What's Going on at Gateway Church?

_MG_2556There are some interesting things happening around Gateway Church, the fourth largest church in America. Some sources inside and outside the church think more changes are coming for the Southlake, TX megachurch. First, a brief review.

Season of Pruning

I was first to report that Gateway Church planned to lay off as many as one-third of their staff and that the church was deep in debt. Gateway called this a “pruning” in preparation for growth. Apparently, the church is still in that season of pruning since the growth hasn’t come.
Here are two new items.

The Branding of Pastor Robert

Pastor Robert Morris appears to be differentiating himself from Gateway’s brand. He is populating a slick website — pastorrobert.com — and is doing the same with his sermons on a separate Youtube channel.  He also has a new radio brand with the Worship & the Word with Pastor Robert Morris product.
It seems unnecessary to put the sermons on a separate page since they already exist elsewhere. Perhaps having content available on the church website and a separate website serves Gateway in some manner. It could also be a sign of Pastor Robert following the branding example of Pastor Mark (Driscoll). Time will tell.

A New Church in the People’s Republic of Austin

Two sources have told me that earlier this month during the Gateway staff meeting, it was announced that Robert Morris’ son Josh is going to plant a church in Austin, TX. While that may not seem like much to outsiders; at Gateway, it is a sea change. Numerous former members have told me over the years that Rev. Morris’ son is the apparent heir to the throne at Gateway. The younger Morris is an engaging speaker and knows the church intimately. It seems reasonable that he might step in as his father moves toward more of a “Pastor Robert” brand. However, just as Rev. Morris is moving content and products toward “Pastor Robert,” Pastor Morris the younger appears to be heading for the People’s Republic of Austin.
It is hard to tell what to make of these items. Perhaps these moves are not related to the financial woes of Gateway. Whether or not they are related to the financial issues, it might be wise for members to ask how the church can afford re-branding and a church plant when other promised projects are on hold.

Christian Psychology v. Biblical Counseling: A Christian Psychologist Responds to a Case of School Refusal

Greek_uc_psi.svgLast week I posted the case of a young child with school refusal. I treated the child without relapse and wondered how a biblical counselor would conceptualize the case. I was especially interested in how Health Lambert would respond, because Lambert recently wrote a document titled Ninety-Five Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling. Lambert is the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and promotes biblical counseling which is to say counseling that relies on solely on the Bible for the answers to the problems addressed in counseling. I became interested in Lambert’s approach because of an accusation that he was involved in the firing of popular Christian psychologist Eric Johnson. Lambert later denied any role but it is clear that his biblical counseling model is the dominate approach at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship theological school of the Southern Baptist Convention. Unfortunately, I have not had a reply from Dr. Lambert.

Biblical Counseling v. Christian Psychology: The Series

Instead, yesterday I posted the case conceptualization of Tim Allchin, a biblical counselor in Chicago who runs a ACBC approved training site. In today’s post, I provide a case conceptualization from A.J. McConnell, a Christian psychologist who attempts to integrate the Bible and psychology. Although those outside of Christianity might not see much difference between the two approaches, historically adherents of the two approaches have accentuated the differences.
Tomorrow, I will describe my approach and provide the results of treatment. In addition, I plan to discuss both Allchin’s and McConnell’s approach. Also, I will critique my own plan and talk about how I would approach a similar case now.

A Case of School Refusal

Here is the case:

A mother and her second grade son attended the first session together. The father was at work. A meeting with them revealed that the youngster was afraid to remain in his school classroom. The boy attended a local public school and had never been afraid to go to school before. However, within the first month of school, his pattern was to enter school and remain in his classroom. After just a few minutes, he bolted from the room to the school office seemingly in terror and asked for his parents. This had been going on for about a month nearly every day. He remained in school on days his class attended field trips or out of class activities (e.g., library days). The parents had tried alternating morning rides to school and his father had carried him back into the classroom on multiple occasions only to have the same result. He bolted from the class looking for his parents.
On examination, the boy had male typical interests, played rough and tumble sports, was tall for his age, and was socially popular. He had never displayed separation anxiety beyond the norm prior to this year. In all respects except the fear of remaining in his classroom, the boy and his family (one older female sibling) seemed entirely normal and unremarkable from a mental health standpoint. The parents were leaders in their Christian church and the boy happily attended Sunday School and had professed a belief in Jesus as his Savior.

Below, Dr. McConnell responds:

My name is Dr. AJ McConnell and I am a clinical psychologist. My clinical expertise is in the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. I also have significant experience working with individuals with anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, marriage and family concerns, and other mental health conditions.
As a Christian, I will integrate the Bible and my expertise in the science of psychology when working with an individual that has requested and provided consent for faith-based counseling. There are seven main reasons why I wanted to provide a response to the Dr. Throckmorton’s case example.

