"Though my illness persists, I have finally met the God I had heard about but never truly experienced. A God who heals. A God who loves. A God I cannot logically explain to my psychiatrist. A God who manifests his genius by salvaging good from the evil in our lives. Someone unlike me. Someone unlike the well-meaning inquisitors who judged me and sought to spiritually cure me. Someone I never would have discovered without my affliction." David Weiss- A Christian who is a schizophrenic.
Pandora's Cluster-Hubble Telescope
Over the last three weeks, TWW has received five unrelated emails, which expressed dismay for the type of counseling given by churches. A couple of these emails were from former SGM members and the others were from churches that could be defined as heavy handed authoritarian based churches or, as one writer called her church, “an sgm wannabe.”
Before I begin, I want to clarify a few issues.
There are a number of churches, which do encourage their congregation to seek help from well-qualified and trained psychologists and counselors for serious psychiatric problems. This series is not an indictment on them.
Sin does play a role in some psychological manifestations just like sin plays a role in our everyday lives. Obviously, when a man deserts his family, takes up with a new honey and then complains of chronic anxiety, there is reason to point towards his actions.
However, it is important to note that all disease is a by-product of the fall. When my daughter was diagnosed with her brain tumor, I understood that, when all is redeemed, cancer will be a thing of the past. However, although cancer is a direct result of the Fall, we still took her to a neurosurgeon to remove the cancer.
Jesus Himself, dealt with this question. In John 9:1-3, NIV, we read:
"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. "
Many of us forget that just a few centuries ago, many illnesses were thought to be caused by demons. We laugh at the naïveté of these primitive people. However, today, there are countless people in the post-evangelical thicket who believe that all mental illnesses are caused by poor upbringing or weak people who are probably hiding some secret sin.
My daughter’s world-class neurosurgeon once confessed to me that he feels like a caveman when he is operating on a child’s brain. He said that we know very little about how the brain functions and likened it to how little we have explored of the universe. So, in his thinking, the complexity of the brain is like the complexity of the universe on a smaller scale.
I think it involves incredible hubris to claim that all or even the majority of mental illness or psychological dysfunction is caused by sin. Not only that, but this sort of counseling actually claims that the person, who is seriously abused and experiences various psychological manifestations, does so because they are harboring sin.
We know of a situation in which a group of young teen boys were seriously and gruesomely molested by a pedophile over a period of time. The consequences to their well-being was devastating. Yet, untrained pastors felt these boys did not need professional counseling, outside of the church, and so they provided the counseling. One boy had a 45-minute session and was deemed “just fine.” (He wasn’t). Another boy had turned to illicit drug usage to dull his pain. One of the leaders asked a boy why he didn’t go to his parents because “surely he knew it was wrong.” Obviously, this coldhearted man was letting the boy know it was his fault for allowing the molestation to continue. You see, the boy was as much of a sinner as the rapist! This is the at the heart of the issue that we will be discussing.
In the meantime, research indicates that certain mental illnesses have a chemical basis. Some of these would include Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. Today’s advanced imaging techniques show distinct brain changes in some of those with mental illnesses.
There are also laboratory tests that show measurable neurotransmitter changes which affect the flow of serotonin and other such substances that affect neurological functioning. Changes in such chemicals can have profound affects on brain functioning. Yet, certain “Christian” therapies would deny this and say that such psychiatric symptoms are merely sin.
Severe abuse, both of children and adults, also tends to cause serious mental health issues. Did sin cause this? Yes, but the effects are those born by the victim. However, this new form of counseling does not recognize the innocence involved in these manifestations of pain. Such "Biblical" counseling would claim that the victim is “just a sinner.”
Years ago, epilepsy was thought to be caused by demons. Today, we have changed the word “demons” to “sin.” Just like the ignorant people of the past and their flawed view of disease amuse us, my guess is that in the future, if Jesus tarries, our descendents will shake their head at our ignorant presumptions.
Each of those who wrote to TWW expressed a similar theme. Their previous churches did not believe in “psychologists” and employed counseling techniques called Biblical Counseling or Nouthetic Counseling or NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors.). I need to make a distinction here. There seems to be a difference in Biblical counseling and NANC terminology. From what I can tell, NANC, the most recognized group within conservative churches believes that "Biblical" (read non-NANC) counselors often employ secular psychological techniques and are, therefore, caving to the sinful beliefs of the psychological establishment. It is important to realize, however, that these two terms for counseling can sometimes be used interchangeably and understandably cause confusion. People need to ask their churches which of these two methods they are using.
