June 1, 1979
In our last letter we quoted at length from Dr. H. Bavinck to show the role that Scripture plays in the development of a Psychology which is truly Christian.
There has been a lot of Psychology written in the last half century, but almost all of this Psychology has been written from the viewpoint of the world and, consequently, of unbelief. It is not too strong a statement to make to insist that evolutionism has really won the day in the whole field of Psychology.
We are not interested in a review of the history of Psychology, but there are certain features about it and certain consequences from it that are important for us to understand.
All Psychology, as it has been developed from its modern inception is basically evolutionistic and was developed within the framework of evolutionism. The main consequences of this are not hard to see. Man was considered within this kind of Psychology as a higher development of the animals. And, therefore, the existence of a soul in man was flatly denied. There is nothing spiritual about man; he is wholly material. He possesses no soul or spirit; he is only a mass of earthly stuff. All his actions, including all his thoughts and desires, must be explained in terms of chemical reactions, the interplay of electrical charges on the brain and purely physical functions. Although he has developed higher than the animals, he is essentially no different from the animals. Man is not created by God, but he is born in a completely natural way just as an animal is born. And when he dies that is the end of him.
It is not difficult to see what consequences follow from this kind of description of man. Fundamental to it all is a blatant denial of the fact that man stands in a relationship to God. This relationship is fundamental to his whole life. And it is fundamental because man stands before God as an accountable creature who must give account before God for all that he does. He is created by God, upheld by God every moment of his existence and obligated to serve God in all his life. If he does not serve God, he sins and the wrath and judgment of God is upon him.
Any evolutionistic conception of man denies this. Man is what he is by virtue of evolutionism. He is not a sinner, but what Scripture calls sin is nothing else than some remnants of his animal ancestry or some poor influences upon him during his childhood or his later life. He is the victim of circumstances beyond his control and cannot be held accountable for his deeds. He does not really sin in the Scriptural meaning of that term. He has no personal guilt before God or before his fellow man. He will never have to render account for his conduct before the Judge of heaven and earth. He does not have to face the prospect of the abiding wrath of God against sin after he dies.
There is also, therefore, no cross of Christ upon which the eternal Son of God made atonement for sin; there is no forgiveness and pardon; there is no power of grace in the lives of men which alone can solve life’s problems; there is no hope of life after death in fellowship with God; no hope of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. His life is limited to this world where he passes a few years. And in this life he must learn to make the best of things, to adjust to life, to live a kind of life which is acceptable to society, to enjoy life as much as possible; and when he dies, that will be the end of the story.
This kind of thinking has had a tremendous impact upon our entire society. There are some who claim that evolutionism is nothing else but a scientific theory which attempts to explain the origin of the world. These deny that evolutionism is an entire world-and-life view, an entire “theology,” a whole system of ethics, a philosophy born in hell which fundamentally affects every single relationship of life.
But it is all these things whether the evolutionist will admit it or not. We can point to just a few examples. In the field of education evolutionism has had profound and devastating effects. I do not mean that evolutionism has been taught as a scientific theory in the classroom in the place of the doctrine of creation; but evolutionism has colored the whole idea of the child. A number of years ago what was called “progressive education” was in style; and indeed, in some areas of the country it has never gone out of style. I have read recently that the failure of the public school system in many parts of the country is even prompting some educators to return once again to this theory, even though when it was put into practice two or three decades ago it proved to be a colossal failure. The idea is that the child is basically and fundamentally good. All that he does wrong is the result of bad influences upon him. If a child can be protected from all kinds of bad influences and if he can be allowed to develop within a good environment, his development will produce a good man. But he must be allowed to develop as he himself desires. His deepest desires and impulses are basically sound and healthy, and so he must be allowed to unfold without any interference, as a rose unfolds in all its beauty, and he will become an outstanding adult, able to make his worthwhile contribution to society. Of course, you understand that even though I used the word “wrong,” above, there is really no such thing as wrong in the sense of a violation of God’s law. “Wrong” is defined within this context merely as conduct with which the majority of the people in society do not agree. It is socially unacceptable conduct. He doesn’t follow the masses as he ought. He does things which more than half of the people disapprove of. But in this sense of the word, if allowed to develop by himself he will become a good man. You know what disastrous consequences this idea of education had within the public school system.