  1. My experience as an individual that has attended church throughout my life is that most churches often minimize mental health and there are a lack of churches with adequate resources to help and serve the mentally ill. It is simply not a significant focus of Christianity in America.
  2. There is still a stigma regarding mental health, particularly among Christians. The brain is an organ in the human body. Similar to other organs (i.e., heart, lung, pancreas, etc), the brain may need treatment when medically necessary. Science indicates that many psychological disorders have a biological cause. For example, low levels of the neurotransmitter, Serotonin, contributes to symptoms of depression. Furthermore, low levels of GABA is associated with anxiety.
  3. When Christians are told that Jesus and the Bible are all that is needed in counseling, this assumes that the person is in a mindset where they can accept Biblical advice and adequately apply it to their situation. In contrast, the nature of a disorder is that a person is suffering and they require counseling, medication, or a combination of both to become well.
  4. Children and/or adults might feel unnecessary guilt from the church if they need to pursue professional assistance with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other medical professional to treat a disorder. Most Christians and churches do not shame an individual for pursuing medical interventions for diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc. The same approach should be taken for mental illness in order to reduce this unnecessary guilt. Overall, I recommend finding a specialist that aligns with your beliefs (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  5. One of the impressions from reading the 95 Theses written by Heath Lambert was that mental illness is the consequence of sin. I agree that we live in a fallen, sinful world, but Jesus rebuked the notion that a disorder / illness is always a consequence of an individual’s sin (see John 9:1-7).
  6. There is confusion among the Christian church regarding the field of psychology. Psychologists do provide counseling. However, we also specialize in other areas, such as psychological testing / assessments. For example, one of my specialties is in psychological assessments that determine if an individual meets criteria for an autism spectrum disorder, learning disability, or intellectual disability. My assessments are used by schools to assist students that need special education services. I strongly believe that there are psychological interventions that do not contradict the Bible.
  7. I admit that my views are not perfect. I have never meet Dr. Heath Lambert but I would assume that we would agree on most things with only a few minor differences. I believe a healthy and constructive debate regarding Biblical Counseling and Christian Psychology can be beneficial in both a professional and spiritual sense (Proverbs 27:17).

Regarding the case example, here would be my proposed approach using an integration of the Bible and psychological interventions:
Stage One: Initial Assessment
Based on the description provided, I would assume the child met DSM-5 criteria for a Separation Anxiety Disorder.
The first step is conducting a comprehensive initial assessment with the child and his mother. This would involve asking questions regarding the nature of the child’s anxiety at home, school, and church. Given the sudden onset of symptoms, I would also assess for any recent family stressors, abuse, bullying, and/or academic difficulties. Next, I would ask both the child and his parents what they have attempted to resolve the issue prior to starting counseling. I believe it is also important to gain an understanding of how they view the Bible and what verses and other spiritual practices, if any, they have been implementing to better understand and resolve their situation.
As a psychologist, I would collect data to assist in determining the appropriate diagnosis and to help guide treatment. Examples include having the child, parent(s), and teacher complete the BASC-3. I would also have the child complete the Beck Youth Inventory – Second Edition, specifically, the anxiety and self-concept inventories. If resources were available, a “Functional Behavior Assessment” would be completed. This would provide information on what happens in the classroom immediately before the child attempts to leave the classroom and what the consequence of the behavior is. This helps identify the function or purpose of the child’s behavior.
Stage Two: Treatment
My treatment approach would integrate Biblical principles and science. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach for this type of case example (see http://effectivechildtherapy.org/concerns-symptoms-disorders/disorders/fear-worry-and-anxiety/ for a list of evidence-based approaches for anxiety). The premise of CBT is that an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interrelated and influence each other. A part of the psychologist’s role in CBT is to assist individuals in identifying and modifying any “thinking errors” and/or maladaptive behaviors that are contributing to a problem.
Cognitive Interventions:

  • Discuss patterns of thinking errors that are common for children with anxiety.
  • Help child identify his “self-talk.” In other words, what does the child tell himself or think about when he is feeling anxious. Similarly, what thoughts does he have to help him feel less anxious. A worksheet I use has children fill out thought bubbles in cartoon examples to help them understand the concept of “self-talk.”
  • Help child identify how to rate the intensity of his anxiety on a scale from 1-10. I will have some children and/or parents use the Daylio app to track their level of anxiety.
  • Identify and study Bible verses on anxiety in order to understand how God thinks about anxiety. This provides a healthy and Biblical model of how to think about anxiety.

Behavioral Interventions:

  • Replace worrying and anxious thoughts with prayer.
  • Biblical meditation. Meditate on verses regarding anxiety as well as verses regarding the protective nature of God.
  • Teach and practice deep breathing exercises.
  • Teach and practice progressive muscle relaxation exercises
  • Teach assertive communication if teasing / bullying is occurring within the school setting.
  • In-vivo exposure to anxiety-producing situations. This should be presented in a hierarchical order ranging from least anxiety provoking to most-anxiety provoking.
  • Real life exposure to anxiety-producing situation at school.