As an aside, one counselor that we know tried to join NANC. They would not let him join because he has an MSW degree and this group believes that such degrees are caving to the system that they are fighting against.
Over at the SGM Survivors blog, we have read comments that, in the past, CJ Mahaney and SGM expressed negativity toward the counseling profession and urged members to stay within the church for their help. I spoke yesterday with a former long-term member of Covenant Life Church (SGM). She said that Mahaney had given a series of talks in which he said that “the therapeutic movement is not consistent with the Gospel.” (Note: once again the word “gospel” is flung around. What do these theological “giants” mean by this word?)
Today many churches are sending members of their congregation to NANC training. One of the people who wrote us said that her church was sending all the church leadership to a weekend to learn to be counselors in this movement. A weekend! He was most disturbed by this,. So, what exactly is Nouthetic counseling?
According to one resource Link here are some beliefs. I am interested in how our readers respond to many of these assumptions. We will be discussing this more in-depth next week.
Apparently, everything that affects out emotional state is cause by sin!
“Psychological counseling often promotes the belief that problems adversely affecting a person’s mental and emotional welfare are determined by circumstances external to the person, such as parental abuse or environment. The Bible tells us that a man’s evil heart and his sinful choices cause his mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).”
What do they believe about psychotherapy?
"Psychotherapy attempts to improve the self through concepts such as self-love, self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, self-actualization, etc. The Bible teaches that self is humanity’s main problem, not the solution to the ills that plague mankind. And it prophetically identifies the chief solution of psychological counseling, self-love, as the catalyst to a life of depravity. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves… ”(2 Timothy 3:1).”
What is meant by the word “nouthetic?” According to Institute for Nouthetic Studies LINK
“Nouthetic” counseling is biblical counseling—it gets its name from the Greek work noutheteo which is usually translated “admonish” (Romans 15:14, NKJV). It means “to confront as a friend” and was the normal method of counseling before modernists invented secular psychology in the early 1900s..
That change gradually came about as the secular psychology influence changed our idea of counseling from that given by a pastor to that given by a secular psychologist. During the mid-20th century, many Christians thought they could integrate secular theory into their counseling programs, mixing the Bible with psychology. That practice (called “Christian” counseling) was based on the false assumption that man can discover God’s truth apart from the Bible. In the late 1960s, a number of godly pastors saw the need to reject such damaging influences, and one man (Dr. Jay Adams) led the way in bringing biblical counseling back into pastoral ministry."
What is the difference between psychology and Nouthetic counseling? Link (for next two sections)
“While psychology is based on evolution (editor: When in doubt, throw in evolution to really make them upset) and secular philosophy, biblical counseling is based strictly on biblical principles. For counseling to be biblical, it must be Bible-based, Christ-centered, and local church-oriented."
How does the Bible figure into Nouthetic counseling.
"Nouthetic counseling accepts the premise that the Bible is God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that it is totally sufficient for meeting all our needs (2 Peter 1:3-4). Nouthetic counseling is a refreshing return to a strictly biblical method of problem-solving. Instead of focusing on the problem and expecting years of therapy, nouthetic counseling focuses on the biblical solution and expects the counselee to change—by the power of the Holy Spirit."
What are the three basic points of Nouthetic counseling?
From the Institute for Nouthetic Studies LINK we learn that Nouthetic counseling embraces three concepts.
"1. Confrontation: We mean that one Christian personally gives counsel to another from the Scriptures. He does not confront him with his own ideas or the ideas of others. He limits his counsel strictly to that which may be found in the Bible, believing that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and useful for teaching, for conviction, for correction and for disciplined training in righteousness in order to fit and fully equip the man from God for every good task." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) The nouthetic counselor believes that all that is needed to help another person love God and his neighbor as he should, as the verse above indicates, may be found in the Bible.
2. Concern: We mean that counseling is always done for the benefit of the counselee. His welfare is always in view in Biblical counseling. The apostle Paul put it this way: "I am not writing these things to shame you, but to counsel you as my dear children." (1 Corinthians 4:14) Plainly, the familial nature of the word noutheteo appears in this verse. There is always a warm, family note to biblical counseling which is done among the saints of God who seek to help one another become more like Christ. Christian
3. Change: We mean that counseling is done because there is something in another Christian's life that fails to meet the biblical requirements and that, therefore, keeps him from honoring God. All counseling — Biblical or otherwise– attempts change. Only Biblical counselors know what a counselee should become as the result of counseling: he should look more like Christ. He is the Standard. Biblical counseling is done by Christians who are convinced that God is able to make the changes that are necessary as His Word is ministered in the power.”
