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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Those Pesky Emotions!: Part 2—Bringing Biblical Balance to Our Emotions

Those Pesky Emotions Part 2—Bringing Biblical Balance to Our Emotions

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 2 of a two-part blog series by Sherry Allchin on emotions. Yesterday in Part 1, Sherry explained biblical principles for handling our emotions maturely. Today, Sherry explores biblical principles for bringing biblical balance to our emotional life.

God-Given Emotions

God gave us emotions to assist us in identifying our circumstances and motivating needed changes. In Psalm 38, David identifies his symptoms of depression and its triggers, and then he was able to identify where to turn in the midst of his troubles. In Psalm 51, we see his emotion of guilt and shame motivating him to repent and change his behaviors. Then in Psalm 73, Asaph’s emotion of jealousy assisted him to compare two lifestyles (his and the wicked), to evaluate the eternal destination of each, and to reinforce his godly lifestyle. Psalm 133 is an example of emotions assisting to enhance our lives as David expressed joy over unity with his brothers of like-mind.

Our culture has programmed us to believe that feelings are the most important part of our existence. We are taught to communicate our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and personal desires by expressing how we feel about something. Therapists often talk more about how a particular circumstance makes a person feel than about what the person can change in their own thoughts and actions to help change the negative feelings about that circumstance. Emotions are typically the entry point into counseling, so we as biblical counselors must understand how to lead a person from those bothersome feelings to what they can do about those feelings through sanctification.

Interpreting Our Emotions

When we as counselors or parents downgrade another’s feelings or invalidate them, we may rob that person of an opportunity to grow by identifying what he really believes about his circumstance, about himself, and about God. We must listen to emotions for what they reveal about a person’s belief system, rather than denying or minimizing what they are feeling. Use their emotions to help them gain insight into what actually needs to change.

Emotions are not the standard for quality of life. When emotions are exalted as supreme, a person may determine what is true and right for himself based on feelings rather than on God’s Word. How he feels about something does not make it accurate nor God-honoring, but it can give insight into his heart. Feeling good about sinful behavior does not make it right; it just indicates a heart misaligned from God’s heart. Our goal is to first help a person re-align his heart with God’s Word and then his desires, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors will set the stage for balanced and godly emotions.

Triggers for Imbalance

I can hear some protesting that chemical imbalances must be addressed. I don’t deny that body chemistry can play a part in some people’s depression or anxiety, but the jury is still out as to which comes first, the trigger or the imbalance. That is not the topic of our discussion here, since we all understand that our body as well as our heart has been affected by the Fall.

But I will end this discussion on emotions by looking at Luke 2:52, the only record we have of Jesus’ development and maturity. Four spheres of life are mentioned. Jesus grew in wisdom (mind, intellect), in stature (physical), in favor with God (spiritual) and man (social). The absence of the emotional sphere does not mean Jesus had no emotions! He certainly displayed emotions regularly as he ministered here on earth, and He was emotionally balanced.

I believe His development focused on the four spheres we are responsible to balance in our maturing process. If a person becomes out of balance in any one of the four spheres, the emotions will be affected in a negative way. Rebalancing these spheres typically rebalances the emotions.

A person who is physically imbalanced, either because of disease, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, or lack of rest will experience emotional imbalance. A medical doctor may need to help correct physical problems. Diet, exercise, and rest must certainly be bought into a healthy lifestyle.

Think about the person who is mentally distraught, perhaps because of vocational or educational goals unmet or because of communication or thinking skills not developed in healthy ways. That person often struggles with emotions of fear, anger, jealousy, or depression triggered by an immature belief system. Perhaps reevaluating educational or vocational goals, or learning skills that allow them to grow in wisdom in healthy ways will make a big difference in mental balance.

Social imbalance from relationships out of sync with someone who should be close results in emotional imbalance. Couples who are fighting will come to counseling more about how they feel than how they need to learn to relate to one another in God-honoring ways. Yet learning to get along and love one another is foundational to how they will feel about one another!

Spiritual imbalance from guilt over sin, from misunderstanding and misapplying God’s Word, from lack of a personal relationship and connection with the Lord…these will also leads to an emotional imbalance. Confession, repentance, and then growth in sanctification are necessary to help the person regain a healthy view of themselves before God.

So how do we help someone rebalance emotions? By helping that person understand and correct the other spheres of their life that are out of balance. Emotions, then, are a by-product of what we believe and what we do in each of these spheres of life. When any one or more of these spheres are not in balance, negative emotions result. When all four are functioning in healthy and God-honoring ways, there is an emotional balance and stability that will get us through any of the trials of life we may face.

That doesn’t mean we never feel a negative emotion…we do and we will. But the negative emotions won’t dominate, because the fruit of the Spirit will prevail in our lives. Even if difficult circumstances never change, our attitude about the circumstance will be the mind of Christ resulting in the character of Christ lived out in us and in our counselees for the glory of Christ.

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How do you bring biblical balance to your emotional life?

Topics: Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Self-Control | Tags: , ,

Those Pesky Emotions!: Part 1—Handling Emotions Maturely

Those Pesky Emotions Part 1—Handling Emotions Maturely

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 1 of a two-part blog series by Sherry Allchin on emotions. Today Sherry explains biblical principles for handling our emotions maturely. Tomorrow, Sherry explores biblical principles for understanding our emotions and bringing biblical balance to our emotional life.

The Purpose of Emotions

Emotions at times can be a trick for all of us! Sometimes we wear them on our sleeves, while other times we stuff and deny troublesome emotions, pretending they aren’t bothering us and hoping they will go quickly away so we feel better. Yet, they do bother us as well as those around us! And they keep counselors in business!

