Posted by: Tony | February 1, 2007

James Dobson’s Gospel of Self Esteem & Psychology

Below you will find attached a FREE book called “James Dobson’s Gospel of Self Esteem & Psychology”. This is a very good book because it does not denigrate Dr. Dobson as a person, but rather tests his teachings by the rule of the Scriptures. I would highly recommend everyone read it, since it deals with “Christian Psychology” in general including self-esteem, self-love, etc. Below is an excerpt from the book on the outlandish (if not blasphemous) idea that Dobson promotes, namely that sometimes we Christians should ‘forgive God’. The authors start out examining whether te common idea of ‘forgiving self’ is really biblical.


Since secular humanistic psychological theorists do not believe in God, they serve as their own gods and thereby teach people that they must forgive themselves. Now Christians are parroting those teachings. In telling about a family ski incident that happened in 1982, when he took his children to a more challenging slope than they could manage, Dobson says, “Both kids have forgiven me for my foolish decision, but I still haven’t forgiven myself.”

What kind of a statement is that? Is it biblical? Psychological? Self-condemning? Self-righteous? Does the Bible tell us to forgive ourselves or to withhold forgiveness from ourselves if we really feel bad about what we did? What does the Bible say about forgiving self?

The Bible has a great deal to say about God forgiving us and us forgiving one another, but it says nothing about forgiving ourselves, because forgiving oneself is not the answer to sin. If an unbeliever forgives himself, for instance, he is still in his sin. If a believer forgives himself, he is taking the place of God. If he says, “I know God has forgiven me, but I just can’t forgive myself,” he is placing his own judgment above God’s merciful provision.

Forgiving self comes from the same humanistic, psychological roots as self-love, self-worth, and self-esteem. These are for people whose god is self-not for those whose God is the Lord. The Bible clearly commands us to love the Lord our God, our neighbor as ourselves, our brothers and sisters in the faith, and even our enemies (Deut. 13:3; Matt. 5:44 & 22:37-40; Mark 12:30,31; Luke 6:27 & 10:27; John 15:12). It also tells us to forgive one another, as God has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

It is sad to see any Christian think it is his option to forgive or not forgive himself and then not to forgive himself even after years have elapsed. But, when one is committed to psychological self-teachings, such as self-love and self-esteem, self-forgiveness seems like a logical necessity, but it is not biblical.

Forgiveness is meant to be an act of love between persons rather that within one’s own self. Self-forgiveness is just one more symptom of humanistic self-love, and self-condemnation is just one more symptom of self as god.

Forgiving or not forgiving self is based on pride. Confessing our sin to God and to one another and then receiving forgiveness from God and one another should result in humility and gratitude. Not receiving and believing God’s forgiveness, either by not confessing sin or by holding onto a self-righteousness that says,”I can’t forgive myself,” is prideful and ungrateful. It places one’s own evaluation over God’s, and when we’ve been forgiven by others, it says that their forgiveness is not adequate.

Christians have been saved and forgiven on the basis of the sacrificial death of Jesus, who died in our place. Thus, when God forgives His children, it is finished, signed, sealed, and forgotten. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).


A logical, but diabolical extension of teaching people to forgive themselves is teaching people to forgive God. This is another intrusion of psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies into Christianity.

Dobson says he is not a theologian, but he prolifically speaks and writes on theological subjects, albeit from a psychological perspective. In his best-selling book When God Doesn’t Make Sense, which represents a hodgepodge of good and bad theology, Dobson advises his readers to forgive God:

There is only one cure for the cancer of bitterness. That is to forgive the perceived offender once and for all, with God’s help. As strange as it seems, I am suggesting that some of us need to forgive God for those heartaches that are charged to His account. You’ve carried resentment against Him for years. Now it’s time to let go of it.
(Emphasis added.)

Anticipating a reaction to what he has just said, Dobson continues by saying:

Please don’t misunderstand me at this point. God is in the business of forgiving us, and it almost sounds blasphemous to suggest that the relationship could be reversed.

