Archive for September 6th, 2007

I was a little concerned when I read this post (not really) because I am a believer as a result of the preaching at Saddleback Church. And, I guess Saddleback qualifies as the “mother” of all seeker-sensitive churches (in this analogy we’ll make Willow the dad). According to the author, the preaching message that is able to produce TRUE conversion has to include these elements:

You are guilty of sinning against God by breaking His laws and commands. You deserve God’s punishment both now and for eternity. But the Good News is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for ALL of your sins and offers you a full pardon. Repent of your sins and believe the Good News. (You can find the whole chart here)

Boy was I relieved. Here is the message I heard Rick Warren preach that led me to trust in Christ and receive the gift of salvation (extracted from the video “What Does it Mean to follow Christ” found here):

God created you to love Him. The sad part is that sin, my attitude of wanting to be God, breaks our ability to have a close relationship with God. And ALL of us have sinned. It’s only by God’s mercy that we have any hope of going to heaven.

Since we can’t get into heaven on our own merit God had to come up with the plan of salvation whereby we can get into heaven on somebody else’s ticket who was perfect and that perfect person was Jesus Christ. Jesus said: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except by me.’

What does God want me to do with this truth? Four things:

  1. Admit my pride and ask for forgiveness for my sins.
  2. Believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose on the third day.
  3. Receive God’s free gift of salvation.
  4. Invite Jesus to be the Lord of my life.

Whew! It looks like the message I heard has all of the key ingredients, albeit the terminology is admittedly, a little more “user friendly”. But as I have grown in my understanding of my faith, I now realize that God’s unmerited favor was given to me in a moment of repentance when Christ became the ultimate and final propitiatory sin offering for the atonement of my sin.

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Slice is down. According to the reformed theology of the ODMs, that must be God’s sovreignty.

“God is Sovereign. There is not one area of creation in which He is not Sovereign…Soli Deo Gloria!” -CRN

sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

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Today, we have another blazingly idiotic (to be kind) post from “Pastor Paul”, the kind of advice that devastates and ruins families who eschew seeking professional assistance (oft-times with temporary need for pharmaceutical assistance) because they’ve received bad counsel.  This is really not any different that JW’s who refuse blood transfusions and parents, like those of Amanda Bates, who listened to church leaders explain why they shouldn’t receive medical care.

“Pastor Paul” gives awful advice.  As the parent of a child with ADHD, with friends or relatives with each of the conditions mentionged, I cannot stress what a disservice you do to yourself, your children and your family when you consistently prolong avoidance of treatment – even visiting a Christian counsellor – with persistent psychological, medical conditions.  Certainly, prayer heals.  Certainly, there are often behavioral issues related to sin with many psychological disorders.  Certainly, there are those who abuse this and excuse bad behavior, but Tautges’ advice is pure, unadulterated quackery. 

I’m not sure I would write much new that I didn’t already say a few months back, so I think I will just start with a repost of the previous article (rather than pretend to write something new, when it would really be a rehash – not that I know anybody who does anything like that.)

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WatchdawggieIssue: The role of counseling, psychotherapy (including psychiatric drugs), and addiction recovery programs in the Christian church

CRN/Slice Take: I have to say that I am not completely sure where they stand today, but there was more evidence of where they stood before Slice came down.

This article by Paul Tautges of CRN gives some indication of the disdain for psychological drugs and Christian counselors who use more resources than just the Bible in their counseling.

This was the conviction of the early Christians. They had the godly audacity to believe that man can become complete in Christ without the help of psychologists, psychiatrists, or mood-altering drugs.

He goes on to lay out three precepts from which counseling should come:

  • God’s Word is sufficient to deal with every problem man faces.

In our day, pastors are intimidated by the mental health “professionals,” but the early Christians believed that there is nothing man experiences that God does not directly or indirectly address in His Word. They believed the Scriptures are sufficient to teach us doctrine—truth with a capital T. They believed the Word confronts us when we get off the right path and shows us how to get back on. And they believed the Scriptures train us to live godly lives so that we can mature and become equipped to serve God.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

  • Man is responsible for his own actions.

