Biblical Counseling — Who Can Be A Biblical Counselor?

Dee at TWW provides this assessment of Biblical/Nouthetic Counseling (BC), at least as-presented by PastoralCounseling.org.

FWIW: I’m all for Biblically-based counseling; I provide it myself. At the same time, I have significant reservations with the Jay Adams crowd, which is driving the BC movement, which–I would contend–is corrupting Biblically-based counseling (BBC).

In this installment, I am going to address the premise that opens up BBC to pretty much any Christian. From PastoralCounseling.org (emphasis added):

Who Can Be a Biblical Counselor?

Quite simply, anyone who wants to be a Biblical counselor can consider themselves one. Biblical counseling is based on the idea that all one needs is a deep understanding of the scripture to offer counseling. While it’s true that many who consider themselves Biblical counselors are ministers or other types of church leaders, this isn’t a requirement. Any person who feels as though they have been called to offer Biblical counseling to another may do so.

Without a doubt, that is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.

Quoting James 3:1-2:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways.

Teaching is a role that carries great importance and great responsibility (1 Corinthians 12). And according to James, the penalty for straying is stricter for teachers than those who are not teachers.

And make no mistake: Biblical counseling is a form of teaching.

If you aspire to be a Biblical counselor, you are aspiring to a teaching role.

That means you are going to need to be very knowledgeable in the Scriptures. And I’m not just talking about knowing the narrative flow of the Bible, although the average Joe doesn’t even know that.

What I mean by being knowledgeable in the Scriptures?

  1. Understanding the way God worked in the lives of people in the Bible. What warnings did God give? What issues kept coming back up over and over? How did God deliver providentially? How does this point to the Gospel?
  2. Understanding how people responded to God and to each other.
  3. The characteristics of different types of people (Proverbs).

I also believe that there is a practical body of knowledge that people need to have. There are particular dynamics of human behavior that are important to know: how different personalities respond to different questions and circumstances; what kinds of things are going to drive people in particular situations, and how may that play out.

I’ll give you a good example: myself and MrsLarijani during our 2-month ordeal, as Abigail spent her first two months in the NICU, 5 of those days on ECMO (the heart-lung machine, which is last-ditch life support).

Did I mention that, during that time, I had nasty deadlines at work, which meant that–even though I had plenty of leave time accumulated–I was not able to use much of it? In fact, I racked in substantial overtime during those two months. I also spent at least two hours every day with Abigail. MrsLarijani rarely left the hospital. Oh, and one of our cars broke down during that time.

Helping a couple navigate through that is not just a matter of being able to recite Bible verses; trust me: MrsLarijani and I understood those already. This isn’t about giving someone a Bible verse or even a Biblical principle, but rather a practical matter of how to flesh it out.

Knowing what the Bible says is often the easy part. Sometimes, the fleshing out of those truths isn’t as easy. That part often requires a counselor with some spiritual mileage.

Does the Bible command, “Thou must exercise to get stress relief?” No. But you know what? We know, from a scientific standpoint, that high stress creates inflammation, which contributes to both weight issues and heart disease as well as diabetes risk. We also know that proper diet and exercise–and having a good circle of friends–helps relieve the stress, which reduces inflammation, which contributes greatly to coping skills.

That is why I made it a point to sign myself and MrsLarijani in at Planet Fitness–which is right down the road from the hospital–after the first week. I used that membership diligently: I worked out an average of 7 hours per week. In spite of the high-carb dietary madness at the Ronald McDonald House, I managed to generate enough endorphins that I otherwise felt good in spite of the situation.

Here’s another case: how do you counsel someone who is trying to make a complex business decision that can have big implications? What happens if you have someone who needs medical or legal help?

I once had a pastor who was excellent in terms of practical advice. He knew the best people to call, he knew how certain attorneys and counselors operated, he understood who the best car mechanics were, he knew the best docs, he knew the docs to avoid. If you wanted to buy a house, he could guide you through the issues like no one else. If you were going through a very hard time, he understood the issues that you would be wrestling with, and provided practical advice as to how to think, how to act, how to pray, and–when necessary–what repentance looked like.

As a counselor, he helped people make good decisions, or at least helped them avoid making bad ones. And if he didn’t have the answer, he could direct you to someone who did.

