Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 18, 2016

Originally published December 29, 2014

Introduction

    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.

History

    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source: faithbyhearing.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/macarthur-why-every-self-respecting-calvinist-should-be-a-premillenialist/

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.

Conclusion

    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)

Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 14, 2015

Originally posted December 29, 2014

Introduction

    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.

History

    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source: faithbyhearing.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/macarthur-why-every-self-respecting-calvinist-should-be-a-premillenialist/

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.

Conclusion

    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)

Why Christians Cannot Trust the Biblical Counseling Movement: Its True History and Doctrine

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 29, 2014

Introduction

    The contemporary biblical counseling movement has brought counseling back to the church. Prior, the average evangelical congregation supplied comfort as much as they could while the experts were called on to treat whatever serious problem was at hand. Church was there to get people into heaven; the experts make people as comfortable as possible until they get there.

    That has changed dramatically. In-house counseling addresses every imaginable life problem within the church. Biblical counseling organizations abound and their networks have inundated the institutional church. At the top of the biblical counseling empire is the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) and its offspring: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and the Biblical Counseling Coalition. Together, these organizations hold sway over at least 90% of all biblical counseling taking place in the evangelical church.

    Who are they? How did they get here? What do they believe? And are they a help to God’s people, or a detriment? It is important to answer these questions because of the following fact: the present-day biblical counseling movement is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on God’s people, and the harm it will continue to inflict on souls is beyond measure.

    The information in this booklet is far from complicated. The present-day biblical counseling movement has an easily defined history, doctrine, and track record regarding results. Are God’s people being helped, or hurt? And if the biblical counseling movement is a detriment to God’s people, what are the viable alternatives?

    The biblical counseling movement is like clouds without water. That was Jude’s description of false teachers in his letter to the saints. Clouds offer hope that life-giving rain to a thirsty land is coming, but these clouds are merely a mist of empty promises and hopelessness. The goal of this booklet is to warn God’s people, and point to the only true hope of Jesus Christ and His truth.

Because only truth sanctifies (John 17:17),

Paul M. Dohse Sr.

The Beginning of the Biblical Counseling Movement

    In circa 1960, a middle aged Presbyterian pastor named Jay E. Adams had a life transforming experience:

Like many other pastors, I learned little about counseling in seminary, so I began with virtually no knowledge of what to do. Soon I was in difficulty. Early in my first pastorate, following an evening service, a man lingered after everyone else had left. I chatted with him awkwardly, wondering what he wanted. He broke into tears, but could not speak. I simply did not know what to do. I was helpless. He went home that night without unburdening his heart or receiving any genuine help from his pastor. Less than one month later he died. I now suspect that his doctor had told him of his impending death and that he had come for counsel. But I failed him. That night I asked God to help me to become an effective counselor (Jay E. Adams: Competent To Counsel; Zondervan 1970, Introduction xi).

    Therefore, it would be fair to say that whoever that gentleman was, he sparked the beginning of the most significant movement in recent church history. The experience must have profoundly impacted Adams because he was relentless in pursuing counseling knowledge in the years following. Then,

…suddenly, I was forced to face the whole problem in a much more definitive way. I was asked to teach practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One of the courses I was assigned was Poimenics (the shepherding work of the pastor). As part of the course, I was expected to teach the basic theory of pastoral counseling. I had less than a year to think through the problem and prepare my lectures. Where would I begin? (Ibid).

How Did the Church Get There?

    To say that Christians, some 2000 years after the birth of the church, had come to live by biblical generalities, and were farming serious problems out to religious and secular experts is far from painting the church of that time with a wide brush. It’s not oversimplification; it’s the simple fact of the matter. The testimony of a mainstream respected pastor like Jay Adams is sufficient.

    But how did the church come to function that way? The answer is profoundly simple; the functionality of the church was a direct result from the gospel it adopted in the 16th century. The construct mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, church gets us to heaven, experts help us cope until we get there, was a direct effect caused by the Reformation gospel. So, what was that gospel?

The Reformation Gospel

    The Reformation gospel was predicated on the idea that salvation was a process, or progression. In other words, the justification of a believer had a starting point, a progression, and then finality. This is sometimes referred to as beginning justification experienced subjectively followed by final justification.

    So, instead of salvation, or justification being a finished work with the Christian life progressing in complete separation from justification, the Christian life is part of the progression of justification according to the Reformers. In fact, one of the primary Reformers and the father of the Presbyterian Church, John Calvin, titled one of the chapters in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “The Beginning of Justification. In What Sense Progressive” (book 3, chapter 14).

