Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy From The Devil?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer to follow. But why am I even asking the question?

In my friend Bob Kellemen’s thoughtful and largely helpful response to my post about going to the doctor to discuss depression meds, he said that his most serious disagreement with me was about my recommendation of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

If that surprised me, then I was even more surprised that Bob read my piece as recommending CBT as a comprehensive therapy to the exclusion of other means. A fair reading of what I wrote would recognize that I was clearly recommending CBT as only one part of a holistic approach that included the body, the mind, the soul, Christian friendship, pastoral counsel, Bible reading, prayer, and worship and fellowship in a local church.

However, it looks like Bob would object even to that – using CBT as any part of a package of comprehensive compassionate care. He sees it as non-Christian at best, anti-Christian at worst, and therefore to be shunned.

Are we talking about the same thing?
I must admit, this really baffles me and makes me wonder if we’re talking about the same thing. CBT’s basic point is that what we think affects what we feel and do. Therefore if we can change what we think, we can change how we feel and what we do.

It’s not exactly revolutionary. It’s actually one of the ways way the Bible describes and portrays how we work as well (Psalm 42; 73, 77; Proverbs 23:7; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:8-9). If CBT is guilty of anything, it’s of unwittingly plagiarizing the Bible’s insights! But I’m just thankful that God has allowed and enabled even unbelievers to discover some insights into how He made us, and to devise ways of re-training our thoughts so that we are re-made into His image. They misuse it badly at times, of course, but I just wish more Christians would be as thoughtful and skillful in using these insights as unbelievers often are.

Firing and wiring
The behind-the-scenes science of it is that we create electrical and chemical pathways in our brains with our thoughts. As we think our way down these pathways, we strengthen the brain connections. As somebody put it, “cells that fire together, wire together.” The more we travel these mental paths, the faster and easier these paths become, so that eventually our thoughts and resultant action feels automatic. Think of learning to ride your bike.

But what happens if we think the wrong thoughts often enough? That’s right, we end up creating bad pathways that become our default thinking patterns, damaging the way we feel and our daily behavior. Not good! And not easy to get out of these deep and repetitive ruts.

If our thoughts are fixated on spiritual matters like God, sin, and guilt, paralyzing and debilitating us, then usually scriptural truth can transform us over time by renewing our minds.

But what if our thought habits are on everyday matters like being obsessed with cleaning door handles, or irrational fears about our health, or phobias about open spaces? What if we’ve got into any number of negative thought patterns about our children, our ability to cope, our work situation, etc? That’s where CBT can be so helpful. (Yes, with Scripture, prayer, fellowship, etc. too).

Stop it!
Any number of people can tell you, “Stop thinking that!” You can order yourself, “Stop thinking that!” You can try to memorize Scripture even. But the thought pattern is so deep, so habitual that you need extra help (e.g. CBT) to challenge it and change it.

Few people can eradicate irrational anxiety by reading Romans. Instead, we need help to figure out, “Why am I thinking, feeling, and acting like this?” And then we need the tools to challenge the lies and imbalance in these thoughts until we change the way we think, feel, and do.

There’s nothing spooky or even complicated about it. I’ve seen many depressed and anxious people crack deeply ingrained and damaging thought patterns just using this CBT book, I’m not supposed to feel like this (written by three Christians). Where I know there is a motivated Christian friend in the depressed person’s life, I usually recommend that they sit down every day or so with this book and work their way through the exercises. It’s usually not long before they start seeing a change in their thinking, and then their feeling and acting too.

Tomorrow, I’ll give an example of how CBT works in an individual case, and in the meantime have a look at this video.

Is CBT of the devil? The devil can misuse it, for sure. But I view CBT as a gift of God to suffering humanity. If more Christians would open their minds to learn from it and practice it skillfully, there would be far less depressed Christians running to ungodly counsel, and there would be far less depressed Christians continuing in their suffering.