But he was able to do that because he had a lot of spiritual mileage: he wasn’t a spring chicken. He knew the Scriptures, and he also understood different schools of thought about tough issues. While he had an MDiv–he was pursuing doctoral studies on the side–his body of knowledge was the kind you didn’t just get with a degree.

Biblical Counseling, Case Study (from TWW)

Irrespective of what you think of TWW and their War on Complementarianism, Dee is providing the “Biblical Counseling” (BC) movement a well-deserved pounding.

You might wonder why I say that, given that, recently, I defended BC as a tool in the toolbox?

Keep in mind that, as I presented it:

  1. Unlike the BC movement–Jay Adams, Heath Lambert, etc.–I am not dismissive of professional therapists (licensed family therapists, psychologists, even psychiatrists). There are times when such professionals are very necessary. And there are times when psychotropic medication is necessary for a client to even reach a position where he or she can receive Biblical counsel.
  2. Given that teaching is a spiritual gift, and given that counseling is a form of teaching, not everyone is competent to counsel.
  3. As with all things, Callahan’s Law applies: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
  4. Being competent as a counselor requires a lot more than taking a few courses and passing an exam. Even an MDiv degree from a reputable seminary doesn’t necessarily qualify such a one. This is because such a body of knowledge requires spiritual mileage. Knowing the academics of the doctrine of sin is one thing; dealing with it in your own life–i.e. getting the log out of your own eye–is where the real learning is done.

I would also add the following caveats about BC:

  1. Some proponents, particularly Jay Adams, have been dismissive of demonic influence on this earth, claiming that because Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil, that today’s issues do not involve demons but are just a matter of getting someone to see the Bible the way you do on an issue.
  2. The BC folks are dismissive of most, if not all, licensed professionals. They see such professionals as anti-Biblical, promoting a paradigm that is opposed to Scripture. They believe that “Sola Scriptura” means “Nolo Medicare”, when in fact Scripture provides no such admonition.

As I’ve said before, there are two types of people who are bipolar: (a) those who take their medicine and (b) those who do not take their medicine.

The latter are often very irrational when their mood swings kick in: they will not reason with you, no matter how convincing you are. A lot of BC counselors errantly assume that such folks are just living in rebellion and will not receive Godly counsel, when in fact that such folks–once they have their medicine–are very rational and reasonable. (In fact, if they are not being reasonable, you may need to direct them to professional help, as they may need medication.)

And it’s not just folks who are bipolar. Schizophrenics, those who suffer from chronic depression, and even mothers in the throes of post-partum depression often need medication. We can ruminate all day about the source of the problem, but the fact remains: (a) with medication, they are rational; (b) minus medication, they are not.

The same can also hold true for folks with eating disorders, depending on the severity of the disorder. I’ve known gals who had to be hospitalized for anorexia; one was a middle school classmate of mine who is now a FB friend; one is a top-tier triathlete; one was a classmate of mine at SBTS. They needed meds. I’ve also known others who did not need meds. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.

In Dee’s article, she provides a case study from a BC exam. I will provide it, and my answers.

Here is the case study:

Tim and Emily
Tim and Emily come from a church across town, and have asked to meet you because of some help that you offered their friends several months ago.  They are coming because of a persistent problem they have had in their marriage.  They explain that in their six years of marriage Tim has always had a “short fuse.”  He regularly “loses it” when he comes home from work which fills the evenings with tense communication.  Their weeks are filled with arguments about everything from dinner being ready on time, to whether they should have kids. Tim thinks Emily is a good wife, admits the problems are his fault, but says he just doesn’t know how to “maintain control.”  About a year ago Tim went berserk screaming at Emily, kicking the kitchen table and throwing plates on the floor in response to Emily’s complaint that he came home late without calling.  Emily was always uncomfortable with Tim’s previous pattern of outbursts, but this was different.  She was truly scared.  Tim was too.  In tears she told Tim that something had to change.

Tim talked to his pastor who told him that he needed to see a professional therapist.  Tim followed the advice and made an appointment with the Christian counselor whom his pastor recommended.  Tim met with the therapist for a few sessions, who ultimately recommended he see a psychiatrist for medical care.  When Tim met with the psychiatrist he was told that he had bi-polar disorder and began to take the medications prescribed by the physician.

Tim was initially discouraged to learn that he had a disease that would likely last his entire life, but he was thankful to have a plan to deal with problem.  Emily was also encouraged that there was now at least something they could do.