    In that chapter, Calvin explains the crux of the Reformation gospel: beginning justification only covers past sins, but because Christians continue to sin, they must revisit the same gospel that saved them in order to receive continued forgiveness for new sins committed in the Christian life (section 11). Further clarification on this position can be seen in other sections of the Calvin Institutes:

Nor by remission of sins does the Lord only once for all elect and admit us into the Church, but by the same means he preserves and defends us in it. For what would it avail us to receive a pardon of which we were afterwards to have no use? That the mercy of the Lord would be vain and delusive if only granted once, all the godly can bear witness; for there is none who is not conscious, during his whole life, of many infirmities which stand in need of divine mercy. And truly it is not without cause that the Lord promises this gift specially to his own household, nor in vain that he orders the same message of reconciliation to be daily delivered to them” (4.1.21).

    On the flip side, Calvin went to great lengths in 3.14.9,10 to emphasize the idea that Christians cannot do any work that is pleasing to God because perfect law-keeping is the prerequisite for any ability to please God in any way. Therefore, Christians must continually seek repentance so that the righteousness of Christ will be perpetually imputed to our account in what we would refer to as sanctification, or the Christian life (3.14.11). Therefore, Calvin stated that the Christian life had to be a passive affair focused on perpetual repentance for new sins committed in the Christian life in order to remain justified. This meant a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us. To Calvin, the Christian life was the Old Testament Sabbath rest if one would progress in justification:

And this emptying out of self must proceed so far that the Sabbath is violated even by good works, so long as we regard them as our own; for rightly does Augustine remark in the last chapter of the 22nd book, De Civitate Dei, ‘For even our good works themselves, since they are understood to be rather His than ours, are thus imputed to us for the attaining of that Sabbath, when we are still and see that He is God; for, if we attribute them to ourselves, they will be servile, whereas we are told as to the Sabbath, “Thou shalt not do any servile work in it.”

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by Charles William Bingham ,1844-1856. The Harmony of the Law: Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses | Its Repetition—Deuteronomy 5:12-15. ¶2.

    Note that the Christian must attain the Sabbath (final justification) by the continued “emptying out of self” which results in the continued imputation of righteousness not our own. It is a perpetual “meditation” on the Sabbath to attain the Sabbath:

It may seem, therefore, that the seventh day the Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection (The Calvin Institutes 2.8.30).

Spiritual rest is the mortification of the flesh; so that the sons of God should no longer live to themselves, or indulge their own inclination. So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but insomuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

The Complete Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis: Jean Calvin; translated by John King, 1844-1856. Genesis 2:1-15, section 3.

    Why then did Christians live by biblical generalities, and find themselves inept in regard to helping people? Because the Protestant gospel called for a retaining of salvation through rest and a singular meditation on the same repentance that originally saved us. Since that occurs during the Christian life, and justification is by faith alone, the Christian life must be lived by faith alone, or again, according to the Sabbath rest. Obviously, a diligent study of biblical wisdom and its application to life would not only be a very low priority, but is antithetical to the authentic Protestant gospel. This made weak sanctification in Christian living a longstanding tradition. Church became all about salvation and little else.

History

    Dr. Jay E. Adams was not alone in misunderstanding the true gospel of the Reformation which led to the self-described dilemma he found himself in. Protestantism had become a soft version of the original article. Martin Luther’s alien righteousness was thought to pertain to justification only and not the Christian life as well. In other words, Luther didn’t believe Christians inherit any of God’s righteousness that becomes a part of them. Christians are only declared righteous positionally, but do not actually possess any righteousness in their being. John Calvin concurred throughout his institutes; e.g., 3.14.11.

    Protestantism and its entire offspring heavily emphasized justification only because that is the very premise of its gospel though the causality became very blurred with time. According to the authentic article, sanctification is the manifestation of Christ’s life for the purpose of moving justification forward to final justification.

    The “believers” role is to colabor with Christ by faith alone in order to keep things moving forward, and frankly, an endeavor to keep ourselves saved by faith alone. This requires a redefinition of what is a work in sanctification, and what is not a work in sanctification so that the obedience of Christ would continue to be imputed to us for the purpose of keeping us justified. In this way, according to the Reformers, we are “kept” by Christ because justification is not finished—it’s a process.

    Hence, the Reformers classified what activities in the Christian life are of faith alone. The writings of Luther and Calvin primarily concern a formula for living the Christian life by faith alone. The crux of the formula was a perpetual return to the same gospel that saved us originally for the atonement of “present sin.” That sin is not only covered, but one also continues to be covered by the righteousness of Christ alone and NOT any righteousness inherited by us via the new birth.   This is nothing new, and is what James sought to refute in his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel.

