Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Conservative" Evangelicalism's Faith Healers

Non-charismatics have their faith healers too, you know. That is, "conservative" Evangelicalism looks to faith doctors as well for what ails her to defeat her demons. And they are—not for all Evangelicals (don't misunderstand), but for many (we must admit)—the psychotherapists. That's right: the professional counselor. At least this is so in my quarters. And it is there where "the moral has died," and the empty secular self reigns supreme.

David Wells writes of this shocking development. He speaks of what happened when psychotherapy "drifted away from its original context in medicine . . . where Freud had placed it. . . ." Here's what happened:
Ironically, the profession began to look like a substitute religion, with its "priests," dogmas, rituals, orthodoxies, and heresies; what it offered sometimes looked like spirituality built on secular assumptions. And soon, rank amateurs were offering their own therapies and treating themselves. 
Psychotherapy is both peculiarly adapted to the late twentieth century and a telling representation of it, psychologist Lucy Bregman has argued. It has arisen out of the sense of emptiness and meaninglessness that many modern people experience, and it could not have survived in a traditional society. It belongs amidst the complex, pressure-filled modern world, with its dense cities and technological conquests. It is an expression of that world with all of its human cost, the personal dilemmas it forces, the hollowing out of life that it effects, and its narcissism. It is at once both the proffered cure for and the symbol of the troubled, empty self. And, most importantly, it is a secular spirituality. In substantiating this point, Bregman says that even though its metaphysical framework is often obscured, psychotherapy nevertheless has such a framework. It is a means to "revision" the self; it has become a technique for "self transformation." It is, in Bregman's words, "a new framework for the ordering of interiority, for interpreting life's meanings and each person's place in the cosmos." It is, however, a metaphysic in which the moral has died.
And in the book Wells argues strongly (with tears, one senses) that herd-Evangelicalism has embraced this substitute religion in droves. The professional counselor, even of the "Christian" variety, who has embraced secular assumptions and this "substitute religion," routinely is held in high esteem by what I'm calling the herd-Evangelical.

—David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 110–111.

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