Their encouragement quickly gave way, however, when after several months on the medication Tim had still not really changed.  While his temperament seemed milder in general the loss of control, and screaming were still present.  It was at this point that Emily began to regret ever marrying Tim.  All the arguments together with the couple’s lack of children were taking their toll.  She realized she was in a marriage that she did not want to be in, but didn’t think she had any options.

Then last week Tim “went completely crazy.”  Emily suggested on a Saturday morning that Tim should cut the grass because he had not done it the week before.  Tim did more than scream and throw things this time.  As he yelled and became more “worked up” he threw the phone at Emily.  He missed her, knocking a hole in the wall, but they both knew he had crossed a line.

Emily said she couldn’t take it anymore and wanted out of the marriage.  She told him that if something didn’t change very quickly she was going to leave.  That is when he reached out to his friend who recommended you.

Tim and Emily both profess faith in Christ, and relate their testimonies of conversion in their teen years.  Both are also terribly discouraged.  Tim doesn’t know how to treat Emily better since he is “plagued” by this disease.  Emily loves Tim and would like their marriage to work, but she is worn out with the lack of change.  She feels badly about wanting to leave because she knows he has an illness, but she is increasingly convinced that God is telling her to divorce Tim.

1.     How will you decide whether to pursue Tim and Emily as believers or unbelievers?  What difference will their status as Christians make in your counseling?

2.     Describe, as fully as you are able, your strategy to help Tim and Emily think biblically about his diagnosis and their use of bi-polar and illness language.

3.     Emily is “Convinced that God is telling her to divorce Tim.”  Write out your word-for-word response to Emily on this matter.  In your response, be sure to address the themes of biblical decision-making and permission for divorce and remarriage.

4.     What strategy would you employ to see repentance, reconciliation, and restoration happen between Tim and Emily?

5.     Describe a detailed plan of restoring marital communication that you would pursue with Tim and Emily.

Here are my answers:

  1. They are believers. They have their issues, but they are believers. What does that mean? (a) while BC is important to helping them unpack and resolve baggage, they need professional help; (b) Tim needs to see his psychiatrist–ASA-freaking-P–because he may need to have his meds re-evaluated, assuming he is currently taking them as-directed; (c) a professional therapist may be necessary during that process.
  2. For one thing, we need to determine if Tim is taking his meds as-directed by his physician. If he is skipping his meds, then we must confront that head-on, as he is within inches of earning a domestic violence conviction. If he is bipolar, he needs to take his meds, and he may need to take them for the rest of his life.
  3. I would contend that such thinking is not Biblical: while it is possible that, if the trend continues, red lines could get crossed and divorce could become inevitable, those red lines have not been crossed and there is no Biblical precedent for a “preventative divorce”. The Biblical admonitions about divorce are in play, and, as presented in this case, there are no extenuating circumstances as yet. That, however, can change if the trend continues.
  4. First, both Tim and Emily need to be in a position where they can even receive Biblical counsel in the first place. That means they need to see professionals to ensure such issues–that require professionals–get resolved. And that includes getting medications in line where that is necessary. Once those are taken care of, then we can talk about the dynamics that drive their conflict with respect to the Scriptures. She may need to respect him more; he obviously is lacking in the “love your wives as Christ loved the Church” department. It is likely that each has matters that require acknowledgement and repentance.
  5. That is a stupid question, given that such a “plan” is dependent upon in-depth, detailed discussion.

How would you score that, Dee?

Roundup — 12/20/2017

Is Trump a blessing or curse for evangelical conservatives?

David French, Ross Douthat, and John Zmirak discuss that here.

My take: so far, so good. In fact, for a pragmatic Republican, Trump is proving to be more conservative than Reagan, Bush I, Dole, Bush II, McCain, or Romney.

On abortion and guns, Trump has been sterling to date. His court picks have been very solid. On top of that, the DoJ is investigating Planned Parenthood. While prior attempts at a direct repeal of Obamacare have failed, the tax reform package–which just cleared both houses today–ends the “Individual Mandate”. Ergo, Obamacare is all but dead.

And while Trump lost in the Alabama Senate race, that had more to do with Roy Moore’s failures in the last two weeks of his campaign than anything Trump did or didn’t do. This is a small setback to Trump, as judicial confirmations will get dicey.

As for his past conduct, I find it reprehensible. OTOH, the difference is this: for all his faults, Trump is at least open about them, and–as far as we know–has not engaged in such proclivities as President.