We can find another example in the field of penology. There are, according to current theorists, no such people as criminals. There are people who, because of bad influences somewhere along the line or because of some chemical imbalance in their systems, do things which society cannot approve of. They lie and steal; they murder and rape. But these are not sins; nor is there any guilt to be attached to what they have done. They are merely innocent victims of circumstances entirely beyond their control. And so, while they probably ought to be imprisoned because they are some kind of a threat to society, they are not imprisoned because they committed a crime for which they have to bear the punishment. They have no personal guilt. They have no debt to pay. They must be imprisoned because it is hoped that they can be taught to live lives which are socially acceptable. They have to be “rehabilitated.” They have to undergo a process of learning which will unlearn all the bad things which have influenced them and which will teach them what society expects from them. We do not have prisons any more, therefore; we have rehabilitation centers. Capital punishment becomes cruel and unusual punishment and makes it forever impossible for the “criminal” to be retrained for a useful life in society. And while crime is rampant in the streets and every day sees an increase in the crime figures, the wooly-headed thinkers who determine all these things piously speak about the need for society to help these unfortunate victims of a cruel and unjust culture. You recall how even during the rioting of the Sixties, the rioters were excused on the grounds that the unjust treatment they had received at the hands of their fellow citizens completely exonerated them from the crimes of looting and burning. It all comes down to the fact that there is no longer any such thing asguilt.
And so we could go on and cite other instances of how the godless theory of evolutionism has influenced our times. We could point to what this whole denial of sin and guilt has done to the laws of our land — how it has all but stricken from the books laws against gambling; how it has put on the books laws permitting abortion; how it has so changed the laws of the country that we are inundated with a tidal wave of horrible filth; how the easing of the laws of divorce has made marriage a mockery.
All this is due to an evolutionistic view of man.
But this same thing has had deep and lasting effects upon the whole field of psychology (the theory of the soul) and psychiatry (the treatment of “mental illness”). Within the last few weeks Timemagazine ran a feature article in which the current state of psychiatry was discussed. If you read this, you will recall that the thesis of the article was that psychiatry which claims to be able to treat depression (and other mental “illnesses”) is itself in a deep state of depression. And this is because psychiatry has run down a dead-end street where many leading psychiatrists themselves have been forced to admit that they have done little or no good in this whole field of mental problems. They have tried all kinds of different methods of treatment, and nothing seems really to help. The loud boasts of psychiatry have been hollow. And yet, while the article agreed that this was indeed the case, the article held out a bright and promising future for psychiatry for all that. And what was the key to this bright future? More of the same stuff we have been getting all along. Time insisted that the whole field of drug therapy especially was now being more thoroughly studied, and that along with a fuller understanding of the human brain (not mind, for that belongs to the soul which evolutionists deny), such drug therapy held forth new hope for the future.
And so it has been and, presumably, will be. You recall that several years ago it was common to treat people with mental problems by means of shock therapy. High voltage electrical currents were run into the brain. The theory behind this was, of course, that all man’s thinking and willing is nothing else but the interplay of electrical charges. Somehow these things got scrambled so that a person could not think clearly any more. So, and this was the theory, give massive shocks which will scramble the electrically charged brain and mix up all the electrical charges which play back and forth in the brain and on the brain, and — hope that, when things settle down inside one’s head, they will settle down in more favorable patterns.
From a slightly different point of view, this also lies at the basis of all drug therapy. And the interesting part of it is that there is really an evolutionistic foundation for this treatment of mental problems.
In the light then of what has happened in our modern age, it is important that we turn to the Scriptures for our understanding of man and of his problems. .
Farewell for now.