In our day, blame shifting has almost become a virtue, but the early Christians had the courage to lay fault at the right doorstep. We read of people like the 56-year old man who is presently suing four major fast food chains because of health problems caused by his obesity. Of course, he is not responsible for putting his hand to his mouth. It is the restaurants’ fault! In our world this man is consoled. In biblical times he would have received a sermon on gluttony. How refreshing it is when the light of Truth pierces so sharply through the thick cloud of man’s deception.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

  • The Holy Spirit is the “Agent of Change.”

In our day, men pay good money to be told they are hopelessly victimized by their past or their DNA, but the early Christians freely dispensed the hope found in the Gospel and were confident of the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. As we take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ we are changed into His image by the Spirit of God.

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).

These core beliefs naturally led the early Christians to practice what is referred to as nouthetic counseling. The nouthetic approach to counseling grows out of two NT words: noutheses and noutheteo. The words mean to warn, to admonish, or to exhort. They always imply an aspect of confrontation so as to effect change. Jay Adams says this approach to helping people contains three basic elements. [iv] First, it presupposes a need for change; that there is something in the life that God wants changed. Second, problems are solved by verbal means; that is, the stress is placed on ‘What’—what is wrong? And what needs to be done about it? The Word spoken in encouragement, admonishment, or rebuke renews the mind, which leads to transformation of life. Third, the purpose for counseling is always that the counselee benefit by seeking to change that in his life which hurts him.

When this kind of ministry is examined in the New Testament, three principles become obvious.

  • Pastors are required to counsel and equip others to be counselors.

[...]

  • Every believer is expected to be a counselor.

[...]

  • The local church is the intended and ideal place for counseling.

From the old Slice, there were several articles (for which I don’t have all the links since Ingrid threw her tizzy, took her ball and went home) which denigrated both public 12-Step programs and the scripture-based Celebrate Recovery program developed by Pastor John Baker at Saddleback. There were also links to sites which had articles on the evils of Myers-Briggs personality tests, Ritalin and anti-depressant drugs. Since Slice 2.0 came back, I’ve not seen anything on these subjects.

My Take: [I do need to insert some information about potential conflict of interest for myself in writing this response. I work for a pharmaceutical company that has a Neuroscience division, though my work is in leadership development and project management for the Human Resources function.]

There are a number of inherent dangers of seeking counseling from a professional who is not an active practicing Christian. I wholeheartedly agree. There are also a number of family/personal problems than can be and should be dealt with by the church – with pastors and small group leaders as obvious ‘first steps’. I would even say that this is the first – and often only – place one would need to go.

However.

Psychiatric Drugs:

There are a number of serious psychological illnesses which cannot be simply counseled away. Yes, I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer in healing anything and everything. I also believe that we have been given scientific and medical “discoveries” (which I enclose in quotes, since God knew they were there thousands of years before we “discovered” them) with which to give immediate treatment for acute conditions and chronic ailments whose need may – with healing – go away.

I would guess that Pastor Tautges, were he having a heart attack, would appreciate both prayer and CPR be applied. Or, if he were diagnosed with diabetes, he would trust the Holy Spirit to work through prayer, but he wouldn’t neglect his insulin dosages.

In the same way, there are serious chemically-caused illnesses which can be treated and/or cured with psychiatric drugs in combination with counseling from a Christian professional. Without pharmaceutical treatment, these people would be a danger to both themselves and others. Schizophrenia, dimentia, bipolar disorder, certain addictions and clinical depression (as opposed to situational depression) all would fall into this category. These are not things to mess around with sans Christian professional assistance – which brings us to:

Christian Psychiatry

Cries of “oxymoron” (which are just moronic) aside, Christian psychiatry/psychotherapy can be helpful, beneficial AND godly. The Bible carries a wealth of information on dealing with personal and interpersonal problems, and it is not sinful to use sources which pull these together, written by Christian psychologists/psychiatrists (like, for instance, The Search for Significance by Robert McGee).

