One of the powerful, highly-organized world movements today is the World Federation for Mental Health, born in 1948 during the International Congress on Mental Health in London. Since that time, this organization has maintained the closest possible relations with the World Health Organization and UNESCO. It has sparked far-reaching programs, including legislation, establishment of university chairs, training centers for psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, publicity programs, the organization of smaller groups to propagandize and promote the cause, and the publication of literature for the use of its many complementary organizations. The smallest but best-known wing of this larger movement is the Community Mental Health Clinic, usually purported to be a local community-inspired organization.

That psychiatry has often brought immeasurable relief is the testimony of multitudes, but it is this very virtue which may blind the Church to the dangerous doctrines pronounced by leaders of the mental health movement. What has been so fruitful in the way of mental adjustment may blind people to certain trends that are the very antithesis of the principles of Christianity.

Organizational Moorings

To discover the true moorings of an organization, it is often necessary to use the methods of the psychiatrists themselves, i.e., to let the patient talk and probe into his childhood and resultant way of life. What is the philosophy from which this mental health movement has been born? What are the principles behind the program? If pursued to their logical conclusion, to what kind of peace will they lead us?

Dr. G. B. Chisholm, past president of the National Committee on Mental Hygiene in Canada, director general of WHO from 1948 to 1953, presently the president of the World Federation for Mental Health and vice president of the World Association for World Federalists, has provided at least a partial answer to these questions. He has been a spokesman for the cause before government officials on numerous occasions. In 1946 he delivered the William Alanson White Memorial Lectures in Washington, D. C. Excerpts from his speech will indicate his proposed solution:

At least three requirements are basic to any hope of permanent world peace. First—security, elimination of the occasion for valid fear of aggression.… Second—opportunity to live reasonably comfortably for all the people in the world on economic levels which do not vary too widely.… This is a simple matter of the redistribution of material.… It is probable that these first two requirements would make wars unnecessary for mature normal people without neurotic necessities.… All psychiatrists know where the symptoms come from. The burden of inferiority, guilt and fear we have all carried lies at the root of this failure to mature successfully.… Therefore the question we must ask ourselves is why the human race is so loaded down with these incubi and what can be done about it.…

Article continues below

This … puts the problem squarely up to psychiatry.… What basic psychological distortion can be found in every civilization?… There is—just one. The only … psychological force capable of producing these perversions is morality, the concept of right and wrong, the poison long ago described and warned against as ‘The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’

… For many generations we have bowed our necks to the yoke of the conviction of sin. We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers, our priests, and others with a vested interest in controlling us.…

The reinterpretation and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking for faith in the certainties of the old people, these are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy. Would they not be legitimate objectives of original education?… With the other human sciences, psychiatry must now decide what is to be the immediate future of the human race. No one else can.

In response to this lecture, Henry A. Wallace, then Secretary of Commerce, correctly detected Chisholm’s amoral philosophy of psychiatry and commented: “Dr. Chisholm has definitely … risen above the realm of ‘morality’ in a Presbyterian sense.…”

To propagate his philosophy for world peace, Chisholm was not left to ordinary mission methods. He was aided by the machinery of government at the highest levels: he became the first director-general of WHO; he initiated a broad program which is now in motion throughout most of the United States; and some part of every tax dollar has been invested by the state and federal governments to promote his effort.

Rejecting Sin As A Myth

In 1957, Chisholm delivered the Bampton Lectures at Columbia University, which were published as Prescription for Survival. In his series he stated, “I think there is no doubt that this idea of sin creates much havoc in our relationships with other cultures, and that we should begin to think far more clearly and more extensively than we have in the past about it. We must remember that it is only in some cultures that sin exists. For instance, the Eskimos didn’t have this concept until quite recently. Now they have; they caught it from us” (p. 55).

Article continues below

If this concept were to prevail, the Church would do no mission work, mouths of evangelists should be muzzled, and Sunday Schools should either close their doors or became amoral and innocuous in their teachings. Yet Chisholm is quoted approvingly as “a psychiatrist of wide recognition” in The Interpreter’s Bible (p. 502).

But Chisholm is not the only authority of the mental health movement to advocate such a philosophy. The American Academy of Political and Social Science invited Dr. R. H. Dysinger of the National Institute of Mental Health to edit a special edition of their official publication The Annals (March, 1953) which he titled “Mental Health in the United States.” In the foreword Dysinger wrote: “This issue … was organized to accent the implications … of the various mental health problems.” Dr. John R. Seeley, asked by Dysinger to write on “Social Values, The Mental Health Movement, and Mental Health,” commented:

In the realm of value, or the ideal, the revolution is hardly well begun. Save for the obvious passing of the dominance of the one institution, the church, which formerly exerted almost undisputed sway in defining both what is and what ought to be the order of good, nothing is clear.… Into this power vacuum the mental health movement has been drawn.… With one foot in humanism and the other in science, it seeks to perform, and to a degree does perform, many if not most of the functions of the relinquishing institution.… Like the early church, the mental health movement unites and addresses itself to “all sorts and conditions of men,” so only they be “for” mental health as they were formerly for virtue and against sin … the movement occupies or seeks to occupy the heartland of the old territory.

Support Of Church Leaders

What is most amazing is that the leaders of the movement have the audacity to solicit the support of church leaders. One reason Christian ministers and laymen are persuaded to support the mental health movement, no doubt, is that source materials which lay bare its real credo are extremely limited and difficult to obtain.