Other interventions:

  • Discuss and educate child and parents on how God created the human body. A simple description is explaining that the Limbic system in or brain processes our emotions (e.g., fear) and that our autonomic nervous system is either in a state of relaxation or activation against stress. Therefore, we cannot both be calm and anxious at the same time. Exercises such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and other relaxing activities forces our body to calm down in response to stress and anxiety.
  • I also have children create or draw a list of coping skills they can use when feeling anxious. I encourage them to focus on activities in four areas: creative tasks, social outlets (who they can talk to), physical activities, and relaxation. This will help the child identify things that he/she can do when he begins to feel the first signs of anxiety at school.
  • Develop plan with parents and school staff on how to approach situations in which the child feels anxious. Designate a space where the child can take a break and/or meet with an available staff person to discuss anxiety.
  • Have child carry picture of parents and/or a personal belonging of his parents that he can hold onto in the classroom.
  • Use a visual schedule with the child so that he can see the daily routine of the school and also help him identify what time of day he will get to go home and see his parents.
  • Provide child with a notebook that he can use to write a letter or draw a picture for his parents when he first arrives into the classroom.
  • Have parents provide child with a short note that he can only read once he enters the classroom.

Last, as a psychologist, I would continue to collect data to determine if treatment is effective. This would include obtaining feedback from the child and parents, reviewing parent and teacher behavioral logs, and/or additional administration of psychological tests (e.g., BASC-3).
I can be reached via email if anyone would like to provide feedback to my case conceptualization.

Tomorrow, I will react to the Allchin and McConnell and present my approach.
To read all posts in this series, click here.

President Trump's Guess on Terror Suspect Angers Allies

Now and then, I learn things via trusted sources about the Trump administration that shock me. Here is one of those stories.
Friday, an explosion went off at London’s Parson Greens commuter railway in a terrorist attack. Twenty-nine people were injured but thankfully no one was killed.
After the attack, Donald Trump tweeted the following message:


It turns out Trump was correct about the bomber being known to the authorities. However, this is an instance where it was better to be lucky than good. He got the idea that the perpetrators of the bombing were known to Scotland Yard by watching guests speculate on Fox & Friends 22 minutes before the tweet. Trump had not been briefed on the status of the bombers by advisers, and in fact the information had been kept from him so he wouldn’t tweet it out or inadvertently reveal it some other way. In this case, Trump publicly guessed based on the Fox & Friends show and in the process angered our ally.
The British were understandably frustrated and worried that the revelation would compromise their investigation and sources. Even though Trump’s advisers have made good efforts to prevent these problems, Trump managed to thwart them.
It is shocking that the president appears to be incapable of properly evaluating the consequences of his actions.
 

Biblical Counseling v. Christian Psychology: A Biblical Counselor Responds to a Case of School Refusal

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Last week I posted the case of a young child with school refusal. I treated the child without relapse and wondered how a biblical counselor would conceptualize the case. I was especially interested in how Health Lambert would respond, because Lambert recently wrote a document titled Ninety-Five Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling. Lambert is the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and promotes biblical counseling which is to say counseling that relies on solely on the Bible for the answers to the problems addressed in counseling.
To date, Lambert has not replied to my requests. Instead, I am happy to include the case conceptualization of Tim Allchin, a biblical counselor in Chicago who runs a ACBC approved training site. Tim’s response to the case came from his comment on the original post.

Biblical Counseling v. Christian Psychology: The Series

The question in the original post has now grown into a series. My plan is to present the original case again here along with Tim’s comments. I will make some brief comments.  Then I plan to present a conceptualization by a Columbus, OH Christian psychologist A.J. McConnell on Tuesday. I will also comment on A.J. contribution. Then on Wednesday, I will provide the rest of the story. I will describe how the case turned out and raise some questions about the Ninety-Five Theses. On Thursday, I will wrap up the series.

A Case of School Refusal

Last week, I wrote about the following case:

A mother and her second grade son attended the first session together. The father was at work. A meeting with them revealed that the youngster was afraid to remain in his school classroom. The boy attended a local public school and had never been afraid to go to school before. However, within the first month of school, his pattern was to enter school and remain in his classroom. After just a few minutes, he bolted from the room to the school office seemingly in terror and asked for his parents. This had been going on for about a month nearly every day. He remained in school on days his class attended field trips or out of class activities (e.g., library days). The parents had tried alternating morning rides to school and his father had carried him back into the classroom on multiple occasions only to have the same result. He bolted from the class looking for his parents.
On examination, the boy had male typical interests, played rough and tumble sports, was tall for his age, and was socially popular. He had never displayed separation anxiety beyond the norm prior to this year. In all respects except the fear of remaining in his classroom, the boy and his family (one older female sibling) seemed entirely normal and unremarkable from a mental health standpoint. The parents were leaders in their Christian church and the boy happily attended Sunday School and had professed a belief in Jesus as his Savior.