Dobson concludes by saying:

He [God] has done no wrong and does not need our approbation. But the source of bitterness must be admitted before it can be cleansed. There is no better way to get rid of it than to absolve the Lord of whatever we have harbored, and then ask His forgiveness for our lack of faith. It’s called reconciliation, and it is the only way you will ever be entirely free.20 (Emphasis added.)

The dictionary defines blasphemy as “profane or contemptuous speech, writing, or action concerning God.” The above writing by Dobson shows at minimum disrespect, if not out right contempt for God. Referring to his idea of forgiving God, Dobson says, “. . . it almost sounds blasphemous.” Does it almost sound blasphemous or is it blasphemous?

Can you imagine saying the Lord’s Prayer, coming to the words, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and including God among those who have sinned against us? What audacity! What a misunderstanding of who God is and what He has done for sinners! We are the sinners for whom Christ died. He, who knew no sin, paid the penalty for our sins. Why would any human being forgive God unless God has sinned? Is it because twentieth-century Christians are so immersed in self that they have lost sight of God? Is it because the psychological reason for forgiving others is to make oneself feel better?

Did Job ever consider the possibility of forgiving God? He attributed the loss of all his children and all his property as from God.

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly (Job: 1:20-22).

After he was smitten with boils, he wanted to plead his case before God because he knew God was righteous. But, not once did he think he needed to forgive God. The very idea of forgiving God can only be foolishly entertained as a result of having charged God foolishly, and “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”

Forgive God? Who are we to even think such a thought? We are the creatures; He is the creator. He is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, perfect in holiness. We are none of those things. His ways are perfect; ours are not. His ways are righteous; ours are not. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). We are sinners. What does Dobson mean by advising mere, mortal man, a speck in the cosmos, a brief actor in the course of human history, man who hardly represents a jot or tittle compared to his Maker, to forgive the One who created all that is and oversees all that happens?! This type of distorted theology is something for which Dobson should repent.

If we truly know the character of God, would we ever, ever think of such an outrageous idea? If we know God’s character and believe His Word, no such thought would ever cross our minds.

There’s more here. To justify man forgiving God, Dobson uses a logical fallacy of false analogy. A logic book says:

To recognize the fallacy of false analogy, look for an argument that draws a conclusion about one thing, event, or practice on the basis of its analogy or resemblance to others. The fallacy occurs when the analogy or resemblance is not sufficient to warrant the conclusion, as when, for example, the resemblance is not relevant to the possession of the inferred feature or there are relevant dissimilarities.

Dobson gives an example of the late Corrie ten Boom forgiving a man who was a prison guard when she was interned in a prison camp. The story of Corrie ten Boom forgiving this former concentration camp guard is poignant and powerful, but it is not a valid parallel to man forgiving God. This was one person forgiving another person who had sinned against her, which is what we are commanded to do. This was not Corrie ten Boom forgiving God. It is doubtful she would ever have considered it. To do so one must have a high view of self and a low view of God. This is another example of what happens when a person attempts to incorporate the selfism of psychology with the Word of God and another example of how using psychology transmogrifies truth.

Click here to download the book in PDF format. Dobson’s Gospel of Self Esteem and Psychology



  1. Very interesting article, and well-formulated argument. I fully agree that we never ought to assume we should ever be in a position to “forgive God” – that’s absurdity! If anyone holds something against God, he needs to repent before God and ask for forgiveness FROM GOD for harboring that feeling.

    As to the question of forgiving oneself, I am intrigued very much by what you had to say and will definitely be looking into this more. I see indeed that it is never found in the Bible, which is an excellent defense of your position. I honestly never looked at this before, but I am very happy to have come across your article. Thanks very much!

  2. Hi,
    Everyone with a brain who has ever read the bible knows that we can not be saved by forgiving ourselves.
    But People still need to choose to receive the grace that god will give us if we truly reptent. Thats what christains are refering to when they talking about self forgiveness. They usally dont mean you can forgive your self and so your sins are forgiven.

    People can fall into self condemnation because of the lies from satan called the accuser (Revelation 12:10)

  3. Thank you for this eye-opening topic. After sitting here this morning and reading websites after website, some of my most favorite Christian writers, pastors and psychologist have just fallen off their pedestals. Just reminds me that people don’t belong on pedestals.

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