Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why ACBC Christian Counseling Cannot Help People: Bad Soteriology; Revised and Edited

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 28, 2014

Note: ACBC; Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

Predominate in Christian circles is the idea that Christ’s  death on the cross “covers” the sins that we commit as Christians. This not only sounds logical, but is something I bought into most of my Christian life. One of my favorite Christian songs, formally, states the following:

I know someday I will be free

The weight of sin shall be released

But for now He covers me

In a lesson taught by counseling guru Martha Peace (ACBC advocate and speaker), she states the following:

The Bible teaches us that when God saves someone, he cleanses them from their sin – past sin, present sin, and future sin as the Lord Jesus Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24).

Let’s think about this for a moment. If Christ died for our future sins, does this not necessitate the reapplication of His death to sins committed by Christians?  Whether your answer is “yes,” or “no,” that is the assertion and logical conclusion of the soteriology that dominates the American church in our day: Calvinism. Furthermore, it is the soteriology that dominates the present-day Christian counseling culture.

The result is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on Christianity since a counseling session between Eve and the serpent. Christians en masse go to “Christian” counseling centers for personal change, but most often, they are being counseled by those who believe most Christians are not ready for the hard truth of the Protestant Reformation gospel: people don’t change; people can’t change; they can only glorify the works of Christ in the gospel while experiencing joy in the midst of circumstances no matter what they are. It’s reversed self-esteem: feeling good about ourselves because we are doing good is sin, but feeling good because we are totally depraved is God’s glory.  We see a hint of this in the aforementioned lesson by counseling queen Martha Peace:

This aspect of Sanctification begins at the moment God saves you and “progresses” throughout the rest of your life. It is a life-long process of being transformed into more of Christ’s image.

Notice that we don’t really change, but are “transformed” into an “image” of “Christ.” Do we change personally as new creatures in Christ, or are we merely transformed into an “image”? Though Peace’s lesson is peppered throughout with lingo suggesting a colaboring with God in sanctification, her deception, whether deliberate or witless, is revealed in her citations of the Reformed Mystic Walter Marshall:

True holiness understands that we are by nature totally powerless and unable to live a holy and righteous life that God requires [viz, perfect law-keeping].

Notice that “true holiness” is NOT something we DO, but something that we “understand.” In a myriad of Protestant contemporary writings, sanctification is framed as an “experience” and a “knowing.” The DOING aspect is continually fustigated in clever ways that suggest well-doing in sanctification necessarily equals an attempt to earn our justification (because a requirement of perfect law-keeping remains as the standard for justification; not the new birth and God’s indwelling seed). And this, my friends, is the crux of the soteriological issue. If Christ’s death must be applied to Christian sins, the logical conclusion is that justification is not a finished work and further atonement is needed for future sins. This makes the “means” of holiness in sanctification critical. And what are those means? Peace continues:

True holiness understands that God will not help you live a holy life unless you use the means God has given you to pursue this holy life – salvation and sanctification that will give Him all the glory.

Notice that “salvation” is the “means.” Hence, the same salvation that justified you also sanctifies you. Does that sound familiar? And that’s Calvin as well. I wish not to belabor the point as I cite the Calvin Institutes extensively to establish this fact, especially in It’s Not About Election and The Reformation Myth. If you wish, you can read 3.14.11 in the Calvin Institutes for a primer. It is basically preaching the gospel to yourself daily in order to keep future sins “covered” by Christ’s death on the cross.

So, what makes this sanctification covering biblically illogical? Primarily, a proper understanding of biblical law and gospel. Again, I have written extensively on this and do not wish to belabor the point, but will summarize it.

Christ died for sins committed “under the law.” “Where there is no law, there is no sin.” Unbelievers are “under the law” and “enslaved to sin.” Believers are “under grace” and “enslaved to righteousness.” Along with the contrary slaveries, there is also a freedom to do the contrary. No unbeliever sins perfectly, and no believer obeys perfectly. Even though Christians sin because they are free to succumb to the desires of the flesh, Christ is the “end of the law,” and therefore there is “no condemnation.” Clearly, again, CLEARLY, in Protestantism, the so-called “believer” remains under the law and its condemnation.

Furthermore, the old self that was under the law was crucified with Christ and no longer lives; so, see Romans 7, the new us is no longer married to the old us that was under the law. But unbelievers are still under the law, and will be judged by that written law and the law of conscience—that will not go well.

Believers are righteous even as they are righteous—they have God’s seed abiding within them (see 1John 3). Regardless of being clothed in humanity, believers are truly righteous beings who are able to please God by their obedience (see Romans 8). Sin resides in our mortality and weakness, but no longer enslaves us. However, all in all, our new direction is indicative of our righteousness while we are NOT judged by a perfect keeping of the law for we are under grace. “Under grace” is NOT being under the “righteous demands of the law” as the often heard buzz-phrase goes among Protestant pastors and elders.

