Ted Cruz May Face Senate Challenge from Gateway Church Wing of TX GOP

Robert Morris and Ted Cruz Wilks BrosAccording to this column from Bud Kennedy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may face a challenge from the religious right. Bruce Jacobson, the VP of Media and Executive Producer of James Robison’s “Life Today” television show, is considering a primary run against Cruz.
James Robison is an apostolic elder at Gateway Church. Although I haven’t seen it, I have also heard that Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris made a video in support of Jacobson. Apparently Morris stopped short of an endorsement but was viewed as giving Jacobson a boost.
Given Gateway’s financial problems, I wonder who paid for the video.
According to a Facebook thread describing Jacobson’s possible run, the opposition to Cruz comes from Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
If this potential revolt materializes, it would be a turn around for Robison and Morris who previously supported Cruz. Robison is on President Trump’s evangelical advisory committee and is said to have regular access to the President.
Cruz is already facing two primary challengers, Stefano de Stefano and Dan McQueen. Several Dem candidates are lined up in the primary to challenge him in the 2018 election but in Texas, the GOP primary winner will most likely keep the seat for the Republicans.
Jacobson’s challenge is reminiscent of David Barton’s flirtation with a 2013 primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn. Barton’s Wallbuilders colleague Rick Green said Barton might run if he got enough Facebook likes.
In reading for this post, I was reminded of this line from Michael Gerson’s fine column in today’s WaPo.  Gerson said:

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives.

Gerson then asks:

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear?

I doubt they do, but they do. Jockeying for political power and influence is antithetical to the Gospel.
 

Christian Counseling and the Life of Jesus

counseling image 2This is the fourth in a series of posts which examines the 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling published by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and authored by Dr. Heath Lambert. I offer this critique from my perspective as a psychology professor and mental health counselor. For prior posts in the series on the first fourteen theses, click here. Today, I examine thesis 15.
Is Jesus the Standard for Everything?
This section focuses on Jesus as a standard for Christian mental health.

  1. Counselors require a standard to know what changes must be pursued in the lives of the troubled people they wish to help and, because the Bible portrays Jesus Christ as that perfect standard for human living, it is impossible to accomplish authentically Christian counseling without reference to him (1 John 2:5-6).

I can’t tell what this statement means in a practical sense. Knowing that Jesus is perfect in every way doesn’t tell me what kind of changes human beings should pursue in counseling. Three possibilities occurred to me which I will frame as questions:

  • Does Lambert mean Christian counselors should always pursue change in every dimension of personality (i.e., behavioral, emotional, cognitive, moral)?
  • Is he referring to the outcomes of counseling? Does he mean that Christian counseling should lead to clients being perfect as Jesus is perfect?
  • Or does he mean that counselors should only deal with issues depicted in the Bible’s accounts of the life of Jesus?

Each of these questions deserve a separate article for a full response. For the purpose of this post, I will briefly reply to each one.
Symptom v. Personality Change
Historically, counselors have debated the scope of counseling. Should counseling focus on symptom removal or on deeper personality change? Modern approaches aim for symptom relief while older approaches such as psychoanalysis focus on personality change.
I see nothing in the Bible which requires all counseling to deal with every level of human functioning. I believe counseling may properly deal with one aspect of functioning (e.g., symptom reduction versus deep personality change). In fact, Jesus at times healed diseases without any obvious attention to other areas of life. The needs of clients should guide counselors in planning their interventions.
Can We Be as Healthy as Jesus?
Although Jesus healed diseases in others, there are no recorded instances of Jesus suffering with medical or mental disorders. Does that mean he lived in such a way that he never suffered health problems? Or did His divine nature prevent those effects of a sinful world? Many theologians believe Jesus was unable to sin.* In like manner, could it be that Jesus was unable to experience mental or physical disease? Since He healed others, perhaps He healed Himself at the first sign of any disease. Or, on the other hand, is it possible that Jesus could have gotten cancer or suffered with bipolar disorder? Charles Spurgeon did not believe Jesus was ever ill. In his sermon, “Help for Your Sickness,” Spurgeon said no “disease was upon him.”
Spurgeon on sickness
Is Jesus a Perfect Standard for Every Aspect of Living?
Jesus is an example of obedience to the Father, holy living, and sacrifice. He modeled a life of virtue and was the substitute for our transgressions. He is our example for moral conduct and virtuous reflection. About this, most Christians agree. However, there is much Jesus didn’t cover during his short time on Earth.  Jesus’ teachings are the standard as far as they go.
We don’t know much about the life of Jesus outside of His mission to rescue people from sin. While the New Testament speaks in general terms about the humanity of Jesus, I don’t think it is possible to know with certainty what that means for mental health treatment.
Jesus didn’t deal with much of what we need to know to live today. He never chose a college, a spouse, or a profession. He never invested in a retirement account or purchased insurance. He didn’t play sports or watch movies. What He taught us we should emulate. However, on many aspects of human living, He offered no specific example or teaching.  We must use our minds in community with others to figure out how to pursue the rest.