I sent a link to the post to the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Heath Lambert via Twitter with hopes that he might respond in keeping with his Ninety-Five Theses. Dr. Lambert did not reply but biblical counselor Tim Allchin did via the comments section of the post. I appreciate the care he put into his answer and I have reproduced it below.

Tim Allchin
I serve at the director of the Biblical Counseling Center in the Chicago area which is an ACBC certified training center. We have nearly 200,000 hours of counseling experience on our counseling team. However, I don’t speak for Heath Lambert or ACBC officially so this is some of my thoughts. I also speak as a father of adopted children and often hearing the stories of other adopted children in families that are part of our lives. I remember the separation anxiety in my own children upon returning to regular work after we completed adoption and having to work through this with them. I know as a parent this is heart-wrenching at times. As a biblical counselor, I have often worked with children through anxiety, (some with similar circumstances to the case study), and recognize the complexity of human experience in a fallen world. I am firmly committed to the idea there is no better anchor than Christ that an anxious soul can cling to for comfort, peace and relief. Additionally, there is no more reliable guide to the human experience than the scriptures.
My general approach:
In this case, we have physical, emotional, habitual patterns that all interact with the spiritual life of the child and the parent. My starting point would be to gather data on all of these areas from both the child, school teacher and the parent. The child’s fear is a mixture of thoughts, actions and desires that need to fleshed out to understand what possibly triggers this type of response. My working assumption would be that some sort of traumatic experience is likely the genesis of this behavior. I would want the child and parent to know that even a child’s beliefs determine actions, resulting in feelings that either escalate or calm. We need to work from both the outside-in and eventually from the inside-out.
A couple other points I would make clear:
1. We would look at good science to determine and evaluate exercise, rest, nutrition. Additionally, we believe that a life of consistent structure and spiritual encouragement patterns help children and adults thrive. Additionally, a biblical counselor would not oppose all medication in a case like this but it wouldn’t be our first, or likely even second recommendation. We would seek to make progress in thought patterns and structural changes before medicine.
2. We would work with parents to seek to help the child put simply actions steps into place on a consistent basis.
3. Relationship with a child is key to the counseling process. Things like art, music and play are bridges into a child’s world and we would likely use them to build trust.
4. Biblical Counselors have written no less than 10 books on fear and anxiety over the past decade. We would do research into the observations of others who have worked with people over several decades now that biblical counseling has been practiced faithfully in the North American church context. A faithful biblical counselor doesn’t wing it, he studies what God has to say and how others have faithfully ministered the word to those in these contexts. In our own center, we have counseled 1000’s of hours with kids and 10,000’s of hours with the issue of anxiety and panic attacks. Those who paint all biblical counselors as amateurs likely haven’t ever talked to a serious student of biblical counseling. Perhaps I’m too defensive here, but I often see that mindset in threads in these types of articles.
Below would be a bit of the process that I would think through:
First a biblical counselor would seek to gather data:
I would seek to help them identify emotions, behaviors, habits, beliefs, and heart motivations.
What do they desire most of all? (3 Wishes/Changes Game)
What is NOT said? (Avoiding talk of certain people or topics)
HOW is something said? (Tone, emotions)
Data gathering with kids questions or open-ended sentences
Second, a biblical counselors seeks to determine Action Steps that help a child function in a way that pleases God:
Particularly with boys, we would seek to have a physical redirect when anxiety takes over. I have assigned things like stress balls, legos, physical exercise (jumping jacks, push-ups etc.), appropriate yard work/cleaning projects. Second, I have them select one verse about how God cares for them in difficulty and write it on a card and place it in their pocket and seek to have them review to redirect their mind from anxiety to truth. Third, I let them know that the adults around them are going to help them when those anxious moments come, not be critical of them. We want to help them grow. Fourth, I will have do a simple journal so they can learn to articulate what they were thinking. I often remind parents that the debrief after a difficult moment is the most important time to reach the heart of a child.
Additionally, I am going to have conversations about the following with a christian family is being counseled:
What does the Bible say he needs to “put off” regarding fearful behaviors that lead to disobedience? (Repentance)
What does the Bible say he needs to “put on” to better love God and neighbor as self? (Replacement)
What is the child’s response to things out of his control?
What changes are eventually able to be brought under Holy Spirit and self-control? (Heart attitudes, thoughts and
actions)
What developmental assets does a child have that could support them through this struggle?
I want to determine if any of these are triggers for their anxiety: Because all biblical stories point back to Christ, I want to demonstrate examples of others in scripture who struggle with anxiety and how they found hope in the promises of God. Possible triggers are (not all of these are really plausible in the case study you laid out but they could be in others):