Our Triune God expresses emotions appropriately, so emotions do have a good purpose. They alert us that something needs to change, either in us or through us. We are created in His image and therefore must learn to align our emotions to His sinless emotions, even though we live in a fallen world with sin affecting our emotions as well as our thoughts and behaviors.

Learning to express emotions in ways that honor God requires growing in self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, matured by bringing “self” under the control of the Holy Spirit, allowing His work of teaching, convicting, correcting, and training us to conform us to the image of Christ that we might engage in the work of Christ.

The sinful responses we tend to blame on our emotions must be replaced by biblical thinking that reflects the mind of Christ about circumstances that trigger negative emotional responses. Righteous thinking then results in righteous behaviors that reflect the character of Christ. In our culture, many believe we have no control over our emotions but are rather held captive to them. Scripture lays a clear foundation for how to control our emotions by consistently controlling our thoughts (Philippians 4:8) and behaviors (Proverbs 4:23), bringing them into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We can choose to have positive emotions, to live out the fruit of the Spirit in everyday life.

Understanding Our Feelings

Consider this basic biblical principle for understanding emotions:

We feel what we feel because we think what we think and do what we do!

We respond to our life experiences through emotions. Just bang your thumb with a hammer and see if the physical pain you feel doesn’t also produce an emotional response! When you have a deadline to meet, the pressure produces an internal stress that you very much feel in your body and your emotions. Arguing with a beloved relative may lead to hurt feelings that send you onto an emotional rollercoaster. As we grow in understanding that our everyday experiences contribute to the emotions we feel, we must also be quick to understand that circumstances do not cause the emotions.

Anger, fear, depression, shame, confusion, and loneliness are some of the negative emotions we are quick to feel and express. These emotions are not caused by the circumstance of our experience, but by the way we interpret those circumstances. When we put God into the interpretation of our circumstances, our beliefs about that circumstance begin to change and we act on those beliefs in ways that honors God. Then our emotions begin to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, combining beliefs, actions, and emotions: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We experience true happiness, joy, peace, gratitude, and contentment. Positive emotions prevail even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

David As an Example

Take David for example. The Israelite army was quaking in fear of Goliath, and their action was to run away from the dangerous circumstance. Their belief system interpreted that Goliath was too big and too dangerous; they were victims of disaster. David faced exactly the same dangerous circumstance; Goliath was much bigger and stronger than he, equipped to battle in ways of which David knew nothing.

However, David’s belief system interpreted his God as bigger than Goliath; his God had always been faithful, helping him kill the lion and bear to protect his sheep; his God would help him kill the giant that was defying the true and living God and mocking His people. David’s actions then reflected his beliefs, and he defended God’s honor by killing Goliath.

What emotions David must have experienced as the victor who won the battle! I do believe they were positive emotions of jubilation that came out of his God-honoring beliefs and lifestyle choices.

A Modern-Day Example

Let’s take another example. Another driver cuts you off and nearly causes an accident. You spew and sputter for twenty minutes about this driver, and you’re tempted to speed up to cut him off and show him how it feels.

What belief system rules you at that moment? You have a right and he violated your right to that spot on the road. You deserve better treatment. You are angry and therefore believe you are justified in your actions that reflect your belief system.

Are your emotions at that point positive or negative? Is your anger righteous (reflecting God and His glory) or is it unrighteous (reflecting your selfish desires)?

However, on another day, another driver may cut you off again…same circumstance, but let’s say this time you are worshiping God as you drive along and your car reflects the sanctuary of your heart that wants to honor God. Your belief system has changed from selfishness to honoring God and others, so you slow down to allow him to safely enter, you pray for him to get home safely without killing himself or anyone else, and you go right back to your praise and worship, thanking God for His tender mercies of safety toward you and others.

Now what emotions are you experiencing and expressing? The emotions, then, are a by-product of what you think about your circumstances and about your God, and how you act out on those beliefs.

The Rest of the Story

Please return for Part 2 when we examine how to communicate feelings accurately.

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How can you apply this principle to your life and ministry?

We feel what we feel because we think what we think and do what we do!

Topics: Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Self-Control | Tags: , ,

Down from the Mountaintop on Monday

Down from the Mountaintop on Monday

When I was a new Christian in high school our youth group would have weekend retreats at which we would receive wonderful teaching and enjoy incredible fellowship. It was like a taste of heaven. Then we would come down from the mountaintop (both literally and figuratively) to face real life at home with our families and at school. Sometimes it was hard to come back to the real world.

Recently many of us were privileged to enjoy incredible mountaintop experiences. CCEF held their national conference in San Diego, followed by ACBC’s national conference in Los Angeles. Both conferences were a great blessing. We were built up as we heard the compassionate biblical approach to loss taken by the speakers at CCEF. It was also a great encouragement to hear the presenters at ACBC address the issues of mental illness with both compassion and biblical integrity. I was thrilled to see my mentor and IBCD’s founder, George Scipione, honored as the newest member of the Academy in ACBC.

While the sessions were wonderful, one of the best parts about these conferences is the fellowship with thousands of brothers and sisters who are committed to caring, gospel-centered biblical counseling. It was like a great reunion of very dear friends—a taste of heaven. I also am so thankful to God to see the renewed cooperation and fellowship between CCEF and ACBC (formerly NANC) which had begun as complementary organizations forty years ago. It was also wonderful to see many other groups which are committed to biblical counseling represented at both conferences and to be reminded of the growth of our movement as more seminaries and other equipping ministries share our commitment to biblical counseling.