Therefore, with proper biblical guidance, we are able to change in order to please God. We do not merely contemplate God’s grace and watch for a “transformation” of an “image.” Rather than depending on a finished work for a glory manifestation, we “move on to maturity” by learning how to “control our own bodies in holiness.” Contrary to Peace’s Reformed idea that the finished work of justification must continue to cover future sins by “revisiting the gospel afresh” (Michael Horton via Calvin),  we apply God’s truth to our lives, and when we see the results, it makes us more and more sure of our “calling and election” because it indicates that we are no longer enslaved to sin and its desires. On the flip side, disobedience can cause a believer to doubt his/her salvation because they continually violate their consciences. Also remember that unbelievers are not concerned with assurance issues.

In contrast, Peace asserts in the same lesson, as Jerry Bridges and many others, that assurance comes from the belief that we can do nothing to please God in sanctification:

True holiness is produced in someone who is assured that they are forgiven and reconciled to God.

In other words, effort in sanctification supposedly shows that we are not resting in the continued salvific work of Christ. This is Calvin’s Sabbath rest salvation that I discuss in detail in chapter 4 of It’s Not About Election. In chapter 5, I discuss why this doctrine robs Christians of assurance. Biblical assurance comes from knowing that justification is a finished work that ended sin and its condemnation, not the idea that our sin is merely covered via “returning to the gospel afresh.” The ending of sin is good news, not a perpetual cover-up. In fact, many like Kevin DeYoung testify to the difficulty of assurance because, supposedly, the closer we get to God, the more we see how far we are from His holiness resulting in the need to be proclaimed saved by elders. 

“But Paul, what about sins that we commit in our Christian life?” Well, we hate it, and therefore long to be saved from these mortal bodies of death, but we are not enslaved by it, nor can it condemn us. Assurance comes from the fact that justification and sanctification are totally separate; one is a finished work that ended condemnation,  and the other increases our joy by an increased ability to please God by what we DO in kingdom living. We love God—He doesn’t love Himself  by transforming us into an image of Himself IF we continue to live by faith alone in sanctification. James condemned that doctrine in his letter to the 12 tribes of the dispersion. Neither should we feel good about our supposed total depravity. Total depravity is not the source of joyful assurance because it increases our gratitude for our original salvation through a deeper and deeper understanding of how evil we are.

This, and many other reasons is why contemporary biblical counseling will not help Christians, but will rather destroy them.


8 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on February 28, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. trust4himonly said, on February 28, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    100% agreement with this post- this is why we see responsibility being shifted towards the communists best excuse- “society is at fault”. Society, itself, is viewed as collective, so it is easier to control for the elitist.

    One of my “addictions” is to watch Korean Drama (if you can get past the subtitles they are better then American tv dramas); they are, for the most part, clean and moral (in the secular sense). Anyway, the common theme in majority of the dramas is the hero and the anti-hero battling it out- interestingly, the story ends with the hero and the anti-hero coming to terms with forgiveness and repentance. Now mind you, these are not Christian shows but secular, however, since the law is written on our hearts we see these principles of what is right and fair being played out throughout the world.
    So even a unbeliever can change based on his conscience. Of course, the Calvinist would be saying that this is impossible.


  3. Alex Guggenheim said, on March 1, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Exceptionally well laid out Paul.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 1, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      To Alex and Glenn, always happy to see you guys when you stop by.


  4. lydiasellerofpurple said, on March 1, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    I met a young woman the other day who is a student at SBTS. I asked what she was studying and she said “counseling”. She was shocked when I said, Oh yeah, Nouthetic counseling . She immediately said, Oh, no, they have changed the name because it has gotten a bad name as many people misunderstand it.

    Had I had the time and we were in another venue, I would have asked her how she would counsel a young woman who had been repeatedly molested by a church member growing up only to be told by church leaders not to tell anyone and forgive her molester. Then I would ask if she really wanted to trust people who did such a thing to young children. Then she might have to think about Al Mohler and his support and promotion of such of people.

    These young people are totally sucked into Orwellian thinking and have no clue.


  5. Theodore A. Jones said, on March 26, 2014 at 1:14 AM

    “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. ” Rom. 2:13 Soteriology 101. BTW he is not referencing the Sinai code, rather he is referencing a law that has been added after the Lord’s ascension.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 26, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      Not so, both are “every word that comes from the mouth of God” and in some respect, or more so, is what man lives by.


  6. […] Why Christian Counseling Cannot Help People: Bad Soteriology. […]


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