For the earlier posts in this series, click here.

 
*This is certainly true of theologians who teach at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Heath Lambert also teaches counseling. In a 2015 article, Denny Burk wrote:

Jesus’ impeccability in this regard has provoked some people to wonder whether his experience of temptation can ever be as intense as that of the sinners that he came to save. Can he really have known our weaknesses when he himself was not capable of sinning? (p. 104)

Burk believes Jesus did know the temptation but was unable to sin.

The text plainly says that God cannot be tempted by evil. In what way are we tempted by evil that God is not tempted by evil? Verse 14 gives the answer. We face temptations that arise from our “own desire” (1:14). By contrast, because Jesus never desired evil, Jesus never faced temptations arising from “his own sinful desire.” His heart never in any degree fixated on evil. Temptation had no landing pad in Jesus’ heart nor did it have a launching pad from Jesus’ heart. The same is not true of sinners, who are often carried away by their own desires, as James describes it. (p.105)

 

Petition Reignites Biblical Counseling Controversy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

counseling image 2In September, I wrote about a controversy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary involving the Christian psychology of Eric Johnson and the Biblical counseling of Heath Lambert. According to Johnson, his version of Christian psychology is no longer compatible with how SBTS wants counseling taught at the school. Thus, he had to step down from his position. It is not clear if he was fired or negotiated a settlement of some kind.

Reviving Eric Johnson’s Position Revisited

At the time, a petition was constructed to register discontent with Johnson’s ouster. Now, an update has been posted to the petition with a broader aim. The petition to SBTS now asks:

Given the obvious harm that these consequences would cause both to the standing and reputation of Southern Seminary, the following are recommended steps that should be taken and questions to be asked next week as the Board of Trustees visit Southern Seminary:

 

  • Offer immunity and anonymity to any and all professors who would be willing to speak with the trustees regarding this situation. Many of them know far more than we do but are terrified of speaking out for fear of ending up like Professor Johnson. Allow them to simply affirm, deny, or elaborate upon anything said in this letter without the fear of disciplinary actions.
  • Reconsider the silencing effects that the removal of tenure in 2014 has had up the seminary’s faculty, as they have been afraid to speak up for their terminated colleague, Professor Johnson. Please take steps to reinstate tenure. Tenure ensures the continuity of an institution’s identity, maintains the financial security for faculty families, and establishes boundaries that prevent the president from wrongfully firing professors. Before the removal of tenure in 2014, professors could be justifiably removed for moral or doctrinal transgression. There is no added benefit to the new faculty contract policy aside from the consolidation of power within the office of the president. The reason alumni are writing this letter is because all the faculty and staff members who contacted us were afraid that they would lose their job by speaking out.
  • Southern Seminary’s counseling program is very important in the life of Southern Baptist Churches, as it is on the front lines of pastoral and congregational soul care. Is it in the best interest of the churches that Southern Seminary serves to train up future pastors in a monologuing counseling department? Should pastors not study under both biblical counselors and Christian psychologists as they learn how to care for the complex needs of their churches?
  • Ask President Mohler directly whether any ACBC-affiliate (church, person, organization) was involved in his termination of Johnson. If Mohler refuses to provide a direct “yes” or “no” answer, ask him whether or not his reluctance to speak about the termination is the result of a non-disclosure agreement. It is imperative that the truth come out so that the Seminary can move on and begin a healing and reunifying process.
  • Based upon the findings of the above mentioned investigations, if it is found that there was any improper conduct that led to the termination of Professor Johnson, we recommend that the Board of Trustees extend a public apology to Johnson and offer to reinstate him in his original position at Southern Seminary.