  • False concept/doctrine— “God has abandoned me.” “I’m all alone”- Elijah “Everybody hates me.”
    “I can’t…”
    • Reaction to an event — death, abuse, loss, disappointment, expectations unfulfilled
    • Guilt — run and hide like Adam & Eve. Pr 28:1; fear of punishment. Ps 51
    • Comments from others — accept others’ view of me-fat, ugly, stupid; “You’re no good/worthless/destined to fail.”
    • Change of health — actual diagnosis or fear of diagnosis
    • Change in a relationship — a wrong relationship caused anxiety; divorce; separation. Php 4:1-4
    • Feeling out of control — Failure to focus on God’s sovereign control in the midst of my chaos. Ps 55:22
    • Stress/tiredness/illness — Elijah – 1Ki 19; David. Ps 42:5,11; 46; 49:15
    • Lose of temporal security — job, spouse. Ps 48:14; 50:15; 60:11-12
    • A thought — Fear of man – Ps 56:3,4; Fear of lost salvation Ps 51:12; 74:12; Fear of circumstances. Ps 62:5-8

I welcome interactions, critique, push-back and challenge and will seek to learn from others as I read.

Some of what Allchin offers here is very consistent with what many professional counselors do. Of course, the emphasis on biblical thinking and repentance as a part of a cure is not.
I can’t speak for Mr. Allchin, but I imagine he will read any comments left for him. Please make them constructive and polite. Tomorrow, Christian psychologist A.J. McConnell will provide his conceptualization of this case.
To read all posts in this series, click here.

Happy Constitution Day! The Sun Rose on September 17, 1787

Constitution
Today in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional convention made one last minute change and then most signed the document.
Nathaniel Gorham from Massachusetts wanted to change the number of representatives by changing the ratio of one representative for every 30,000 instead of 40,000.

Mr. GORHAM said, if it was not too late, he could wish, for the purpose of lessening objections to the Constitution, that the clause, declaring that “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every forty thousand,” which had produced so much discussion, might be yet reconsidered, in order to strike out “forty thousand,” and insert “thirty thousand.” This would not, he remarked, establish that as an absolute rule, but only give Congress a greater latitude, which could not be thought unreasonable.
Mr. KING and Mr. CARROLL seconded and supported the ideas of Mr. GORHAM.
When the President rose, for the purpose of putting the question, he said, that although his situation had hitherto restrained him from offering his sentiments on questions depending in the House, and, it might be thought, ought now to impose silence on him, yet he could not forbear expressing his wish that the alteration proposed might take place. It was much to be desired that the objections to the plan recommended might be made as few as possible. The smallness of the proportion of Representatives had been considered, by many members of the Convention an insufficient security for the rights and interests of the people. He acknowledged that it had always appeared to himself among the exceptionable parts of the plan; and late as the present moment was for admitting amendments, he thought this of so much consequence, that it would give him much satisfaction to see it adopted.1
No opposition was made to the proposition of Mr. GORHAM, and it was agreed to unanimously.

Then the delegates voted with majorities of state delegations agreeing to the Constitution.

On the question to agree to the Constitution, enrolled, in order to be signed, it was agreed to, all the States answering, aye.

However, Edmund Randolph declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. RANDOLPH then rose, and with an allusion to the observations of Doctor FRANKLIN, apologized for his refusing to sign the Constitution, notwithstanding the vast majority and venerable names that would give sanction to its wisdom and its worth. He said, however, that he did not mean by this refusal to decide that he should oppose the Constitution without doors. He meant only to keep himself free to be governed by his duty, as it should be prescribed by his future judgment. He refused to sign, because he thought the object of the Convention would be frustrated by the alternative which it presented to the people. Nine States will fail to ratify the plan, and confusion must ensue. With such a view of the subject he ought not, he could not, by pledging himself to support the plan, restrain himself from taking such steps as might appear to him most consistent with the public good.

Elbridge Gerry also declared his intention not to sign.

Mr. GERRY described the painful feelings of his situation, and the embarrassments under which he rose to offer any further observations on the subject which had been finally decided. Whilst the plan was depending, he had treated it with all the freedom he thought it deserved. He now felt himself bound, as he was disposed, to treat it with the respect due to the act of the Convention. He hoped he should not violate that respect in declaring, on this occasion, his fears that a civil war may result from the present crisis of the United States. In Massachusetts, particularly, he saw the danger of this calamitous event. In that State there are two parties, one devoted to Democracy, the worst, he thought, of all political evils; the other as violent in the opposite extreme. From the collision of these in opposing and resisting the Constitution, confusion was greatly to be feared. He had thought it necessary, for this and other reasons, that the plan should have been proposed in a more mediating shape, in order to abate the heat and opposition of parties. As it had been passed by the Convention, he was persuaded it would have a contrary effect. He could not, therefore, by signing the Constitution, pledge himself to abide by it at all events. The proposed form made no difference with him. But if it were not otherwise apparent, the refusals to sign should never be known from him. Alluding to the remarks of Doctor FRANKLIN, he could not, he said, but view them as levelled at himself and the other gentlemen who meant not to sign.

