The greatest force to remold evangelicalism may be psychotherapism. In the past, many evangelical institutions slammed the door shut on humanistic theological liberalism. Ironically, they then let the same way of thinking in by the back door, in the shape of humanistic psychology. As early as 1993, in No Place for Truth, David Wells lamented the ascendency of psychology over theology in evangelical seminaries, where counseling courses and psychology-based programs had already become more popular than theology.
Evangelical institutions largely abandoned an emphasis on Bible exposition, doctrine, and moral living in favor of promoting therapy for practical problems and emphasizing self-actualization. The result of all this has been the proliferation of mega-church and mega-media personality cults, where the message frequently contains more psychobabble than Bible. The charismatic leaders piloting these institutions are often poor at explaining scripture and doctrine.
However, by jumping on the psychotherapeutic bandwagon, evangelical organizations made a grave mistake. Many popular psychotherapeutic concepts, such as self-esteem and repressed memory, have been discredited by contemporary psychological research. If evangelicals had held fast to traditional, scriptural notions like inborn human depravity, they would now be in the strong position of being able to say “I told you so.” Instead, evangelical institutions have become havens for debunked pseudoscience. Moreover, the therapeutic orientation has encouraged the current epidemic of religious narcissism.
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