Why Do I Do That?

by on May 6th, 2010

One of the age old questions that most of us wrestle with is, “Why do I do the things I do?” The worldview one holds will to a large degree answer that question. The Apostle Paul in writing the book of Romans, systematically addressed the plight of man as compared with the holiness of God. For those who think they are pretty good or at least good enough to be acceptable to God on our own, he minced no words when he wrote, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10) and to make sure the reader got the idea he followed up a few sentences later with, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). In Romans chapter 7 he wrestles with the question of why he does the things he does and demonstrates that the fundamental problem is our sinful nature. But then again, the only real information Paul had about the nature of man came from postmoderns today consider his uninformed theo-centric worldview developed from Scripture and revelation. In other words, he only knew what God had revealed and we would simply have to wait until the 20th Century to get the “real truth” on these matters. The “real truth” would come from psychology, occultism, Eastern religions and ultimately ourselves.

Pushing the envelope on peak experience through drugs and Eastern religions, Timothy Leary founded his own church in 1966:

By September, even as his Playboy interview hit the newsstands, Leary was back on the religions track, calling a press conference to announce that he was establishing his own psychedelic church to be called the League for Spiritual Discovery. Its message was “Turn on, tune in and drop out” – admittedly a catchier slogan that “solipsistic nihilism.” People who cared about consistency had reason to be confused. Was getting high a form of religious expression? Or was it an activity that the government could regulate, like drinking alcohol? Of course, very few heads cared about consistency. Nor, certainly, did Leary.”(1)

The mood in culture was to “find myself.” The Beatles keyed in on and helped to more popularize what Leary was doing with their 1967 release of their album “Magical Mystery Tour.” Discovering who I am and why I do what I do, began and ended with me and my experience, as college kids themselves began embracing Hinduism, if not as a religion as least as their guiding worldview. The lyrics from this album became part of their belief system and they moved into the drug culture and, following Leary’s example and motto, “Turned on, tuned in and dropped out.” This fit in fairly nicely with the contributions which Carl Rogers had made:

Peter D. Kramer, the author of Listening to Prozac, credits Rogers with an “extensive contribution to contemporary culture, to our sense of who we are.” As to the nature of that contribution, Kramer sums it up nicely: “For Rogers, the cardinal sin in therapy, or in teaching or family life, is the imposition of authority.

As this mood and thinking continued to grow it would alarm most of the nation in the not too distant future.

At the same time, 1966, Tim LaHaye set forth his answer as to why we do what we do through occultism and astrology with his best seller Spirit-Controlled Temperament. LaHaye’s book was based largely on the writings of a Norwegian theologian, Dr. Ole Hallesby:

LaHaye introduced the four temperaments to evangelical Christians in 1966. The four temperaments had virtually been discarded after the Middle Ages and discounted as a valid means of understanding people, until a few lone souls discovered them among the relics of the past and marketed them in twentieth-century language. One of those lone souls was Dr. Ole Hallesby, a Norwegian theologian who wrote Temperamentene i krstelig lys, published in 1940 and translated into English in 1962 as Temperament and the Christian Faith. LaHaye says he “drew extensively” from Temperament and the Christian Faith in writing his book Spirit-Controlled Temperament, which was published four years after the English translation of Hallesby’s book.(2)

The four temperament personality theory had its beginning about 500 years before God the Son incarnated as Jesus Christ. It worked with the Greek philosophers teaching that fire, air, earth and water are the universe’s four primary elements.

Each had specific qualities of warm, cold, dry, and moist with fire being warm and dry; air being warm and moist; earth being cold and dry; and water being cold and moist. Because of the inherent mixture of cosmology with myth, each element also had its corresponding god or goddess.(3)

Hippocrates further developed the ideas of Empedocles and applied them to illness. He:

…taught that there were four corresponding bodily fluids or humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. He theorized that health depended upon the proper balance of those humors in the body and that illnesses were caused by imbalance of the bodily fluids.(4)

Hippocrates is generally credited with the humeral temperament theory or personality, since he connected the types with both mental and physical states. For example, blood, being warm and moist, made the cheeks rosy and promoted a cheerful (Sanguine) temperament. Phlegm, on the other hand, was considered cold and moist and brought about watery-looking, colorless skin and a bland or sluggish temperament.(5)

Plato further expanded on this to the effect that the “qualities of the elements and the constitution of the humors related directly to behavior.”(6) The combining of the of the signs of the Zodiac, the four temperaments and the four humors were used by physicians and philosophers from then until about the Middle Ages to diagnose and treat sickness and for understanding people. Carl Jung wrote on the connection:

In his book Psychological Types, Carl Jung also clearly notes the relationship between astrology and the four temperaments. He says:

From the earliest times attempts have been made to classify individuals according to types, and so to bring order into the chaos. The oldest attempts known to us were made by oriental astrologers who devised the so-called trigons of the four elements – air, water, earth and fire. The air trigon in the horoscope consists of the three aerial signs of the zodiac, Aquarius, Gemini, Libra; the fire trigon is made up of Aries, Leo, Sagittarius. According to this age-old view, whoever is born in these trigons shares in their aerial or fiery nature and will have a corresponding temperament and fate. Closely connected with this ancient cosmological scheme is the physiological typology of antiquity, the division into four temperaments corresponding to the four humours. What was first represented by the signs of the zodiac was later expressed in the physiological language of Greek medicine, giving us the classification into the phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, and melancholic. These are simply designations of the body. As is well known, this typology lasted at least seventeen hundred years. As for the astrological type theory, to the astonishment of the enlightened it still remains intact today and is even enjoying a new vogue.(7)