Madison also records that George Mason didn’t sign the document.

The Constitution being signed by all the members, except Mr. RANDOLPHMr. MASON, and Mr. GERRY, who declined giving it the sanction of their names, the Convention dissolved itself by an adjournment sine die.

Madison showed his literary side by recording the following observation to end his notes.

Whilst the last members were signing, Doctor FRANKLIN, looking towards the President’s chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art, a rising, from a setting sun. I have, said he, often and often, in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising and not a setting sun.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. Today is the last day of the series since the work of the delegates was done and the Constitution sent on to the states for debate and ratification.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these notes and hope you have benefited as much as I have. To read all of the entries, if you have a few hours, click the following link:
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Delegates Finished Their Work

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September 15, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates took up numerous final details from the Committee of Style. At the end of the day, the Constitution was complete (well almost).

Influences on the Delegates

There were no references to England, Rome, Greek, or any other influence today. Edmund Randolph, who had started the convention with his proposals, ended it with his objections to the finished product. Others joined but the state delegations in the end voted to engross the Constitution.

Mr. RANDOLPH animadverting on the indefinite and dangerous power given by the Constitution to Congress, expressing the pain he felt at differing from the body of the Convention on the close of the great and awful subject of their labors, and anxiously wishing for some accommodating expedient which would relieve him from his embarrassments, made a motion importing, “that amendments to the plan might be offered by the State conventions, which should be submitted to, and finally decided on by, another general Convention.” Should this proposition be disregarded, it would, he said, be impossible for him to put his name to the instrument. Whether he should oppose it afterwards, he would not then decide; but he would not deprive himself of the freedom to do so in his own State, if that course should be prescribed by his final judgment.
 Colonel MASON seconded and followed Mr. RANDOLPH in animadversions on the dangerous power and structure of the Government, concluding that it would end either in monarchy, or a tyrannical aristocracy; which, he was in doubt, but one or other, he was sure. This Constitution had been formed without the knowledge or idea of the people. A second Convention will know more of the sense of the people, and be able to provide a system more consonant to it. It was improper to say to the people, take this or nothing. As the Constitution now stands, he could neither give it his support or vote in Virginia; and he could not sign here what he could not support there. With the expedient of another Convention, as proposed, he could sign.
Mr. PINCKNEY. These declarations from members so respectable, at the close of this important scene, give a peculiar solemnity to the present moment. He descanted on the consequences of calling forth the deliberations and amendments of the different States, on the subject of government at large. Nothing but confusion and contrariety will spring from the experiment. The States will never agree in their plans, and the deputies to a second convention, coming together under the discordant impressions of their constituents, will never agree. Conventions are serious things, and ought not to be repeated. He was not without objections, as well as others, to the plan. He objected to the contemptible weakness and dependence of the Executive. He objected to the power of a majority, only, of Congress, over commerce. But apprehending the danger of a general confusion, and an ultimate decision by the sword, he should give the plan his support.
Mr. GERRY stated the objections which determined him to withhold his name from the Constitution: 1. the duration and reëligibility of the Senate; 2. the power of the House of Representatives to conceal their Journals; 3. the power of Congress over the places of election; 4. the unlimited power of Congress over their own compensation; 5. that Massachusetts has not a due share of representatives allotted to her; 6. that three fifths of the blacks are to be represented, as if they were freemen; 7. that under the power over commerce, monopolies may be established; 8. the Vice President being made head of the Senate. He could, however, he said, get over all these, if the rights of the citizens were not rendered insecure, — first, by the general power of the Legislature to make what laws they may please to call “necessary and proper”; secondly, to raise armies and money without limit; thirdly, to establish a tribunal without juries, which will be a Star Chamber as to civil cases. Under such a view of the Constitution, the best that could be done, he conceived, was to provide for a second general Convention.

The state delegations said no to Randolph’s proposal for amendments and then voted to accept the Constitution.
I will say more in the last post in the series about the influences on the Constitution. However, I didn’t find the regular and constant influences from the Bible and Christianity as promised by Christian nationalists.
 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Article 1 Revisited

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optSeptember 14, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates continued consideration of the report of the Committee of Style. Again, they debated sections of Article 1. Notably, the delegates nixed the idea of a national secular university and rejected a motion to protect the freedom of the press.