    What is important to establish at this point is the fact that the Reformed community at large began to realize in 1970 that they had drifted away from the authentic Reformed gospel, and stated such emphatically. And ironically, the discovery was made by an Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead. This Adventist theologian turned said religion completely upside down with what was known as the Awakening Movement. Many took note, and Brinsmead was joined by two Anglicans, Geoffrey Paxton and Graeme Goldsworthy in the forming of a project named The Australian Forum. The purpose of the project was to awake Christianity to the fact that it had drifted away from the true Reformation gospel resulting in a separation of justification from sanctification, and the idea that Christians inherit a righteous state of being through the new birth.

    And they were exactly correct which resulted in the Reformed community holding their noses and listening to what Brinsmead had to say. Brinsmead, Paxton, and Goldsworthy published a theological journal named Present Truth which had a massive impact on the evangelical world at large. The publication, for all practical purposes, was a contemporary rendering of the Calvin Institutes and was an astonishing articulation of authentic Reformed soteriology.

    Remember, Jay Adams had been called to Westminster Theological Seminary sometime during the mid-sixties, and was buried in developing a counseling construct for the purposes of training pastors. Running parallel to his activities was the Awakening Movement which he probably paid little attention to. That is, until Westminster invited the Australian Forum to meet with the Westminster brain trust. Though it has not been established positively, the legendary Reformed theologian Edmund Clowney, who was president of Westminster at that time, was more than likely present at the meeting. Adams was not happy about the meeting because of Brinsmead, and sarcastically suggested that pork be served for lunch which in fact ended up being the case (The Truth About New Calvinism: TANC Publishing 2011; pp. 59-65).

    After several years of hammering out a counseling construct for the institutional church, Adams published his counseling treatise titled, Competent To Counsel. This was a landmark publication and highly controversial. The theses of the book suggested that Christians, armed with the word of God, were competent to counsel each other and bring about changed lives. Said another way, Christianity is more than Redemption alone, but is also about changed lives for the glory of God. Adams even published another book that makes the same point: More Than Redemption. And yet another book, How To Help People Change. Adams is rightly known as the father of the biblical counseling movement, but he may better be described as the father of aggressive sanctification.

The Perfect Storm of Conflict: 1970

    Ordinarily, this Christian living revolution would have dramatically changed Christianity until the second coming, but remember something else happened the same year that Adams unveiled his counseling treatise in 1970: the advent of the Australian Forum. Therefore, you had two antithetical movements growing side by side in the Protestant community, especially in the halls of Westminster: the resurgence of authentic Protestantism and the biblical counseling movement. One emphasized the fusion of justification and sanctification, and the other emphasized the separation of the two.

    Early in Adams’ tenor at Westminster, a counseling wing of Westminster was established named, The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation, or CCEF. This was a biblical counseling think tank of sorts, and the academic counseling wing of Westminster as well. Its embodiment included proponents of both movements. Later, an accreditation organization was formed known as The Association of Nouthetic Counselors, or NANC.  The purpose of the organization was to certify biblical counselors. This organization was also embodied with proponents of both movements.

    Be advised that it is unlikely that many were conscious of the historical distinctions between the two movements. All in all, the differences were chalked up to disagreement in regard to application, but not anything that pointed to any questions regarding the Reformation gospel itself.

    That would change when a contemporary of Jay Adams at Westminster, Professor John “Jack” Miller developed the Sonship Discipleship program. Clearly, the program was based on the authentic Reformed gospel recovery movement. As the movement grew, Adams, who was gaining significant notoriety as the father of the biblical counseling movement, was called on more and more to weigh-in on the movement.

    This resulted in a contention between Miller and Adams which consummated into Adams writing a book published by Timeless Texts that contended against the program: Biblical Sonship; An Evaluation of the Sonship Discipleship Course. Adams published the book in 1999, the movement began circa 1986, or about 16 years after the resurgence began in 1970.

    Take note: though the program was based on the Reformation principle of fusing justification and sanctification together, it was wreaking havoc on the Protestant church during this time, and that is why Adams jumped into the fray. The point being that Presbyterianism was functioning according to Calvinism Light, and when the original article began to emerge, many Presbyterians, including Adams claimed the Sonship program was not according to the Reformed tradition. Several of these like confrontations pepper church history—usually in the form of antinomian controversies.

    It is important to pause here and establish the fact that these controversies arise because Calvinists often misunderstand what Calvin really believed, and this misunderstanding is most prevalent among Bible scholars and Christian academia at large. This is because seminaries rarely teach anything new, but are merely institutions that regurgitate the traditions of men.

    This is established by the fact that at the beginning of the 1970 resurgence, the Reformed community themselves admitted that the original gospel of the Reformation had been lost. Also, the very nomenclature of their ministries admit it as well; i.e., “The Resurgence,” “Modern Reformation,” etc.

