It’s ironic how critics trip themselves up with their own logic when attempting to apply their critiques to others.
The chookwatchers reproduced an article featured on one of Irate Christian Radio’s sites that attempted to make the point that we should always follow the Word and nothing else, but did so using pop-psychology as an example.
Follow the Word
The author of the piece, Steve Kozar, makes the valid point that Evangelical Christians should be the ones who follow the Bible very closely. They should be examining the evidence to see if something is really Biblical. He questions the use of what he calls ‘Pop Evangelicalism’ to put over a point of view.
Totally agree with this. We need to be people of the Word, not of psychology. I would take it further and say we need to be of the Word and Spirit, because the Word and Spirit go hand in hand under the New Covenant. The Word is a lamp to our feet. The Spirit gives life.
But I understand the point being made that we need to live in the Word of God and not be influenced by pop psychology.
So we are fine with this assessment. Bring on the Word of God. Believe the Word of God. Build faith on the Word of God. Live by the Word of God. Resist the temptation to live by pop psychology.
The thing is, though, that the author of Irate Christian Radio article then uses pop psychology to support his argument against using pop psychology.
What is Pop Psychology?
Popular psychology (sometimes shortened as pop psychology or pop psych) refers to the concepts and theories about human mental life and behavior that are purportedly based on psychology and that find credence among the populace.
Seemingly forgetting his own argument that everything should be based on the Word of God and not reliant on pop psychology, Kozar introduces the reader to the pop psychology of Cognitive Dissonance, which was developed by secular social psychologist Dr Leon Festinger.
Kozar writes, quoting wikipedia:
‘In psychology, the term “cognitive dissonance” describes the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
Dr. Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance (which was developed in the late 1950’s) focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency.
When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals tend to become psychologically uncomfortable and they are motivated to reduce this dissonance, in any number of ways. It’s painful to hold two opposing beliefs at the same time. One can either change one’s beliefs in order to make them consistent or one can make some other superficial adjustment.’
OK, so Kozar’s argument is based on the theories of a social psychologist who invented the pop theory of cognitive dissonance, which is merely wordplay for holding two opposing thoughts simultaneously, which is, of course, covered in the Word under the term ‘double-mindedness’, from which we need to be relieved by requesting wisdom from God in our decision making (James 1:5-8).
We certainly don’t have to appeal to the theories of social psychologists to determine a way out of this dilemma..
Who was Dr Leon Festinger?
‘Leon Festinger (8 May 1919 – 11 February 1989) was an American social psychologist, perhaps best known for cognitive dissonance and social comparison theory. His theories and research are credited with renouncing the previously dominant behaviorist view of social psychology by demonstrating the inadequacy of stimulus-response conditioning accounts of human behavior.’
Festinger was the son of a radical atheist, so he certainly didn’t grow up in a Christian home. He was a social psychologist. There is nothing anywhere to suggest he was a Christian. There are no references to the Word of God as the basis for his life and work.
Yet Kozar refers to Festinger’s theories of cognitive dissonance throughout his article. He applies pop psychology to his own arguments against the use of pop psychology.
The origins of cognitive dissonance
Festinger and a few psychologist mates infiltrate a whacky doomsday cult to see how they develop once their apocalyptic dead-line is passed. They then adapt their findings into several theories, including cognitive dissonance, with which, later in life, Festinger becomes disillusioned, but which succeeding pop psychologists adopt as reference points for their growing market.
Of course, Kozar takes this pop psychology and applies it to the Evangelical churches he wants to single out as using pop psychology as their point of reference. His generalisation shows his limited understanding of local church ministry.
It’s a pity he started so well when talking of the need of the Word of God as our reference point for life, but managed to introduce a seemingly clever psychological idea from the unsaved world as an example of how the Christian mind works.
For instance, banally referring to the use of what he determines is pop psychology in contemporary evangelical church as a ‘Silly Putty Jesus’, he claims:
‘When confronted with the false “Silly Putty Jesus” Evangelical Christians tend to react in two different ways: they either recommit to their false beliefs with increased fervor (often by invalidating the messenger who delivers the uncomfortable truth; i.e. “that blogger is just a mean jerk!”), or they give up on Christianity altogether (which they’ve mistakenly believed was owned and operated by the Silly Putty Jesus, and thus, all their dreams have not come true).’
Of course, he completely misses the third option, which is to reject the notion of another Jesus, and to come back into the Word of God as the main source of our inspiration and guidance.
He omits the truth that the vast majority of Evangelical Christians seek the One True God. They desire a relationship with the True Christ. They hunger after the True Holy Spirit. They are earnestly zealous for a relationship with the True Heavenly Father.
Furthermore, they go after Him through the Word of God under the influence of the Spirit of God.
Local church attendance and Sunday meetings are not the sum total of their Christian involvement. Their own faith, reading, study, prayer, devotion, worship, fellowship, mission, ministry and seeking after God are the main fibre to their walk with Christ.
Disregarding this, Kozar creates a strawman, and a criticism based on his own logical fallacy. He sets up an argument based on his own prejudged assertions. He finds a pop psychology article in wikipedia that fits his bias and asserts it as an argument against people who hunger after God in a way that, perhaps, does not appeal to him.
The Author and Finisher
He needs to trust Christ’s involvement in our lives much more, and look harder at his own walk, rather than applying pop psychology to ours.
Colossians 2:8-10 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.