This Story Is About More Than Eric Johnson and Heath Lambert

Johnson’s personnel matter is wrapped up in a broader issue. Will Southern Baptist pastors be exposed to one narrow approach to counseling or will they have access to training and teaching which takes psychological insights into account? Why this matters to a broad audience is that many people go to their pastors for counseling or for recommendations for counseling. It would be tragic and potentially dangerous for pastors to refer only to Biblical counselors.
Note to the folks at SBTS, mental illness is real and the Bible doesn’t say much about it. Recently, I featured representatives of Biblical counseling and Christian psychology in a discussion about a case. It was clear to me that the Biblical counseling approach left important components out. Furthermore, there are many problems in living which Scripture doesn’t address.
 

Mark Driscoll's New Blog: More Copied Material with No Quotes

Last week, reader Aaron New pointed out a couple of paragraphs in a blog post by fellow Patheos blogger Mark Driscoll which were nearly identical to material in a previously published book by Aubrey Malphurs. Using previously published material without citation is plagiarism.
Well, Professor New has found another copied paragraph. Driscoll’s paragraph is from part two of a series adapted from his book Doctrine with Gerry Breshears and is below:
Driscoll Lightfoot paragraph
Now compare Driscoll’s paragraph with this excerpt from How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot (copied material is underlined).
Lightfoot paragraph canon driscoll
Driscoll left out the Bible citations and rearranged a couple of words. Otherwise, this is lifted from Lightfoot. Taking into account last week’s incident and this one, it is hard to see how this could be accidental or some kind of coincidence. Some may protest that the amount of material is small. While true, the paragraphs are quotes with no quotation marks. This should be corrected and an apology immediately offered when it happens.
I contacted Driscoll’s co-author Gerry Breshears about the citations and he has not answered.
I have been able to consult a few individuals who did ghostwriting and research work for Mars Hill Church. Their descriptions provide insight into how some citations make it into published material and how some doesn’t. Much of the research for Doctrine was paid for by Mars Hill Church. Then Driscoll chose the information he needed and reworked it. Some passages obviously didn’t get reworked much and ended up in published works without citations. In all cases, so I was told, the citations were in the research. However, for some reason, either the author or an editor removed some citations. In any case, the beat goes on.
 

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Plaintiffs in Gospel for Asia RICO Suit Move to Add Related Entities to Case

K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube
K.P. Yohannan, source: Youtube

In the event they prevail in their RICO suit against Gospel for Asia, the plaintiffs want to add GFA’s numerous related entities to the list of defendants.  In a motion filed on October 4, Garland and Phyllis Murphy want the federal court to allow any judgment against GFA to apply to the many organizations around the world controlled by K.P. Yohannan and the GFA board.
 
According to the motion:

Discovery is far from complete, but the Murphys have learned of at least 76 entities (thus far) that may prove to be alter egos of named Defendants GFA, Inc., K.P. Yohannan, and/or family members and close associates of Yohannan. (p.1)

The attorneys for the plaintiffs want the court to consider applying any verdict favoring the plaintiffs to these related entities, also known as alter egos.

…the best course of action under these circumstances is to address alter ego issues only if the Murphys first obtain a judgment against the named Defendants.2 But because the case management order is silent except for the approaching deadline to add parties, the Murphys—for clarity and out of caution—now ask the Court to explicitly build an alter ego phase of trial after verdict into the case management order. (p. 1-2)

The request is designed to protect against GFA moving assets to a related entity which has not been named as a defendant in the case. Since K.P. Yohannan and family are on the boards of these related entities, it is plausible to think they might move assets away from GFA to shield them from a judgment.

Lawyers Deny Yohannan Controls Related Entities

In a related response from GFA’s attorney’s filed on October 6, the defense team again asserted that K.P. Yohannan does not have control of entities in India.

The Field Partners are separate legal entities with their own governing boards. They are not controlled by GFA-USA or K.P. Yohannan, and thus Defendants do not have the authority to simply order them to produce documents. This separateness is important in India. (p.4)

GFA has yet to produce any proof that K.P. Yohannan has relinquished his control of Believers’ Church or any of the entities under their umbrella. According to numerous Believers’ Church documents, Yohannan is the supreme authority over the church and has the final word in matters of temporal and ecclesiastical control. As late as 2015, court documents in India refer to Yohannan as the managing trustee of Believers Church.