    More to the point, Reformed scholar John H. Armstrong, who co-authored a book with John MacArthur Jr., stated the following in an article titled Death of a Friend on August 31, 2010:

One summer, in the late 1970s I believe, I attended a small gathering associated with the ministry of a popular magazine of the time called Present Truth. The magazine actually opened my eyes to the need for recovering gospel truths in an age that was fast losing its grasp on the grace of God. Two teachers were leading this small gathering and there could not have been more than 75 people in the room. One of those in the audience, and sharing insights only as a humble participant, was Dr. Don Bloesch. I was impressed that a man of such profound scholarship would take the time to share in a small event where he was not a featured speaker. Don believed something important was going on in that room and wanted to interact with it. So did I.

    Why was Armstrong impressed with Bloesch’s willingness to participate in a small Australian Forum Bible study using their theological journal Present Truth? First, because Bloesch was a Reformed heavyweight, but back to the main point: this is one of a myriad of open admissions that the Reformed community at large misunderstood the authentic Reformation gospel. Nevertheless, Jay Adams misunderstood Calvin for the better, and in a big way.

    Yet another example of this can be seen in Dr. John Macarthur Jr.’s keynote address at the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference: Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.  One blogger aptly described the fallout this way:

John MacArthur’s first message at the Shepherds’ Conference set off shock waves throughout the reformed evangelical church by upholding Premillennialism as being the only consistent position for any person who holds to the doctrine of sovereign electing grace.

online source: faithbyhearing.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/macarthur-why-every-self-respecting-calvinist-should-be-a-premillenialist/

    Amillennialism posits the idea that Israel lost its election (Supersessionism or Replacement Theology) because of rebellion, and this was MacArthur’s contention. If God sovereignly elected Israel, how could they lose their election? However, that idea is in fact perfectly consistent with John Calvin’s theology. He separated election into three categories of people, the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere until the end. The called, are in-fact temporarily illumined but then fall away at some point (The Calvin Inst. 3.24.7,8). Moreover, the massive Reformed pushback against this assertion by MacArthur was completely void in regard to this fact, viz, according to Calvinism, one can lose their election. Calvin stated such in no uncertain terms. In the final analysis, most Calvinists have no idea what Calvin believed.

Meanwhile, back to Westminster  

    Let’s now resume our place in contemporary history at Westminster Theological Seminary. We have two notable Calvinists teaching at the same seminary representing two different Calvinist gospel camps, and teachers from both camps are participating in CCEF and NANC. This is where Jay Adams began to come under serious attack within Reformed ranks, mostly from two mentorees of Dr. Miller, David Powlison and Paul David Tripp. These two men are key figures because they were working hard to develop a counseling version of the Reformed resurgence gospel to answer Adams’ counseling construct that heavily emphasized learn and do. In fact, one of the mantra’s among Adams counselors was, “the power is in the doing.”

    At any rate, the counseling construct developed by Powlison and Tripp while at Westminster is known as Theology of the Heart, and was heavily predicated on Miller’s deep repentance model that aligned well with Luther and Calvin’s ideology and practical application of gospel contemplationism. Their pilot program was operational from circa 2003 to 2005, and culminated in an impressive treatise in 2006 titled How People Change authored by Tripp and another former student of Powlison’s at Westminster.

    During the pilot program with the same name as the book, Powlison listed himself as a “contributor.” This was for the express purpose of plausible deniability because these men knew that the counseling construct they were promoting was counter intuitive to most evangelicals. The pilot program “tested” the material in hundreds of local churches between 2003 and 2005.

    In the introduction to the book (Punch Press 2006), Tripp in essence states that if anyone has a problem with the book, they should blame him, but Powlison should get credit for anything they agree with (the earliest literature from the program named Powlison as the actual “developer” of the curriculum). This was/is a ploy to make the book disagreement proof and protect the face of Theology of the Heart, David Powlison. This good cop—bad cop ploy has been utilized several times to defer criticism of the book.

    Consequently, the 2006 NANC conference was fraught with plenary session addresses and workshops that presented a host of contradictory views. Clearly, the civil war between the generally accepted relationship between justification and sanctification (the two are separate), and the gospel recovery movement was in full swing. During a biblical counseling seminar at John Piper’s church, Powlison stated outright that the difference between “first generation” biblical counseling and “second generation” biblical counseling was two different gospels. However, this was the elephant in the biblical counseling room that no one wanted to talk about:

This might be quite a controversy, but I think it’s worth putting in. Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for conversion. And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.  And actually even came out and attacked my mentor, Jack Miller, my pastor that I’ve been speaking of through the day, for saying that Christians should preach the gospel to themselves.  I think Jay was wrong on that (David Powlison speaking at John Piper’s church May 8, 2010).