On the one hand LaHaye claimed to reject psychology and psychiatry and it is unclear how much material he used outside of Hallesby’s book. Did he understand the occult and astrological core and influences on his answers to why we do what we do? We cannot say for sure but with the change from a theo-centric theology to a human centric theology aided by the influence of psychology on culture and the church, it is little wonder that this fad would become so widely accepted in the church even though it had already been rejected by psychology. LaHaye also used elements of Freud and Jung in his temperament scheme. Freud believed that the “unconscious” had unseen forces which caused individuals to do what they did. LaHaye also incorporated Jung’s Introvert-Extrovert typology. So while on the one hand he claimed to reject psychology (and would likely state the same for occultism and astrology), he brought a combination of some of the worst psychology had to offer along with occultism to answer the question the apparently less informed Apostle Paul answered theo-centrically in Romans with the result of coming to radically different answers.

Robert Schuller also was busy building his church in California with a view to answer this question. His answer was directly and unapologetically drawn from psychology. The problem isn’t that we are sinners according to Schuller. Maslow has it right! The problem is that we have low self-esteem. Schuller who holds to the views espoused in the human potential movement, is fairly upfront in his rejection of a theocentric view:

For decades now we have watched the church in Western Europe and in America decline in power, membership, and influence. I believe that this decline is the result of our placing theocentric communication above the meeting of deeper emotional and spiritual needs of humanity.(8)

He also points out:

Other classical systematic theologians would begin with the doctrine of God. But this is part of the reason the church is in the predicament it is in today.(9)

Starting with God as the center and focus truly does expose us as sinners who do what we do as a result of our sinful nature. In Schuller’s teaching, what we really needed to do is abandon that archaic and uniformed view and adopt Maslow’s more spiritually enlightened teachings. However, if anyone is sketchy about the superiority of psychology over Scripture to answer the questions about why we do what we do, Dr. Schuller certainly makes sure to disabuse them of that notion:

Are we aware that theology has failed to accommodate and apply proven insights in human behavior as revealed by twentieth-century psychologists?(10)

All of this will have a very big impact on the church over the next 30 years. Schuller would rely heavily on this as he modernized the methodology of how to better market to non-Christians in order to get them into church and “evangelize” them. The alter calls would be replaced by more sophisticated psychology talks with verses sprinkled here and there to give it a sort of Christian feel but the most important thing to do is to make people feel good about themselves.

This could be the most important chapter in the book; it is the crucial step in the process of getting to feel really good about ourselves.(11)

None of this “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24) nonsense. Bring in those unchurched folks and help them self-actualize by building up their self-esteem and meeting their hierarchy of needs.

Chaos Reigns

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the explosion of a cultural crisis with the “counter cultural revolution.” Some of America’s youth began marching against the “establishment,” and were anti war, anti capitalism, advocated “free love” as part of the sexual revolution and many other areas which had up to this point been part of the fabric of a generally conservative America. Into this mix stepped Bill Gothard with his Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts to the rescue.(12) Bill Gothard was a theological and philosophical eclectic who developed his seminars around what he called the Bible’s “seven non-optional principles of life.” Fearing that the culture would further infect their young folks, (a fear we can certainly understand) and with the newfound ecumenism, Christian parents and churches began attending the 32 hour seminars by the busload. As with other popular fad teachers of this time, Bible verses were sprinkled into the seminar to give the points the air of credibility. Unfortunately anything approaching real hermeneutics and sound Bible teaching were abandoned in favor of “it works.” A cause and effect mechanistic approach guided by the emotions of “it works” was promoted as being the key way of determining what is true. Sound biblical teaching was further forsaken in favor of gaining personal infallible inspired interpretations of Scripture which often were in direct conflict with what was actually written. Pragmatism (it works) and mysticism more and more became the order of the day for the church and culture by the end of the 1960s.

1 Joyce Milton, The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and our Discontents, Encounter Books (San, Francisco, CA; 2002) 117
2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing, EastGate Publisher, (Santa Barbara, CA; 1992) 50-51
3 ibid, 19-20
4 ibid, 20
5 ibid, 21
6 ibid, 21
7 ibid, 27-28
8 Robert H. Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, Word Books (Waco, TX; 1982) 12
9 ibid, 36
10 ibid, 27
11 ibid, 108
12 For a more detailed look at this see our book A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, Don Veinot, Joy Veinot & Ron Henzel; MCOI (Lombard, IL; 2003)

One response to “Why Do I Do That? ”

  1. Lynn says:

    I have no memory for scads of details, but have a lot of interest in these things, so must reduce it to simple, comprehensive terms I can remember.

    The foundation of all things must be Christ. And Christ must be at the center. You discussed that concept above, and I agree.

    If Christ is in His proper place, as King of kings and Lord of lords, then all disciplines fall into place, including psychology and personality theory. While LaHaye always was simplistic in his approach, and many of his works seemed to parrot current trends in writing 25 to 35 years ago, and that includes his book on temperament, and while I agree that Humanism so poisons this subject in denying total depravity, I have to say I’ve benefited from some personality inventories.

    The MBTI, for example, I’ve found helpful in learning to appreciate the diversity in people, and helping understand differences that otherwise might have been frustrating.

    It all depends on what’s at the center. And on the flip side of the coin, I have little use for Maslow’s hierarchy, because of this. “Self-actualization” has “self” too much at the center.

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