Alter Egos Listed

In Exhibit A of the motion to add alter egos, seventy-six possible entities are listed. They are:

1. Believers Church – India
2. Gospel for Asia – India (n/k/a Ayana Charitable Trust)
3. Last Hour Ministry
4. Love India Ministries
5. Believers Church
6. Believers Church – Bangladesh
7. Believers Church – Myanmar
8. Believers Church – Nepal
9. Believers Church – Sri Lanka
10. Gospel for Asia – Bangladesh
11. Gospel for Asia – Nepal
12. Gospel for Asia – Myanmar
13. Gospel for Asia – Sri Lanka
14. Gospel for Asia – International
15. Gospel for Asia – United Kingdom
16. Gospel for Asia – Germany
17. Gospel for Asia – Canada (n/k/a GFA World)
18. Gospel for Asia – New Zealand
19. Gospel for Asia – Australia
20. Gospel for Asia – South Africa
21. Gospel for Asia – South Korea
22. Gospel for Asia – Finland
23. Gospel for Asia, Inc. (TX Corp)
24. Gospel for Asia 75 LLC
25. Gospel for Asia 275 LLC
26. Gospel for Asia School of Discipleship
27. Bridge Builders, LLC
28. Cup Of Blessing, LLC
29. Grace in Action, LLC
30. In His Steps, LLC
31. Peace Givers, LLC
32. Road to Peace, LLC
33. Shepherd’s Care, LLC
34. Teaching Skills, LLC
35. Unconditional Love, LLC
36. Unfailing Love, LLC
37. Voice of Love, LLC
38. Way of Hope, LLC
39. Little Hills (Canada)
40. The Blind See (Canada)
41. The Lame Walk (Canada)
42. Lift Up Their Voices (Canada)
43. Growth in Fraternity Trust
44. Shekina Prophetic Mission Trust
45. New Hope Foundation
46. Holy Spirit Ministries
47. Rehaboth Indian Gypsy New Life Trust
48. Arul Shelter Home Trust
49. NISSI
50. POET
51. Heavenly Grace Ministry
52. Bridge of Hope
53. Cheruvally Rubber Estate
54. Believers Church Theological Seminary
55. Believers Church Residential School
56. Believers Church Residential School Tiruvalla
57. Believers Church Vidya Jyothi English School
58. Believers Church Mahatma Public School, Chavara
59. Believers Church Mahatma Central School
60. Believers Church Mulamanna VHSS
61. Believers Church Residential School, Orissa
62. Believers Church Residential School, Allapuzha
63. Believers Church Holy Angels Public School
64. Believers Church Grace Garden Public School
65. Believers Church Medical College Hospital
66. Caarmel Engineering College
67. Athmeeya Yathra Media
68. Athmeeya Yathra Television
69. Athmeeya Yathra Radio
70. AY Broadcast Foundation
71. Believers Church Medical Centre, Purulia, West Bengal
72. Believers Church Medical Centre, Konni, Kerala
73. Asha Grih Children’s Homes
74. Dora Microfinance
75. Gospel For Asia Football (soccer) Club – Myanmar Premier League
76. St. Johannes International School Rajasthan

Despite Denials, Trust Documents Show K.P. Yohannan is Supreme Authority over Believers' Church

KP Head of Church
For over a year, I have been looking for the deed of the Believers’ Church trust. I wanted to find it because I felt sure that it would demonstrate that CEO and founder of Gospel for Asia K.P. Yohannan was on the board of Believers’ Church. Since Yohannan once claimed he didn’t sit on any controlling boards in India, I wanted the trust document to check on that claim. More recently, a lawyer defending Gospel for Asia against fraud charges also claimed Yohannan doesn’t sit on boards of GFA affiliated organizations in India.

Denials from the Supreme Authority and His Lawyer

First, Yohannan made the claim in May 2015 in a staff meeting:

And by the way, just so you know, I am not legally on any boards, any trusts, anything in any of these countries. I have no powers to make decisions or sign money, or release money, or make decisions, I am completely legally…why? Because anybody who work in the United States or overseas countries have a board membership or have legal membership should not be part of their legal entities in India. It’s a conflict of interest and therefore we send the funds and it is immediately under the government watch care and the government of India is responsible and investigative agencies and tax divisions to make sure  that is carried out within the time frame or whatever they do, that is a public thing.

In May of this year, attorney Robert Mowrey made the claim in an Arkansas federal court.