    Ironically, Adams’ primarily criticism of secular psychology has always been the lack of continuity plus the various and sundry theories of change that number over 200 within the discipline, but even though the biblical counseling movement doesn’t have that many varying theories, they are split on the issue that makes the whole discussion worthwhile, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the first reason the biblical counseling movement must be utterly rejected out of hand—because no one in the movement will draw a deep line in the sand in defense of the gospel. These difference are treated as matters of opinion concerning method instead of what it really is, a contention between two different gospels with heaven and hell in the balance.

    The one thing both camps unwittingly agree on is that the biblical counseling industrial complex must be preserved at the expense of the gospel. In the final analysis, those who function in this way cannot help people change, and will most likely do more harm than good. The movement is pregnant with counselors who lack conviction and love for the truth. They are best avoided at all cost.

    The issue concerning these two different gospels is far from complicated: if one must preach the gospel to themselves every day, that must mean they still need the same gospel that originally saved them, which means their salvation is not a finished work, which also means that they must play some role in finishing their salvation—this would seem evident. If Justification is not finished, works salvation is unavoidable on every wise, and a gospel contemplationism dubbed as a faith-alone work by no means changes this reality.

    And incredibly, this is verbally conceded often. Consider what John Piper said in his three part series, How Does The Gospel Save Believers? 

We are asking the question, How does the gospel save believers?, not: How does the gospel get people to be believers? When spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit, the gospel does have power to open people’s eyes and change their hearts and draw them to faith, and save them. That’s what is happening on Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights this summer. People are being drawn to Christ through the power and beauty of the gospel. But I am stressing what Paul says here in verses 16 and 17, namely, that “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Believers need to be saved. The gospel is the instrument of God’s power to save us. And we need to know how the gospel saves us believers so that we make proper use of it (August 16, 1998, part 2).

    This is the very essence of the Reformation gospel: the idea that salvation is a process in which the “believer” is gradually drawn to Christ for a final salvation. The only way that this process towards final salvation can continue is if we continually return to the same gospel that saved us. This is egregious heresy perpetrated in broad daylight.

    Eventually, Jay Adams was driven out of any association with CCEF and NANC and started The Institute of Nouthetic Studies (INS) with Baptist pastor Donn Arms. INS experiences a significant contention with CCEF and NANC until this day, but unfortunately, the contention primarily focuses on sanctification issues, viz, heart theology, and not the truthfulness of the true gospel. The CCEF/NANC camp applied its latest slap in the face to Adams by changing the name of NANC to The Association Of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

    INS has two individuals on their staff that also have close relations to CCEF and ACBC. Adams and Arms are to be commended for their confrontation regarding the application of Theology of the Heart to counseling people, but unfortunately, they have not yet made it a salvific gospel issue.

The Big Lie

    Primarily, people go to counseling for one reason: because they see a need for change in their lives. The brain trust of the CCEF counseling empire and their aforementioned affiliates know that they do NOT believe that people change. The magnum opus of heart theology, How People Change, is a misrepresentation of its counseling construct and they know it. As we have seen, the authentic Reformation gospel rejects the idea that people can change in totality.

    Therefore, the goal of biblical counseling is to teach people to see life differently. If they merely see life differently, wellbeing occurs regardless of what is happening in the material world. What happens in the material world is entirely God’s business and not yours. Right seeing is the goal, not right doing, the doing is God’s job—not yours.

    In fact, according to the construct that has taken over the biblical counseling culture, any counseling that emphasizes doing is a false gospel. We, as John Piper often likes to say, must practice a “beholding as a way of becoming.” But remember, the “becoming” speaks to a progression of mere seeing while God himself manifests the doing in the material realm. This booklet will not explore all of the metaphysical constructs that may be applied, but one example comes from page 215 of How People Change:

When we think, desire, speak, or act in a right way, it isn’t time to pat ourselves on the back or cross it off our To Do List. Each time we do what is right, we are experiencing what Christ has supplied for us.

    In other words, we are only experiencing the works of Christ and not actually doing the work ourselves. There are many philosophical applications for this approach including subjective Idealism.  This is the idea that reality is defined by how it is perceived. In other words, there is really no material world per se; it only exists in the minds of individuals. Therefore, change a person’s thinking and you change their reality.

    Another approach is realm manifestation. The invisible world manifests reality in the visible world by whatever means, but those who dwell in the material realm are only experiencing what the invisible realm is manifesting. For the most part, the Reformers, particularly Martin Luther and his spiritual mentor Saint Augustine seemed to believe something along these lines.