Are any of you concerned yet? Well, let me add more fuel to the fire. Apparently, diseases such as schizophrenia, are caused by sin and must be treated as such. Link
“Schizophrenia, for the distinctively Christian counselor, provides no more or no less of a challenge than any other problem involving original sin, personal sin, and the consequences of both. He believes that the resources provided in the Scriptures, coupled with the power of God through His Spirit, are more than adequate. As the Scriptures themselves put it: "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20b, NASV).”
I now end with a testimony by a Nouthetic counselor who shows a profound ignorance of the complexities involved in diseases such schizophrenia. I found this on a discussion at the blog Musings From a Theo-Greek LINK
“ Dear Theo-Geek, I am a nouthetic biblical counselor in our church. I am in the NANC certification process, and I would like to comment on this question from "jdray." Following is what I have learned from my studies over the past several years.
ALL of the so called "disorders" that are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual – IV (DSM-IV) are "diagnosed" using only the person's behavior. The DSM-IV is what psychiatrists and psychologists use to diagnose "disorders" and to bill your medical insurance. Schizophrenia and all other "disorders" listed in the DSM-IV are based solely on behavior.
There is NO blood test for ANY of them. NO chemical imbalance has ever been proven in any of them. They are NOT neurological. They are ALL behavioral. None of them are diseases or illnesses in the medical sense of those words, though the psychiatric and psychological worlds want us to think so.
A great book on this subject is, "The Christian Counselor's Medical Desk Reference," by Dr. Robert Smith. You can find it here (www.timelesstexts.com) or less expensively here (www.alibris.com).
The American Psychiatric Association literally votes to admit new disorders into the DSM-IV. I am told that the DSM-V will include MANY new disorders that the APA has invented. Yes, invented. The drug companies love this because then they have a new disorder to use for marketing their psychotropic drugs.
Occasionally the APA votes to REMOVE some disorders from the DSM. So one year something is a disorder that they medicate you for, charge you for, and bill your insurance, and the next year it's voted as a normal set of behaviors. It is just their opinion on what normal is for a human being. The last normal human being to live was Jesus Christ. He is our model of normal.
There are real illnesses caused by organ malfunctions that result in real, testable, provable chemical imbalances. These real illnesses can change behavior. These illnesses are NOT listed in the DSM-IV because they are true medical problems that medical doctors diagnose with physiological testing, and treat with medication, surgery, and other means.
I have placed "disorder" in quotation marks because while psychiatrists and psychologists call it that, Christians call these behaviors "sin." That might sound callous or even mean to you. Which is more callous or mean? (1) Telling someone they have a disorder for which there is no cure. (2) Telling them they are in sin along with the joyful news that Jesus has forgiveness, and peace of mind, and contentment, and a joyful life for them if they will repent and obey Him! I chose (1) as mean and (2) as kind and true. Find a nouthetic counselor, and let him or her teach you about your sin and about the complete and holy solution for that sin that Jesus offers.”
Now, to give you an incredibly moving story to read this weekend, please find at Christianity Today LINK a touching article called God of the Schizophrenic: Rediscovering my faith amid the ravages of mental illness by David Weiss
David is a schizophrenic who has suffered greatly in trying to overcome this illness. He continues to be afflicted and bravely reveals some of his hallucinations. He writes of his struggles and how he finds God in the midst of this terrible pain. May God convict the misguided judgement of these Nouthetic counselors on men and women like David who strive mightily to hold onto the faith.
I leave you with a quote from David (please, please read his story):
"I can't fault the ordinary approach—the one taken by Dr. Stanley. Mental illness is a war with many casualties, claiming patients and doctors alike. But a heroic cohort strives to save lives, ease suffering, and thrust light into dark places, bringing into the open afflictions that were once locked away in asylums and sanitariums. Their empathy bears witness to the counsel of the greatest physician of all: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
We will continue this discussion on Monday.
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 22:1-53 Acts 13:16-41 Psalm 138:1-8 Proverbs 17:17-18