We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dangerous Advice For Anxiety

A young woman my wife and I have been counseling for several years (for various issues) read the book, The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety For Good?, by Rhett Smith.  Before reading it she asked me if I knew anything about the author which would lead me to not recommend him.  Well, when I “googled” Mr. Smith the most I could discern about him was that he was likely to hold fairly liberal views, but the church he attended seemed to have fundamental teaching.  

After she read the book (and telling me how wonderful it was), she passed it to me and asked me to tell her what I thought about it.  So last month I took some time here and there to read it, and immediately I had to take notes due to the bad stuff I was encountering.  I decided to write up a review for her rather than trying to explain all the issues in conversation, so for the pst couple weeks, as time permitted, I have been writing up this review — and I just finished!

I decided this review needed to be posted on my blog as a danger signal to anyone else out there who may be contemplating reading this book.

Overall I think this book is one of the most dangerous I’ve ever read, with the extremely poor advice, twisting of Scriptures, promoting false teachers, and practicing horrid secular psychology dressed up as Christian.  Even the footnotes are loaded with authors who teach “psychobabble.”

Without going into a deep detailed review, I’m just going to highlight problem areas — and just highlighting will be lengthy!  So here we go:

P.11  Cites M. Scott Peck’s, The Road Less Travelled.  Peck is a false teacher who is steeped in mysticism, and whose teachings are condemned by solid biblical scholars and apologetics ministries.  Christian Research Institute has a good primer about Peck’s false teachings.

P.20  Praises Tim Keller.  Keller has some good teachings, but his poor teachings and false teachings outweigh any good.  For example, Keller denies the literal understanding of Genesis when discussing the Creation and the Flood, and is a theistic evolutionist.  Additionally, he teaches Catholic and Quaker mysticism (as well as promoting Catholicism in general), teaches Lectio Divina, and even teaches pop-psychology himself! To top it all off, he promotes the social gospel!

P.30  Abuses Jeremiah 29:11, which is specifically—and only—about Israel in a certain context, and Smith makes it about individuals.  I’ve exposed this abusive use in an article on my blog.

P.32  Promotes pure psychobabble about what anxiety is and how to deal with it.

P.43  Says that Rhett Smith got his Masters of Divinity degree from Fuller Seminary, which is about as liberal of a seminary as you will find.  Which explains a lot about his theology!

P.48 ff.  He assumes God calls us on a journey rather than just allowing us to go on a journey, which means in Smith’s teaching there is no plan other than Romans 8:28.  But in real life there are various stages in our lives.

P.50 ff.  Praises the writings of emergent, mystic, heretic Donald Miller.  Cites Miller at one time asking, “Are you living a good story?”  God doesn’t care about our “story”!! It’s all just feel-good emotionalism.

P.53  More praises for M. Scott Peck teachings!

P.55  The “exercises” are exercises in pure psychobabble, with no value whatsoever, as are the exercises at the end of most chapters - just childish, self-focused busy-work.

P.64.  Fuller’s “Marriage and family therapy program” (MSMFT) is pure psychobabble of “discovering self.”  Seek a “genogram”? — this all may tell you something about your family’s origin, but it says absolutely NOTHING about YOU and who YOU are!

P.66  Remembering nonsense it totally unbiblical.

P.68, 69  Charting family is okay to seek genetic defects, but things like anxiety don’t pass genetically.  His “genogram” is no different than anyone else’s.  Smith’s self-pity is blamed on his family stuff rather than personal responsibility, and this is standard psychobabble.  Everyone experiences such things, but most people just accept them and move on rather than wallowing in victimhood — “feeling abandoned.”

P.74  Smith praises the unbiblical Lent and Lenten season.  But then, since he is really into mysticism, this doesn’t surprise me.

P.75  Cites liberal N.T. Wright and his assertion about what the disciples of Christ felt/thought; he just makes it up.

P.76  “God does not leave you alone in your anxiety.”  Um, where does the Bible say this?  God may very well leave you alone in it, so you will seek Him!  And how does one go about “reimagining” anything?!?! That is a nonsensical buzzword. 

P.77  Smith cites false teacher Eugene Peterson (very emergent and new age teachings, including his version of the Bible, “The Message,” which totally misrepresents the actual Bible).  No one should cite false teachers in a positive manner!

P.80  The “what if” choices.  Does God really care what choice you make in these areas, as long as the motive isn’t sinful?  Absolutely not!  (And again we have that useless word, “reimagining”.)