    Luther stated in the Heidelberg disputation that the Christian life is lived subjectively; i.e., we really don’t know when we are doing a work or when God is doing the work. However, to believe that whatever we do is evil, and whatever good is done is only experienced by us, but not us doing it, is saving faith. To believe that we can actually do a good work, according to Luther, is mortal sin. To experience a good work as us doing it is only venial sin if we disavow our ability to do any good work and attribute the work to God only:

He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand (Theses 24).

    This is also how Luther defined the new birth. Since we, even as “Christians,” can only do evil, we only seek to live a perpetual “lifestyle of repentance” as Paul Tripp et al call it resulting in a resurrection experience. But remember, we are never sure when these experiences are actually from God, but joy may be an indication, though we are never certain. Remember, this connects us back to “justification experienced subjectively.”

    Hence, we get ourselves to heaven with an ability to “stand in the judgment by faith alone” by revisiting our original salvation. THIS IS KEY, the new birth is not a onetime event which makes us a new creature, the new birth is redefined as a perpetual death and rebirth experience, or a perpetual repeating of our original salvation in order to keep ourselves saved by this living by faith alone formula. Simply stated, it is daily resalvation. We must be resaved or rejustified daily by “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day.”

    There is actually a formal doctrine from the Reformed tradition that defines the new birth in this way, it is called mortification and vivification. It is a perpetual reliving of our original baptism in order to keep ourselves saved.  It is returning to the same gospel that saved us daily in order to remain saved. We focus on our need for repentance (mortification, or death), and we then experience perpetual resurrection (vivification, or a joy experience) in ever-increasing levels.

    Though identified with the Reformed tradition, the father of contemporary biblical counseling, Jay Adams, believes the new birth to be a onetime event and would reject a proper understanding of mortification and vivification. In the same year that he unveiled his biblical approach to a more aggressive sanctification, the Australian Forum began to awaken the Reformed community to the fact that they had lost their way. Roughly sixteen years later, the original article began to be integrated into the biblical counseling movement which put the movement at odds with the very man who started It.

    Jay Adams believes that Christians can change because they are born again. They don’t merely experience a subjective justification; their changed behavior is proof of the new creature. Adams stated in no uncertain terms in the aforementioned treatise against Sonship Theology that justification is a declaration, and sanctification is NOT powered by it. In contrast, sanctification is powered by regeneration, or the new birth. The Christian can change through obedience to biblical wisdom and is helped in doing so by the Holy Spirit.

    But this clearly puts Adams at odds with the true Reformation gospel, and his hesitancy to completely break ties with CCEF et al will only continue to muddy the waters while Adams is accused of propagating a “behavioral model.”

Yet, a behavioral approach to change is hollow because it ignores the need for Christ and his power to change first the heart and then the behavior. Instead, even the Christian version of the approach [Adams] separates the commands of Scripture from their Christ-centered, gospel context (How People Change 2006, p. 26).

    This is egregiously disingenuous. On pages 64 and 65 of the same book, Tripp describes Christians the same way Luther would: “alienated enemies” who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” and “dead,” and “When you are dead, you cannot do anything.” Tripp goes on to say on page 65 that denying we are unchanged is to deny Christ. The key to change is not getting better, but seeing ourselves for who we really are. This entails a peeling away of layers to see the “sin beneath the sin” as their mentor Dr. John Miller put it. So-called “heart change” is really just an ability to see or perceive, NOT an ever-increasing ability to do anything.

Conclusion

    The biblical counseling movement as it now stands is not about change. Unfortunately, the movement’s willingness to knowingly state otherwise is indicative of its character. It is predicated on this lie and a false gospel. It cannot help people, and must be utterly rejected in totality.

    Moreover, in our endeavor to find real change via the Scriptures, Christian academia must be held at arm’s length and viewed with suspicion in all respects. The very character of every Christian academic must be questioned, and their gospel assumed false. Why? Because after 2000 years and trillions of dollars, what do we have? Nothing more than those who proudly call themselves Calvinists while having no idea what Calvin really believed! We are not obligated to follow their zeal not according to knowledge resulting in our own demise.

    Secondly, Christians need to educate themselves in regard to full-orbed reality. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge in the area of world philosophy, a discipline we are often told we do not need, is essential in understanding the foundations and functioning of traditional Protestantism. Clearly, the Reformers forced the Bible into their own philosophical presuppositions. The Bible must be perceived grammatically, literally unless stated otherwise, and according to its historical backdrop.

    Thirdly, Christians must discern who we are! Are we merely declared righteous because Jesus obeys for us, or are we actually recreated as righteous beings through the new birth? And what is our relationship to the law accordingly?

