“My dad had limitations. That’s what my good-hearted mom always told us. He had limitations, but he meant no harm. It was kind of her to say, but he did do harm.” ― Gillian Flynn,
I bet you thought we would never get back to my series on the Biblical Counseling Movement (BCM)! This blog exists to help identify potential areas of abuse in the greater evangelical church. One of my friends said we need to add the words *and progressive* since we have covered a few such stories. Our real expertise stems from our decades long experience with evangelical churches.
Why do we do posts like this one? It is our hope that, with sufficient information, we can help others avoid minefields that could lead to abuse. Yes, our hearts are, first and foremost, with the stories of victims but we also hope to help some folks avoid being victimized by potentially abusive trends in the church.
The Calvinists, as a group, have embraced what they call *biblical counseling.* Sadly, they just changed the name of Nouthetic counseling (due to the really, really bad press) and moved on as if no one was ever run over by the busload of woefully uneducated people masquerading as counselors. We contend that *biblical* counseling* is not *biblical* and it is most assuredly not thoughtful counseling.
At first, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to take this subject on since it involves a huge amount of information. However, it is a topic whose time has come since we have heard one too many abuse stories associated with this movement and I have all the time in the world. We have heard from a number of educated professors of psychology who have urged us to continue to write about this.
Hopefully, we can get back to weekly posting on BCM until the subject is exhausted or we can’t take it anymore.
Our past posts on BCM
This should get you up to date.
- Part 1: The Biblical Counseling Movement and Timberlake Baptist Church and Counseling Center
- What is the Difference Between Nouthetic and Biblical Counseling? Just the Spelling
- Biblical Counseling: Anyone Can Do It, Sin Is the Focus, Confidentiality Is Not Guaranteed and Women Should Beware
- Biblical Counseling Training: Inadequate Education, Problematic Resources and Questionably Educated Leaders
- Could You Pass the Exam to Be a Certified Biblical Counselor? Of Demons and Other Concerning Things
- Heath Lambert Channels Martin Luther (As If) and Writes the 95 Theses of Biblical Counseling
Always ask what they are saying when they throw around phrases that sound good but say very little.
Words mean something and they often encompass our own biases and perceptions. This means that words can have a different implications depending on who is using them. Let’s return to the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.
Does the word *certified* make it sound official? Well, before you say *yes,* ask the following questions.
- What is involved in being certified? In previous posts we have shown that the certification process is questionable. In a future post we will show that those who are doing the certifying are hardly better educated and women are not allowed since only men can be *fellows.*
- What do they mean by biblical? It sounds nice but is it really? Does the Bible really say that women cannot be *fellows in counseling?* Does it say that women cannot sit on boards like the ACBC? What they really mean is that that it is their interpretation of the Bible that is considered *biblical.* That means one must be very careful to question their self application of the word *biblical*to their own counseling practices. Folks, we are not talking about the Aposotle’s Creed here. These beliefs are not found delineated in the Bible. They are merely assumptions placed upon texts.
Keeping that in mind, what exactly does Heath Lambert and the men-only board of ACBC mean when they title this post: 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling.
First, they pretend they are writing something so earth shaking that they adopt the name of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. They place themselves into his category which is arrogant beyond belief, made even more startling by the mundane nature of the assertions.
Authentically Christian? According to Dictionary.Com authentic means “not false or copied; genuine; real; verfied”. They tie it to the word *Christian* which might lead the uninitiated to believe that *real Christians believe this.” However, I am a Christian and I do not agree that their assumptions are necessarily beliefs with which all authentic Christian would agree. Instead, they should say that this one Christian view of the counseling movement.
In fact, they may also be saying that any view other than their view is neither authentic or Christian. What would you say if I could prove to you that this is the case? In this instance, Heath Lambert deliberately affected the employment of Eric Johnson who was a Christian psychologist and a professor (now former) at SBTS. Being a Christian psychologist is not authentically Christian in Lambert’s book and he went for the jugular which you can read about here. Eric Johnson Lambasted by Heath Lambert and Fired by Al Mohler.
Keeping in mind that Heath Lambert doen’ts to support *authentic* Christian psychologist professors and does not allow women to serve in any position of leadership in this *certified* group, let’s continue to look at his interminable list.
In my last post, it looks like I quit after point #12. I cannot, as a Lutheran, endure calling these points *theses* so I am going to use the numbers.
The content of Scripture which informs Lambert’s counseling philosophy
I was disturbed by Lambert’s use of Scripture as unrelated proof texts that did not relate to the issue at hand. Also, he makes generalized statements without any sort of Scriptural basis.
