John MacArthur

Self-Esteem/Self-Worth/Psychological Teachings

Radio Tape Index

May, 1988
(a) Someone preaching constantly on self-esteem means, "self-esteem too low, and needs to be built up."

3/29/89 & 2/16/95 [From the series: The Believer's Life in Christ]
(a) You're important to God.
(b) Looking for a sense of self-worth, value, and self-acceptance.
(c) Christian psychologists are "motivated good;" they want to "rescue people with poor self-image."
(d) The "need" for self-worth, value, and significance (sounds like Larry Crabb's need theology?) is satisfied by knowing who you are in Christ.
(e) Because He chose you, before the beginning of time, YOU ARE SOMEBODY! -- "When I realized that I was chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, then the conclusion is that I'm somebody! ... What a sense of significance!!"
(f) "Your value comes because you're in Christ -- that's your self-worth."

3/30/89 & 2/17/95 [From the series: The Believer's Life in Christ]
(a) Being in Christ, planned before the world began, gives us our significance.
(b) Our election has nothing to do with our merit, but nevertheless, we are "important to God" and "have value" because of this election.
(c) "... Doctrine of election says to me, you are of value eternally in the heart of God ... Jesus came to shed His blood to purchase you -- you are important!"
(d) "Don't struggle with a sense of self-worth; you are worthy."
(e) "You're a child of the King; get a sense of value to yourself."

4/05/89 & 2/22/95 [From the series: The Believer's Life in Christ]
(a) God accepts you, so accept yourself. [See 7/5/90 message]
(b) God forgives you, so forgive yourself -- "If you can't forgive your-self, you've got a God complex."
(c) God thinks, "I am fantastic;" therefore, "you're not half-bad," and "you're something worth something."
(d) Since you're important to God, you're worth something and your self-worth is secure.

4/06/89 & 2/23/95 [From the series: The Believer's Life in Christ]
(a) Eph 1:11 -- Interpreted by MacArthur to mean, "We are God's gift to Christ," and therefore, your self-worth is secure because of your implied importance to God.1
(b) Our value and sense of worth are derived from God choosing us (election) before the world began.

9/18/89 & 3/18/91 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family; re-preached in late-1996 and re-aired over a 20-day period in 1999: 2/8/99-3/15/99 (and scheduled again for 2001: 1/22/00-2/16/00). See The Fulfilled Family sub-report]
(a) Introduction to The Fulfilled Family series: MacArthur states that part of the problem in the disintegration of the family is that much of the "helpful" material on the family is counterproductive rather than a help to ministering to family relationships. He then, later in the series, proceeds to quote2 these very same counterproductive sources (i.e., Carl Rogers, James Dobson, Paul Meier, etc.) as experts and legitimate helps to better family relationships.

2/15/93 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) MacArthur comments that: "This series keeps coming back ... it continues to be one of the most popular series we have aired over the years. It's a very foundational teaching ... people are saved and they're looking at their family and saying 'How do I do this thing called family now that I'm a Christian?' So there's always a brand new audience for this particular series ... get the series on tape ... you'll maybe want to give it to your children or relatives or friends ... it's a wonderful, wonderful tool" [a "psychological" tool?].

9/19/89 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Again stresses that the mass of so-called helps are counterproductive, but nevertheless, later in the series, quotes from and/or recommends these same psychological "helps."

3/20/91 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) At the close of the broadcast, the announcer runs a promo for the psychologized MacArthur/Ezzo four-part video series, How to Raise Your Family ("John MacArthur has an outstanding video tape series"). (Same promo run again at end of 3/26/91 broadcast).

9/21/89 & 3/21/91 & 2/18/93 & 3/16/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Gives credence to the so-called "results" of psychological testing.

9/27/89 & 3/27/91 & 2/24/93 & 3/22/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Gives credence to man's "deep drives and needs" (sounds like Larry Crabb's "deep longings for relationship"?).

2/24/93 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Announcer's closing comments encourage listeners to order the 8-tape Fulfilled Family series, of which each tape is the "complete, unedited presentation as John originally delivered this to his congregation" (i.e., despite rhetoric to the contrary, no change in psychological teachings in almost 14 years! [1979-1993]).

9/28/89 & 3/28/91 & 2/25/93 & 3/23/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Quotes favorably from Carl Rogers' book (the father of client-directed therapy), Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives.
(b) Teaches the pop psychological concept of "unconditional love" and applies it to the nature of God's love: "We have object-oriented attraction. Now God's love is very different. God could care less what the object is. It's His nature to love -- anything that happens to be around gets it. God just loves, period. It's not the object that defines the love for God. It is His nature -- anything in front of Him gets love." [Really? cf. Psa. 5:5,6 -- God hates all who do wrong (not loves "anything that happens to be around").]

9/29/89 & 3/29/91 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Introduction to today's broadcasts: Stresses (1) the "need to listen to [this series] over and over again," and yet gives no warning as to the psychological gospel contained therein (9/29/89), and (2) that "this is the third, fourth, or fifth time we've run this series and the truths never change" (3/29/91). [What truths? -- the psychological ones?]

4/1/91 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) MacArthur's introductory remarks encourage listeners to order the Study Guide and tapes, because the information therein lets you know "what God's standard for the family is." [God's standard now includes humanistic and Freudian psychology?]