P.83  Smith denounces Christians who say psychology is wrong!  Even though there is no science behind it, even though there are hundreds of psychological theories and methods, Christians are supposed to accept the unbiblical nature of psychology because he says so.  The anecdote at the bottom of the page is most likely made up.

P.84  Smith says that God puts anxiety in us for a purpose.  This is totally unbiblical, especially when the Bible says we are to not be anxious! (Phil. 4:6-8).

P.85  Smith says, “If God had meant for me to not be anxious, then He would have called me to some other vocation…”  It is plain with Smith’s false teaching and support of false teachers that God DID NOT call him to this vocation!  God wants us to not be anxious but knows we will, which is why we should contemplate Phil. 4:6-8!

P.87  Smith cites Rollo May, who is well known as a quack who Christians should not pay attention to.

P.87, 88  Lots of promotion of Søren Kierkegaard, who often had very unbiblical ideas and was very much a part of the “enlightenment.”  Not someone Christians should look up to.  An example of Kierkegaard’s bad teaching is at the bottom of p.88.

P.91  The Hideaway Marriage Experience.  This is all about “group therapy” using pure secular psychological ideology rather than Biblical principles.  Sometimes the two are syncretized to corrupt biblical ideology.  Smith’s whole background is secular psychology, which is about as anti-Christian as it gets.  His primary focus is on the self.

P.96  Contrary to what is implied here, Jacob’s anxiety about meeting Esau was healthy; he had every reason to fear, and his anxiety about it spurred him to make good decisions for the protection of his family.

P.99  Cites Karl Barth, another teacher on Kierkegaard’s level; Barth considered the Bible to be a fallible work of men, not necessarily accurate historically, and he later embraced universalism.

P.99  Cites liberal feminist Phyliss Trible favorably.

P.101  Citing another false teacher, Henri Nouwen; a mystic who is a Roman Catholic and ecumenicist who supports universalism.

P.103  Truth is described as being relative to self, so we need to replace “old truth” with “new truth.”  Truth is NOT relative, it is not “old” vs “new—truth is truth regardless of individual viewpoints.

P.104 Smith speaks of “multiple world wars.”  There were only TWO!!

P.119  ff. Cites another psychotherapist, Thomas Moore, who is also heavy into mysticism, and promotes his unbiblical teachings about fostering one’s “soul.” Again, it’s all about self and mysticism.

P.121  More citations of false teacher Eugene Peterson.

P.123  More teachings about self-love. The Bible already assumes we love ourselves (when we are told to love others as ourselves, and when we are told that no one hates his own body—Eph. 5:29).  The whole self-esteem paradigm has led to a culture of people full of self-importance.

P.124  More discussion of the unbiblical practice of Lent.

P.126.  Smith calls Ann Voskamp’s book, “One Thousand Gifts,” a “wonderful book.”  This book is full of rank false teachings and heresy, and has been exposed by many, many solid teachers and apologetics ministries as a horrid book.  Voskamp is well-known for teaching bizarre sexuality/sensuality in her relationship with God.

P.130 Exercise shows self-focus of the teaching.

P.137  More teaching about the need for self-love.

P.138  Smith makes Christ’s death all about him rather than for mankind, and therefore says Christ must have thought he personally was important enough to save.

P.138 ff  Sabbath-keeping.  Christians (and Gentiles in general) were never meant to keep the Sabbath, since the Sabbath was a sign of a covenant between God and Israel.  That makes this whole section of the book nothing but nonsensical false teachings to be avoided.

P.148  Smith says he lived in a state of anxiety but he was really living in a state of selfishness.

P.151  Smith talks about David Crowder and how he helped host Crowder at his church.  Crowder is another well-known mystic with false teachings.

P.159-160  Said he felt like he was/is losing himself to his wife, etc.  This is a selfish attitude, because we don’t “lose” ourselves to our partners, rather we become one with them all the while keeping one’s separate identity.  This whole attitude demonstrates his immaturity and self-focus, as is expected with his ideology.  He had to have his own therapist!  This is not a person I would trust to teach me anything about marriage.

P.162  Smith says the idea of giving up oneself for the spouse is a misconception of the relationship.  I think the “misconception” is what he thinks that means.  In a proper marital relationship both partners give up themselves for the unity.  This takes away selfish interests and focuses on the relationship, which will always be a relationship of compromises to the better end for both.  This should NOT create anxiety in the marriage as he claims.   Again, giving up oneself to the relationship does not mean “losing” oneself.