Here is the big issue, and it doesn’t really have to do with bifurcation, but I think that the Court should give us some guidance on this today. If you look at their case management plan, we could go through. They have four pages, and we’re going to produce most all the things that they have asked for, except the problem that we have, Mr. Stanley [attorney for people suing GFA] has mentioned over and over how K. P. Yohannan just controls everything. There are many — there are entities in India: The Believers Church, GFA-India. K. P. Yohannan is not on the board of those entities. Is he the metropolitan? Yes, he is the Metropolitan of Believers Church. Does that mean he has access to all of their records? No, it doesn’t.
Now, Mr. Stanley doesn’t believe that. Mr. Stanley thinks that whatever K. P. Yohannan wants, he can get; but we have no problem in producing everything we can with respect to the entities that he has sued. But when it comes to wholly separate entities in India, that’s where the rub is.

In past articles, I have produced ample evidence that Yohannan is on the GFA (now Ayana Charitable Trust) board, the Believers’ Church board, the Bridge of Hope board, and the board of at least a couple of his for profit schools. Yohannan is listed as owner on the deeds to property owned by the church. However, I lacked the trust document which established Believers’ Church in India. Now I have the original 1993 trust document and a trust deed updated in 2004 (click the links to read each one).  Point 10 leaves no doubt who is in charge in the Believers’ Church.
KP Head of Church
These documents show beyond any doubt that K.P. Yohannan is a founding trustee of Believers’ Church and that he remains in control of the business and religious operations. All of the NGOs operate under the umbrella of Believers’ Church and would provide documents for the court action in the U.S. if the Metropolitan Bishop ordered it so.
The list of GFA trustees in 2004.
GFA 2004 list of trustees
It is possible that another deed has been filed since 2004. However, if that is true, it should not be difficult for fellow Patheos blogger K.P. Yohannan to produce it. He is, after all, the “constitutional head” and “supreme authority of the Church” who holds “the final word on all matters whether concerning policies or theological beliefs and activities of the Church.”
 

Indian Government Halts Flow of Foreign Funds to Gospel for Asia

Pope KP2In a surprising development, the nation of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the registration of Gospel for Asia and three related organizations. According to the Times of India, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust) was the largest recipient of foreign funds in the nation during fiscal year 2016. The other affiliated organizations which lost registration are Believers’ Church, Last Hour Ministry and Love India Ministry. Believers’ Church is the ecclesiastical arm of GFA in Asia.
In India for a charity to accept foreign funds, the charity must be registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The organizations affiliated with Gospel for Asia have traditionally been among the richest in India. In FY 2016, these charities pulled in $206.5-million from foreign donors, most of that from the United States.
Gospel for Asia is the target of two RICO lawsuits in the U.S.  Plaintiffs allege fraud and misuse of funds. At least one of these cases has been slated for trial in 2019. In October of 2015, GFA was evicted from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for multiple violations of EFCA’s financial standards. GFA vowed to regain membership in the financial watchdog but has yet to satisfy ECFA requirements.
In 2016, GFA was sanctioned by the federal Office of Personnel Management for failing to abide program standards. As a consequence, the U.S. government banned GFA from accepting donations from federal employees during the annual workplace charitable fund drive.
In 2015, it was learned that GFA leaders asked student visitors to India to take U.S. dollars into India without reporting the funds to customs officials.
Below is the cancellation notice on India Ministry of Home Affairs website for Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly Gospel for Asia in India).
ayana FCRA cancelation
GFA does business in India under other organizational names that apparently have not been cancelled (e.g., New Hope Foundation, Holy Spirit Ministries) but most funds go to the four cancelled entities. In practice, the move might not immediately hurt Believers’ Church and GFA in India because the organization has hoarded so much cash over the past decade.

