Freud and the Bible

Sigmund Freud theorized that human beings are internally comprised of three parts:  the Id, Ego, and Superego.  He depicted the Id as humanity’s primitive impulses or drives that seek expression.  The Superego is humanity’s conscience and is socialized by external influences such as parents, religions, teachers, etc.  In between the two stands the conscious self, the Ego, who serves as an arbiter between the Id and Superego.   Internal conflict arises when the Id seeks expression in the conscious self, but is suppressed by the Superego.  The Superego is seen as the source of conflict since it hinders the counselee from following their Id’s desires.  Therefore the counselor sides with the counselee’s Id and attacks the various influences which bolster the Superego’s stand against the Id’s desires.  Are your parents advising you against something?  Ignore them and follow your desires.  Are you a part of an overly-scrupulous religious organization?  Leave that church and join one with a looser moral code.  Is the Bible telling you to keep yourself from sin?  Then cast that archaic book aside and allow your desires to run unfettered.  With the Superego quieted, the internal conflict is removed and the Id is free to operate without restriction. Freud’s paradigm agrees with scripture in some respects.  The Bible describes us as tripartite beings made up of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  In a rough, imperfect way, the spirit corresponds to Freud’s Superego; the soul to the Ego; and the body to the Id.  The Bible also unveils a struggle between spirit and body (aka Superego and Id if you will)  best illustrated by Paul in Romans 7.  However, Freud and the Bible part ways in the diagnosis and prescription for humanity’s internal conflict.  Where Freud perceives human beings as completely physical in their makeup, the Bible presents man as part physical, part spiritual.  While both agree that the body’s desires are in and of themselves amoral, the Bible contends that a spiritual being should not be directed by fleshly impulses.  In short, Freud sides with the Id over the Superego while the Bible sides with the spirit over the body.

A Freudian approach ultimately removes individual accountability.  Freudian psychoanalysis depicts the struggle between Superego and Id as the fault of external forces.  The influence of parents, church, the Bible, teachers, etc., are the culprits behind the Superego’s overdeveloped strictures.  In other words, you feel guilty because the standards of others are making you feel guilty, not because you are truly guilty.  Therefore, guilty feelings are dismissed as phantom pangs, false indicators of wrong doing.  Since the source of one’s guilt is an Id repressed by an externally influenced Superego, the counselee should ignore the Superego and follow the Id, thereby removing the false sense of guilt.

The Bible soundly disagrees.  Behavior lies at heart of humanity’s disease.  Guilt is created when one violates their standards by following what they want to do instead of what they ought to do.  The Bible prescribes confession and repentance as the solution.  A person is healed when they acknowledge wrong doing, accept responsibility, and commit to change.  Even when this process is performed apart from the Bible, it promotes the well-being of its practitioner.  However, when practiced in conjunction with God’s will, the practitioner finds the ultimate internal cleansing.  God empowers this process with the cleansing power of Christ’s blood.  Eternal redemption liberates the conscience and ushers in true internal peace.

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  1. April 15, 2016

    In your information concerning Freud and The Bible, where you say that the Bible soundly disagrees (with Freud) I dont see any of your information mentioning Sin. How come? Romans 3:23 and Ecclesiates 7:20 and also 1 John 1:8, do. Are you afraid to, for some reason?

  2. April 20, 2016

    Hi Ronald. Thanks for the inquiry.
    The last two paragraphs are talking about sin, although I never used the word. From Freud’s vantage point, the guilt one feels about sin is created by a failure to live up to another’s expectations as opposed to true guilt. This is one of the areas where Freud and the Bible part ways as I note in the final paragraph. The sense of guilt we feel for sin is not externally imposed, it is internal. If we confess our sins, repent of those sins, and behave according to God’s will in the future, we will be healed.

  3. […] Freud has tremendous explanatory power over this text or our culture has become so imbued with Freudianism that we are willing to read the text just about however we can to make it fit. I’m not going […]

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