Influences on the Delegates

One incident stands out from the session of the 14th:

Mr. MADISON and Mr. PINCKNEY then moved to insert, in the list of powers vested in Congress, a power “to establish an University, in which no preferences or distinctions should be allowed on account of religion.”
Mr. WILSON supported the motion.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. It is not necessary. The exclusive power at the seat of government will reach the object.
On the question, —
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye, — 4; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, no, — 6; Connecticut, divided, (Dr. JOHNSON, aye; Mr. SHERMAN, no.)

The delegates voted down a national university. It is interesting that the movers wanted the school to be independent of religious discrimination. That seems to be an odd way to establish a Christian nation.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – American Manufactures

September 13, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes)

Summary

The delegates continued consideration of the report of the Committee of Style. In particular, they debated elements of Article 1, sections 2 and 7. George Mason wanted to encourage American made goods and frugality.

Influences on the Delegates

On today’s date, delegates considered the end game.

Doctor JOHNSON made a further report from the Committee of Style, &c., of the following resolutions, to be substituted for Articles 22 and 23:
“Resolved, that the preceding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled; and that it is the opinion of this Convention, that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its Legislature, for their assent and ratification; and that each convention assenting to and ratifying the same, should give notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled.”
“Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Convention, that as soon as the Conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same; and a day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President; and the time and place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution: That after such publication the Electors should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected: That the Electors should meet on the day fixed for the election of the President, and should transmit their votes, certified, signed, sealed, and directed, as the Constitution requires, to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled: That the Senators and Representatives should convene at the time and place assigned: that the Senators should appoint a President for the sole purpose of receiving, opening and counting the votes for President, and that after he shall be chosen, the Congress, together with the President, should, without delay, proceed to execute this Constitution.”

 

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

How Would a Biblical Counselor Handle This Case?

photo-1473508476344-269a87b502ee_optOn Monday, I wrote about the conflict between adherents of biblical counseling and Christian psychology. Biblical counseling denies the role of psychology in counseling while Christian psychology (as proposed by former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Eric Johnson) uses the research and insights of psychologists to enhance counseling.
In the recent post, I mentioned a document titled 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling. The document was written by Heath Lambert, a SBTS professor and executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Lambert said that the theses were written to stimulate debate. This post and future posts on the topic are written as a response to the theses.
I want to start by discussing the following statements and present a case study. I intend to send this post to Dr. Lambert and will post any response he sends.

The Nature of Counseling and the Content of Scripture
6. When people experience difficulties as they live in a fallen world, they require wisdom about life to help them face these problems (Prov 19:20).
7. The wisdom to confront life’s difficulties is most often communicated in conversations our culture refers to as counseling.
8. The issues of concern in counseling pertain to problems people face as they relate the difficulties in their life to the faith and practice described in Scripture.
9. Because counseling problems concern the very same issues that God writes about in his Word, it is essential to have a conversation about the contents of the Bible to solve counseling problems.
10. The subject matter of counseling conversations is the wisdom needed to deal with life’s problems, and so counseling is not a discipline that is fundamentally informed by science, but by the teaching found in God’s Word.
11. When the Bible claims to address all the issues concerning life and godliness, it declares itself to be a sufficient and an authoritative resource to address everything essential for counseling conversations (2 Pet 1:3-4).
12. Christians must not separate the authority of Scripture for counseling from the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling because, if Scripture is to be a relevant authority, then it must be sufficient for the struggles people face as they live life in a fallen world (2 Pet 1:3-21).
13. The authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling means that counselors must counsel out of the conviction that the theological content of Scripture defines and directs the conversational content of counseling.
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).

According to the statements above, a Christian approach to counseling should address life’s difficulties, and involve the Bible and Jesus Christ alone as the solutions to all problems. At the outset, we might have a disagreement about the proper subject matter for counseling. I accept the reality of mental and emotional disorders and believe that counseling conversations may also involve techniques and information which do not come directly from the Bible. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me first present the case (some identifying details have been changed).

A mother and her second grade son attended the first session together. The father was at work. A meeting with them revealed that the youngster was afraid to remain in his school classroom. The boy attended a local public school and had never been afraid to go to school before. However, within the first month of school, his pattern was to enter school and remain in his classroom. After just a few minutes, he bolted from the room to the school office seemingly in terror and asked for his parents. This had been going on for about a month nearly every day. He remained in school on days his class attended field trips or out of class activities (e.g., library days). The parents had tried alternating morning rides to school and his father had carried him back into the classroom on multiple occasions only to have the same result. He bolted from the class looking for his parents.
On examination, the boy had male typical interests, played rough and tumble sports, was tall for his age, and was socially popular. He had never displayed separation anxiety beyond the norm prior to this year. In all respects except the fear of remaining in his classroom, the boy and his family (one older female sibling) seemed entirely normal and unremarkable from a mental health standpoint. The parents were leaders in their Christian church and the boy happily attended Sunday School and had professed a belief in Jesus as his Savior.