Worldview

What Macklemore Got Wrong and Right
Denny Burk comments on the abomination that happened at the Grammy Awards:

So here’s the question for everyone watching the Grammys and wondering what God really thinks about all of this spectacle. Are you going to believe in the God of the Bible and His way of salvation? Or are you going to trust yourself to the god of “same love.” The god of “same love” says no repentance and no savior is required. That god approves you just the way you are. The God of the Bible says you need repentance and salvation. That God will save you just the way you are. And He will take you to Himself and remake you into the image of His own dear son (Rom. 8:29). But you must repent, and you must believe.

In the wake of the Grammys, the big question is not what you thought of Macklemore. The big question is which God you will believe in. The false god of “same love,” or the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? Which one will you choose?

10 Facts About Infidelity
A few rather predictable “facts” – infidelity gene, evolutionary biology, blah de blah. But a few real shockers too:

  • Approximately 93.1% of women and 91.8% of men marry by age 49.
  • 20 to 40% of heterosexual American married men and 20 to 25% of heterosexual American married women will also have an extramarital affair during their lifetime.
  • One thing is clear: infidelity is a worldwide phenomenon that occurs with remarkable regularity, despite near universal disapproval of this behavior.
  • Mate poaching is a pronounced trend. 60% of men and 53% of women admitted to “mate poaching,” trying to woo an individual away from a committed relationship to begin a relationship with them instead.
  • Among individuals engaging in infidelity in one study, 56% of men and 34% of women rated their marriage as “happy” or “very happy.”

A few facts we won’t hear or read about of course – like it’s a sin. Like the destruction of families. Like STD’s. Not exactly TED talk material that, is it?

Religious Difference, Not Ideology, Will Fuel This Century’s Battles
Who said that? Sounds like Osama’s replacement, doesn’t it. Wrong. It’s Tony Blair, ex Prime Minister of Great Britain. And he even names Islam, well, a perversion of Islam, as the main culprit. Though, of course, he rushes to add “there are also many examples the world over where Muslims are the victims of religiously motivated violence from those of other religious faiths.”

But this is still a rare moment of honesty and (relatively) plain speaking from an influential world leader. If the atheists were wrong in the past about “Religion is the cause of all wars,” looks like they’ll be right for the next while.

Mr Blair continues to believe that more education, democracy, and tolerance will win the day. In God’s good providence, these means may serve to restrain some of the evil some of the time. But there’s only one effective way to end the wars of false religion, and it’s the true religion of Jesus Christ, spread with with the spiritual weapons of prayer, preaching, witnessing, and love.

Eastern Europe’s Christian Reawakening
Definition of “Christian” here is too broad for me, but still, there’s some encouraging news in this article.

While many academics speak of Europe as a uniform secularized continent, two decades after the collapse of Communism it is more accurate, if still too simple, to speak of two Europes: a West that has largely abandoned its religious roots, and an East that is rediscovering its heritage.

Let’s hope and pray that they continue beyond medieval roots and get all the way back to the pure roots of New Testament Christianity.


Check out

A Golden Age in Christian Publishing
I totally agree. I especially agree with Tim’s words about the excellent people who work in the big publishers. I’ve met and worked with some real gems.

Has Authenticity Trumped Holiness?
“While we think self-deprecation causes us to be more relatable and empathetic to non-Christians, it’s ultimately communicating a sense of disappointment, disillusionment, and discontentment. It thrives on negativity and kills our sense of hope.”

Justification
Credo’s new online magazine is on the vital topic of justification. And it’s free!

Conversations with Young People Leaving Church
Most common explanation is not godless college but pragmatic parents: “My parents say they love God and maybe they do, but it just seems to me that if Christianity were true it would produce better people.”

The Facts About 20 Controversial Issues in Obamacare
Assuming that the truth is the best weapon against the excesses of Obamacare Chris Bogosh provides 20 facts about the more controversial issues in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Unsung Hero Award


What Drives Success?

