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Misunderstanding – Introduction


I remember once taking a young Christian through an article which he had found by Herbert W. Armstrong. It was a formidable task explaining what was wrong with Armstrong’s article. Rather than being guilty of one easily refuted error, Armstrong slightly and subtly perverted every scripture he quoted. His article was a compound of a hundred small errors which summed to major heresy, and each small error had to be separately exposed from the first principles of evangelical theology so that his overall argument could be refuted. By the time I had finished, I well understood why Armstrong had been called "Mr Confusion."

I feel much the same each time I read what the Bobgans have written about Crabb. Their writings are such a briar patch of misquotes and misconceptions that it is hard to know where first to wield a scythe. The Bobgans’ evangelical orthodoxy is not in question, but they are the Mr and Mrs Confusion of Christian counseling.

At this point some readers will say, "Hey, wait on– I read Crabb and had some misgivings about what I was reading. Then I read what the Bobgans had written, and they seemed to put into words exactly what I thought. I agree with the Bobgans!"

The trouble is that it is easy to pick up one of Crabb’s books, give it a cursory reading, and come up with a view of what he is saying that is almost the opposite of what he actually says. That is not Larry Crabb’s fault. He is challenging us to re-evaluate a number of doctrines from the first principles of scripture. Anyone who fails to ponder carefully what he is saying cannot possibly be persuaded by him.

Let me illustrate. For years Martin Luther– like the medieval church generally– thought that the word "righteousness" in Romans 1:17 and similar verses referred to the awful righteousness of God which condemns us. Then at last he saw that it refers instead to the righteousness which God imputes to us to save us. The people of Berean spirit in Luther’s day tested what he said against the Scriptures. Whenever the word "righteousness" appeared in the New Testament, they plugged in Luther’s new definition, and they found– as the Holy Spirit enlightened them– that the Scriptures made new, life changing sense. Other people, however, just rejected what Luther said without giving it deep thought, because what he said was contrary to the received "wisdom" of the church of those days.

When the very way we think about certain doctrines is being challenged, it is no good rejecting the challenge just because it is out of line with the way we currently think. The argument has to be grappled with and chewed over. It cannot be assessed just by skim reading a book.

I believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, and its sufficiency, and I believe that the doctrines of human nature, sin, sanctification and counselling that Crabb presents are by and large the doctrines which the Holy Spirit teaches in His inspired Word. They are there in the apostles and prophets and they can be demonstrated without reference to Sigmund Freud. Nor are they the same as Freud’s teachings, even though they show that Freud was more discerning at some points than the children of light.

This paper does not contain a systematic summary of Dr Crabb’s thought. Its only purpose is to consider the Bobgans’ criticisms of his position. In it, I will demonstrate five things concerning their argument against Crabb:

(1) Their failure to see the significance of Crabb’s use of the word "longings" instead of "needs" shows that they have come to Crabb to test him against their preconceptions, instead of allowing those very preconceptions to be challenged by what he writes.

(2) The Bobgans’ willingness to learn from the non-Christian philosopher Karl Popper is an example of the very thing for which they wrongly criticise Crabb, when he acknowledges himself willing to learn from Freud, Jung, and Adler, etc.

(3) Karl Popper’s philosophy of science is flawed. It approaches the truth yet misses it entirely, and can only be made true by being brought to the scriptures.

(4) In just the same way, Freud’s doctrine of human behaviour parallels the truth at some important points, yet remains false in Freud’s hands. However, when used as a stimulus to Christian thought­ as Crabb has done– the result is a doctrine which is as unconnected with Freud as the right-hand rail of a railway line is to the left-hand one, yet whose resemblance is there for all to see.

(5) Many of the Bobgans’ specific criticisms of Crabb contain logical fallacies: begging the question; false dichotomy, and so on. When these are removed, together with arguments which are unsound because their premises are false, little is left. Despite the multiplicity of their university degrees, the Bobgans are guilty of shallow thought and poor workmanship in their critique of Larry Crabb.

As well as making those points, I will also discuss the doctrines of the unconscious and of the sufficiency of the scriptures. Then I will sum up all the threads of my article by suggesting that there are four prime errors in the Bobgans’ thought: errors which give rise to the difficulties they have with what Dr Crabb teaches.

Note: The section of Prophets of Psychoheresy I which discusses Dr Crabb’s doctrines is co-authored by Richard Palizay. However, it would make for tedious reading to make that explicit every time I referred to something from that section. Therefore I have throughout simply attributed all quotations to "the Bobgans" but the reader should understand that as meaning "Palizay and the Bobgans" whenever the quotation is from Prophets of Psychoheresy I.

Trevor Morrison, May 1992

Additional Note (October 1993):

When I wrote this paper, I had not met Dr Crabb, nor spoken to him, nor corresponded with him. Although I am now (1993) a student in the Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling course taught by Dr Crabb, I do not intend to fine-tune the paper in the light of any extra insight I may obtain here. In the first place, the paper is already sufficiently accurate, and, secondly, the circumstances under which I wrote it mean that the understanding of Crabb’s position which I reflect there is an understanding derived solely from his published material. (In the section on The Unconscious, there is a quote from unpublished material which I used only because it succinctly summarizes what Dr Crabb says in other words elsewhere). It is therefore an understanding at which any careful reader of his publications should be able to arrive.

The few changes I have made to the version dated June 1992 are just to make clearer some places where it had become evident from my correspondence with the Bobgans that they had misunderstood me, and where I thought I could clear up the misunderstanding without enlarging the paper. I have removed some sentences, too, which I thought upon re-reading did not contribute to the main point of the paper

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