I realize this puts any respondent at a disadvantage. I have the details and know how the case turned out. However, I am curious to know if this kind of situation would be taken on by a biblical counselor. Given the statements concerning the sufficiency of the Bible to handle all problems, I wonder how a biblical counselor would begin and what kind of interventions would be considered.
If I don’t hear from ACBC, then I will give my best guess about how a biblical counselor would respond based on the 95 theses, and then explain how I responded, and why I think this case is relevant to the discussion about biblical counseling and Christians in psychology.
To read all posts in this series, click here.

The Nashville Statement and Same-Sex Attraction

Nashville logoDespite many critical reactions, the Nashville Statement continues to attract signers. The creators of the statement hoped to draw a line in the church sand and they apparently have succeeded.
The statement is divisive regarding the moral status of homosexual acts and desire. It isn’t surprising for the signers to consider same-sex sexual behavior to be sinful. This was already widely known. However, the statement draws a more controversial line when it declares same-sex attraction to be sinful even if never acted upon and asserts that same-sex attraction can be eliminated by following Jesus.
Article 12 of the statement says:

WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.

When I first read this, it sounded like a condemnation of both same-sex attraction and behavior. It also seems like the authors and signers believe same-sex attraction can be “put to death” or eradicated. Although reparative therapy is nowhere referenced in this statement, this sounds like the authors expect same-sex attracted people to be able to kill their attractions by religious means.
The statement was authored by the Committee for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Writing for CBMW, Denny Burk confirmed my reading of the statement. About Article 12, he said:

The Nashville Statement leaves no room for such revisions nor does it leave ambiguity on the question. But we are not merely reasserting what the Bible says about the moral status of homosexuality. We are also saying that the gospel of Jesus of Christ offers hope for those laboring under the power of this particular temptation:

Elsewhere, Burk has been even more clear that same-sex attraction is inherently sinful. In his article, Is Homosexual Orientation Sinful?

When a person feels themselves experiencing an attraction or a desire toward a person of the same sex, what is their responsibility before God at that point? Is a desire for sexual activity with a person of the same sex a morally benign desire? In the terms that Jesus teaches us, it is always sinful to desire something that God forbids. And the very experience of the desire becomes an occasion for repentance. And it is pastoral malpractice to tell someone who is feeling a sexual attraction for a person of the same sex that they need not repent. In the moment they feel their sexual desire aroused in such a way—in that moment—they must confess the desire as sinful and turn from it. (p. 108)

Burk answers his article’s question in the affirmative.

So how do we answer the question, “Is same-sex orientation sinful?” Insofar as same-sex orientation designates the experience of sexual desire for a person of the same-sex, yes, it is sinful. Insofar as same-sex orientation indicates emotional/romantic attractions that brim with erotic possibility, yes, those attractions too are sinful. Insofar as sexual orientation designates an identity, yes, that identity too is a sinful fiction that contradicts God’s purposes for his creation. (p. 114)

What’s the Problem Here?

Whether one affirms same-sex orientation or not, Article 12 is problematic on empirical grounds. First, efforts to eliminate same-sex desires, religious or not, haven’t been effective. Burk wrote in his blog post that the Nashville Statement “offers hope” for same-sex attracted people. Based on nearly 20 years of research and clinical experience with GLB people, I believe the statement offers false hope based on wishful thinking. It is the rare person who credibly reports that their same-sex attractions are “put to death.” This experience, if it can be believed at all, is the infrequent exception rather than the rule. The Nashville Statement promises much more than is true for the majority of Christians I’ve encountered who have tried to follow these teachings. For many, the result is discouragement, depression, suicidal wishes, and a rejection of the faith. There is no reason to sugarcoat this. It is a denial of reality to do so.
Burk offers consistent doctrinal reasons for his position on orientation when he says that it is “sinful to desire something that God forbids.” However, I question his analysis of the meaning of desire. In fact, I question whether or not we can know for sure what Jesus had in view when he taught that a married man who lusts for another woman has committed adultery. I am not certain that we can judge the modern concept of sexual orientation by this illustration. Was Jesus teaching about sexual orientation or was he teaching about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20) and the continuity of the moral law? I doubt Burk will take the rest of this teaching in Matthew 5:29-30 just as literally as he does verse 28.

28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (emphasis added)

If Jesus is speaking literally, then why doesn’t the Nashville Statement affirm elective organ and limb donation as the appropriate pastoral response to illicit sexual desire?
None of the signers would sign up for such pastoral advice. However, they have agreed with a pastoral response which offers false hope and not much else. So no matter what one believes about the morality of same-sex sexual acts, the Nashville Statement affirms a view of sexual orientation and change that has been discredited and encourages pastors to mislead their same-sex attracted congregants. Along with other problems, this is reason enough to reject the Nashville Statement.
If people want to sign a statement, perhaps they could consider this one.