A therapeutic gospel

When you hear a pastor invite people to come to Jesus, listen carefully to the emphasis on what Jesus will do for the person who comes to him. 

A subtle but dangerous distortion of the gospel has become popular in many Churches.

A growing number of pastors are inviting people to come to Jesus on terms that are not consistent with our Lord’s own invitations to follow him.

They are offering a gospel focused on the felt needs and expectations of a self-centered culture. It’s a gospel that misleads you to think you can come to Christ and remain at the center of life. 

A therapeutic gospel leaves one with the distinct impression that, “Jesus and the church exist to make you feel loved, significant, validated, entertained, and charged up. This gospel ameliorates distressing symptoms. It makes you feel better. The logic of this therapeutic gospel is a jesus-for-Me who meets individual desires and assuages psychic aches” (David Powlison).

Most pressing felt needs?

Dr. Powlison summarizes the felt needs that the therapeutic gospel addresses. 

  • I want to feel loved for who I am, to be pitied for what I’ve gone through, to feel intimately understood, to be accepted unconditionally;
  • I want to experience a sense of personal significance and meaningfulness, to be successful in my career, to know my life matters, to have an impact;
  • I want to gain self-esteem, to affirm that I am okay, to be able to assert my opinions and desires;
  • I want to be entertained, to feel pleasure in the endless stream of performances that delight my eyes and tickle my ears;
  • I want a sense of adventure, excitement, action, and passion so that I experience life as thrilling and moving. 

“In this new gospel, the great ‘evils’ to be redressed do not call for any fundamental change of direction in the human heart. Instead, the problem lies in my sense of rejection from others; in my corrosive experience of life’s vanity; in my nervous sense of self-condemnation and diffidence; in the imminent threat of boredom if my music is turned off; in my fussy complaints when a long, hard road lies ahead. These are today’s significant felt needs that the gospel is bent to serve.”

These felt needs “are defined just like a medical problem. You feel bad; the therapy makes you feel better. The definition of the disease bypasses the sinful human heart. You are not the agent of your deepest problems, but merely a sufferer and victim of unmet needs. The offer of a cure skips over the sin-bearing Savior. Repentance from unbelief, willfulness, and wickedness is not the issue.”

“Sinners are not called to a U-turn and to a new life that is life indeed. Such a gospel massages self-love. There is nothing in its inner logic to make you love God and love any other person besides yourself. This therapeutic gospel may often mention the word ‘Jesus,’ but he has morphed into the meeter-of-your-needs, not the Savior from your sins. It corrects Jesus’ work. The therapeutic gospel unhinges the gospel.” (David Powlison).

Questions

  • Is Jesus the greatest therapist one could ask for?
  • Does our Savior do therapeutic work in our lives when we turn to Him?
  • How does the therapeutic gospel differ from the true gospel?
  • What are the primary needs met in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
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5 Responses to A therapeutic gospel

  1. Pingback: Therapeutic Gospel vs. True Gospel | WisdomForLife

  2. I felt sad that this post, unlike many of you others, was negative and critical of other believers.

    I also felt confused. Is or is Jesus not our therapist, meaning the healer of our wounds and sicknesses?

    I wish you and David Powlison had chosen a better word for your false “me-first, feel-good; sin-denying gospel, other than “therapeuetic.”. It is a wonderful word, which is derived from the Greek verb [therapeuo], most used in the gospels for heal, restore, make whole. .

    Doesn’t Jesus heal us by restoring our relationship with God? Doesn’t he heal “the sin-sick soul,” and the broken hearted?”

    I think something like “Feel Good Gospel vs. The True Gospel” would have hit the mark much better if your goal is to point out the error in other ministries.

    Friend in Christ,
    Wade

  3. Robyn says:

    Awesome post! On my way to read the next one!

  4. Pingback: Are you raising a narcissist? | Wisdomforlife

  5. Reblogged this on Wisdomforlife and commented:

    What’s the difference between a therapeutic gospel and the true gospel?
    Is your Church calling people to come to Jesus in a way consistent with the way our Lord called people to follow Him?

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