    Fourthly, we need to take up Jesus Christ on His promise to lead us in all truth if we seek it. We ourselves need to seek this truth while ceasing to listen to a Christian academia that has failed miserably. They have done little more than  create mass confusion, and have charged us trillions of dollars for the privilege of doing so.

    We live in an information age, and it is time for a new movement by those who originally made up the church:

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.”

    In the same way the Corinthian church was vexed by the bondage of academia as if God chose the haughty things of the world rather than the meek, we find ourselves in the same tyranny and bondage to aristocratic lords. Let us break free and break bread together as noble first century Bereans, and let us change for the glory of God, and help others to do the same.

    We will close, perhaps ironically, with the verse of Scripture that Jay Adams chose as the thesis of his groundbreaking work, Competent To Counsel:

“As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another”

~ Romans 15:14  (Williams)

Why I Saw Life in Jay Adams’ First Generation Counseling and Why Second Generation Counseling Will Only Lead to Death

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 6, 2014

ppt-jpeg4“The Reformed gospel therefore circumvents the law of life by keeping the Christian under the law of sin and death, and denies that the Christian can have life, and have it more abundantly through obedience.”

“The law of sin and death is not a schoolmaster that leads the believer back to the cross—the schoolmaster is dead. We are set free to serve the law of the Spirit of life .”

I was saved in 1983, became a pastor in 1986, and found myself sitting in pastor John Street’s office circa 1990 in the throes of deep depression. This wasn’t supposed to happen to a Christian zealot. I was confused, and shell-shocked. I had suffered deep depression as an unbeliever, but this wasn’t supposed to happen to a believer.

John Street was on the cutting edge of Dr. Jay E. Adams’ biblical counseling movement that had begun in 1970 with his controversial book, Competent to Counsel. Street was the founding pastor of Clearcreek Chapel (Springboro, Ohio) which was also a pastoral training center for the movement. Street had some earthshaking assessments in regard to me:

1. My primary goal in life was not to please God.

2. I had changed little as a believer.

3. Hence, I brought the same sinful attitudes and thinking into my life which resulted in

    the same depression I suffered as a believer.

4. I needed to understand that the power for Christian living was “in the doing.”

Because as a new Christian I was stupefied by the open sin displayed in the conservative evangelical church; viz, the first conservative church I joined had members living together out of wedlock, were openly hostile to African Americans, and some were drunkards, I was a rabid fan of John MacArthur Jr and his so-called “Lordship Salvation.” So, Street’s four-point assessment of me was a shocking revelation.

How could this be? Simply stated, I lived by biblical generalities and was woefully ignorant of how to live as a mature Christian. This is a Protestant thing which has traditionally emphasized salvation (justification), and not Christian living/sanctification/discipleship. Stop here for a moment. According to entrepreneur Herman Cain, leadership has three primary principles:

W. Work on the right problem.

A. Ask the right questions

R. Remove obstacles.

W. The problem is lack of emphasis of discipleship.

A. Why is there a lack of emphasis on discipleship?

R. What is the obstacle?

Dr. Adams didn’t ask the right question, but he did work on the right problem: weak sanctification, and a lack of emphasis on obedience to the Scriptures. The results were dramatic. In one year at Clearcreek Chapel, there were twelve solid conversions. Accounts of people being snatched from the jaws of suicide were commonplace. I eventually broke free from depression and discontinued taking anti-depressant medications. But my case needs some additional discussion.

During one appointment with Street, I began by giving a report on how hard I was working on my problem: “I have been in the Scriptures all week and prayed for three hours today! And the reply:

Paul, I am not going to tell you to not do those things, but the power is in the doing.

“Really?” I thought, “I can actually do something about my problem?” The counseling involved homework. I liked to go out to MacDonalds and do my homework, and while doing so one day, I pondered the following: “The Bible does indeed promise blessings (happiness) for being obedient. This is very hopeful, that I can actually do something to get my happiness back.”

Meanwhile, guess who walked in as I was thinking these thoughts? Street. I struggled with posing the question, perhaps due to the radical nature of it, but Street helped me out: “Paul, are you asking me if obedience to God’s word is curative?” My reply, “Yes.” He paused, I waited. I think we both thought that we were in danger of fire being rained down from heaven. Finally, he reluctantly replied: “Yes.”

Let’s ask the right question, shall we? Why is the concept of Christian obedience and the discussion of it so fearful, more taboo than sexual preferences? As a result of a nemesis that comes my way every now and then, specifically the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd, I think I now know. Usually akin to my disdain for Calvinism, they have accused me of works salvation because of my supposed proffering of Lordship Salvation. This is very annoying, but I have never stopped to investigate the logic behind their accusation, until now. My conclusions are applicable to thoughts I have on biblical counseling and are the subject of this post. But first, let’s revisit my fears as a former counselee.

