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.


pignotti said...

With regards to Yeakley and Christianity I have nothing to say because that is not my area and I have no interest in getting into a debate on cults and religion. My criticism of the MBTI and how it has been misused by cult experts was not specifically directed at Lema, but rather, at a number of cult experts who have made unwarranted conclusions based on this study. I fully explain my reasons for this on my blog:

pignotti said...

Just to add one more thing: I fully understand that Yeakley doesn't take the mind control position on cults. I was responding to others who do take that position and have cited Yeakley's work as evidence for cult mind control which it is not. That doesn't mean, however that I think that this is Yeakley's position.

Lema Nal said...

Your first criticism (in FOM) was directed at me. You accused me of misusing Yeakley's experiment. Later, you directed your criticism to others.

My point, however, is that non-Christian cult experts completely misunderstood Yeakley. BTW, he even did not use the terms "mind control", "brainwashing", "thought reform", and "coercive persuasion" which are usually used by cult experts. His main point was the matter of Christian spiritual experience.

I agree that the change of personality types that he found among the members of ICC and some non-Christian cults can be considered as the effect of mind control in those groups. However, I disagree with the presentation of Yeakley's experiment and his explanation of it only in psychological way. He made this explanation both in Christian and psychological ways. The presentation of only the psychological side is absolutely not sufficient.

In addition, here, there is another important issue. Yeakley made a clear distinction between proper Christian spiritual experience in some denominations and unhealthy influence (actually, mind control) in ICC and some non-Christian cults. However, non-Christian cult experts still confuse these two things.

Their unwillingness to admit that these things are different eventually leads them to their tendency of viewing Christianity as mind-controlling and raises a barrier between them and Christians. This is a very negative tendency since many people who leave Bible-oriented and other religious cults seek for proper religious experience. However, these cult experts tend to promote atheism, agnosticism, and materialism. I think that cult experts should abstain from promotion their atheism, agnosticism, or religion to ex-members of cults.

BTW, Monica, I have never encouraged you to become a Christian or to receive any other religion. However, you did try to persuade me to be an atheist. I am strongly against your attempts to change my views on religious matters. I have a right to make my own free choice to believe in God or to be an atheist.

Regarding MBTI, I admit that it might have some limitations and shortages. However, is there any perfect psychological test that does not have any limitations? I really doubt.

pignotti said...

I never attempted to "persuade you to become an atheist." If you want to believe in God, by all means do. That doesn't mean I have to agree with you. You seem to have somehow misinterpreted my stating reasons why I have the views I do as an attempt to persuade you. I have no interest in persuading you of anything. As I said, I am aware of Yeakley's position on the brainwashing issue and it has nothing at all to do with my criticism of his study, which was based on his methodology -- using retrospective reporting of the MBTI (that means having people think back to the past and answer the MBTI as they would have in the past). The MBTI is not validated at all to be used in that manner. It has nothing at all to do with Yeakley's position on mind control. I've made my position clear on this matter and have no wish to discuss it further.

Lema Nal said...

On the one hand, I understand why Yeakley used MBTI in this way: for the present, past, and future. He simply needed to make a comparison. On the other hand, there is a way to use the test only one time (for the present) and find out if there are changes of personality types or not.

Carr Conway said...

I noted the information about the substantial declines in Church of Christ membership. While all the reasons are difficult to identify, I believe a substantial reason is our tolerance of pedophiles among us and even giving them safe harbor and access to our children within our institutions. Our daughter was sexually assaulted by a fellow member of our brotherhood several years ago. Because of that neither of our daughters will have anything to do with the churches of Christ. Forgiveness should not include allowing the pedophile access to our children.

The subject pedophile is now in the employ of a major Christian college. When our institutions choose to provide safe harbor and access to our innocent children to pedophiles, it is no small wonder our churches are being harmed by our tacit endorsement of pedophilia.

Borz Löma Nal (Lema Nal) said...

I did not know anything about tolerance of pedophiles in the Churches of Christ. I definitely agree with you that pedophilia should not be tolerated in the church. Pedophiles may be mentally sick and need therapy. They may genuinely repent for their actions. However, this does not mean that they should be allowed to do that again.

Thank you for sharing your experience.