Footnotes Missing from Fellow Blogger Mark Driscoll's Latest Post

After my post yesterday about Fellow Patheos Blogger Pastor Mark Driscoll’s citation issues, reader and college prof Aaron New sent along an example of another problem in Driscoll’s most recent Patheos blog post.
The post, “What is the Bible? Answering 4 Common Questions About the Bible: Part 1,” largely comes from his book with Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. To his credit, Driscoll alerted readers to that fact at the end of the post.
More troubling is the lack of quotes and citation for the following section. From yesterday’s post:
Driscoll Blog Post 100417
Now take a look at a book first published in 1997 (2nd edition in 2009) written by Aubrey Malphurs and titled, Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary.  On page 190 of that book, Malphurs provides the following description of the Bible. The portion of interest begins in the third full sentence of the paragraph below.
Malphus book 1997 2009
The passages are nearly identical. Even though the facts are commonly known, the order, wording, and presentation of those facts are nearly the same in both places. The Driscoll and Breshears book has a 2010 copyright date; Malphurs’ book shows two copyright dates, 1997 and 2009. Most of the Malphurs’ material is also in the Doctrine book, but a couple of the copied sentences are only in the Patheos blog post.
Readers, I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. I report, you decide. Just to make it clear, below is the Patheos blog post passage with the identical material underlined. What is not underlined is only slightly reworded. Only a very few additional words were added.
Driscoll compared to Malphurs
There may be more instances like this. I only examined two paragraphs in the Patheos blog. I think some explanation should be forthcoming for why the water that was under the bridge is now gushing forth in this new season.

A Citation Error by Fellow Blogger Mark Driscoll Is a Blast from the Past

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

After reading the most recent post by my Fellow Patheos Blogger Pastor Mark Driscoll™ last night, a frequent reader of my blog informed me that the new post recycles lots of material from Driscoll’s book on doctrine. Indeed, there are several paragraphs in his Patheos post on evil in Las Vegas which first appeared in his book with Gerry Breshears titled Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe.  For instance, Driscoll wrote in his post:

The Bible uses a constellation of images to explain sin as everything from rebellion to folly, self-abuse, madness, treason, death, hatred, spiritual adultery, missing the mark, wandering from the path, idolatry, insanity, irrationality, pride, selfishness, blindness, deafness, a hard heart, a stiff neck, delusion, unreasonableness, and self-worship. Sin and evil are not rational or reasonable.

In his Doctrine book, he introduces a section on sin with the same paragraph:
Driscoll Doctrine Sin

To Recycle or Not?

Recycling previously published material without citation is somewhat controversial in the world of writers. Journalist Jonah Lehrer had his career sidetracked over it. I discovered lots of it in Fellow Patheos Blogger Mark Driscoll’s™ books. However, in this case, I doubt many people will care that he is recycling previously published material at his new blog.
On the other hand, his co-author might care. Unless Gerry Breshears was not really very involved or just lent his name, the material claimed now by Driscoll might have been written by Breshears. Having a co-author is one reason why authors should cite the original source for recycled material.

Deja Vu All Over Again*

However, the same reader alerted me to something else I hadn’t seen before. It appears I found another “citation error” (some would call it plagiarism) in Doctrine (see this image for other such citation errors). On pages 149-150 of the 2010 book (see the page image here), Driscoll and Breshears wrote:

To help you understand sin, in general, and your sin, in particular, we will examine eight aspects of sin that the Old Testament teaches us.
1) Sin in the Old Testament is first a relational breach. This is painfully clear in Genesis 2–3 where, because of their sin, our first parents are separated from God and one another; they hide from God and one another, fear God, blame one another, and seek to cover their sin and shame while living their life apart from God.
2) Sin in the Old Testament is a social matter because shalom has been vandalized. This is evidenced by the litany of murder, perversion, drunkenness, the continual evil that precipitated the flood, and human attempts at an Edenic-like society without any regard for God that spring forth in Genesis 4–11.
3) Sin in the Old Testament is a covenantal rebellion against God and his authority. This is witnessed perhaps most clearly in Exodus 32 to 34, where following God’s liberation of his people, they dishonor, disregard, and disobey him by worshiping idols while God is giving them the Ten Commandments through their leader Moses.
4) Sin in the Old Testament is a legal transgression that results in guilt that necessitates punishment. One clear example is found in Deuteronomy 32, where in worshipful song Moses recollects some of the most treasonous behavior of God’s people and the price that had to be paid for justice to be maintained.
5) Sin in the Old Testament results in ritual uncleanness, pollution, and filth, marked by the use of words such as “filth,” “defiled,” “unclean,” and “whore.”18 Importantly, this defilement happens both to sinners and victims; we defile ourselves by our own sin and are defiled by others when they sin against us.
6) Sin in the Old Testament includes emotional pain such as shame and disgrace.19 This is first seen in Genesis 3, where our first parents sin and then hide in shame and disgrace, whereas prior to their sin they “were not ashamed.”20
7) Sin in the Old Testament is spoken of in historical terms as an accumulating burden whereby sin is piled up from one generation to the next.21 In this way, sin only worsens over time as people invent new ways to do evil more effectively.
8) Sin in the Old Testament is spoken of with the finality of death.22 Sin is deadly, and ends only in death. This is because when we sin and prefer created things to our creator God, we stop ruling over creation and are ruled by it so that in the end we lose and the dust wins.23
(The footnotes go to Bible verses not human authors as you can see in the page image)

