In secular psychological circles, Alfred Adler first theorized that man had a hierarchy of needs and Abraham Maslow expanded the theory and convinced society that these needs are truth. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes these levels:

Level 1: psychological needs (food, clothing, shelter)

Level 2: Safety and Security needs

Level 3: Love and belonging needs

Level 4: Self-esteem needs

Level 5: Self-actualization needs

Man’s “needs” must be met at the lower levels before he is capable of performing at the higher levels. Maslow’s “needs” has been expanded upon by other psychologists over the years to also include the needs for sex, respect, affirmation, spousal needs, etc…! Man is dependent on others to meet these needs. Unmet needs place a person in the position of having no means by which he can mature or find fulfillment, except to find those resources within himself. The conclusion is that loving others and doing good to them is not possible until all his other needs have been met, taking any responsibility away from man to do good.

Using the Biblical view of man’s supposed “needs” we find there are very few. Most of the concepts labeled as “needs” by psychologists are in reality only desires. Jesus’ commands require the highest level of obedience, the by-product of which is His provision of food and clothing (Matt. 6:31-33). Jesus’ view is  that these basic needs are not to be the focus of our concern because Christians are to pursue a much higher calling which is loving God and loving others. No command in Scripture is contingent upon how perceived “needs” are being met.

Jesus clearly does not view man as having “self-esteem needs” when He commands His disciples to love God and to love their neighbor as they love themselves (Matt. 22:37-40). He assumes we already love ourselves. In fact, we love ourselves too much. Man is self-centered, putting self before God and others.

Jesus did not consider “love and belonging needs” when His followers are warned that the Christian will be aliens and strangers in this world (1Peter 2:11), hated by the world, as He was hated (John 15:18,19), persecuted and rejected (Matt 5:10-12, John 15:20-21).

God doesn’t mention the needs that Maslow considers necessary for a blessed, mature and contented life. Consider the turbulent life of Paul:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was sadly lacking in Paul’s life, yet he was one of the most godly, mature men that ever lived. Paul lacked self-esteem and realized he had no inner resources to meet his life’s relentless demands. He considered himself the worst among sinners (1Tim. 1:15), he realized he was weak and inadequate (1Cor. 2:3, 4:10; 2Cor 3:5), and he realized that all he had formerly relied on to esteem himself was rubbish and to be considered loss (Phil. 3:1-9). He often lacked even the basics-food, sleep protection-as well as being persecuted and rejected (2Cor. 6:4-10). But, Paul found freedom in relinquishing his right to himself. He experienced the abundant life because he was anchored into Christ’s life and drew from Him endless bounty and resources.

Jesus said to Martha “…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42) He was saying that the primary need is to learn from Him and be devoted to Him, as was Mary. The need for earthly sustenance will pass but the need for Christ is eternal so the believer must invest in what cannot be taken away. The Christian’s earthly existence is to be focused on eternal realities.


The secular counselor will teach his client that he will have to learn to rely upon himself and, if possible, his circumstances and others for strength. Man has to build his self-trust, self-confidence, self-esteem and self-love and ignore his own sin and depravity and eliminate his guilt. Man must learn to identify his feelings and express them.

Biblical counselors will teach their clients to turn to God in confession, brokenness and repentance. He will teach to depend on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to be transformed through the power of the Word of God and to rely upon God’s spiritual resources and dependency on Him.


The secular psychologist does not recognize Christ’s death on the cross and God’s forgiveness to take away the guilt of sin; rather guilt is believed to be environmental or self-induced by overly strict parents, strong religious influences, too strict a conscience, etc. There is no correlation between guilt and the violation of God’s law or that the violation of God’s value system should cause guilt. Guilt is viewed as a root problem which causes other problems therefore, it needs to be eliminated. Then the problems manifested by the guilt can be eliminated.

The therapist attempts to eliminate the client’s guilt through the realization that it is not important or it is not valid. They do not understand the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the primary means for dealing effectively with guilt. The secular therapist will tell a client “you are not responsible” and often encourage them to blame others or his circumstances for his problems. They often encourage them to view himself as a “victim”. 

Even more dangerously, the client is taught his sin is a “disease” which is beyond his control. Bitterness, guilt, fears, selfishness, etc. that lead to deep emotional problems may be labeled “mental illness”, a disease—frequent drunkenness is labeled “alcoholism”, for example. The client is taught his sins are addictions, weakness, compulsions, obsessions in order to alleviate guilt. Euphemisms are used to alleviate guilt, conviction and responsibility.

Most schools of psychology promote self-esteem in a client to mask guilt. The humanistic belief-system includes the following, in regard to self-esteem: “bad feelings” about oneself create guilt and low self-esteem and are detrimental to emotional stability even though they are often an accurate evaluation. “Bad feelings” must, therefore, be eliminated by trying to put on positive attitudes about oneself. “Good feelings” are promoted to eliminate negative attitudes, pain and guilt. These “good feelings”, regardless of the depth of sin they mask, are supposed to release the person to handle whatever difficulties or losses he may experience and they are a “need” that must be met to become mature and to be able to reach out to others.

The client is often encouraged to “forgive himself” for whatever is causing the guilt, usurping God’s role and eliminating his need for Christ. This methodology completely excludes man’ need for salvation and his ongoing need to confess his sin to God and to receive his forgiveness (Ps. 32: 1-5; 1John 1:9).

The psychiatrist often resorts to prescribing mind-altering drugs to try to eliminate depression and/or other deviant behaviors which are often manifestations of guilt, to try to alleviate guilt, fear and bitterness which cause depression, or try to mask or cover the sin which causes the depressed state. The therapist will use shock therapy to obliterate memory, including guilt and bitterness, or to obliterate the work of the conscience—until the memory returns and shock therapy is required again.

The Biblical view is a little simpler. Guilt is God-induced. The conscience in the unbeliever is given by God (Rom. 1:18,19; 2:15) and the conviction of the Holy Spirit is given to the believer (John 16:7,8). Guilt, in most instances, is not a problem but a warning signal from God that we have transgressed His holy law. Guilty feelings are usually an accurate assessment of who man really is and to point him to his need for a Savior and repentance. Guilt is to be handled in accordance with God’s Word by the biblical counselor, not by ignoring the disciple’s sin but by helping the disciple to comprehend the depth of sin more fully, including his sinful attitudes, thoughts and motivations. He will teach about the work of the cross and God’s forgiveness encouraging confession and repentance and encouraging the disciple to seek forgiveness of those whom he offended. (Ps. 32:1-5; Heb. 4:12).

In Part Four, we will discuss why so-called Christian counselors are often secular psychologists or psychiatrists with a Christian veneer.