxiety. Well, I want to see the psychologist because I have anxiety problems. That’s a common one. And then, well, you and I as pastors, we know well that the Bible addresses anxiety.
Derek: Quite a lot, actually. [Laugh]
Cliff: Clearly and exhaustively and authoritatively. And the Bible promises a peace and an overcoming of anxiety that nothing in the world can even come close to promising and following through on.
Derek: And it gives you a framework to understand why it is that people would be anxious in this world.
Cliff: Yeah. And so, you know, your heart kind of breaks as a pastor there. You know Christ personally and his spirit lives in you, and we’ve got the treasure of the Word and we have the answer—we have the solution. Maybe they’re just ignorant of that or they’ve been influenced otherwise because of their upbringing, but they’re a Christian. And they’re thinking this way, and it actually might be to their detriment, which is sad. Another question, in addition to the one you said, is I want to know what that psychologist believes.
Cliff: You know, what in the world is his worldview? Because, in a way, he is shepherding them. A psychologist is [supposed to be] a doctor of the soul, when that’s actually kind of God’s domain. That’s God’s jurisdiction—the soul. I think they’re trespassing.
Derek: Yeah, exactly. And so that’s what I’ve tried to express in the times that I’ve taught on this. That counsel, at the end of the day, is spiritual counsel. It’s counsel about your motivations, your conduct, your thinking. That’s spiritual. That’s soul stuff. That’s the Bible’s domain.
Cliff: What’s the remedy?
Derek: Yeah. What’s the underlying problem? And so, that’s where I get concerned, and that’s what I’ve tried to express as I’ve taught this. Like, in a sense, psychology is a religion. It’s got its counselors, it’s got its beliefs, it’s informing your thinking. And so, as a shepherd, if I know that someone is going to another shepherd whose thinking is likely antithetical to mine when it comes to God, Christ, sin, and everything else, that’s concerning.
Cliff: It is. It’s definitely treading in the domain of religion and spirituality, right? Because it’s not this hard science where they’re taking blood tests and looking under microscope. It’s “yes” and “no” questions and talking about the inner person.
Derek: Right. So I think we want to, again, in this issue as with any other issue, encourage our listeners to apply the truth rigorously.
Cliff: One that comes around every two years—and then every four years—is the election.
Derek: Oh yeah. That’s always controversial.
Cliff: I remember even a solid biblical church like Grace Community Church down in southern California, where John MacArthur’s been pastor for fifty-three years or something like that. How old is he? Maybe fifty-four years now. I remember in the 2016 election, [during] the election cycle—he actually, publicly, doesn’t talk about politics much.
Cliff: But then he ended up preaching a political sermon, and he said I had to do that because, as he put it, “I was walking through the parking lot, and I was tired of seeing all these Democrat bumper stickers on cars here at this church.” That was a rare political comment by Johnny Mac. But anyway, so in election time, that can be polarizing—even among churches, you know. And a lot of Christians really struggle. They love God; they love Jesus. They say they believe in the Bible, and yet they have a hard time sometimes [concerning] which candidate to vote for. And what issues should I vote for? How should I vote on the issues? That’s why you have these voter guides from different parties. You’ve got the conservative, independent, republican voting guide that’s supposed to tell you how to vote. They’re doing that based on a worldview. That’s how they come up with that. If you have this bottom line conviction, then to be consistent, vote this way on all these issues.
So I actually did a sermon—maybe a couple of ’em—just before (I think it was) the 2020 election, and I purposely avoided the word “politics.” I didn’t mention the presidential candidates at all. I just tried to veer away from political terminology so it wouldn’t be a stumbling block. And I just talked about the issues that were going to be voted on in this upcoming election, and there were fourteen of them. I tested every one of them with a Bible verse, and if people were paying attention, they’d realize, “Whoa, that’s on the ticket that I have to vote on this year.” It’s on the Democrat platform, and it’s on the Republican platform. These fourteen items—the Democrats have a position on them, and the Republicans have a formal position on them. And so I just preached on them from the Bible.
This is applying a biblical worldview to the issues. It’s getting below the surface. When everybody’s, you know, debating, fighting, and arguing about abortion, [we have to look at it] from a biblical point of view. What are the issues involved? They’re stuck on abortion, but it’s not abortion. That word is not in the Bible. What is the underlying truth in Scripture? The principle that intersects with that issue. And it’s the sanctity of life. God is the giver of life, the protector of life. And also murder plays into that.
Cliff: And that’s how you would think about it through a Christian worldview. So, I just want to name the fourteen issues and a Bible verse that plays into these issues that we consider political issues. As a matter of fact, I was told at a couple of these sermons that [I couldn’t] preach on [these topics] because they were political issues. You’re supposed to stick to spiritual matters. I remember when I was preaching on marriage. When gay marriage was on the ballot here in California, I preached a sermon on God’s view of marriage. I was reprimanded by somebody in our church that I was getting too political. Well, why is that? Because you’re talking about marriage and gay marriage and monogamous marriage. I was just talking about Genesis 2 and Leviticus 17 and Romans 1. I wasn’t talking about political things. It was the Bible.
Derek: [Laughs]. Well, I remember we did an episode on politics. We’ve done a few of them. But in one of them we were mentioning the reason why people get so worked up about political issues is because every political issue is a moral issue. And the Bible addresses moral issues.
