M. Scott Peck

The Road Broadly Traveled

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck (born 1936) has become an extremely popular speaker and writer (15 books authored). His books People of the Lie and The Road Less Traveled have appeared on a leading "evangelical" magazine's Book of the Year list. The list was a result of votes cast by a group of so-called evangelical writers, leaders, and theologians selected by the magazine. The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978 and translated into more than 20 languages, remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over 544 weeks or 12 years (with over six million copies sold to date in North America alone)! (Peck's The Different Drum and Further Along The Road Less Traveled have also sold well.) A New York Times book reviewer reveals, "The book's main audience is in the vast Bible Belt"; the reviewer describes The Road Less Traveled as "an ambitious attempt to wed Christian theology to the 20th-century discoveries of Freud and Jung." Indeed!

Scott Peck began his trek down The Road Less Traveled as a Buddhist when he wrote his best selling book by that title. By the time his second book was published, he claimed a conversion to Christianity (circa 1980). However, his Buddhist teachings remain a vital part of his writings, along with other aberrations such as process theology, Mormonism, New Age doctrine, and the secular humanist values of psychotherapy. Although The Road Less Traveled is reminiscent of our Lord's words about the narrow road to life, Peck is clearly headed down the broad road to destruction. Peck is ecumenical, New Age, and anti-Church. His "road" leads us away from God, away from salvation, and away from the Bible. His theology clashes with Christianity at every crucial point; for the Christian, Peck's writings should be a road not traveled:

1. Truth: Peck has no clear standards concerning the nature of truth. He is committed to mythology and paradox, rather than to the Bible. Although he claims in places not to know anything, his writings reveal that he has developed his own system of truth and values, a system that rejects Scripture as God's standard of truth (John 17:17).

2. Scripture: Peck interprets Scripture primarily as mythology, and he considers the Bible to be a mixture of truth and error, fact and fiction. He believes that the Fifth Commandment, to honor one's parents, deserves "radical rewriting." He denies the historical accuracy of the Bible's account of Adam and Eve and claims that the Bible supports evolution. Thus, Peck sets himself up as the judge of Biblically revealed truth (Psalm 19:7).

3. God: Peck denies the sovereignty of God. In place of the God of the Scriptures, Peck worships a finite "god" who is both limited and in the process of change. His teachings blur the crucial distinction between God the Creator and man the creature, as Peck is more impressed with the "higher power" terminology of 12-step theology than the sovereign Lord of Scripture. He uses inclusive language for God -- "She" or "He/She" (Jeremiah 10:10).

4. Jesus Christ: In places, Peck affirms that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. However, his writings reveal an emphasis on His humanity that effectively denies His unique deity as Son of God. Some of Peck's speculations about what Jesus might have said or thought border on outright blasphemy. Peck does not affirm Christ as the Savior who sacrificed Himself on the cross to make propitiation for the sins of His people (Hebrews 1:3).

5. Man: Evolution is the foundation for Peck's view of man. He believes that man is evolving forward, and thus, he anticipates radical changes in the nature of man that Scripture does not support. He stresses man's freedom to the point of denying God's sovereignty altogether. He views man's fall into sin as an evolutionary thrusting forth into "consciousness," and therefore, a step forward. He claims that man lost his "oneness" with nature at that time. Peck affirms self-love, but cautions against self-esteem. In general, he has no absolute standards for how man should live.

Peck proposes "four stages of spirituality" for man. The third stage, characterized by skepticism and atheism, is claimed to be "higher" than the second stage, which would describe the orthodox Christian. The fourth and "highest" stage is New Age mysticism (Rom. 5:12).

6. Evil: It is in this area where Peck departs from at least some of the teachings of New Age theology, where the reality of evil is denied. However, Peck again denies God's sovereignty by viewing evil as essentially beyond God's control. At the same time, he denies the original goodness of creation, taught in Genesis 1, by stating that the world is essentially an evil one that is "contaminated" by good. Another error is Peck's view of evil, in man, as "mental illness," rather than sin against God (Prov. 16:4).

7. The Devil: Peck has come to acknowledge the reality of the devil, but he believes that at the time of the Fall, Satan was given a positive role by God, to contribute to the "spiritual growth" of man. Peck's views about the relationship of Christ and the devil border on Mormonism. Also, a grave error occurs in Peck's view that the devil will ultimately have a chance to accept the "friendship" of mankind and be saved. Significantly, this appraisal of Satan occurs in People of the Lie, a book embraced by many professing evangelicals and frequently found in "Christian" bookstores (Rev. 20:10).

8. Resurrection, Heaven and Hell: Peck rejects the bodily resurrection taught in Scripture. He finds it "distasteful." He believes that people of all religions will be found in heaven and that the "gates of hell" are wide open so that anyone can choose to walk out at any time (1 Cor. 15:42-44).

9. Eschatology: Instead of the glorious hope of Christ's visible return to consummate history, overthrow evil, and usher in the eternal state, Peck substitutes a global "community" ushered in primarily by the efforts of man (1 Thes. 4:16-18).

10. Salvation: Peck offers a false salvation message in his teachings about "community building." This "salvation" is claimed to be available to people of all religious faiths. Peck adamantly denies that there is an exclusive way of salvation (Acts 4:12). In fact, Peck's definition of original sin is "laziness," and his view of salvation is "to become all that you can be" ("The Road Well Traveled," MCO Journal, Vol.2, No.1).

11. New Age: Peck's commitment to New Age theology has undergone some revisions, but he remains entrenched in its pantheism, meditation methods, and hopes of global unity, calling it potentially a "very holy thing" if it is reformational rather than revolutionary.

12. Community: Peck's vision of "community" is characterized by an inclusivity uniting people of all religious faiths, and a contempt for any claim to exclusive truth. It is a "leaderless" group similar to 12-step meetings. Peck envisions his method of "salvation" occurring in the business community rather than in either the church or the family.

13. Psychiatry and Religion: There are significant admissions here, as Peck acknowledges his profession's traditional hostility to religion and the resulting problems. He also recognizes the religious nature of counseling and the fact that psychiatry is not a purely objective science with no system of values. In spite of these admissions, he upholds the values of secular humanism and sees the problems being solved by an integration of psychiatry and spirituality, based on his own "stages of spirituality" and "diagnostic categories" of evil. He affirms a limited value to pastoral counseling, but considers "Christian fundamentalist programs," along with "New Age practitioners," to be competition from the fringes.

Peck's erroneous theology appears repeatedly throughout all of his books. The title of his most recent book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, is an accurate description of Peck's continued journey away from God's truth.

Additional Info: Life magazine says, "the Scott Peck gospel is an amalgam of psychiatry and Christianity drizzled with Greek myth and Buddhism" (11/18/95, World). Peck announced in 1983 that he had become a Christian, but his all-embracing definition of Christian included no statement of faith, but "millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and agnostics." In 1988, Peck endorsed a "Cosmic New Age Christ" book by Matthew Fox, a mystical New Age Catholic priest (defrocked in 1995). Yet neo-evangelical David Mains has extensively/approvingly quoted from Peck's writings on his radio broadcast [now defunct]. And the GARBC-approved Grand Rapids Baptist College (now Cornerstone College) has carried an article in its paper by Bill Hybels that favorably quoted Peck (12/15/95, Calvary Contender).

* This report, unless otherwise cited, has been excerpted and/or adapted from "M. Scott Peck: The Road Broadly Traveled," by D. Dewart, July-August 1996, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, pp. 3, 6.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 2/2003