Behaviorism?

Accusation:  What you are doing isn’t really unique. It’s only a species of Behaviorism.

This false charge has been made by those who have a propensity to lump together all things that sound similar. Their problem—and it’s a serious one—is that they read and think carelessly. They have little power of discernment; they do not know how to make valid distinctions. “Adams speaks of ‘behavior,’ he talks about ‘reward and punishment.’ Ergo, he is teaching behaviorism.”

But long before Watson or Skinner ever drew a breath God was speaking of behavior, reward and punishment. Dare we call Him a Behaviorist? Hardly. God regularly traces outer behavior to the “heart.” By heart, He means the inner person. Outer action is but a result of the inner thinking, determining, etc. Nowhere is changing the outer person alone a solution to man’s problems. Rather, that is Pharisaism. Since sin is a “inside job,” salvation must be too. Inner regeneration is necessary to produce outer changes that please God. Works (outer behavior) must flow from faith (inner belief); neither is sufficient without the other.

Moreover, in behaviorism, the goal is to reward the desired behavior immediately in order to make it stick. In the Bible, true reward is delayed until eternity (Cf. Hebrews 11:13-16; 24-27). And, God-pleasing behavior is governed not by manipulation and “control,” but by inner desire to please God. Always keep in mind 1 Peter 1:14b-15, 18-19:

Don’t shape your lives by the desires that you used to follow in your ignorance. Instead, as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves must become holy in all your behavior…knowing that you weren’t set free from the useless behavior patterns that were passed down from your forefathers, by the payment of a corruptible ransom like silver or gold, but with Christ’s valuable blood.

See the difference? The conclusion? “Be deeply concerned about how you behave during your residence as aliens” (1 Peter 1:17). Nouthetic counselors will continue to do so!

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