Cliff: Yes. That’s a good point. So, here they are: number one—the sanctity of life. There’s a biblical position on the sanctity of life. Genesis 1:26 says that human beings are made in the image of God, and therefore every human life is sacred from the time of conception. Therefore, we are against abortion and euthanasia and those kinds of things. Number two—the role of government. Historically, Democrats believe in big government. Republicans believe in smaller government. Smaller government means that the government has a limited role. And that’s true. Romans 13 tells us what the role of government is, and it’s very limited. It’s to punish evildoers and protect innocent people. That’s pretty much it. That’s very limited. [They act] as servants of God. So that is limited government. So politically, that should be a conservative Republican or independent who understands God’s ordained role of government. Number three—the police. What’s our attitude towards police? That’s Romans 13 as well. God has ordained political public officials with the sword, the right to kill, to punish evildoers. That’s a policeman. That’s a definition of a policeman. And he’s called a minister of God. So what’s God’s view of policemen? They’re supposed to be ministers of God, protecting the innocent and punishing the wicked. That plays into the recent “defund the police” movement, which is completely antithetical to what God believes and works contrary to reality. And when you do that, there’s going to be a lot of bad things that will happen, because crime will be allowed to run amok. And so it, when you work against reality—when you work against a Christian worldview—things don’t go well for you.
Derek, does the Bible say anything about money and economics?
Derek: It does. In fact, we did an episode [on that]. You can go back to that podcast. The Bible talks about economics and money. God is the authority on money, and he gives all the principles from Exodus 22, where God endorses private property with “Thou shall not steal,” to Paul saying in 2 Thessalonians that he who doesn’t work doesn’t eat, which really is the theology of capitalism in its purest form. Those two issues—private property and a theology of work—are what drive a free market economy. And without a strong theology of work and private property, you can’t have a healthy economy.
Cliff: Marriage. That’s clear. God defined marriage and created it in Genesis 1:27. In Hebrews 13, he said that anybody who tampers with his definition of marriage will be punished by him. That plays into gay marriage, and that plays into transgenderism, which God calls an abomination in Leviticus. Your view of Israel—that’s on the ballot and how people vote. One party is pro-Israel primarily, and another party, more and more in America, is anti-Israel. Then you’re putting yourself as an enemy of God according to Genesis 12. God’s people are Israel.
Global warming—that’s a big issue. We’re voting for taxes to support global warming. The world’s going to end through global warming. Jesus said, no, it’s going to end when I return. And God promised in the New Covenant that he’s going to sustain planet earth until he comes.
Here’s one, Derek, that is not on the ballot. The President is making illegal executive orders so that college students don’t have to pay back their loans.
Cliff: This is called theft. That’s what this is called. The idea that you can take out $20,000 worth of college loans and not have to pay it back is stealing. The Bible’s clear in Romans 13: pay your debts. I know Christians who, you know, took out college loans and would like to benefit from that program.
The church ordinances during pandemics. How much authority does the state have over the church? [How much does] the city have over the church? The Bible addresses that. God said he’s the head of the church. Christ is the head of the church. The state has zero authority, actually, over the church. Children’s education. Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 say that the parents are responsible and are the stewards of their children’s education, not the state. Taxes. We are supposed to pay taxes according to Romans 13, but it’s for biblical purposes. And that’s for safety from our leaders. It’s not for social programs or funding abortion, which is what the current president is trying to do, giving executive orders so that the taxpayers might fund abortions. Murdering people.
And then finally, environmental issues are always on the ticket. Most recently, we are being told by the Democratic party that we need to abolish and ban every gas stove here in America because it’s destroying the world. Derek has a gas stove. I have a gas stove. One of my heroes is Bobby Flay, the chef. I try to imitate Bobby Flay on my gas stove, because you have greater precision in adjusting the heat on the gas stove.
Derek: That’s right. I was just about to say that.
Cliff: I don’t want anybody taking away my gas stove. Have you ever had an electric stove?
Derek: Oh, yeah.
Cliff: Even the modern ones that are, like, super nice are terrible! They are. I always burn my eggs with an electric stove. I can cook my eggs to perfection with a gas stove. It makes a difference.
Derek: It does make a difference.
Cliff: But anyway, God gave us our gas stoves—that’s in the Bible. [Laughs]. Genesis 1:28. Rule, dominate, take care of, be a steward of planet Earth. God gave the earth for man to enjoy. Not vice versa. Anyway, so that’s fourteen items that are in the Bible, but are turned into political issues and Christians are told, hands off. You don’t have a say.
Derek: And we need to reclaim those issues and say, no, we do have a say because God has been clear in his Word. And we want to stand for the truth. And we want to think critically about all of these issues and not be pushed into a corner. And it takes hard work; it takes courage. I think we’ve talked about that before in an earlier podcast. It takes courage to think through these things, come to a biblical conclusion, and then apply that to whatever situation, whether it’s politics, or things related to psychology, or whatever it might be. So Christians need to be well-informed. They need to be biblical. Seeking this, seeking God in his Word, and also courageous. And hopefully these podcasts have been helpful to you. To that end, we just encourage you to, if these things have kind of been heavy and difficult to work through, we encourage you to go back and listen to these podcasts again. These last three would be helpful. But we’re just thankful that you continue to listen in on our conversations. We pray that they’re helpful to you. And until next time, keep seeking the Lord in his Word.
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