Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yeakley's Study Misinterpreted

Recently, I was accused of misusing results of Flavil Yeakley's experiment on my website. However, reading The Discipling Dilemma where Yeakley presented the results of his experiment and his explanation showed me that the general idea of my material was correct (there are however some small points that might need some improvement). However, I also came to conclusion that some non-Christian psychologists/cult experts misunderstand Yeakley's book.

Yeakley is not only a psychologist, but also a Christian. He spent over 25 years in full-time local church work as a gospel preacher. He served as the director of the Church Growth Institute at Abilene Christian University. He is the author of Why Churches Grow, Church Leadership and Organization, several booklets and tracts, and numerous articles (from the introduction to part I of The Discipling Dilemma). The matter of his being a Christian and a Christian minister should never be neglected.

His explanation of the results of his experiment involves not only psychology, but also Christian spiritual experience. Actually, Christian experience is the main point in his explanation.

He used MBTI for members of ICC (the Boston movement) as well as for members of Churches of Christ (not involved in this movement), members of other Christian denominations and members of non-Christian manipulative sects (this is his his term for destructive cults). His purpose was to show the difference between the results of the proper Christian spiritual experience in Christian denominations and the results of the experience of members of ICC and non-Christian destructive cults.

His experiment showed that the members of ICC and non-Christian destructive cults experience the change of their personality types toward the personality types of the leaders of their groups. However, members of Christian denominations do not experience this change.

This shows that the change of personality types experienced by members of ICC is not the result of Christian growth. This is the main Yeakley's conclusion. However, this point was completely neglected by non-Christian psychologists/cult experts.

Then, Yeakley admits that Christians should be changed while they experience Christian growth. However, these changes do not involve the change of personality types.

For example, the New Testament teaches that Christians should love one another, forgive one another, and should not condemn one another. The Gospels also show that Christ behaved this way. However, Christians can be, for example, either extroverts or introverts. The Bible never teaches that introverts should become extroverts or vise versa. On the contrary, the New Testament teaches that Christians have different spiritual gifts, and no one has all the gifts. This shows that Christians should not pursue uniformity, but they should develop the gifts they have. This is the proper Christian growth.

Non-Christian psychologists/cult experts completely neglect this point. This shows that they did not understand at all what Yeakley was writing in his book. Actually, Yeakley's main idea was not related to mind control, but to Christian spiritual experience.

Unfortunately, non-Christian psychologists/cult experts tend to identify Christian experience with mind control. They also tend to consider Christians, especially the Christians devoted to Christ as cultists. This is absolutely wrong. Yeakley is an example of a devoted Christian, even a Christian minister. I guess no psychologist is going to say that he is a cultist.

My contacts with some of psychologists/cult experts showed me that they actually do not know what Christian spiritual experience is. However, this is the crucial concept of Yeakley's book. His intention was not to show that mind control produces changes of personality types (as they usually interpret his book). His intention was to show that the changes of personality types in ICC is not the result of proper Christian growth, but the result of unhealthy influence. He makes a clear distinction between the proper Christian growth and the changes of personality types (which is caused by what is usually called mind control). This is the main thought of The Discipling Dilemma totally misunderstood by non-Christian psychologists. Unfortunately, even after reading this book, they still do not know the difference between mind control and proper Christian spiritual experience. This means that they completely misunderstood this book.