As far as we know, he hasn’t deflowered teenage aides (like JFK did a la Mimi Alford), or kill his aide in a drunk driving accident (like Ted Kennedy did a la Mary Jo Kopechne) or ejaculate all over his interns (like Clinton did a la Monica Lewinsky) or enlist his wife to destroy the women who accused him (a la Paula Jones), or have sex with his secretary (which former VP Nelson Rockefeller was doing when he died of a heart attack), or have sex with children (which House Speaker Dennis Hastert did when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach).

Trump may be a cad, but at least he’s an honest cad, and–to his credit–seems to separate his hedonistic pursuits from his professional work. That doesn’t make him a saint, but at least it shows that he has boundaries that have served him well.

And he is doing a remarkable job going after child traffickers.

As for the Democrats, particularly those in entertainment and media, they can go sit on a hand grenade and pull the pin, and the world would be a better place. ‘

They lectured us about Trump’s “grab [women] by the pü$$y” brags, all while they were busy groping subordinates, having sex with them, and pressuring them to do other demented, perverted things. I hope the women–and even the men–on the receiving end of those actions sue the living hell out of those companies, and the executives get bankrupted.

Book Review: The Last Closet

In another life, I am very good friends with a retired Marine Corps Colonel who served as a co-van (advisor) in Vietnam; one of my great privileges has been to help him tell his story. He is an advocate for the cause of POWs and veterans with traumatic injuries including PTSD. In the course of helping him, I became enamored with the heroism of a select group of POWs: James Stockdale, Jeremiah Denton, Sam Johnson, George Coker, Harry Jenkins, George McKnight, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz, and Nels Tanner.

These POWs resisted the threats, beatings, and other tortures of their captors, and–in some cases–even turned the tables on their captors. (Denton’s and Stockdale’s exploits are the stuff of legend.) They strengthened the morale of other POWs and, as such, represented a special threat to their captors. For this reason, they were isolated from everyone else.

They were the Alcatraz Gang.

They didn’t take their abuses lying down; they fought back to the extent that they were able. They would become the standard-bearers for POW conduct: Stockdale would receive the Medal of Honor; Denton and Coker would receive the Navy Cross. Denton and Johnson would even go on to political careers. Denton’s book–When Hell Was In Session–is a classic.

But what does this have to do with Moira Greyland, who–a year older than myself–never saw action in Vietnam?

Moira was every bit the badass as every member of that Alcatraz Gang.

For most of her life, Hell was in session. Her story–The Last Closet–is now in print.

Fair warning: if you have endured and form of ongoing abuse–particularly physical and/or sexual–this book can be triggering, although Moira does a splendid job of providing warnings about very difficult paragraphs.

The daughter of science fiction legend Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) and famed numismatic expert Walter Breen (WB), Moira–on the very top of the surface–had a good life. Like her parents, she is very intelligent: a member of Mensa. She has many talents from sewing to singing to fencing and especially the harp.

OTOH, to call her home life horrific would be charitable.

While MZB and WB were very intelligent and accomplished, they were incredibly perverted: WB and MZB were extremely libertine about sex. To them, inhibitions were the result of religious persecution. MZB called marriage “an outdated screwing license.” To WB, homosexuality was the natural state, and heterosexuality was a product of religion. To them, “anything goes” meant “have sex with whomever and however”, including with children.

In WB’s case, especially with young boys.

MZB was abusive both sexually and physically, in many cases using the physical abuse to force her children to provide her with sexual gratification.

To Moira’s credit, she provides about as charitable a presentation of her parents as anyone could. They each were themselves abused sexually and physically; WB was raised by a very abusive Catholic mother, and was bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic; MZB was herself raped by her father; WB was molested by a Catholic priest. They each had horrid upbringings that undoubtedly put them behind the 8-ball.

At the same time, Moira, also to her credit, does not excuse their abuses, and in fact lets their record speak for itself: when they were victimized by their parents, that was their parents’ sins. But when WB and MZB chose to abuse their own children–and, sadly, other children–they transcended even the depravity of their parents.

They did this in no small part because each, after enduring their abuses, rejected God. In effect, they said, “God didn’t save us from our parents, so we want no part of that deal.”

Their resultant lives–aside from their professional successes–were a complete descent into the worst of sexual depravity, leaving a trail of damaged lives. Some of their victims, broken from the abuses, would die young from suicide or other forms of self-abuse. Others would fight off various addictions and hangups for years.