Returning Home

But after a week on the mountaintop it was time to return home. The reality hit hard the following Monday morning when I was praying about my counseling load for Monday night. There’s the couple who have been married for forty years and yet live in constant conflict. There are issues of anger, control, and hoarding which they have been unable to resolve. They have been in and out of counseling through their church, in our center and with other counselors but so far there has been no breakthrough. In what new and fresh way can I proclaim the gospel to them? Why should I hope that it will work this time when it hasn’t worked before?

Then there is the church leader and his wife who have been embittered and angry toward one another for over a year. Recent events have exploded in such a way that their issues have been made known to the church. His future in ministry lies in the balance. As I pray about meeting with them, I am reminded that they already know what I need to tell them. They have counseled others in similar situations using the same verses and principles I have been trying to apply to them. The last time I met with them my heart was broken by their hardness as each pointed the finger at the other.

Then I have the young couple who have been married for just a year. She erupts in anger and he shuts down. Both wonder if they made a mistake by getting married. When they fail, each struggles with doubts about whether he/she is even a believer. It is emotionally exhausting to wrestle through these issues with them.

Then finally, I think about the couple who have been separated for two years because one of them was unfaithful. Another counselor and I helped them to work through many of the issues of repentance and forgiveness and by God’s grace they have made a lot of progress. Both have agreed to work toward full reconciliation and coming back together as husband and wife. But there have been some serious bumps in the road recently. Having lived separately for so long each seems a bit nervous about getting back together. New issues keep emerging. I ask God, “How can I help move this dear couple forward?”

It was hard on Monday morning, after coming down from the mountaintop, to contemplate the spiritual warfare in which I would be engaging for five hours (with student observers in each case). The conferences had been so delightful. We were reminded of the sufficiency of God’s Word and the privilege of offering it to others.

Sufficient in Christ Alone

Getting down into the trenches of counseling again seemed overwhelming. Who is sufficient for these things? As I prayed I was reminded that our sufficiency is in Christ, who told us, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

All of our training, skill and effort will not change people. We can do nothing apart from Christ.  But as we abide in Him, He enables us to bear much fruit.

Because of the conferences it had been at least two weeks since I had seen my counselees. I was thankful that God had been working the lives of my counselees during my absence. In each case there had been spiritual growth and application of the gospel in their relationships. Hard hearts were being softened. Though I felt exhausted and insufficient, God helped me to open the Word in each hour and the Holy Spirit made my counselees receptive to God’s truth.

Biblical counseling is not ultimately our work. We seek to faithfully hold forth God’s Word to needy fellow pilgrims, praying that the Spirit will work to do what we cannot. It is a great privilege to participate in this work of God and to see all that He does.

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When the overwhelming load of ministry presses down upon you, where do you turn?

Topics: Christian Living, Conference, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

A Response to “The Integration of Christianity and Psychology: A Guest Post by Sarah Rainer”

A Response to The Integration of Christianity and Psychology - A Guest Post by Sarah Rainer

BCC Staff Note: On September 25, 2014, at Ed Stetzer’s Christianity Today blog site, The Exchange, Ed ran a guest post by Sarah Rainer. The post was entitled, The Integration of Christianity and Psychology. You can find the post here. Because this is an important post, we ask one of our Council Board members, Jeff Forrey, to share his reflections on it. For a much fuller understanding of the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s perspective on Christianity and Psychology, consider our latest BCC collaborative book project, Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

Considering the Foundations of Secular Psychology

In reading Dr. Rainer’s comments, I assume that she had to write within certain space limitations that did not allow for her to develop her reasoning fully. Therefore, it seems unwise to critique her point of view as such. Instead, I sought to raise questions prompted by what she wrote. My comments mostly follow the order of comments she made in her post. First, Dr. Rainer wrote:

“Secular psychologists operate on a biopsychosocial model of human development and behavior. This model proposes humans develop and operate according to biological, psychological, and social influences.”

“In more recent years, psychologists have begun recognizing that our spirituality impacts our lives, but have yet to say it is imperative for life. While the traditional psychological theories and models that are based upon naturalism are insufficient from a Christian worldview, not all of secular psychology is wrong.”

Dr. Rainer is right to say that traditional psychological theories are based on naturalism, because they seek to understand human nature and experiences without reference to God and His Word. They operate, as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, “under the sun.” For the naturalist living “under the sun,” God is viewed as optional, if not downright intrusive.

With regards to secular psychology, the question that needs to be addressed by Christians is: To what extent does this naturalism influence the enterprise of mainstream psychology[1]? She hints later that secular psychological research should be approached cautiously, which is true. But it is unclear what she means. What elements of the secular psychological enterprise might be tainted by the presupposition of naturalism?

In principle, we cannot assume any of it will be free of this influence, because the determinative orientation of the non-Christian’s thinking, commitments, and values is one of rebellion against the Lord (e.g., Psalm 14:1-3; Matthew 12:30; Romans 1:18-21). Consequently, the definitions of psychological constructs, the creation of research questions, the interpretations of collected research data, and the applications of study conclusions are all aspects of research that must be evaluated from the perspective of a biblical, God-centered point of view.

Take, for example, her observation that recently secular psychologists have been acknowledging the role of “spirituality” in human experience. This can be well attested by the books addressing spirituality published in recent years by the APA. However, we must ask, What is “spirituality”? How does the use of this term by mainstream psychologists correspond to the relevant terminology used in the New Testament?

Often “spirituality” is differentiated from “religion” in the secular literature. How does this distinction map onto the teaching of the New Testament regarding the expression of one’s faith commitments? Certainly, Jesus chastises the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees; their presumptions about their relationship with God did not match reality. Is Jesus’ evaluation of their practices equivalent to the modern distinction between inner “spirituality” and outward, institutionalized “religion”?