At the risk of the unpardonable sin of political incorrectness, in What Drives Success? two Yale Law School Professors have said the unsayable: “Certain ethnic, religious, and national-origin groups are doing strikingly better than Americans overall.” For example:

  • Indian-Americans earn almost double the national figure (roughly $90,000 per year in median household income versus $50,000).
  • Iranian-, Lebanese- and Chinese-Americans are also top-earners.
  • Mormons have become leaders of corporate America, holding top positions in many of America’s most recognizable companies.
  • Although Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United States’ adult population, they account for a third of the current Supreme Court; over two-thirds of Tony Award-winning lyricists and composers; and about a third of American Nobel laureates.

Risky Facts
Aware that they are risking a firestorm by even publishing such facts, the researchers are at pains to emphasize that the statistics cannot be explained by class privilege, educational background, or racial stereotypes:

  • There are some black and Hispanic groups in America that far outperform some white and Asian groups.
  • Immigrants from many West Indian and African countries, such as Jamaica, Ghana, and Haiti, are climbing America’s higher education ladder.
  • Nigerians make up less than 1 percent of the black population in the United States, yet in 2013 nearly one-quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry.
  • Over a fourth of Nigerian-Americans have a graduate or professional degree, as compared with only about 11 percent of whites.
  • By 1990, United States-born Cuban children — whose parents had arrived as exiles, many with practically nothing — were twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to earn over $50,000 a year.

The researchers warn that all groups rise and fall over time, puncturing the idea that groups succeed because of innate biological differences. Instead, the differences are mainly cultural, with the most successful groups in America “sharing three traits that, together, propel success.

  1. A superiority complex: a deep-seated belief in your exceptionality.
  2. Insecurity: a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough.
  3. Impulse control: ability to delay self-gratification

Read What Drives Success?, for further explanation of these three qualities, how #1 and #2 work together, how all three are required for success, how each trait on its own can become pathological, and, worryingly, how “each element of the Triple Package violates a core tenet of contemporary American thinking.” Current cultural forces are working directly against each of these three drivers of success. There’s also a brief but helpful discussion about how many African Americans face an especially challenging task to succeed.

Christian Success?
Of course, for Christians, this all begs the questions, “What is success?” and, “Is success even an appropriate aim for a Christian?”

We’ve all heard, and even preached: “God doesn’t say, ‘Well done good and successful servant’ but “Well done, good and faithful servant.’” But we mustn’t let that truth make us suspicious of all success, excellence, and achievement. Remember, that commendation is given to businessmen who are so skilled with their investments that they enjoy a 100% return! Note, God doesn’t turn round and say, “Right, Joe, now we’ve got to spread the wealth a bit.” No, horror of horrors, He gives them even more to invest. Sure sounds like divinely approved income inequality to me!

Measuring Success
Having said that, although the parable teaches that in some cases money can be an appropriate measure of success, Christians must never measure success by the size of investment portfolio alone. To measure success biblically, we must also ask, “How did he get the money?” and “How does he use, spend, or give that money?” But there are other important questions as well:

  • What are his/her relationships like? (e.g. with husband, wife, parents, children, friends, neighbors, colleagues).
  • How much does he/she serve others? (i.e. sacrificing for the good of others for no payment)
  • How useful is he/she in the local church and community?
  • What fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5) or characteristics of blessedness (Matt. 5) are present?
  • What is his/her commitment to the Bible as the supreme rule of faith and life?

It can all be summed up with one simple yet profound question: How Christlike is he/she?

That’s God’s ultimate criteria for success, and there’s only one driver for that: the Gospel.


Worldview

Out of the Homeschooling Closet
As education comes within the purview of worldview, here are a series of articles about the difficulty of admitting to being home-schooled or a homeschooler.

First was Jennifer Kulynych, a Washington lawyer writing in the New York Times, about the difficult of Owning up to Being a Home Schooling Parent, especially in the legal circles in which she moves.

Then Rod Dreher, reflecting on Kulynych’s post, called on parents to Come out of the Home Schooling Closet.

Gracy Olmstead does so but explains Why it’s so hard to Come out of the Homeschool Closet and closes with:

Homeschooling is not for everyone. But neither should it be the leprosy of the educational world. Its practitioners should be judged on their merits and manners, and its benefits and disadvantages should be weighed fairly, as with any other institution.