Moira struggles with complex PTSD to this day, and probably will for decades to come.

(I am aware of complex PTSD because a family member on MrsLarijani’s side, also a sexual abuse survivor at the hands of her father, described that form of PTSD to me recently, as she has undergone much therapy and has even started her own initiatives to educate people in her profession about PTSD issues. And some of her reactions to certain things are similar to what I know from a friend of mine from my SBTS days who–also abused in such a fashion–experiences the same reactions.)

Here are my takes:

(1) Moira is brutally honest, even about herself. I’ve always contended that, if you’re going to recover from abuses–no matter how terrible they are–you must be willing to face the truth. She shows a lot more courage in her honesty than she credits herself. That also is probably why, in spite of suffering more than even her parents did, she is a Christian today whereas her parents rejected God altogether.

She was not perfect in her life; the abuses she endured left her with thin, marginally-existent boundaries. That led her to a level of experimentation in her teen and adult life that could have led to disaster. It also weakened her ability to see which men had her best interests in mind when they pursued her.

Thankfully, she escaped from that with a comparatively moderate level of self-inflicted baggage. I’ve seen people suffer far less than she did and make far worse decisions, and never learn from them.

(2) Moira shows, in stark, stomach-turning detail, the telos of the Sexual Revolution.

Her father, WB, was one of the early movers and shakers in NAMBLA, which promotes “man-boy love”; i.e. pederasty. They were the ones who coined the slogan “sex before eight or it’s too late”. Their view: pederasty is the purest form of love, and will prepare boys for adulthood.

Her mother was herself very “uninhibited”: she was a lesbian, but had many liaisons with men, multiple partners, etc. MZB and WB were polyamorous.

There were no sexual boundaries in her home. Nudity was expected; any expression of affinity for heterosexuality was met with hard criticism and derision; orgies were common; and MZB molested both Moira and Patrick frequently.

Every time Moira brought a boyfriend home, her father would pursue him for sex.

Her parents, obsessed with sex, dehumanized their children. Emotional support was all but nonexistent, with MZB always living on the edge of rage and WB lacking the stones to stand up to her. MZB, rather than being supportive of her daughter and complimenting her on her singing skills, was always hitting her with hard criticism. Moira could never be right about anything. WB, in contrast, was passive and often distant, chiding Moira for being a prude.

Early on, when Moira tried to report WB to police, her complaints fell on deaf ears. It was not until the late 1980s when, with the help of a counselor, she was able to successfully intervene on behalf of a child that WB was molesting.

Moira does a wonderful job articulating the whole problem with the paradigm of “consent”, even among adults, and why, even in libertine arrangements, it isn’t as cut-and-dried as the word connotes.

(3) Moira does a great job articulating the problem with gay “marriage”, and masterfully destroys the notion that sexual orientation is unchangeable. While Moira does not condemn gay people, she does confront the profound level of toxicity and dysfunction that is inherent in that lifestyle. That has rankled many in the sci-fi community who otherwise supported her, but that is her strength: Moira is, if nothing else, a truth teller.

My only criticism of her book: I wish she had shared more detail with respect to the spiritual side of her journey. She does point out that she became a Christian in her teen years, and she does a good job quoting Scripture in context in describing various situations. But other than that, not a whole lot about that side of her life.

In fairness to her, though, it could be that it’s still too early in her recovery–and the wounds are still raw–for her to do an adequate assessment of that.

—–

In this review, I do not refer to Moira by initials or even by last name; I call her by her first name. There is a purpose for that.

One of the things Moira struggles with is the depersonalization that she suffered at the hands of her abusers. She was effectively a nobody. She wasn’t allowed to have a personality; she wasn’t even allowed to have a sexual identity: her father wanted her to look neither masculine nor feminine; her mother eschewed all semblance of femininity.

I will end this with a note to Moira:

Moira, you have a name. And, given that you are in Christ, you have a gift that no one can take from you.

That is important, as your parents failed you on just about every relevant front, not just sexually. While, through their successes, they were material providers, they failed to provide a stable, loving home life that even mediocre parents provide their children. Even worse, they subjected you to the most dehumanizing of abuses, stealing from you what was never theirs to receive let alone take.

Thankfully, in Christ, you have a reward that will never perish, nor shall any man (or woman) take it from you.

