Abraham Maslow or Jesus Christ – What’s it Gonna Be?

I suppose you are wondering what I’m on about this time! And who’s this Maslow fellow? Those are both understandable concerns. It wasn’t until earlier today that I discovered the connection between Maslow and most of today’s evangelicalism. And after all, I’m not William Tapley, the 3rd Eagle of the Apocalypse and co-prophet of the End-Times! I’m a it slow some times.

I made the connection while reading an article about something else entirely and coming across the term ‘self-actualization’. The term immediately brought Abraham Maslow to mind, since I first heard that term in a class discussion concerning human behavior. According to Maslow, self-actualization sits as the top of a pyramid that explains why people behave the way they do. Here’s that pyramid, with explanations of the main human ‘needs’ areas and what they each mean:



It seems to me that today’s evangelicalism, as expressed by today’s seeker friendly/purpose driven models, is more about and speaks more to individual psychological and self-fulfillment needs in the exact terms expressed above, than it does about behaving in all things first and foremost to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

Instead of being told we are sinners deserving of the wrath of God (Eph 2), we are taught that what’s missing from our lives is a personal ‘relationship’ with Jesus, whose principal and often sole character trait is love, love, love. None of that sin judgment stuff, “All We Need is Love”!

We are told all about ‘community’ and relationships with other believers, and put into ‘Life Groups’ to help us feel a great sense of ‘belonging’ to something bigger than ourselves. When we are pumped up to buy into the ‘vision’ of our church’s Pastor, pitched as given to the Pastor directly and often audibly from God himself, the sense of ‘belonging’ seems even more intense.

In many of our churches, our self-esteem and how good we feel about ourselves seems to be of paramount importance. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Dr. Robert Schuler once stated that our lack of self-esteem is THE great sin and patterned his ministry around that assertion. Thanks to a couple of good students of his, we’ve seen the birth and growth of the seeker-friendly and purpose driven models for ‘doing’ church. If we use the Apostle Paul’s model and simply preach Christ crucified and resurrected because of OUR sins, we are out of touch.

That brings us to the ultimate goal of all human beings (according to Abraham Maslow and others), to find self-fulfillment /actualization. In today’s evangelical jargon, it’s called one’s ‘dream destiny’. That’s not a new concept either. It’s been the staple of motivational speakers for years (just Google ‘dream destiny & tony Robbins)! Now it’s also all over the evangelical landscape. People in pews and stadium seats from coast to coast are constantly being told how to find and accomplish their ‘dream destiny’, which has been especially designed by God for each and every person!

Today’s gospel is that ‘Jesus died for your dreams’, not ‘Christ died for our sins’. I actually heard that from an Army Chaplain one Sunday morning and relocated to a different Chapel for Sunday worship. If you don’t believe me about how widespread this new gospel is, try listening to Rick Warren and Joel Osteen for a bit, not to mention a growing number of formerly sound Biblical churches and Pastors.

And how great this new gospel sounds to the itching ears of fallen men, and how easily it deceives genuine believers who are not yet well informed by the truth of scripture that speaks of dying to self, not living for self!

Yes, Abraham Maslow had it right concerning what we ‘naturally’ want most out of life. What a great tragedy that so many churches have adopted, and are preaching a ‘gospel’ of self-actualization. I wonder if he foresaw the evangelical church capitalizing on his needs hierarchy in the name of faux church growth.

The most significant question for many of today’s evangelical churches might be “What are you teaching in your church – Abraham Maslow and self-actualization, or Jesus Christ and self-denial?”

As an individual believer, I can ask myself “What is my Christian life and walk about – Abraham Maslow and self-actualization, or Jesus Christ and self-denial?”

What about you and your church, dear reader? Abraham Maslow or Jesus Christ – what’s it gonna be?

11 responses to “Abraham Maslow or Jesus Christ – What’s it Gonna Be?

  1. Excellent Dan. I have never equated Maslow with a false Gospel but it’s a really good comparison.



  2. We had to learn about Maslow’s hierarchy time and again in college, Dan. All educators are drilled with the concepts in this pyramid.

    As an educator and a Christian who has taught parenting classes, I have never liked the term “self-esteem.” In the “self-esteem” class that I taught to parents, I always used the term “self-worth.” It is still not a perfect term but it is better. I would explain to parents that in God’s eyes we have tremendous worth. I also made it a point to let the parent know why I wasn’t a fan of the term “self-esteem.” It is a term that many use for “self-actualization” as you have mentioned. After all, we are sinners.

    The distinction of course from the question: Where do we get our value? Does it come from ourselves or does it come from God?