#14 The Bible teaches that the person and work of Jesus Christ provide God’s sufficient power to solve every problem of humanity so, according to Scripture, he is the ultimate subject of every counseling conversation (Col 2:2-3).
Here is what the proof verse says.
2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The verse implies He will give understanding when it comes to Jesus. It does not say that He will heal every mental illness. God does have the power to solve every problem of humanity but He does not always do so.
- He could heal every case of cancer. He doesn’t.
- He could heal all schizophrenia. He doesn’t.
- He could stop all wars. He doesn’t.
Lambert is a Calvinista and in his system of theology, God may choose to afflict a person in order to bring glory to Himself. So, in fact, God could ordain that a person suffer from schizophrenia and that would be glorifying to God. God does ordain every bad disease for each and every person according to Lambert’s theology. (I do not share his theology in this area.)
There are people who struggle with depression and He doesn’t always heal that. JB Phillips, the great English Biblical scholar, suffered from depression most of his life. I bet he both knew the Bible and apprehended it far better than Lambert. Yet, he suffered for his entire life.
This statement bothers me deeply. The poorly educated *certified* counselors could quote this statement and cause a great deal of harm. In other words, they will lay the blame for the client’s lack of healing at the client’s feet because, ya know, God has the power to cure the suffering person. If they don’t get better, it is their fault. You will see this “blame the lack of healing on the the person receiving the counseling” later in this post.
#16 The fact that the Bible authoritatively and sufficiently describes who Jesus is, what he has done and currently does, and how his work applies to our problems proves Scripture’s authority and sufficiency as a counseling resource.
I am currently working with a group of 6th grad students at my church who are pursuing confirmation. This last week, I helped one student to better understand why Jesus was different than us and that it was that difference that allowed Him to be our Redeemer.
Jesus gives us hope for ultimate healing in heaven. He did not promise that we would be free from the pain of living. Not only that, he did not promise that our minds would be perfectly sound and able to handle, without serious difficulty, what living in a fallen world would mean. Look at what living in a fallen world did to our bodies. My husband often says that the fall affected even our genes which do not always function as intended.
It is naive to believe that our minds are somehow able to be healed without rigorous intervention by skilled professionals, simply by pointing out sin and having an ill trained ACBC counselor quote a few verses.
How does Lambert know where the physical ends and the mind or spirit begins? Only someone who is not carefully educated would take a leap and think that somehow the body and mind have simple boundaries.
My daughter’s neurosurgeon and I had some great conversations throughout the years. He said he felt like a caveman when he operated on the brain because so much of it is unknown. Did you know that some kids who are shy become extroverts immediately after? Is personality simply a result of the mind or is it connected somehow to the physical aspect of the brain? Could it be a little of both? Lambert’s assumptions are far too simplistic for anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of the complexity of biology.
Scripture can provide hope and strength but it is NOT sufficient for comprehensively dealing with complex mental illness anymore than it is sufficient for dealing with cancer. It can provide strength and hope but it does not promise a guaranteed cure in this world. It certainly is not guaranteed if we use a so called biblical counselor who has had the type of insufficient training offered at ACBC.
#17. Because the Bible perfectly explains how Jesus has made provision for people to live every aspect of their lives, any statement that imposes limitations on Scripture in addressing the counseling problems individuals face is an implicit attack on the person and work of Jesus (Col 3:16).
Oh my! Now we are attacking Jesus if we disagree that Scripture alone is not enough to deal with all issues pertaining to counseling. This is the nonsense which has gotten the Baptists into trouble for years. No, someone who disagrees with Lambert’s conclusions is simply disagreeing with his conclusions and is not launching a frontal attack on Jesus. This sounds fanatical and downright weird. Is weird a spiritual or psychological term?
Let’s look at their supposed *proof* verse Col 3:16.
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Now we are supposed to have a sing along? This verse in no way addresses the nonsensical assertion that we are attacking Jesus if we don’t agree with Lambert and friends. People can live their lives with depression or, like I did, with anxiety and still be outwardly faithful. I could quote the Bible better than many and I still suffered. It was the medication that I took for 1 1/2 year along with patient counseling from trained Christians who graduated from accredited schools that helped me.
By the way, I sang all sorts of Christian songs, read and prayed, and even thanked God throughout the ordeal. I still needed help. I did not need some *proof verses* that don’t even address the problem.
#19. A denial that the Bible is a sufficient and an authoritative guide to counseling is a denial that it is sufficient and authoritative for Christian growth.
This is so off base that Lambert couldn’t find a Bible verse to prove his point. No, saying the Bible is insufficient to treat schizophrenia has nothing to do with saying the Bible is insufficient for our Christian growth. Do they teach logic and reasoning at SBTS?
