7 Problems I Have With "Christian" Counseling
I walked into our Pastoral Staff meeting recently…well…grumpy. It was totally my bad, and I was able to get my traction quickly. Still, it had been a rough commute to the office from Dunkin Donuts.
The coffee wasn’t the rough part. DD coffee is unsurpassed—everyone knows that. What caused my five-minute valley was the very popular Christian radio program I was listening to on the way to DD and then to the church office. The problem was the dialogue between the host and his female guest. This particular popular evangelical host stands on a platform of “Christian” counseling for issues pertaining to the home. I’m sure he loves Christ. I’m positive he wants to help people. I’m confident he attends church and reads his Bible.
His guest told her story of her 30 year marriage that had begun to unravel, children who were reacting in different manners, depression that had gripped her husband for years, and a strong-will that defined her for decades. Of course, by the end of the broadcast, the marriage was strong, the children were united, the depression had been “treated,” and her strong-will had been, well, harnessed. Self-esteem, medications, and a window-dressing of Scripture saved the day, in their opinion.
Why was I concerned…grumpy? Because during the whole interview, the host never once spoke of the amazing gospel doctrine of progressive sanctification. Never once was the Bible allowed to speak to the issues of reactions, spiritual depression, the fruit of the Spirit, marriage roles, etc. In short, the Bible was silent in the whole discussion—Did God not have anything to say to these presenting issues and heart worship? Is the Redeemer benign to help His redeemed through the clarity of His sufficient Scriptures?
I believe that God's written Word (special revelation) speaks sufficiently (completely) to any spiritual need in any man in every generation, without exception. Paul is explicit that it is all that we need for salvation, doctrine, reproof, correction, and training (2Tim 3:15-17). Yes, it alone gets to be the final word on spiritual issues like marriage, spiritual depression, worry, anger, and all sinful reactions. The Redeemer is overwhelmingly present, powerful, and clear as He conforms His redeemed into His image through all of life’s trials (1Cor 10:13, Phil 1:6).
As I walked into Pastoral Staff meeting that morning, sipping amazing coffee, I was reminded afresh about Seven Problems I Have with “Christian” Counseling. Specifically,
1. Its Origination in Humanistic Philosophy (Eph 2:1-3, 4:17-21; Col 2:8-10; Ps 1)—All contemporary expressions of secular psychology are children (directly or indirectly) of either Freud (focus on instincts), Skinner (focus on conditioning) and/or Rogers (focus on goodness in man). All three of these men deny the centrality of God and the responsibility of man. The cleanliness of this "well" is tainted, to say the least. Dead (unredeemed) man gives dead answers. Would we draw from it to find help for the soul? Proverbs 4:19 warns, “The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.” I think Dr. Jim Berg nails it when he writes, “This is why those in the world, try as they might, have no workable answers to many issues of life. Anytime they try to solve a problem that deals with man’s soul—his emotions, will, and understanding—they will get it wrong. They simply have no light; they cannot find their way out of the cave” (Created for His Glory, 167).
2. Its Toleration of Unbiblical Terms (1Cor 2:13)—If I need spiritual answers to spiritual issues, I must use biblical terms at all times. Instead of talking in secular categories of "self-esteem, paralysis, love banks, 12-steps, inner-childs, damaged emotions and recovery," I must talk in biblical categories of "self-denial, 1st & 2nd great commands, 9 fruits, inner-man, worship, sinful anger and repentance." Never forget the demonic counsel given in C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters:
My Dear Wormwood,
The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call "Christianity And." You know - Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform.
If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing. The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, and folly in counsel.
To Be Continued….