Some may ask why God didn’t stop the abuses. Almost every survivor of profound hardship will wrestle with that question. There are various theological answers based on particular schools of thought, most of which don’t rise to the level of useless.

My take: your experiences, Mark’s experiences, and every experience of every one of their victims, will be a witness against them on the day of judgment. There will be a day when they will receive the payback for their atrocities. And as the saying goes about payback, it is, in fact, a Biblical truth.

On the upside: your perseverance will also be a witness on the day of judgment. Jesus Himself said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them eternal life. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Your parents, having suffered a great deal in their childhoods, rejected God on account of what was taken from them. Their thinking was, in spite of their God-given intelligence, short-sighted and temporal. The results were tragic.

Your parents took a lot of things from you, including most of what was your earthly identity. You are recovering that, even if–at times–the progress comes in inches rather than miles, and takes years where you are used to accomplishing things in hours and minutes.

Having said that, the identity that matters most–the fact that Jesus has your name written on his hands–no one can take that away.

You were raised by two of Satan’s most devoted worker bees. Their abuses went far beyond sexual, although those alone were worse than horrid enough in their own right. They did everything they could to indoctrinate you in a secular paradigm that would gross out most hedonists. They tortured you like the Communists tortured American POWs in Vietnam.

But, by the grace of God, you fought back against your captors in a way that would have made James Bond Stockdale and Jeremiah Denton proud.

I know you don’t always feel like you acted with courage. But you did. In spades.

Hell was in session, and the gates of Hell lost.

You have fought valiantly, and have prevailed. There are still battles to fight, and there will always be times when those demons rear their ugly heads. But you will prevail, not because of great works you have done, but because you received Him who does great works.

Keep fighting the good fight!

The Last Closet: Moira Greyland Tells Her Story

…and what a story it is. The book is available at Amazon. Moira Greyland is the daughter of science fiction authors Walter Breen (WB) and Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB). Both were very abusive on all fronts: physically, sexually, emotionally, etc. They were polyamorous, and their polyamory extended to children.

Although her book is just out today, I am already familiar with her story, as I learned about it in 2014 from reading Vox Day. I have blogged a few times about Moira’s story. Here is one of those instances.

Fair warning: her account is very, very hard to read. The physical and sexual abuses that she endured at the hands of both of her parents are worse than horrific.

But the real story is not the abuses that she suffered.

Over here, we’re all about comebacks.

And in Moira Greyland, we have the mother of all comebacks.

I will review the book in the coming weeks.

Biblical Counseling: My $0.02

My first foray into the world of “Biblical Counseling”, which, back then, was called “Nouthetic Counseling”, began in 1990, when I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center. The director, Janet, was a big supporter of Jay Adams, and our supplemental training often involved studying and discussing chapters from one of his books. I still have the book The Christian Counselor’s Manual.

At the time, there was a huge countercultural backlash, among many conservative Christians, against traditional understandings of mental illness. Everything–and that’s the key word here–from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia was, in many circles, ascribed to unresolved baggage due to one’s own sin.

Whereas the psychiatric world would contend that these issues were chemical imbalances or matters that had an undetermined organic cause–for which the cure was medication–the “Biblical Counseling” proponents would insist that this was all about confronting sin and guiding a person in repentance.

Compounding matters, the “Biblical Counseling” crowd would promote the idea that pretty much any Christian could be a “Biblical” counselor.

Having seen both approaches in the lives of various folks in the Christian world over the last three decades, and having been a student of the Scriptures–we’re talking Berean-style–for most of the last 4 decades–and having served my share of time as a teacher for most of those years, and having provided my share of counsel and having seen others provide it, here is my assessment….

(1) Biblical counseling is a tool in the toolbox.

(2) There are many times when Biblical counseling is helpful, as–irrespective of one’s mental health needs–we all need to be exhorted and admonished and pointed to the redeeming work of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.

(3) Not just anyone can do it.

(4) There are many times when a person–even with the best of counsel–will still need psychotropic medications. Whether this is the result of that person’s sins, or whether sin has exacerbated an existing mental illness, or whether the mental illness is a completely separate animal, is irrelevant.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to know many people who are bipolar. Some of them are not Christian, some of them are Christian. But here’s the thing: there are two types of bipolar people I know: (a) those who take their medications and (b) those who do not. Those who DO take their meds tend to live otherwise responsible lives, even as their mood swings are hell at times. Those who do NOT? Their lives, down to the person, are total train wrecks: sexual excesses, financial irrationality, manic meltdowns, even suicide attempts. Sometimes, sadly, those suicide attempts are successful.