Pondering a Comprehensive Biblical Understanding of Image Bearers

Later, Dr. Rainer writes:

“I propose that Christian mental health professionals operate on a middle ground, the bio/psycho/social/spiritual model, which considers both our dignity and depravity as humans.”

This comment raises questions about how these components of the person relate to one another. Though it is reasonable to assume “body” as a legitimate category of the biblical view of people, one wonders, what are the definitions and possible interactions of the “psycho/social/spiritual” categories?

Dr. Rainer is correct about the need for discernment, but it must be clarified that biblical discernment involves starting with biblical presuppositions. This makes it difficult to know what is meant by her comment: “not all of secular psychology is wrong. Indeed, there are many helpful and positive aspects of psychology to consider, which is why there is a need for integration.”

It is true that not everything a secular psychologist says is necessarily wrong (i.e., inconsistent with the Bible), because in God’s common grace He suppresses non-believers’ suppression of the truth, which in turn, allows them to make some valid claims about what goes on in His world.

Yet, if the secular claims are valid—as judged by a biblical perspective—then we must acknowledge that the naturalistic assumptions of the secular researcher did not contribute to their validity. Thus, we must turn to the biblical worldview as our starting point. Why, then, is there a “need” for integration?

Perhaps, instead, we could say there is a need for reinterpretation as Christians consider the claims made by mainstream psychologists. And these two processes are different. “Integration” assumes a continuity between secular and biblical worldview presuppositions that cannot be assumed to exist. “Reinterpretation” assumes a discontinuity between the two worldviews that requires a different way of understanding concepts or theories in relationship to what the Bible teaches.

Examining Worldviews

Dr. Rainer affirms that:

“For Christian psychologists, our worldview must be determined by Scripture.”

Then she incorporates the construct “mental illness” into that worldview. How is “mental illness” derived from what the Bible says about human nature and experience? Although it is not mandatory that Christians only use terms derived from the wording of Scripture, when extra-biblical terms are suggested, it should be clear how they are defined so that their correspondence with biblical teaching is evident.

With respect to the problems addressed by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, clearly the brain can be diseased or injured, and such conditions will affect the person’s experiences in life. But, also clearly, not all problems brought under the umbrella term “mental illness” can be matched to pathological processes in the nervous (or other organ) system. That is not to say the brain is uninvolved in those experiences, because the brain is active in everything we experience in this life. But without pinpointing a pathological process in the nervous system, we are left with attributing “psychological disorders” to the “mind.” Therefore, what are the dynamics of illness in the mind? Even if used as a metaphor, what assistance does “mental illness” give us in knowing how to help troubled people? In other words, what does it mean to “utilize Scripture to heal our clients and glorify Jesus”?

“I appreciate the biopsychosocial model of human nature. Learning about the complexities of humanity provides me with a better framework for understanding and helping my clients. The intricacies of the human brain, the environmental influences on our personality, and the social and culture impact on our lives remind me that pathology cannot simply be reduced to issues of morality or sin.”

Based on her later comments, it would seem Dr. Rainer’s appreciation of this model assumes it is good “as far as it goes,” but it does not go far enough. Furthermore, her use of “pathology” is ambiguous. As we’ve said, the brain can be subjected to illness. “Environmental influences” in this comment seems to refer to non-relational aspects of one’s surroundings affecting a person’s development and experience of daily life. Finances, educational opportunities, etc., do influence how we mature. Both the micro- and macrocultures in which we live affect our personality development. Each of these points can be substantiated biblically.

But when Dr. Rainer says “pathology” cannot be reduced to morality or sin, she seems to be assuming that environmental influences and relational or cultural influences can be morally neutral. However, none of these influences on personality can be viewed as “morally neutral.” This is because their influence is subject to the condition or contents of what the Bible calls the “heart.” The “heart,” basically, is the moral & motivational control center of the person. All of life—speech, behavior, attitudes, emotions, and thoughts—is shaped by the “heart.” Moreover, the “heart” always functions with respect to God. Therefore, whatever pressures might be exerted by one’s finances, family experiences, friendships, etc., will all be filtered through the “heart,” producing lifestyle patterns that eventually will reveal the person’s stance before God (cf. Proverbs 20:11; Luke 6:45; Ephesians 4:17-19). Because the “heart” is not neutral, neither will responses to any of these external influences.

Dr. Rainer also writes:

“Research and personal testimonies reveal that secular interventions are successful in the abatement of symptoms. However, the independent use of these secular techniques falls short because they simply produce a ‘symptom free’ individual. The end result does not provide dependence on the Lord, salvation, or sanctification. The result is nothing more than freedom from current symptoms, yet there is continued bondage to sin.”

Each of these statements is true. Yet, one does need to question: What is the relationship between the secular interventions and the necessity of a gospel-based intervention, which she also endorses? How do their differing starting points affect their utility with Christians, given the explicit goal that Christians should “grow in Christ” (e.g., 2 Peter 3:18) or “glorify God in everything” (1 Corinthians 10:31)?

“Helping a child with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder organize … school supplies, explaining and modeling the appropriate use of time-out to parents, challenging negative thoughts, and teaching diaphragmatic breathing, are some examples of secular techniques that do not challenge Scripture-based psychology.”

Dr. Rainer is correct that none of these tactics necessarily violates scriptural teaching, but in order to insure they do not, we again need to have biblical starting points. In this example, anything that can help the child be more successful in dealing with the physical manifestations of stress, such as diaphragmatic breathing, might be helpful, because the Scriptures do not discount somatic interventions in dealing with problems in the body.