Getting Poor Kids Through College
50 college presidents and officials from states, industry and nonprofits recently attended a day-long meeting at the White House to find new ways to promote success among low-income students.

  • Of top-performing high school students who hail from the bottom half of the income distribution, fewer than half go on to receive post-secondary degrees.
  • Colleges pursue racial diversity more than socioeconomic diversity because racial diversity is much more visible, and socioeconomic diversity is much more expensive to address because you have to provide financial aid.
  • Sometimes simple techniques — such as waiving application fees — can make a big difference in terms of student enrollment and eventual success.
  • A Stanford University study found that simply providing low-income students who are top achievers with basic information about colleges not only led more of them to apply but also was associated with higher graduation rates.
  • Children with two biological parents are more likely to attend college…than those with a stepparent or no parent.
  • Children from intact homes receive significantly more financial support in covering college expenses.
  • Having no father (i.e., [being from] a mother-only household) reduces support much more than having no mother (a father-only household).

Save up to Marry? Or Marry to Save up?
When cohabiting couples were asked about why they were not transitioning to marriage, 72% gave economic reasons.

  • One-third of their respondents indicated that ‘the money needed to be in place’ before getting married.
  • One-fifth of respondents wanted to have enough money for a ‘real’ wedding before tying the knot (average cost $23,000+)
  • Respondents also said that better employment prospects were a prerequisite for marriage, especially for the man
  • Some individuals suggested that a combination of goals like completing education and steady work were needed before considering marriage.

Andrew Cherlin, professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University argues that marriage has become as a capstone.

Young adults are marrying after achieving educational goals, establishing a career and reaching financial stability rather than building a life around marriage. The capstone understanding of marriage puts matrimony out of reach for some working and lower middle class individuals who view improved fiscal status as the admission requirement.

And yet, research has also found that marriage provides large economic advantages, for example, “married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.” And of course, there are other advantages too:

Even though marriages are not guaranteed to last, healthy marriage relationships do promote human flourishing. Marriage successfully integrates emotional intimacy, parental responsibility and economic cooperation into committed, permanent union.

The Most Godly and Most Godless Cities in America
A recent study by Barna and the American Bible Society used the criteria of Bible-mindedness to measure the most and least godly cities in the USA. The study defined “Bible-mindedness” as a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is. “Respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as ‘Bible Minded,’ says the study’s methodology.”

  • The two least “Bible-minded” cities in the United States are Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass.
  • The most “Bible-minded” city is Chattanooga.

Or maybe the residents of Providence and New Bedford are simply the most honest!

The most challenging line in the research was “The study found an inverse relationship between population density and Bible friendliness.”

18 Photos That Will Make you Wonder if the Earth is Real
Awe-inspiring views of our beautiful world. Feast your eyes!


Check out

We don’t have to read the book or see the movie to know that Heaven is for Real
Nancy Guthrie isn’t going to see the movie and doesn’t think anyone else should either. Instead she calls us to exercise faith in the only reliable testimony, the Word of God.

15 Signs Your Church is Growing in the Right Way
Aaron Armstrong says “one of the surest signs of the health of a church is to look at the growth of its people,” and turns to Mark Dever for 15 ways to measure spiritual growth in our people.

Pastoral Internship
Brain Croft briefly explains how his church internship program works.

How to Preach David & Goliath With Balance
A helpful case study in preaching an Old Testament passage in a Christ-centered way. And here’s Part 2.

One People, One Salvation, One Purpose
Dennis Louis: “Why is it so important that we affirm that God has always had one people throughout redemptive history, had one plan of salvation, and that he had one purpose? Because when we read our Bibles with these overarching concepts in mind, we see the Bible for what it truly is: God’s complete and full story of redemption. We see a complete Gospel, not a fragmented one. We see that God’s dealings with his people are consistent and not capricious. We see that the entire Bible, not just bits and pieces, are for our instruction and learning.”

Don’t Give my Husband Romance Lessons, Thank You
Counter-cultural and funny!