    Our value comes from God and I don’t know how we can see ourselves in a more true light. We are sinners saved by grace alone. We have to view our worth looking through glasses of God’s Word concerning the Law and His wonderful mercy and grace. It is then that we can understand, to some degree, the love that God has for us.

    Great post my friend…

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Dan. I really appreciate this post. It is a topic that should be discussed particularly in light of the things you’ve mentioned. It’s been a long time since Mr. Maslow was introduced to me. It has only been in the last 15 years or so that I’ve been uncomfortable with the term. I like your title. Praise God that our worth comes from Him and not something good we have done. Mankind would be lost if it did.


        • I remember when the Army came out with “Be all you can be!” As a Christian I I thought it was about God being all he is in us. Now we have an awful lot of ‘preachers’ telling their congregations that God’s greatest wish is that we all fulfill our ‘dream destinies’, as if they all come straight from God and couldn’t possibly be from our flesh.

          Liked by 2 people

          • There is so much of this new age type stuff out there one can’t keep up with it all. The term “dream destinies” is new to me, Dan. I’m glad I’m familiar with it now so that when I run across it again it won’t be the first time.

            It sounds like a name for a luxury cruise.

            It also sounds like another fancy way to say “It’s all about me.” I think you have made the right conclusion that it is “from the flesh.” We can trace this all the way back to the garden. It takes different forms in different names in different times. “It’s all about me” takes the glory from the One who deserves it (as you have mentioned when you noted 1 Cor. 10:31) and places it on man. It seems that this idea of “dream destinies” is another version of the old lie “you will be like God.”

            I have probably over simplified it but when I remember the Army slogan “Be all you can be!” It doesn’t sound as strange to me as “dream destinies.”

            There are probably two reasons for this. The first is that I appreciate any man who has been willing to defend our freedom of speech laws which include religious freedom. The second is that way one can view almost everything in this world, there is a good way to look at it and a bad way.

            We can come close to “Being all we can be” with the help of God. There is no other way we will be close to being in His will. The slogan almost reminds me of Paul’s description of running a race. We can “Be all we can be” if we keep the faith. It sounds like this is how you understood it when you first heard it.

            If “Be all we can be” is looked at in worldly way without a balanced view of scripture, in the end, we will learn, hopefully, that it is not the correct way.

            This post makes one think about how we view certain things. Something that is accepted by the majority may not be right. You mentioned Dr. Schuller. I remember when I was a kid, if we didn’t go to church, we would watch him instead.

            My Mom is a strong Christian and she always liked his “positive” messages in his “Hour of Power.” Many of Mr. Schuller’s quotes are memorable. I remember he would talk about all things being “possible,” a very solid Biblical theme. However, in many ways, if one studies his life it seems that this was possibly used to tell people what they wanted to hear. It was a message of hope after all.

            I also remember checking out his show later in life and seeing guests who were very popular in the world’s eyes but I had never known them to speak out about their faith in any other setting. This wasn’t always the case, but even as a young Christian it made me wonder.

            This “hope” message took him to a popular place in Christendom. He was able to build a Crystal Cathedral. Yet, how many people know that when Pastor Schueller died last year his daughter “Carol Schuller-Milner started Monday’s service by thanking those who helped her father during his last years, which she said ‘were extremely difficult.?’”
            “Schuller-Milner raised money for her father’s funeral through a GoFundMe campaign started last week. As of Monday afternoon, about $5,700 had been raised. She said after the bankruptcy her parents had been left “financially crippled” and lived on Social Security income during their last years.”

            Source: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/schuller-658703-people-time.html

            I am not a critic of people who die with no money. Look at the Apostle Paul and so many others.

            However, here is one of Pastor Schuller’s most famous calls:

            “In 1982 Robert Schuller issued a call for a new reformation in his book Self-Esteem, the New Reformation.”

            I found this quote at my friend Sherryn’s blog here:


            Why did Pastor Schuller’s “new reformation” fail? I think anyone who does a little research can find out why.

            The Apostle Paul didn’t fail. His triumphant last Words are God inspired in 2nd Timothy.

            “And how great this new gospel sounds to the itching ears of fallen men, and how easily it deceives genuine believers who are not yet well informed by the truth of scripture that speaks of dying to self, not living for self!”

            You have made a ringer here, Dan. This has been the truth throughout history and we see it in so many ways within “Churches” today.

            Some of the things Jesus said aren’t popular. However, we can’t skip over them and just speak about the things that are popular to everyone. If we do this, we are not considering the whole counsel of God, which is as important today as it ever has been.

            God’s blessings my friend…


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