Hyperventilation disrupts optimal gas exchange between the lungs and the bloodstream, resulting in potentially frightening physical sensations. Diaphragmatic breathing can counter these sensations. Organizing supplies helps the child process his or her resources for accomplishing tasks. Our brains work more efficiently with such organization; it is a function of God’s design. Time-out procedures might also afford a child better opportunities to deal with numerous simultaneous stimuli in the environment, as long as they are structured in the light of the child’s unique set of abilities and limitations and as long as they help direct the child’s attention toward biblical goals.

The degree of the child’s attention might be understood as tied brain function, but the objects of attention are tied to the values of the “heart.” Challenging negative thoughts is, of course, directly tied to the condition or contents of the “heart.” Therefore, how it is done must be derived from the Scriptures.

Dr. Rainer ends with a laudable call for believers to make an impact on the broader culture for the sake of Christ. We must show people how the gospel transforms people—from the inside out—in order that they might fulfill their Creator’s design. However, we will not be as effective in this task if we only use the Scriptures as a “filter,” which practically speaking, often means the secularists have set the agenda for discussion to which Christians merely react. Instead we should use the biblical worldview as our starting point, for only then we are in a far better position to be “salt and light.”

Join the Conversations

What are your reflections on Dr. Rainer’s article on The Integration of Christianity and Psychology?

What are your thoughts on Dr. Forrey’s response?

[1]“Mainstream psychology” refers to the psychological theories and research generally taught in the majority of universities and colleges. It is endorsed by most psychologists, including many Christians trained in these institutions of higher learning.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity, Theology | Tags: , , , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Taking a Time Out to Discuss Spanking

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we like to highlight for you one of our growing list of free resources. This weekend we highlight a resource audio interview entitled Taking a Time Out to Discuss Spanking. In this audio, David Wheaton of The Christian Worldview interviews two BCC Council Board members, John Street and Ernie Baker. This radio broadcast originally appeared on The Christian Worldview website. You can listen to the original resource here.

Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol. Proverbs 23:13-14

A national debate on spanking children has been taking place over the last few weeks (watch, for example, a recent segment on ESPN NFL Countdown) after one of the National Football League’s top running backs, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, was charged with child abuse after spanking his four-year-old son, causing visible cuts and bruises.

The Bible, most specifically in the Book of Proverbs, commands parents to physically discipline their children (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15).  And yet our culture today—and even many professing Christians—say that a child should never be subjected to corporal punishment (i.e. spanked).  In fact, parents can have their child taken away if the state decides that “abuse” is taking place.

What is the difference between spanking and abuse?  Why does the Bible command “using the rod,” and for what kind of transgressions should a child be spanked?  Are other forms of discipline just as effective as spanking?

Dr. John Street and Dr. Ernie Baker, Professors of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College will join us this weekend on The Christian Worldview to answer these questions and others on spanking.  Between them, they have raised ten children, and thus have the experience to go with their expertise.

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Topics: Audio, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counsel for Struggling People

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has announced the theme for their October 5-7, 2015 National Conference.

The Christian community cannot only be known as the people who understand that homosexuality is wrong. It is a matter of urgent concern that we also be known as the people who move towards people struggling with homosexuality with the love, grace, power, and hope of Jesus Christ and walk with them through the door to real and lasting change.”

Learn more about the ACBC 2015 Conference at Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counsel for Struggling People.

Where Protection Is Found

In a world filled with trouble and turmoil, Jay Adams encourages us to go Where Protection Is Found. http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=6987

Churches Speaking for the Unborn

Trevin Wax reflects on Churches Speaking for the Unborn.

The Hopeless Marriage

Ed Welch at CCEF shares 3 principles to consider when experiencing what seems like The Hopeless Marriage.

Quick Scripture References for Men

Paul Tautges does a “mini-review” of Quick Scripture References for Men.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , ,

When Our Theology Stifles Our Compassion

When our Theology Stifles Our Compassion

Yesterday, I received a disturbing phone call. A young woman I had been counseling attempted suicide over the weekend. In God’s mercy, He intervened before the overdose could do its lethal damage. But in the aftermath, “Mary’s” soul remains raw and bleeding. She doesn’t have the strength to fill in a “Discovering Problem Patterns” worksheet or memorize verses right now. Mary needs to grasp the biblical reality that she is precious to the Savior Who will not let her go. The promises of Scripture—which are just words to her right now—need to be real in her life.

And I realized anew that I am utterly powerless.  

The training in systematic theology and hermeneutics we have is valuable, in terms of ministering the Scriptures to people who seek answers. Yet, there are times, if we are not careful, when our “sound doctrine” may sound like a clanging cymbal, and push hurting believers away. This can happen both in the counseling room, and in our friendships.

Does this sound like a false dichotomy? It isn’t. One of the things God is teaching me lately is that while our words may be true, and biblical, and spoken in love, there is a depth of understanding and compassion that cannot always be expressed verbally…yet is crucially important.

Sometimes, when faced with another’s pain, one simply doesn’t know what to say. I have the opposite problem—I always know exactly what to say (and usually which verses to cite).

It’s knowing when to shut up that poses the problem for me.

Being Grace-Oriented before Solutions-Oriented

The plumb line for all counsel is, of course, the Bible. Scripture dictates what we do; not culture. Sound doctrine matters. I want those words engraved on my tombstone! However, a sticky truth is that people are not formulaic, like computers: we cannot simply re-program them with a “string code” of certain verses, and expect that their hearts will be automatically transformed. Unwittingly, the homework we give to help counselees think biblically may even add “performance pressure,” leading to additional condemnation.

As biblical counselors, trained to identify the problem and then apply the biblical solution, this can be frustrating. “Faith is not determined by feelings,” we want to protest. We think, “Empathizing with someone is not going to help them—the Word of God is what will fix their problems!” However, Christ-like compassion never pits Truth against Love.

