Carl Jung and Contemporary Religious Belief

by Robert D. McLaughlin, Christian Counselor

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In recent years there has been an explosion of self-help books -- books proclaiming that the author's version of pop psychology is the answer to any problems that the reader might have. Many of these have some useful tips, but there is much that is the psychological equivalent of snake oil. In Christian circles, unfortunately, there has been a similar explosion of such books. Even worse, many of these will cite Scripture while, in actuality, promoting false teaching and heresy. Much of it is Jungian Psychology disguised as theology. So what is Jungian Psychology and why is it dangerous for us as Christians?

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who early on had close ties to Sigmund Freud. Later on, Jung developed his own theories as he and Freud disagreed over the influence of sexuality. Jung developed an interest in dreams and religion. He became interested in occult practices as he personally began experiencing visions.

Jung's theory of the "collective unconscious" influences religious belief today. Due to this "collective unconscious," he felt that everyone, regardless of religious background or nationality, had a genetic predisposition to symbolize human situations in certain ways. He called these symbols "archetypes," and he believed that these archetypes are found in all the religions and mythologies of the world. He believed that each person has access to these archetypes.

Jung's ideas contribute to a number of contemporary religious beliefs. One is the idea that we are a part of the Godhead after we become a Christian. This theology teaches that once we become a part of God's family, then God will manifest His kingdom on earth through us. It carries with it the idea that we are little gods. This heresy had it's roots in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:5, the serpent tells Eve, "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Throughout history, people have wanted to become God, not be subject to Him. This is related to Gnosticism, the idea that a seed of the Godhead is in each of us. Gnosticism promoted the idea that Jesus was less than divine and that all can become as God. Much of the book of Colossians was written by Paul to counteract this teaching. It, like the previous idea, promotes the notion that we have this nature within each one of us, and that it only needs to be developed through the right knowledge or ritual.

Jung's thinking shows up in New Age beliefs. His theory suggests that since we are all linked with those who have gone before us, due to the archetypes, then we can contact these for advice. Jean Houston, a psychologist who recently came to national attention, has been doing this with her clients for a number of years. This idea puts forth that we can seek advice from the dead. New Age theology also sets forth the idea that each of us are surrounded by Divinity, and have a part of this Divine spirit within each of us. Sounds remarkably like what the serpent was trying to convince Eve of in the Garden of Eden.

If there is false teaching going around, how are we to guard against it? Two verses, out of many in the Bible, illustrate what our response is to be. The first is found in II Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." The second is Acts 17:10-11, "And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so."

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume IV, Part 8, August 1996.

Copyright 1999 Robert D. McLaughlin. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.