I agree that it is also important to ONLY use Christian counselors, recommended by your pastor, who can separate un-Biblical psychological techniques from scriptural or neutral ones. For instance, Myers-Briggs personality types can be useful in helping a person learn to interact with other people – based on their personalities. This is not un-Biblical, because it is simply recognition of natural phenomena that have always existed – in the same way that Newton’s recognition of the Law of Gravity was not Biblical or un-Biblical; he just recognized a natural pattern and labeled it!

With that said, parts of Pastor Tautges ‘three precepts’ are simplistic, at best.

Yes, the God’s Word is sufficient for our daily problems. It tells us how to deal with them from a spiritual standpoint. However, in terms of specifics, it is not what it does not claim to be. In the same way that you will not find instructions on how to perform open-heart surgery in the Bible, it will not tell you how to tell the difference between a disobedient child who just won’t sit still and a child with ADHD who may need non-intuitive and/or medicinal assistance.

Yes, man is responsible for his own actions. However, there are some genetic pre-conditions (such as those proven for alcoholism), which make dealing with specific types of sins much more difficult than for the average Joe (not you, though, Joe M. – you’re above average! -C ). The fault, guilt and consequences all belong to that individual – BY ALL MEANS – but to only say to them “go and sin no more…” is the equivalent of saying “peace be filled” to the starving man (more on this below).

Yes, the Holy Spirit is the agent of change. Once again, like with other CRN writers, the implication seems to be that the Holy Spirit must only act by fiat (from nothing) and not with the aid of something outside of direct application of scripture. There are a number of issues one may have had in growing up, in relationships and such, which professional Christian counselors may be able – with the aid of the Holy Spirit – to root out and help the person deal with in a scriptural manner – whether it be forgiveness for past wrongs, patterns of behavior which lead to temptation and sin, etc.

12-Step Programs

I have known a fairly large number of folks in the recovery community, and I have actually found that people who have been through this type of recovery are often the ones most receptive to the message of the gospel. They already have had to admit that they are the cause of their problems and that they, by themselves, cannot overcome them. The language of that community – the “higher power” – can be VERY dangerous, because it opens up anyone/anything to be that “higher power”. I try to use that for good by engaging them on a discussion on who/what their “higher power” is, and lead that into a discussion of Christ as the perfect “higher power” who does far more than free us from addiction and its consequences.

But that is for people who are in or have been through 12-Step Programs.

For people with addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, sexual addiction, overeating, relationship addiction, co-dependency, etc.) who need this type of healing – I recommend the Celebrate Recovery program developed at Saddleback, which is available at churches nation (and world) wide (there are 10 chapters in and around Indianapolis, including one at my church). This program is Biblically-based and helps people living in addictive cycles to find God-honoring ways to break these cycles. It does not mess around with “higher powers” or have to tap-dance around issues of faith like some 12-Step chapters do.

In summary, I may not be that far off from where Slice 2.0 sits on this issue, though I am sure that the old “amen chorus” of Slice 1.0 would have my head on a platter…

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Watchdawggies: heroes in their own mindThe apostle Paul writes:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Taking notes from this, a) we are not at war with individual people (flesh and blood); b) we are at war with the powers of this dark world, not with other Christians (who are not included in ‘this dark world’); and c) we are at war with the spiritual forces of evil.

Now, there are Christians who mistakenly believe themselves to be at war with other Christians (though they attempt to demonize them and put them into ‘this dark world’ via multiple specious techniques).  While they delude themselves with visions of this ‘civil war’ within the church (or between the church and ‘false converts’, forgetting whose authority it is to weed out the false converts).  In reality, though, they are no more at war with church than were Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, Charles Whitman or Seung-Hui Cho at war with the United States.

This is one of the primary reasons we write here – to try to stop the deranged, psychotic bloodshed that passes for “discernment”, where these self-appointed shepherds keep watch from a tower that looks like this, and not like this.  We just pray that the unnecessary bloodshed would stop, and that the guns be pointed in the right direction…

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Man, this article must have really messed with his ego! Yet another response? Plus a third one promised!

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