We Need Christ’s Help NOT Self-Help

In the Los Angeles Times article “Self-Help’s Big Lie” Steve Salerno explains, “Self-esteem-based education presupposed that a healthy ego would help students achieve greatness, even if the mechanisms necessary to instill self-esteem undercut scholarship. Over time, it became clear that what such policies promote is not academic greatness but a bizarre disconnect between perceived self-worth and provable skill.”

Similarly, preachers have fallen for the idea that just focusing on the positive, the practical, what builds people up, will produce better Christians, but actually it produces a similar disconnect between perceived self-rightness with God and actual righteousness that is far more damning than the academic disconnect.

Noting the prevalent influence of psychology upon the culture and the church, and the reorienting of Christian theology into a more acceptable psychological framework, Mark Ellingsen says, “To practice Christian ministry is to be engaged in therapy….so religion is now interpreted by more and more Americans as an exercise in enhancing self-fulfillment. This is hardly surprising, for as several analysts have noted, psychology directs clients to focus more on obligations to oneself than to others. This trend was noted as early as the mid-1960s by the eminent cultural analyst Philip Rieff. ‘Any religious activity is justified only by being something men do for themselves, that is, for the enrichment of their own experience.’”

Compatible preaching causes the church to lose its prophetic voice and essential counter cultural mission of confrontation and transformation rather than accommodation. Falling for the avant-garde self-help philosophy causes us to marginalize the call of Christ and thereby forfeit the true help we need. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).


 

[1] Steve Salerno, author of SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, as quoted in “The Reign of the Therapeutic–Someone’s Asking Questions” from Albert Mohler’s website, January 04, 2006, http://www.albertmohler.com/2006/01/04/the-reign-of-the-therapeutic-someones-asking-questions/.
[2] Mark Ellingsen, Blessed Are the Cynical: How Original Sin Can Make America a Better Place (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2003), 129.