P.165, bottom.  This confession of his self-focus and insecurity in marriage is an example of why he should not be counseling anyone.  While he says this was early in his marriage, the whole book has him always being anxious about something, has to continually “reimagine” his anxiety, and has his own therapist who he sees for “routine therapy checkups”. He is too steeped in self and psychobabble.

P.166  Citing false teacher Eugene Peterson, Peterson said, “Jesus did not raise himself…”  In John 2:19-22 Jesus said he would raise himself.  Other passages which say God raised him only confirm that Jesus is God. The whole teaching by Smith on this page is that our overcoming our anxiety is based on Jesus’ resurrection.  The Peterson citation says, “The more we practice resurrection…”  We don’t “practice resurrection”!  We are resurrected ONCE, and it is a physical resurrection.  It is abuse of Scripture to use “resurrection” as Smith and Peterson do.

P.170  He said he heard a voice from God/Jesus telling him what to do, and how He will “walk alongside of you.”  Since God does not foster false teachings, this voice, if Smith really heard it (which I highly doubt because we do not get direct revelation from God), wasn’t from God!

P.171 He tells of one of his therapy checkups; a man who continually needs therapy has no business being a therapist! (This was in October 2010 and the book was copyright 2011!)  The therapy session itself was one huge dose of nonsensical psychobabble!

P.178  Smith bemoans the stigma by “parts of our Christian culture about seeking professional help…”  Well, the next page demonstrates that the stigmas should be practiced by ALL Christians, since psychotherapy is an unscientific and anti-Christian philosophy.  The paragraph in the middle of the page cites all the myriads of “treatments” recommended for depression, while misrepresenting what Nouthetic (Biblical) counselors actually teach.

P.189 Smith promotes the use of “medication” for anxiety.  This medication is promoted by Big Pharma but is very often quite harmful with its side effects.  No one should be using pills for anxiety.  He likens actual medical, biological, organic illnesses to mental states as to why pills should be used for emotional issues!  He continues on the next page trying to prove that mental and organic issues can be compared and complains that many Christians stigmatize the use of psychotropic medications. He asserts that God gifted researchers who develop these drugs, yet considering the hazards of said drugs I would say it is highly unlikely that God would be helping with their development!

P.191  Smith promotes rank heretic Rob Bell’s totally unbiblical book Velvet Elvis, about a “mysterious God who wants to transform you.”  Rob Bell is not a Christian, albeit he pretends to be, and has some of the worst teachings out there.  His book has been criticized by numerous solid Bible teachers, pastors, and apologetics ministries.

So here we have a book authored by a totally non-discerning individual who has routine therapy sessions himself, a book which is rife with false teaching and psychological inanity, promoting many false teachers — and the book is promoted as being helpful for Christians!!!  As noted at the beginning of this review, I believe this book to be extremely dangerous teachings, and am appalled that it is published by Moody.


Wayne said...

Glenn - Thanks for this book review. I wasn't previously aware of this book, but after reading your comments, don't consider this worth my time. I recently was made aware of a counseling video series by "Cloud and Townsend". They are big on the "boundaries" issue in relationships. While they seem to be lauded by many, I have found one website that is not positive. Have you written anything about this popular series yet? I suspect they would be considered psycho-babble? What say you?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Wayne,

Someone gave my wife the book, "Boundaries," a while back, and it was tossed somewhere. Since I saw your comment we've both been looking for it and can't find it!

I haven't looked into those authors, but I just now found this:

I find this "review" problematic because of the overgeneralization about the idea of "boundaries." I find we do need to have boundaries which protect ourselves from various issues. It really depends on the context, which this review doesn't give.

I saw other links to "reviews" which don't give quotations, just general statements. They don't even explain why they think the teachings are "heresy," rather they just say it is. So I can't rely on such reviews, especially when I know there are a lot of legalistic people who nail everything that may be slightly off. So I need to find a creditable reviewer.

However, one consistent idea comes across all the links I saw and that is these teachers are steeped in pop-psychology. That would be enough to warn me off.

Wayne said...

Thanks Glenn. I had only done some surface research and wasn't fully sure what to think, but suspected they leaned more secular. As for your original book review, I found reviews of this on one site showing lots of favorable ratings, saying how helpful it was to them. Definitely a lack of discernment on their part.