We want to help. We love our friends, our family, our counselees. In our desire to help, we need to understand that it is perfectly “theological” to minister to someone who is hurting just by moving towards them in their pain, without preaching. A phone call or e-mail can simply communicate that we care, are praying, and above all, that we are there for them.

There is a time to give a theology lecture; and there is a time to give silent hugs.

Different situations call for different approaches, as Jesus demonstrated in His ministry. Of course, He is the only Counselor with perfect insight into a hurting heart, yet we can and must still learn from His example. In John 11, after the death of Lazarus, Jesus comforts Martha with the promises of God and bolsters her faith. Mary, however, threw herself at His feet weeping. The Lord, far from remaining emotionally detached, cried with her (John 11:32-35).

Mary needed compassionate empathy in the midst of her pain. Likewise, my suicidal counselee will not hear a theology lecture right now. She needs the Jesus Who will pick her up off the floor, dry her tears, and remind her that her life still has value—to Him, even if to no one else.

Encountering severely depressed believers requires a special patience and sensitivity that we need to seek from the heart of God. Yes, biblical encouragement includes using Scripture wisely. But when one is immobilized in their Christian walk, it is not the best time to unpack all of Ephesians 4. “Putting off” the sin nature and “putting on” the new man seems impossible when just getting out of bed is difficult. While it may be difficult, in these seasons showing Christ-like love may mean just sitting next to our friend (or counselee) in the pit. Once they are strong enough to take the first tentative steps of faith, then we can come back to applicable doctrine.

What Does a Supportive, Christian Friend Look Like?

Most of the people we love are not counselees, and are not usually looking for cut-and-dried spiritual advice. Nevertheless, Scripture portrays the Christian life as one of mutual encouragement, correction, and exhortation—both within our families and churches (where authority comes into play), and within friendship.

In these precious, rare Christian friendships reminiscent of David and Jonathan, “building up of one another” flows naturally. When a “log jam” in a friend’s life occurs, our first instinct is to get proactive and fix it. What better way than to point them to Scripture? Especially when we believe they may be—gasp—backsliding believers.

A popular catch-phrase among Evangelicals a few years ago was “What Would Jesus Do?” This is a valid question, but there is just one problem when attempting to discern another’s heart: we are not Jesus. We do not have the benefit of His omniscience, nor His insight into all angles of a particular situation. Obviously, in cases of blatant sin (e.g. adultery; theft; habitual drunkenness; pre-marital sex), the loving response would be scriptural confrontation. Supporting someone is sin is neither loving, nor Christ-like. But in real life, situations are rarely so clear-cut. What we may consider disobedience may simply be questionable judgment. In our minds, we may be discerning; in our friend’s, judgmental. If we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, God shows us what it means to be “A friend [who] loves at all times” and a “brother in times of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

Recently, a dear friend said to me, “If you know anything about me, you know I can line up all those Bible verses and teaching and the doctrine and all…so there is no point in telling me this, as if you’re saying something new. I just need to talk to God right now and listen to Him, because right now that preaching doesn’t help me.”

Love constrained me from retorting: “If you want to ‘listen to God,’ open the Bible!” I understood the heart behind my friend’s words. Where people’s lives, situations, emotions, and biblical principles converge, a simple verse (or worse, a sense that they are being lectured in a self-righteous way) is not going to encourage them.

And the ultimate irony? I don’t want to “be right.” I don’t want to win an argument; prove a point; or beat my friend at a game of Bible Trivia. What I really want is to have a coffee together; put an arm around her shoulder; and most of all, see the joy of Christ flowing in her life. Likewise, when I am confused or feel alone, knowing that a trusted friend is praying for me brings far more comfort than being hammered and peppered with confrontation.

Once God has “poured out His love in our hearts” (Romans 5:5), loving people comes more naturally. While it is often not easy or automatic, we long to share the liberating Truth of the Gospel with others—and help those close to us apply it to their lives. Even when our motives are pure, godly counsel may not be received that way if we wield it without tenderness. It is far more difficult to patiently support, silently love, and unceasingly pray than to exegete a passage of Scripture. We need to seek the Holy Spirit regularly for discernment in our approach, in order to be truly competent counselors and compassionate friends.

Join the Conversation

What do you think of this summary statement?

It is far more difficult to patiently support, silently love, and unceasingly pray than to exegete a passage of Scripture.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Methodology, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sufficiency of Scripture, Theology | Tags: , , ,

Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Biblical Counseling

Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Biblical Counseling

BCC Staff Note: The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), recently released their Statement Regarding Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling. The BCC applauds this compassionate and comprehensive statement. We’ve reproduced the first section below. You can read the entire statement here. If you want to make others aware of this statement, you can share this shortened link: http://bit.ly/1CZr5pw.

I. Mental Disorders and Biblical Counseling

We live in a broken world full of people suffering with profound trouble and intense pain. One manifestation of that brokenness is the problem that our culture recognizes as mental disorder. Increasing numbers of people are diagnosed with these complex difficulties, which require wisdom and multi-faceted care. We confess that, too often, the church of Jesus Christ has not been recognized as a source for profound hope and meaningful help for such difficult problems. We further acknowledge that many Christians have contributed to a negative stigma attached to such diagnoses through simplistic understandings of these problems, and have offered solutions grounded in ignorance.

As an organization committed to pursuing excellence in biblical counseling the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors has, for decades, been calling upon faithful Christians to grow in the twin tasks of understanding complex problems and learning skills to address them in the context of counseling. As an organization committed to the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling we believe that the Bible provides profound wisdom to guide us in caring for people diagnosed with mental disorders.