Now read the same eight aspects written by Christopher Wright in a 2008 book about the atonement (Scroll down to Chapter Four “Atonement in the Old Testament” and read the first four pages of that chapter – See the page images for the relevant parts of Wright’s chapter here as well: one, two)

The eight aspects of sin described by Wright ended up in Driscoll’s book without citation. The explanations were gently reworded but reflect the same classification and meaning as Wright’s two years earlier. Some of the same key words, phrases, and Bible passages also remain used as Wright did, e.g., Adam and Eve, shalom, Exodus 32-34, shame and disgrace, accumulating burden, etc.  (See also this side by side comparison.)
It was as if I was transported back to 2014.
 
*”Deja vu all over again” is often attributed to Yogi Berra.
 

Should Christian Counselors Talk Only About The Bible And Jesus?

If a resource is authoritative, does that make it all you need?

counseling image 2If a resource is authoritative, does that make it all you need? According to the 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling, the Bible is both authoritative and sufficient for all counseling conversations. In this post, I challenge that claim.
This is the third in a series of posts which examines the 95 Theses from my perspective as a psychology professor and mental health counselor. For prior posts in the series on the first eleven theses, click here. Today, I examine statements eleven through fourteen.

What Does the Bible Claim?

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).

I covered this thesis in the last post but I want to say something else about it. There I pointed out that living a “godly life” doesn’t mean the absence of emotional disturbances. A godly life is certainly possible for the person who believes God’s promises, but this by itself doesn’t prevent mental illness. The Bible does instruct us in moral teaching but is not a medical or psychological text. We need knowledge not contained in the Bible to provide the best care for many human problems.
Here again are the verses which form the basis for the statement:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

One must read into these verses to say that “the Bible claims to address all the issues concerning life and godliness.” One could assume that the Bible is an aspect of his divine power, but the verse doesn’t limit God’s divine power to the Bible. I think Biblical counselors make a claim for the Bible that it doesn’t make for itself.

Authoritative Doesn’t Mean Sufficient

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.

Sufficiency does not necessarily follow from authority. One may see the Bible as authoritative when it speaks but not believe it speaks about everything. There can be no doubt that the Bible doesn’t speak about everything. The Bible does say some things about medical issues (e.g., Timothy was told to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake, 1 Tim. 5:23), but doesn’t describe brain surgery procedures or how to do a heart catheterization. Taking some wine instead of tainted water might be good advice, but it isn’t sufficient for most of our other medical questions.

Does Jesus Solve Every Problem?

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).

Surely, Dr. Lambert and the Biblical counselors don’t mean that Jesus actually solves “every problem of humanity.” A quick look around wherever you are will demonstrate that Jesus hasn’t solved every human problem. One can argue that Jesus has the power to solve them all but decides not to do it, but you can’t argue that all problems are solved.
Since all problems aren’t in fact solved, what happens in those counseling conversations where Jesus didn’t solve the problem? Do client and counselor keep talking about the power of Jesus in a theoretical sense? I can’t imagine how it would be helpful to keep telling a chronically depressed person that Jesus has the power to solve every human problem, just not yours.
By analogy, one would not say Jesus is the subject of every medical visit. Most evangelicals believe Jesus could heal any illness, but that He doesn’t often do so. Because we believe Jesus provides sufficient power to solve every medical problem, is it necessary for a Christian physician to make Jesus the subject of every medical conversation? Of course not, if I have a medical need, I want extra-biblical medical knowledge brought to bear on my problem along with prayer.

SERIES: Evaluation of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ 95 Theses

I am evaluating a proposal by Heath Lambert, the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, for an authentically Christian approach to counseling. Lambert listed 95 theses on the ACBC website which he believes defines an appropriate Christian method. I disagree with most of the points and am writing this series to offer another perspective. To read all posts in this series, click here.  To read a similar series on Biblical counseling v. Christian psychology, click here.