“Biblical counseling” alone never worked with them; for those who are Christian, what works is Biblical counseling combined with diligent and vigilant use of appropriate medications.

Yes, we must address sin issues; that goes for everyone, including you and me. As we do this, we must address that with respect to the Gospel, which includes the work of the Holy Spirit. I would also add that, in our broken world, in our broken bodies, sometimes that brokenness requires psychotropic medications.

Can sin be a cause of mental illness? I think it is possible. I believe that people can have bipolar or schizophrenic issues that sin may exacerbate. Over time, that may take enough of a toll on a person’s brain chemistry that such a one, irrespective of the quality of counsel they may receive, may have to take medications for the rest of his or her life.

Depression is also a fickle issue. I know of a fair number of mothers who suffered post-partem depression. Some of them toughed it out without meds–and their lives were miserable–and others took an anti-depressant for a season, which took some of the edge off their depression.

Fact is, when someone is in a spiral like that–depression, anxiety, manic stage, etc.–they are not in a capacity to reason with you. I’ve tried to counsel folks who were in that position, and it would not have mattered if you could prove to them that the sky is blue, they wouldn’t believe it. I’ve seen very excellent counselors fall short. Why? The issue in those cases wasn’t the quality of counsel: the client absolutely needed medications.

But once the clients took their prescribed meds, they were easy to reason with: Biblical counseling worked just fine with them, once they had the faculties to reason.

My point here: it’s not a question of either/or, as this is a both/and. Biblical counseling works, and sometimes that requires that the client take psychotropic meds in order to be able to receive the counsel.

I would never, ever, tell a client to ditch his or her meds. In fact, I would advise the client to take their meds as directed.

Now I’m going to explain why I have a problem with the idea that “anyone can do Biblical counseling”….

First off, I’ve been a teacher of the Scriptures–spanning children, teens, and adults–for many years. I am not the greatest teacher ever, nor am I the worst. I AM a stickler for sound doctrine, I DO relate the dynamics about which we read in Scripture to our lives today, I interpret the Old Testament with respect to the New Testament, I am a serious student of Scripture, I am observant of the various trends that emerge in evangelical circles, and I am an ardent observer of the fruits of those various trends, sometimes for better, other times for worse. I am a student of Church history and theology. I once had a pastor call me a “blue-collar scholar.”

For me, rightly dividing the word of truth is a very big deal, an imperative if you are going to teach.

And Biblical counseling is a form of teaching!

Would you accept financial counseling from someone who just filed Chapter 7? Of course not.

Would you take a math course from a teacher who failed algebra? Of course not.

Would you accept marital counseling from someone who had an affair?

Then no…it takes more than just being among the Redeemed to be qualified to counsel. You may give someone advice from time to time–even then, wisdom means knowing the value of shutting the heck up–but what I am talking about is farther-reaching than that.

To provide Biblical counsel, you have to know a lot about sin. You also have to know a lot about how the Gospel works in the life of the Believer.

You don’t learn that in a day. And you don’t just learn that by taking a few courses and getting a certificate. You have to wrestle with the Scriptures; you have to wrestle with your own sin, which everyone has; you have to know what it is like to fall down and get back up, over and over; you have to have lots of experience going to the throne of grace, knowing that you stepped in it. If you are married, you have to deal with your own baggage as well as that of your spouse. If you have children, you must succeed where some of the best people in the Bible failed.

But make no mistake: this isn’t something that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can do.

Having said that, I’ll stand by my point: Biblical counseling is a tool in the toolbox. And sometimes, in order to receive such counsel, one may need meds. Some may need meds for a small season (think post-partum), and others may need them for longer periods (think bipolar, schizophrenia).

But to say that it’s a question of either/or is a false dichotomy.

GOLD!

From Vox Day:

I, too, have written books, recorded music, and even written a few dozen pages of comic books. And I can declare, with more than a little authority, that the most important thing I have done for both the West and humanity is to marry Spacebunny and have children with her. MGTOW are every bit as wrong about the importance of their individual accomplishments as the college girl who is focused on her degree and her career instead of her family life.

I’m not against a woman getting a degree or having a career; at the same time, marrying and having children is a better contribution to Western Civilization than the career. That gives you a better chance at a real legacy.