Dashed Hopes for Biblical Counseling

I’VE UPDATED THE INTRO AND END OF THIS POST IN ORDER TO MAKE IT EASIER TO KEEP THE FOCUS ON THE ISSUES.

I’m deeply disappointed  with this article by Heath Lambert, Executive Director of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, now called The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

The article asks, “Can Jesus Heal Mental Illness?”

And answers, “Yes.”

That answer in itself might be OK, but the article goes on to explain that “Yes” means “Yes, Jesus alone can heal mental illness.”

I want to explain my deep concerns about this article by simply highlighting a few quotes from it followed by some questions. I’ll number the questions to make any response easier.

Christians ought to understand mental illness in terms of spiritual issues. If mental illnesses are spiritual issues then we need to ask whether Jesus can bring healing to these things.

1. Only spiritual issues?

2. No other dimension of understanding?

…we need to carefully explain that mental illness is atheistic language for problems that have to do with life lived before the God of heaven and earth.

3. Atheistic language? Can you explain what is atheistic about it?

4. What does “problems that have to do with life lived before the God of heaven and earth” mean? Does it mean that all these problems are traceable to problems with our personal relationship to God?

It looks like this is answered by the next sentence:

We need to further explain that it is Jesus alone who can deal with these problems.

5. Mental illness is purely about a defective spiritual relationship to God that Jesus alone can heal? Jesus alone?

The next sentence seems to remove all doubt:

Jesus really can heal these problems. In fact, his is the only healing available.

The penultimate paragraph then comes to the only logical conclusion from such presuppositions:

Our culture believes that mental illnesses point to biology and require medical intervention.  Those of us in the biblical counseling movement are the only ones who know that the construct of mental illness actually has to with problems of the heart and require the gospel of God’s grace for healing.

6. No biological component? Ever?

7. No medication? Ever?

8. Mental illness has to do with problems of the heart and requires the Gospel of God’s grace for healing?

9. No other dimension than the heart?

10. No other solution than the Gospel?

11. The Biblical counseling movement know all this? They are the only ones who know this?

I hate writing posts like this, especially when I know and appreciate the author, an author who has written helpfully elsewhere. But this is dangerous and potentially deadly stuff that I hope will be qualified or clarified soon, not only for the sake of those who do suffer from mental and emotional disorders, but also for the sake of the Biblical Counseling movement.


Check out

8 Causes of Spiritual Depression
Jason Helopoulos: “Most of us go through real times of spiritual melancholy in the Christian life. They can be brief or entire seasons in which, as Gisbertus Voeitus said, a person “fails to feel his or her heart’s delight in God and divine things.”"

PCRT in Grand Rapids Tonight and Tomorrow
Rick Phillips, Jason Helopoulos, Phil Johnson and Greg Gilbert speak on The Beauty and Holiness of the Bride of Christ. Conference brochure here.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers
The only point I’d disagree with is #6. I think two good sermons a week can be accomplished with practice.

5 Strategies for Ministering in a Cretan Context
Thabiti: “Job number one for ministering in a Cretan context is appointing qualified spiritual leadership.”

God Used me to Stop a School Shooter
Antoinette Tuff talked down an armed intruder. Just a few months before, she almost took her own life.

The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield
Steve Lawson says if he could be anyone in church history, he would be George Whitefield.


Women Are Not Men

Want a conversation starter (or a hand grenade!) for the coffee break or the family table? Try this transcript of the latest Freakonomics podcast on the differences between men and women. To make it easier I’ve picked out a number of fascinating facts:

  • More than half of all college students in the U.S., about 57 percent, are female.
  • The male-female income gap is tightening.
  • Women hold about 20 percent of the seats in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives– the highest proportion ever.
  • Three of the last five Secretaries of State were women.
  • Women file only about 7.5% of all patents (mainly because far more men work in Research & Design).
  • 80 to 85 percent of the lightning fatalities across the United States are men (they tend to be outside more than women and they also tend not to go inside when lightning threatens)
  • Males have almost 4 times higher drowning rates than females (men spend more time in the water, they overestimate their swimming abilities, and drink more).
  • Women are half as likely as men to become alcoholics, but twice as likely to have a phobia.
  • Women are more likely to kill off a bad marriage—they file for roughly two-thirds of divorces.
  • Females now outnumber males on Facebook and Twitter, and that’s been true just about across any aspect of the Internet you can imagine, including online games.
  • Only 9% of Wikipedia editors are women (perhaps because men have more spare time and women are less comfortable with conflict)
  • 75 to 80 percent of crimes prosecuted by the police are by male offenders.
  • There are only two crimes in the United States today for which women get arrested more than men - prostitution and being a juvenile runaway.
  • A man is much less likely than a woman to do you a favor.
  • Men are much worse at washing their hands.
  • Men are thoroughly incapable of simply saying “I don’t know” even if in fact they don’t know the answer.
  • Women are often underpaid because they simply don’t ask for the raise they should get; they don’t negotiate as hard.
  • Although women are earning more and have many more opportunities, they are reporting lower life satisfaction levels than in the 1970′s, whereas men are happier.