Dr. Dysinger also invited a contribution from L. K. Frank, chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the International Congress on Mental Health in London in 1948. In the Annals, Frank writes, “As long as we believe that human nature is fixed … and accept the age-old conviction that man is depraved and prone to evil, our thinking and our efforts will be compromised if not wholly blocked …” (p. 168). In 1956 he wrote in the fall issue of Child Study that the notion that children are innately prone to wrong-doing, and that their childish impulses must be “submissively obedient to authority,” is outmoded by more modern concepts. He states that “society offered various rituals and sources for release, such as atonement, reassurance, strengthening and consolation in their churches. Today, many parents contrive to rear their children according to this historic pattern; but the child is growing up in a society where for many these rituals have lost most of their former efficacy.” Thus Frank affirms that the Church has lost her efficacy, and repudiates the instruction of our children under the pattern of biblical truth.

Article continues below
Dealing With Tensions

The most recent piece of literature offered by the National Association for Mental Health is titled “How to Deal with Your Tensions” by G. S. Stevenson. A paragraph on its philosophy strikes the keynote: “… faith in ourselves; faith in others; faith in the ability of each person to improve and grow; faith in the desire and the capacity of human beings to work out their problems cooperatively; faith in the essential decency of mankind.” Then the essay is given a “Christian blessing”: “As the Bible puts it, we are ‘members of one another.’ ” This sells the biblical message far short, and, moreover, quotes a statement out of context to legitimize its philosophy that to be mentally healthy and free of tensions one must become a humanist.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But now Congress has appropriated millions of tax dollars for, and the state legislatures throughout the country have added millions more to, a movement which establishes a new faith and which opposes certain long-respected religious traditions in this country. Our government recognizes the rights of the Calvinist, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Baptist to educate his children according to his particular beliefs in day schools and Sunday Schools. If mental health succeeds, these programs will be history. The writings of mental health movement leaders imply that children belong not to the parents but to pseudoscientific humanists.

Article continues below

If we are not awake, this will happen under the shadow of our own steeples and with the support of our own tax dollars. For this movement has already reached gigantic proportions. General legislative principles for the execution of the master plan were introduced in the United States through the “Draft Act Governing the Commitment and Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill.” This act was presented in 1950 by the Federal Security Agency, now known as the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Over 30 state legislatures have adopted portions of the Draft Act, and all states have legislation on their agendas which will implement the total effect of the plan. Appropriate legislation is filtered from higher levels through the Governors’ conference and enters the state legislatures as administration bills. Since 1954, the National Governors’ Conference on Mental Health has concentrated on getting legislation passed in all 48 states.

The “Draft Act” is a skeleton bill for other legislation and offers the following definition of mental illness: “Mentally ill individual—an individual having a psychiatric or other disease which substantially impairs his mental health.” Combining “other disease” with the philosophy of the movement, one does not have to strain his imagination to see in what direction things are moving. Under the program, each state will provide “services to individuals, particularly children and adolescents, before they ever become patients in any sense of the term.”

The program is admittedly a preventive program and begins by treating the children. Educational facilities are being exploited for their propaganda and program. This is being done through the “production, purchase and distribution of mass educational media, such as pamphlets, films, reports, news bulletins, etc.” And, if the parents of children do not see the proper perspectives according to Michigan specialists, “Prevention here encompasses the implications of maternal separation.…” In plain language, this means, according to the Quarterly Journal on World Mental Health, that “… preventive health services are bound to interfere with individual liberty … and if they aim at mental as well as physical health they must be prepared to separate mothers from their children and to supervise the lives of people who would like to be let alone.”

Can The Church Be Heard?

In a fast moving world, which, since the sputniks, has shifted faith to science more than ever before, the Church must raise a loud voice to make herself heard. That voice must not give an uncertain sound. For the tensions of our day, there still stands the immovable Christ who charged the Church to be his witness. The message of that Church must be the eternal message of salvation by grace. The historic confessions must be unfolded anew. Our comfort in life and death is that we belong to a faithful Saviour, and our deepest purpose is to know God and enjoy him forever. Mental health proponents have missed the very burden of the word which sums up the entire message of the Church—“Gospel”; the Christian never sees his sin and guilt apart from the grace of God. Peacemakers are sons of God in Christ, and not those with “one foot in humanism and the other in science.”

Article continues below

A mental health clinic exists in my community. It crept in quietly with the support of Federal and State funds. After momentum was gained, it heralded the news that the clergy had pronounced a benediction upon its efforts and goals. This was untrue and is now being publicly challenged at the local level. Counseling? Yes. Psychology and psychiatry? To be sure. Organized humanistic tax-supported mental control? Absolutely not. Neither the evangelical church nor our nation can long endure if the mental health movement succeeds in charting our destiny.

Yet one cannot help but feel that the success of this movement is an indictment of the Church. Perhaps there is some truth in the claim of Albert Schweitzer that “the Church has lost her voice.” The world-wide attention which this mental health movement has been granted evidences the need for stability in these restive times. Such an organization as this should prod us to redouble our energies in the proclamation of the only hope of mankind before humanism under a governmental and scientific halo insidiously envelops us.

In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee,” and Paul writes in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This aspect of the Gospel must receive renewed emphasis from our pulpits. Christian psychiatrists and psychologists must lead the way scientifically and clinically. And our national leaders must not fail to preserve our cherished freedoms lest the minds of men be enslaved to the self-appointed gods of mental health. If the Christian who is concerned with this area of life has lost his voice, it is not because he has lost his message. The redemptive work of Christ is sufficient unto all man’s needs. The evangel must not be snuffed out without a death struggle by the body of Christ.

Article continues below

How poor, how paltry seems the goal

Of a missile’s little span,

When the heights of heaven may be scaled

By the prayers of man.


Arthur H. DeKruyter has been pastor of Western Springs Christian Reformed Church in Illinois since 1951. He holds the A.B. and Th.B. degrees from Calvin College Seminary, the Th.M. from Princeton Seminary, and has taken postgraduate studies at Edinburgh and Northwestern Universities.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.