Throughout the years that I had anxiety, I grew as a Christian. During that time, prior to treatment, I developed a 2 year course on church history to teach in an adult Sunday school. I led Bible studies. I cared for 3 little children, one of whom had a recurrent brain tumor. It was years later that I got treatment. One can grow as a Christian while still suffering.
#20. To claim that scriptural resources are insufficient for counseling is to impugn the character of God because he promises Christians that his power is sufficient for life and godliness; that his Word makes the man of God competent for every good work; and that mercy and grace are available from the resurrected Christ to all who draw near to him (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3; Heb 4:16).
Read this carefully. If we say that the Bible is not sufficient for treating schizophrenia, we are now impugning God??? Seriously? This is the sort to tactic that is unbecoming to those who call themselves Christians. This is the “take no prisoners* approach and is downright boorish and silly. Again, as an anxious person I did *good work* in the name of Jesus. I read my Bible and prayed. I reads more books than on the list of ACBC recommended books. This was still insufficient until I got real help and spent 1 1/2 years on a medication which helped to stop the cycle of anxiety.
Scripture promises God’s power is sufficient for life and godliness but that doesn’t mean it is sufficient for the treatment of mental illness. God shows mercy to the deeply depressed and he does not condemn them as being Scripturally insufficient like ACBC appears to do. I believe this “blame the victim” approach can be dangerous. Add to that the outright bias against psychotropic medications and there is a real problem. Biblical counseling has received a bad reputation for many good reasons. This is an example of one of them.
None of the verses make sense in this context. Let’s look at the Hebrews verse.
6 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Lambert sounds like Bob, my favorite character, in Stranger Things 2. (That was one of the best TV series I have ever watched.) Bob, believing that Will was just having regular bad dreams, advised him to confront the monster and tell it to go away. *Easy peasy,” he asserted. Sadly, the situation was far more complex and Will got inhabited by an inter-dimensional shadow monster.
Lambert unfortunately channels Bob’s simplistic nature. He doesn’t get that his solution is not really addressing the underlying problem and, just like Bob, could make things much, much worse. See the two videos at the end of the post to understand what I am talking about.
#22. To affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling is to affirm the love and wisdom of God in giving his people what they need for life’s problems because most Christians throughout history and in most places in the world today have no access to secular therapy, but all Christians have had access to the Word of God.
This one is downright fascinating. Let me restate this. Since all people in all times did not have sufficient access to treatment for schizophrenia, God’s word was sufficient to cure schizophrenia. Lambert makes leaps of faith when it comes to mental illness. He has this strange boundary line drawn-easily dividing the physical from the mental. Educated counselors are not so quick to see those solid lines.
Even more startling, Lambert believes that his poorly educated *BCMers” have the educational capacity to cure mental illness for all Christians for all time by simply relying on Scripture. At least Lambert didn’t attempt to give a Bible verse here. There isn’t one.
#27. The authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling does not mean counseling that utilizes Scripture will remove all difficulties because people often fail to listen to biblical counsel and, at times, to carefully implement changes in their lives.
So, if it doesn’t work, it is the fault of the poor person who chose this form of counseling. This has nothing to do with the poorly documented efficacy of BCM. Nothing to see here- move along.
#28. The authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling does not mean counseling that utilizes Scripture will remove all difficulties because even counselors who intend a faithful use of Scripture can sometimes demonstrate incompetence.
And, just in case, failure might be due to an incompetent counselor who slipped through the rigorous screening (sarcasm intended) of ACBC. Given the training that these poor counselors receive, I bet this happens quite *often* as opposed to *sometimes.*
Now let me take a different approach to get us through these interminable theses which will not go down in history.
Lambert’s views on secular psychology.
Basically, Lambert asserts that there is no way on God’s green earth that a secular counselor can ever help a Christian. Lambert should realize that many Christians don’t get his approach to Scripture, either. Then again, he probably does given his history of going for the jugular.
Read his reasoning carefully. You will see that he offers no peer reviewed, research data to support his conclusions and even avoids the use of Bible verses since there are few proof verses for his assumptions. BCM will not allow their work to be observed and objectively studied. I dealt with this in another BCM post. This should cause thoughtful people serious concern.
The following are some direct quotes from the section on secular psychology. The numbers are his numbering system from the *theses.*
- 40. No proof has ever been offered that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are anything less than fully authoritative and sufficient for counseling issues. (ed. note: Neither have they been proven to be fully sufficient for counseling because BCM won’t allow double blind, peer reviewed studies.)