On the last stat, economist Betsy Stevenson comments:

Where women have gained more autonomy, more financial power, more market power, more responsibility and power within their families, they have become less happy and men have become slightly happier. And so one possibility is that somehow this sort of revolution in our lives has actually benefited men more than it’s benefited women.

All in all, still glad to be a man!

(Am I allowed to say that?)


Check out

New Calvinism: A Reformation Worth Perpetuating
I agree with Jason Kellen on this – a reformation to be prayerfully and patiently encouraged (as well as learned from).

Why Is The Church Afraid of Leadership?
Ron Edmondson takes on the idea that “Christian” and “leader” don’t belong in the same sentence.

Have You Ever Had a Pastoral Visit?
Mike Horton: “In an age of celebrity preachers and gifted teachers, the recovery of [pastoral] visitation is a key component of any restoration of office and reformation of the church in our day.

How It’s All Going to End
I love this Sam Storms quote, especially the way he describes common grace and the hope of increasing revival in the church.

6 Things I Wish Someone Had Told My Church
Byron Yawn: “Rather than charge the new pastor, I oriented my comments toward the congregation. In other words: “What I wish someone would have told my congregation when I first began ministry.”

How One Man’s Trip to Toys ‘R’ Us Brought Mobility to Hundreds of Kids


40 Best Online Resources on Burnout

If what I’m seeing and hearing is representative of our wider culture, we are facing an epidemic of burnout among Christians, and especially among pastors. Here are the 40 best resources on the subject that I’ve collected over the years. Hope you don’t get burnout reading through them!

For more lists of online resources on subjects like counseling preaching, leadership, and battling porn, click here.

Battered Pastors (1)- Reformation 21 Blog

Battered Pastors (2) – Reformation21 Blog

Do Your Monday Mornings Feel Like Friday Evenings? – 20Schemes

Avoiding Burnout by Archie Parrish | Ligonier.org

15 Ways To Avoid Burnout When Working In Hard Places – 20 Schemes

7 Reasons Pastors Burn Out

What are areas of common neglect in a pastor’s life? | Practical Shepherding

Pastors Need Your Care–Part I – Jason Helopoulos

Pastors Need Your Care–Part II – Jason Helopoulos

Seven Possible Solutions to the Troubled Souls of Pastors – ChurchPlanting.com

A Break Through The Clouds

Twelve Ways Pastors Went from Burnout to Vision

Recharging emotional batteries | The Proclamation Trust

A Defense against Pastoral Burnout | Counseling One Another

Seven Signs of Burnout – Sojourn Network

Burned Out? | Counseling One Another

Burnout | Brad Hambrick

Burnout-Housewife Theologian

3 Ways Pastoral Burnout Can Sneak Up on You by Eric McKiddie – ChurchLeaders.com

The Hidden Danger Of Public Productivity | WithoutWax.tv by Pete Wilson

You Have Limits, You Really Do! Pt.1 | Association of Biblical Counselors

3 Ways Pastoral Burnout Can Sneak Up on You | Pastoralized

Slow Down! How Moral Reasoning May Depend on It

You Can’t Do Your Job if You Don’t Sleep – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review

Burnout Series Part 4: Finding Your Way out of Burnout | My World

Dead Ends On The Road To Rest | Daniel Montgomery

How to Avoid Being a Statistic in the Ministry

Caring is Wearing Me Out! Understanding and Responding to Ministry Stress | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

6 Simple Ways to Avoid Burnout | The Simple Dollar

Avoiding Burnout (1) – Between The Times

Avoiding Burnout (2) – Between The Times

Avoiding Burnout (3) – Between The Times

Do Seminary Grads Burn Out Quickly?

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review

Running on Empty? How to Recognize When You’re on the Road to Burnout | Psychology Today

How to Recognize Signs of Burnout (and What to Do About Them)

8 Things You May Not Know about Busyness in America (infographic) | Everyday Theology

How to Create More Margin in Your Life | Michael Hyatt


Check out

The Atonement in the Old Testament
Here’s an article on Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac that I wrote for Ed Stetzer’s blog over at Christianity Today.

The Worldliness in World Vision’s New Hiring Policy
One of America’s largest Christian charities has now opened its doors to hiring practicing homosexuals. Here’s John Piper on the same subject.

How Pastors Can Care for Their Children
The children of pastors face some special challenges and may need some special care.

What it’s Really Like to Name Products for a Living
Fascinating, especially for anyone that’s ever searched for a name for a blog, business, book, etc.

Salvation in A Dementia Ward
This is a HUGE salvation and a wonderful story. Please, please read this amazing story.

How To Fill Your Life With Joy
Matt Chandler: “For me, I want to be very serious about the pursuit of my own joy in Jesus Christ. So I want to flood my life with things that stir my affections for him. Then I want to be very serious about cutting things out of my life that rob me of those affections.”