Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Problem with Contemporary Biblical Counseling: Justification “Runs in the Background”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 13, 2014

ppt-jpeg4“Jay Adams has often pointed out that people are clueless in regard to the fact that there are about 200 different counseling theories in Psychology. Think about that; when people go to a psychologist for help they are no doubt clueless in regard to the perspective that they will be counseled from. Nevertheless, if biblical counseling is about sanctification, and it is, there are at least as many different theories on how justification ‘runs’ with sanctification.”

The fact that our justification is a finished work is critical to the gospel. If justification is not finished, its proper maintenance by faith alone without works becomes a balancing act between works and faith in sanctification. You have an integration of two things where one calls for faith alone and the other calls for a faith that works.

Therefore, when justification and sanctification are fused together, the Christian life will be marked by confusion, fear, introspection, and a paralyzed, stagnant Christian life. Sound familiar? A radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification frees the believer to aggressively love without fear that anything they do in sanctification will affect their justification. There is no fear in our justified position.

A false gospel cannot help people. All in all, the contemporary biblical counseling movement is saturated with the idea that justification is progressive. Point in case; biblical counseling superstar Lou Priolo believes that justification, “runs in the background.” In a guest post written for Jay Adams’ Institute for Nouthetic Studies, Priolo stated the following:

To my way of thinking, the place of the doctrine of justification in the believer’s life is much like the operating system on a computer. I’m a PC guy. My personal computer operates under a Windows operating system. Windows is always up and running, but most of the time, it runs in the background. I don’t see it. I can go for days without looking at it (although I know it is functioning as long as the other programs are operating properly). Occasionally, I have to go to the control panel to troubleshoot a problem, make some minor adjustments, or defrag my hard drive, but I don’t give it another thought because I have faith that it is doing what it is supposed to do. So it is with my justification. It is always up and running. Though I am not always consciously thinking about it, everything I do flows from it.

If one carefully examines this statement by Priolo, many disturbing anti-gospel ideas could be pointed out, and oddly, Jay Adams himself has written against these very ideas. Particularly, the idea that “everything” we do is powered by, or “flows” from justification. This is no whit different from what Tullian Tchividjian, John Piper, or even Joseph Prince believes.

Justification cannot be both finished and “running.” If justification runs in sanctification, what do we have to do to keep it running properly? That’s a huge problem by virtue of the very question itself. If the race we run as Christians, the one Paul talked about, is powered by justification, and we can be disqualified from that race; well, the ramifications in this issue speak for themselves.

No wonder that confusion, chaos, controversy, and a civil war between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling are the order of the day in those circles.

Jay Adams has often pointed out that people are clueless in regard to the fact that there are about 200 different counseling theories in Psychology. Think about that; when people go to a psychologist for help they are no doubt clueless in regard to the perspective that they will be counseled from. Nevertheless, if biblical counseling is about sanctification, and it is, there are at least as many different theories on how justification “runs” with sanctification.

Who will finally stand up and say, “Enough of this madness!”? Who will finally stand up and say one is finished and one is progressive. Come now, are we saying that one runs in a race that is finished? Indeed, I stood dumbfounded when Voddie Buacham’s answer to that question from me was, “yes.” Is this nonsense the very reason that the world does not take us seriously? We are unable to clarify the gospel we proclaim. Call the world totally depraved if you will, but they are not stupid.

paul

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