- 30. The faithfulness of a counseling system must be judged exclusively by the text of Scripture. (ed. note: His baseline assertion))
- 31. Because the Bible is the authority for every situation in life, whenever secular therapists write, teach, or counsel about matters of human living, they address matters that God covers authoritatively in his Word. (ed. note: And?)
- 32. The authoritative sufficiency of Scripture for counseling means the Bible controls what resources may and may not be used for counseling wisdom and practice.(Huh- where are these conclusive resources listed?)
- 36. One evidence for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is that Christians around the world without access to secular therapy and throughout history before the advent of secular therapy have been powerfully helped and transformed without access to secular therapy. (ed. note: No evidence offered.)
- 37. One evidence for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is that Christians in the modern West with access to secular therapy have been powerfully helped and transformed by biblical resources far more than by therapeutic ones. (ed. note- Prove it)
- 41. Christians must be thankful for the display of God’s common grace that leads many experts in the field of secular psychology to know much true information, from which Christians can learn a great deal.(Ed. note: Just in case they need help after all.)
- 46. The lack of biblical language in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders demonstrates that the thinking of secular individuals is insufficient to grasp the true nature of people, the problems they bring to counseling, and the solutions necessary to bring about real and lasting change.(ed. note: So the Bible clearly outlines schizophrenia and its treatment?)
- 56. Christian scholars who have argued against the authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling have failed in this argument by declaring that Scripture is insufficient for counseling, without citing evidence for their declaration. (ed: Looks who’s talking.)
- 57. Christian scholars who have argued for the necessity of secular resources in counseling have failed in this argument by pointing to scientific information that may be true, but is nevertheless unnecessary for counseling. (ed. note: Huh? If it is true, it must be unnecessary? Prove it.)
- 60. Christians who insist on using secular therapy in their counseling have undermined the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word by not allowing the form and content of Scripture to dictate the form and content of their counseling conversations.(ed. note: Why does secular therapy undermine the Scripture? Isn’t all truth God’s truth?)
- 69. Christians who have publicly taught that the resources in Scripture are limited with respect to counseling should publicly repent. (ed. note: What about those who unjustly accuse their fellow Christians…)
- 72. The process of requiring a state license to counsel is not required by the Bible, is used by the state to enforce counseling practices founded on secular therapy, and is unnecessary for those wishing to grow in God’s wisdom to counsel.(ed note: Certification is unnecessary. Certainly wouldn’t want the state to see what we are pretending constitutes good counseling. It could be embarrassing.)
- 73. The only authentically Christian motivation for pursuing a state license to counsel is the missional desire of making Christ known to all people in all places, especially in those places where the authority of the state allows only licensed individuals to talk to troubled people. (ed. note: Darn, they make some people actually get an education.)
- 77. Christians should not function as though the task of counseling is reserved for only a special class of professionals. (ed. note: Yep- it can be any Joe who wants to be a counselor in his spare time.)
Faithful counseling ministry
It is time to get really worried. Lambert clearly draws some sort of imaginary line between the physical and the spiritual and places psychological intervention into the spiritual realm. He warns against the counselor giving medical advice. However, if the readers will look at my previous posts, they will see that, in fact, this group is opposed to medical terminology when it comes to psychological conditions. They are also not excited about the use of psychotropic drugs.
- 81. Christians committed to counseling ministry do not merely engage in “soul care,” but in the care of whole persons made with a body and soul.
- 83. It is a misunderstanding of the essential nature of human beings—made with a body and a soul—for Christians to present physical interventions as solutions to spiritual problems.
- 87. Because the Bible does not include the kind of information necessary to create comprehensive expertise in medical science, counselors should avoid using their counseling conversations to engage in the practice of medicine.
- 92. Because the work of counseling occurs out of public view, churches must be dedicated to enforcing standards of counseling excellence, ensuring that those involved in the practice of counseling engage in the best possible care.
I think there is plenty to be worried about in the BCM. Lambert’s presentation is filled with assumptions and unprovable assertions about the efficacy of BCM methods. Until this movement gets serious and actually starts carefully studying their assumptions and interventions, I would not recommend anyone seek out this sort of counseling.
Stay tuned until next time when I turn my eye to ACBC Fellows and then to Training Centers. Eyebrows will be raised.
Bob’s approach when he didn’t know what was really happening. This reminds me of Lambert’s approach. It is all too *easy peasy.*
What Bob thought.
What happened when Will took Bob’s well intentioned but really stupid advice? This same sort of thing could happen within the BCM.
What Bob didn’t take the time to figure out.