10/2/89 & 4/1/91 & 3/1/93 & 3/27/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Quotes favorably a "leading psychiatrist at the Menninger Clinic," from his "provocative book," The Castrated Family.
(b) Quotes favorably from an article in Psychology Today.
(c) Quotes favorably a psychiatrist at Topeka State Hospital (mental).
(d) Quotes favorably from psychologizer Howard Hendricks.
(e) Quotes favorably a so-called "human behavior writer" (a.k.a. psychologist) concerning child suicide and depression studies -- MacArthur agrees with the "expert" that child suicide is an "unconscious" act resulting from parental neglect and rejection (i.e., since "the emotional and spiritual needs of children are not being met" by parents, the depression that leads to suicide is the result of the failure of the parents!) MacArthur gives no weight whatsoever to individual responsibility and the Biblical position that suicide is the ultimate act of self.

10/3/89 & 4/2/91 & 3/2/93 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Quotes favorably from two articles in Psychology Today.

10/4/89 & 4/3/91 & 3/3/93 & 3/29/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Quotes favorably James Dobson's "slow-boil frog" story.

3/3/93 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) MacArthur advertises that the same material found in this series is also in his New Testament Commentary on Ephesians.

3/4/93 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) In the closing promo, the announcer directs attention to family related materials for sale in the Grace To You Catalog, one of them being the highly psychologized MacArthur/Ezzo four-part video series, How to Raise Your Family (see notes to 3/20/91 broadcast).

10/6/89 & 4/5/91 & 3/5/93 &3/31/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Liberally and favorably quotes (for over seven minutes!) from "Christian" psychiatrist (actually "Freudian") Paul Meier's book, Christian Child Rearing and Personality Development -- main message is that 'any behavior abnormalities (i.e., homosexuality) in your child are your (the parent's) fault' (ignores the message of the Bible [Ezek. 18] that each is responsible for his own sin).
(b) When MacArthur wants to prove a point, rather than using the Bible for proof-texts, he predominantly quotes secular sources as authorities (psychiatrists, the Houston Police Department, the Minnesota Crime Commission, etc.)
(c) MacArthur holds up the following psychological euphemisms as being valid concerns/problem areas for Christians: alcoholics; sociopathic criminals; adult schizophrenia; obsessive-compulsive children; eating disorders/addictions; hyper-kinetic children; and childhood hysteria.

10/9/89 & 4/8/91 & 3/8/93 & 4/3/95 [From the series: The Fulfilled Family]
(a) Quotes favorably Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck (sociologists) as being able to identify juvenile delinquents via psychological personality testing. Although MacArthur qualifies his statement by stating that "these are not Christian people, this is just psychoanalysis," he, nevertheless, quotes the Gluecks as authorities having valid principles that can be used to the benefit of Christians.
(b) Again cites favorably, Freudian psychiatrist Paul Meier (described by MacArthur as "the medical doctor, the psychiatrist, the Christian") as an expert on parent-child relationships.
(c) Quotes favorably "someone" (doesn't tell us that the "someone" is behavioristic psychologist Dorothy Law Nolte) on how a child's environment determines his feelings about everything and everybody, especially about himself; MacArthur reads, in agreement, a list with such statements as "If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty. If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself."
(d) Takes over ten minutes using numerous psychological euphemisms to explain how not to "provoke your children to anger."
(e) In closing the series, MacArthur again promos the 8-tape Fulfilled Family series as "You ought to have one for future reference and to help your friends."
(f) MacArthur encourages first time letter-writers to request his free 18-page booklet, Answering The Key Questions About The Family -- on p. 15 of that booklet, MacArthur quotes the same Glueck study and the same Paul Meier material as that on this tape message.

In disusing 13 factors that can steal one's joy, MacArthur states that psychology has nothing to offer, yet he goes on to teach two psychological concepts:

(1) Self-Talk Therapy: Although he apparently is talking about a Christian learning to control his emotions, his vocabulary smacks of positive self-talk therapy, derived from the teachings of such possibility thinkers as Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, et al. (whose teachings were originally derived from the occult).

(2) Self-Forgiveness: Much like MacArthur's comments on his 4/5/89 The Fulfilled Family broadcast (cited earlier in this report -- use "Return to Text" link at the end of this paragraph), he claims that those who continue to experience guilt long after God has forgiven their sin, are playing God and need to forgive themselves just as God has already forgiven them. (The Bible knows nothing of this self-forgiveness concept, but instead teaches that guilt is a God-given emotion which He uses to convict His children of sin. In most cases where "no feeling of forgiveness" is present, it is probably an indication that the sin causing the guilt has never truly been forsaken. MacArthur, therefore, rather than trying to convince people that they're already forgiven and, thereby, need to forgive themselves, should encourage a true heart-searching by the "guilty one" to ensure that the necessary "requirements" for forgiveness have been met; i.e., true repentance and confession. If this has been done, yet forgiveness is still not "felt," then the individual probably has a pride problem that would only be further aggravated by his "self-forgiveness." Or, he refuses to believe God [1 Jn. 1:9] and is actually calling God a liar in his heart. If the latter is the case, no wonder he doesn't "feel" forgiven.)  [Return to Text]

1 MacArthur is clearly saying that we should feel good about ourselves and be secure in Him, because God was enriched through gaining us as His children! The context of Eph. 1:18, however, is all about the blessings we receive from God, not the blessings He receives from us. Clearly, the "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" refers to what God has given the saints, not to an inheritance the saints have bequeathed Him. Nowhere in the Bible is God enriched by man. It is man who is always benefited by God. Common sense alone makes that clear. God, being infinitely rich and needing nothing, cannot be enriched by anyone or anything. (Adapted from the 9/93, Berean Call.)  [Return to Text]

2 It is one thing to quote a psychological source when critiquing psychology itself, and to show what one psychologist says might be refuted by what another psychologist says, but quite another thing to quote as authoritative the musings of psychologists on how to live our lives and raise our children. MacArthur frequently slips into this error.  [Return to Text]

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 6/99