One example of this wisdom is the biblical teaching on dichotomy. The Bible is clear that God created human beings to consist of both a body and soul. To be a human being is to exist in these two constituent parts, which are separable only at death. Even after death, Christians confess that the bodies and souls of human beings will be restored at the Last Day. This biblical truth points to the high honor and regard that God gives to both the physical and spiritual realities of humanity.[1]

A theological reality like this one requires Christians to honor both body and soul as crucial to human existence. Christians, therefore, should respect medical interventions as a fully legitimate form of care for those struggling in this fallen world. Examinations by medical professionals are crucial adjuncts to a biblical counseling ministry as they discover and treat, or rule out physical problems, which lead many to seek counseling help.

Another example of this biblical wisdom is the teaching in Scripture on the dynamic nature of problems that we experience in a fallen world. Human beings have difficulties, which always carry physical and spiritual implications. Both aspects need to be addressed in an appropriate fashion. Human beings experience problems with spiritual implications for which they are morally culpable and must repent. Human beings experience other physical and spiritual problems, which are not a consequence of their sins, are not their fault, but which are painful realities that attend life in a fallen world.[2]

This theological reality requires Christians to approach problems in a complex way, rather than a simplistic one. Christians understand that some spiritual realities will require a rebuke, but others will require encouragement in the midst of pain. Still others will require help in the midst of weakness.

[1]Genesis 2:7; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 7:34; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Timothy 4:8

[2]Matthew 5:8; 26:38; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14

BCC Staff Note: You can read the entire statement at the ACBC’s site here. Statement Regarding Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Medication, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity | Tags: , ,

Scripture and Counseling: Foreword by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Scripture and Counseling--God's Word for Life in a Broken WorldThe Biblical Counseling Coalition is excited to announce the release by Zondervan of our second book: Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

To learn more about Scripture and Counseling click here.

To purchase a copy of Scripture and Counseling at 40% off, click here.

You can also purchase a copy of our first BCC, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, here.

 

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.To introduce you to Scripture and Counseling, today’s post provides the Foreword to the book, written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Mohler has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, Time.com called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. All of these can be accessed through Dr. Mohler’s website, www.AlbertMohler.com. Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Foreword to Scripture and Counseling, by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the assumption that our main problem is inside of us and our only hope for rescue comes from without. In matters of counseling, the secular worldview, driven by the engine of therapy, says precisely the opposite—our problem is something outside of us, and the rescue we need is something that comes from within. This is the very antithesis of gospel proclamation. It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of human depravity with the ethos of self-esteem. It is impossible to mix orthodox theology and secular therapeutic counseling.

Any attempt to reconcile these worldviews with the gospel subverts the gospel intentionally or unintentionally. Mixing secular psychology with the church’s theology makes the gospel something it is not. The history of secular counseling bears witness to this fact. Freud told us that our problem is in our subconscious and must be treated by therapy; Jung found the problem in the structures of the unconscious brain; Maslow told us that what we need is self-actualization; Bettelheim told us to get in touch with our stories; and the list goes on. These notions are all contrary to the Christian worldview. Yet one of the great tragedies of our age is that the average Christian bookstore is teeming with literature promoting the agenda of secular psychology. Sadly, much of this literature can succeed in the Christian market by barely camouflaging the secular worldviews it promotes.

This means that the task of biblical counseling must be undertaken with a sense of urgency. We are living in a time of tremendous cultural and theological confusion and this has led to a vast and dangerous infection of the church. Regrettably, many churches have embraced counseling that majors on the therapeutic. Marketable and pragmatic, this form of counseling orbits around the self and is theologically anemic. It lacks the transforming power of the gospel—a gospel that reminds us that the solution to our problems comes from outside ourselves, not from within.

In counseling, as in every area of life, the people of God must take their marching orders from the Word of God, committed to its authority and sufficiency. Believers are called to counsel one another with the rich truth of God’s Word in a way consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the center of this counseling ministry that we have to one another is the church—more specifically local churches marked by the truth, power, and authority of God’s Word and of the gospel (Matthew 16:13-20). The communion of the saints, ordered by the authority of God’s Word, is the center of biblical counseling.

Christ has richly lavished His grace on His church. As we minister, serve, and worship together we receive the vast riches of God’s counsel together. Part of the biblical counseling ministry of the church proceeds from the pulpit as church members corporately submit themselves to the Word of God. At other times a more personal ministry of the Word is needed as members counsel one another with respect to specific problems, looking at specific situations in the Scriptures.

The communion of saints exercises godly counsel through worship, preaching, the ordinances, and other means of grace. The communion of the saints is a communion of godly counsel givers. We are not merely individual Christians, loosely scattered throughout the world. Christians are members of the body of Christ, and our identity is bound up in the community of God’s people. As Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Therefore, congregations and churches must be theologically equipped to apply the Word of God to one another’s lives. In this way the church is equipped, the church is called, the church is exhorted, the church is encouraged, and the church is made into the likeness of Christ.

As a communion of holy ones, our aim is to conform one another to the image of Christ. In the words of Paul, each member is to work as God has gifted him such that the body “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Words of godly counsel are the natural discourse of a believing congregation. And counseling is part of the natural order of the church, as saints move toward faithfulness and maturity.

Preaching on Ephesians 6:14, Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There can be no doubt whatsoever that all the troubles in the church today, and most of the troubles in the world, are due to a departure from the authority of the Bible.” The recent history of counseling ministries in evangelical churches has demonstrated the truthfulness of Lloyd-Jones’s words. As churches outsource counseling needs to the secular world or adopt the worldview of therapeutic psychology into their own ministries, they damage the church’s convictions about the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word and belittle the redeeming power of the gospel.

