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Christian Psychology?


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Question: The youth leader at our church asked my 17-year-old son to assist with the weekly teaching. That was fine as long as he could teach from the Bible. But recently he was asked to teach from the book, The Safest Place on Earth by Larry Crabb.


One of the chapters is titled "Turning Our Souls toward Each Other: Three Foundational Convictions." Aren't we supposed to turn our souls toward God first, then let Him work in our hearts and relationships?


Other chapters focus on "Spiritual Community" - "What it is," "Managers or Mystics: The Mystery of Community" and "Becoming Spiritual Community." Would this vision put community above the individual's relationship to God?


The youth leader told my son that he could use some Scriptures along with Crabb's message, but it sounds as if those Scriptures would be more incidental rather than foundational to each chapter's message.  After looking through the book's  index and reading a few portions, I have become more concerned.  What do you know about this book and its authors?


Answer (unfinished): I have ordered The Safest Place on Earth, and will read it as soon as I receive it.  I did check the index and readers' comments at Amazon.com, and I share your concern.


First, do a search of our website for the word "community". (Find our search engine at the bottom of the index column on our home page.) You may want to click on pages that use this word frequently. Notice the emphasis on community involvement, service, group thinking and consensus.


As we move toward a collective society and a global community, education and citizenship training will increasingly emphasize the group or community over and above the individual. The community -- both in church and world -- becomes the shaper and monitor of ideas, attitudes, beliefs and values. In fact, the main purpose behind today's promotion of "community service" through schools and government -- often organized by the myriads of NGOs (UN-accredited Non-Governmental Organizations) -- is to change the attitudes and values of the participants, not serving the needs of the community. And churches are following right behind. See Church Youth Trained for UNESCO's Culture of Peace and Silencing the Opposition (Scroll to "New Partnerships" and read about "The Statement of Common Purpose of Religious Leaders.")


Next, consider the authors: Larry Crabb (or Lawrence J. Crabb) and and Eugene Peterson, author of the "Bible version" he called The Message. The first link tells about Larry Crabb and his ministry.

Theological Foundations of New Way Ministries: "The Reformation was a reforming of our theology of justification. It provided a clear understanding of how we receive life from God. In my years as a psychologist working with people who desperately want to change, I’ve come to believe that we need another reformation, this one reforming our theology of sanctification. We know what it takes to receive life from God. But do we understand what is required to live the life we’ve received?
      "The good news that Jesus announced is not only that we’ve been forgiven but also that we’ve been changed. There is new life within us that is stronger and better than the energy that drove us before we were converted. That new life has four basic elements: First, a new purity....  Second, a new identity. ... Third, a new appetite. ... Release—more than reform or repair—is the route to change. ... Fourth, a new power. The Holy Spirit has moved in. ... We need a good theology about how to access that power. .... The community that’s now possible is one in which we’re known with no secrets, we’re explored to help us see all that’s inside, we’re discovered to be alive with trinitarian life, and we’re touched by the Spirit through both Scripture and community....
      "NWM stands firmly within the borders of evangelical theology, but it highlights New Covenant truth and an understanding of Real Community as its distinctive foundation. Too often, our relational experiences fail to express and enjoy that foundation."


Larry Crabb - General Teachings/Activities:  "Larry Crabb is an author, licensed clinical psychologist, and founder and Director of the Institute for Biblical Community (IBC) (formerly the Institute of Biblical Counseling) at Colorado Christian University in Morrison, Colorado, where he is also Distinguished Scholar in Residence. (IBC is an organization Crabb founded in the early-1980s while on the faculty at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana.)  He has developed a model of counseling that is primarily a psychological system of unconscious needs motivating behavior, which is derived from both Freudian (the unconscious supposedly being a hidden reservoir of the mind with drives and impulses governing a person's thinking and behavior) and humanistic psychology (a hierarchy of needs, with great emphasis on so-called emotional needs).

      "His counseling model is Freudian, Adlerean, and Maslowian in its underlying theories. It is an integrationist model; i.e., it seeks to combine theories, ideas, and opinions from psychotherapy, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and their underlying psychologies, with the Scriptures. (See the last page of this report for an excellent comparison of Crabb's model of counseling with the Biblical model.)

Then read our review of The Message by Eugene Peterson. Notice how the Scriptures have been reinterpreted and adapted to today's politically correct climate. The truths that might offend the world and clash with its view of "tolerance" have been softened. In other words, it seems to evade "the offense of the cross." 

The Editorial Review and  Description at Amazon.com summarizes the book's main theme:

"In today's frenetic society, people rarely develop intimate friendships. Instead, they spend their lives essentially disconnected from others, rushing through life content with brief visits and casual conversations. But what if one were to develop a community, a spiritual community, of people who walked with and supported each other through life's journey? A community of real friends who listened to each other's personal tragedies without merely trying to fix the problems, who encouraged and nurtured each others strengths, and who accepted people for who they really are, instead of the image they try to portray. In The Safest Place on Earth, Larry Crabb explores such a place, where God can heal disconnected people and allow them to reconnect with each other and, ultimately, with Him.

This review seems to be telling us that we first connect with each other, then, "ultimately, with Him." But the Bible indicates that we can only be one with each other when we have been joined to Christ through the cross, crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20), "born again" by His Spirit (John 3) and filled with His life (John 14:20). We don't become one with each other until we are "born again" into God's family - the only real Christian model for "spiritual community."  A "spiritual community" where people are joined to each other before they are joined to Christ contradicts the New Testament Church. We cannot be members of the true Church before we receive the life of Christ.

For more information, see the list of links at Biblical Discernment Ministry (www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology)

Links to the Church Growth and Management System 

Biblical Perspective Church Growth Perspective
The People's Church  Leading a Healthy Church - Rick Warren
What's Wrong with the 21st Century Church

Synopsis - Part 2 - Part 3  (by Dr. Robert Klenck)

United Methodist Church Mission Statement 
Structure & Strategy of a Purpose-Driven Pure CellChurch System
The Market-Driven Church: A Look Behind the Scenes Growing Congregations Spur Church Construction Boom
Robert SchullerGeneral Teachings/Activities Association for Church Renewal
Bill Hybels: General Teachings/Activities The Great Commission Roundtable  

Willow Creek:Conversion Without Commitment

Covey's 7 Principles for effective national and local strategies  

The Travesty of Tolerance - A Global Gospel

Hope for Europe: Sun Tzu: Art of War & YWAM Books  
  Faithworks: Glossary | Bob Buford | Drucker

  Index & More Links to Church Growth and Global Networks

The Global Church 

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