The contributors to this volume are men and women who faithfully uphold the Word of God as the church’s only resource for Christ-centered change. I commend their conviction in this Word, a Word that reveals how God has rescued sinners by turning them away from self to the cross and resurrection of His Son.

I am thankful for the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s commitment to promote counseling that is grounded in sound theology and rooted in the life of the church. And I am even more thankful that the BCC is producing the book that you are now holding in your hands. Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World is representative of the type of theologically sophisticated and pastorally sensitive counseling literature needed in evangelical churches.

Topics: Book Reviews, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

10 Endorsements for Scripture and Counseling

Scripture and Counseling--God's Word for Life in a Broken WorldThe Biblical Counseling Coalition is excited to announce the release by Zondervan of our second book: Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

To learn more about Scripture and Counseling click here.

To purchase a copy of Scripture and Counseling at 40% off, click here.

You can also purchase a copy of our first BCC, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, here.

Endorsements

We are thankful to the following 10 Christian leaders for their gracious endorsement of Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

“Robert Jones says it well, ‘The Bible does not merely inform our counseling…the Bible drives our counseling.’ I believe he is exactly correct. The contributors to Scripture and Counseling encourage, teach, and show us how this happens as we pursue and develop a robust biblical strategy in ministry to hurting, confused, and broken people. The book is obviously comprehensive! It is also well-written. I suspect it will become a standard resource in the field of biblical counseling.”—Dr. Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

“What role does the Word of God play in counseling? This is a crucial and often energetically debated question in the church and among counselors. The contributors to Scripture and Counseling have carefully, thoughtfully, and helpfully explored both how to think about the Bible in counseling and how to use the Bible in counseling. I commend this significant work to anyone who looks to Scripture to help people make sense of life in a broken world.”—Jack Delk, Pastor for Counseling, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

“Scripture and Counseling is not just a book about Scripture, but a book about how to apply Scripture to our lives and in our ministries to others in manner that will lead us to function as God intended, resulting in God’s glory, and our ultimate good. This will be an extremely helpful tool for people who want to apply the Word of God in their counseling ministry in an efficient and effective manner.”—Dr. Nicolas Ellen, Professor of Biblical Counseling, College of Biblical Studies, Houston, TX

“Scripture and Counseling is both theologically robust and pastorally helpful. On its pages you will find a lively discussion that will bring you up to speed on the conversation taking place among contemporary biblical counseling.”—J.D. Greear, Pastor, The Summit Church, Durham, NC

“When it comes to diagnosing and solving life’s issues, a biblical counselor is someone who is committed to the sufficiency of God’s Word found in the Bible, rather than the wisdom of man found in psychology. But what does that mean in practical terms? How would you know the difference? In Scripture and Counseling, the authors have masterfully brought this issue, and this much-debated topic in the counseling world, to the forefront. The authors’ collaborative work and thorough scholarship will lead you, whether you are a pastor, biblical counselor, or psychologist, to settle what you believe and practice in your counseling ministry. This is a must read.”—Dr. Kevin E. Hurt, Senior Pastor, Grace Bible Church, Mountain City, GA

“Conviction and competence are key ingredients to caring well for the souls of others. All followers of Christ must have a growing conviction that God’s Word is sufficient and a growing competence in how to use it to care for one another. By providing a sound theology of Scripture and a thorough approach to using God’s Word, Scripture and Counseling is an indispensable resource for helping believers grow in both conviction and competence.”—Andrew Rogers, Pastor of Soul Care, College Park Church, Indianapolis, IN

“Scripture and Counseling offers the Christian an apologetic for the Bible’s sufficiency for the care of souls and then demonstrates it through common yet challenging disciple-making matters we encounter in a broken world. Every follower of Christ should read this collaborative volume to glean biblical truths for enthusiastic, loving disciple-making within the context of personal ministry. Committed disciple-makers, relying upon the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to transform heart desires for God’s glory, will discover the ‘why and how’ of biblical counseling in this excellent work.”—Dr. Mark E. Shaw, Pastor and Executive Director of Vision of Hope, a Ministry of Faith Church, Lafayette, IN

“Because we live in a culture that considers the Bible to be at best irrelevant, or even ridiculous, there has been a growing question even among serious Christians as to its sufficiency, especially for counseling the serious problems of the soul. Scripture and Counseling provides the framework for a profitable discussion of this issue and helps us to appreciate the richness of God’s Word in helping people who are hurting. It purposefully and wisely moves from how counselors’ correct beliefs about the Bible directly affects how it will be beneficial to them. Anyone interested in helping people with the Scriptures should read this book.”—Dr. John D. Street, Chair, MABC Graduate Program, The Master’s College & Seminary, Sun Valley, CA

“My heart rejoices whenever I hear of a book being published that strengthens our understanding of and commitment to the sufficiency of the Scriptures for personal ministry. This book is relentless in the pursuit of that goal! As a textbook, as a resource, and as a source of inspiration and encouragement in the modern ‘battle for the Bible,’ Scripture and Counseling will serve and strengthen many generations of Bible students and soul care practitioners.”—Dr. Wayne Vanderwier, Executive Director of Overseas Instruction in Counseling, Louisville, KY

“Scripture and Counseling is a book that every friend and critic of biblical counseling will find challenging and enlightening. Linking counseling and preaching with simplicity and profundity reveals the full effects the ministry of the Word can have upon the body of Christ. The authors demonstrate the wisdom of counseling the Word as being sufficient for life and ministry.”—Dr. Thomas Zempel, Pastor-Professor of Counseling, Colonial Baptist Church, Cary, NC

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Book Reviews, Education, Equipping, Gospel-Centered Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.