Indeed, the Bible tells us to obey, but that raises a seemingly serious problem. If I obey as a Christian, how do I know for certain that my obedience really isn’t an attempt to justify myself? Until this week, I have always somewhat doubted that my “victory” over depression was legitimate. Let’s ask the right question, “Why the doubt?”

Because during the aforementioned trial, I perceived the law of God as one law, that’s why. I also had a fundamental misunderstanding about what the gospel really is as well. I saw salvation as believing that Christ died for my sins—end of story. Believe that, and then wait and see what happens. Well, in many cases, depression happens. In many cases, suicide happens. In many cases, a falling away from the Christian faith happens. And as poignantly expressed by my wife Susan at the 2012 TANC Conference, we hear, “Oh well, at least he was saved.” Her close to that stunning presentation on sanctification is worth repeating:

So Lovell lived like the devil, but at least he had his fire insurance policy, made effective because he walked the aisle, said the sinner’s prayer, and was baptized in the Big Sandy River. But I will have to agree with my dad. Only God really knows if Lovell was genuinely saved or not and resting in the bosom of Abraham. At my funeral, I hope more will be said about me than “at least, she was saved.”

However, we deem such unglorified testimonies for the Lord a small price to pay in exchange for robbing Christ of glory by thinking we can do something.  Confusion on this issue is absolutely rampant, and I think the time has come for the confusion to stop.

Who will argue that there is not mass confusion in our day on the relationship of the law to salvation? Yes, let’s tell the world that we do not worship a God of confusion. Good luck with that; we don’t even know what the gospel is! The theses of this post lays blame for all of this confusion at the feet of the idea that there is only one law in the Bible. This misunderstanding then leads to confusion as to what people are called to—in regard to the “good news.” We want to work on the right problem by asking the right question and then removing the obstacle. The obstacle is the idea that there is one law, and making that idea consistent with the rest of Scripture is like trying to stick a round peg in a square hole. When the discussion is about how to make that work, good luck with obtaining any solutions—we are discussing the wrong questions.

The Fundamental Problem

…is that the law of God is only seen as death. In Romans 8:2, we clearly have two laws:

For the law [nomos] of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law [nomos] of sin and death.

For certain, the Reformers only recognized one law: the law of sin and death. They saw the one law as a perfect standard that defined justification—righteousness, or justification, is defined by a perfect keeping of the law. Since we cannot keep the law perfectly, it is only good for revealing our sin. According to Protestantism, the law…

1. Shows us our sin, thus ever increasing our gratitude for Christ’s death and obedient life

    which fulfilled the law for us.

2. Will condemn unbelievers at the final judgment who are not “covered” by Christ’s

     perfect obedience.

3. The Spirit gives us ongoing life in response to our continued living by faith alone.

    Christ’s obedience is then perpetually imputed to our lives to keep us saved because a

    continued satisfying of the law is needed. (See The Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11).

What immediately comes to mind is Galatians 3:21;

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

The fact that the law cannot give life for “righteousness” i.e., justification, does not mean that the law cannot give life on any wise. Clearly it can, and does:

Matthew 4:4 – Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Psalms 1:1 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

The fundamental problem is that the law of sin and death is THE standard, or rule for being justified. This is the essence of Reformed thought: Christ not only died for our sins, but He lived a perfect life so that the demands of the law would be satisfied. This makes the law intrinsic with justification. Hence, believers must keep themselves saved by living by faith alone throughout their Christian lives. If they do this, the perfect obedience of Christ (His fulfilling of the law) is continually applied to the Christian life and the saint therefore remains justified. The Reformed think tank that spawned the present-day Neo-Calvinist movement stated it best:

The flesh, or sinful nature of the believer is no different from that of the unbeliever. “The regenerate man is no whit different in substance from what He was before his regeneration.” — Bavinck. The whole church must join the confession, “Have mercy upon us miserable sinners.” The witness of both Testaments is unmistakably clear on this point.

No work or deed of the saints in this life can meet the severity of God’s law. Apart from God’s merciful judgment, the good works of the saints would be “mortal sin” (Luther), and nothing is acceptable to God unless mediated through the covering cloud of Christ’s merits. Because of “indwelling sin,” we need mercy at the end as much as at the beginning, for the old nature is as evil then as ever. Growth in grace, therefore, does not mean becoming less and less sinful, but on the contrary, it means becoming more and more sinful in our own estimation.

It is this conviction of the wretchedness of even our sanctified state—which conviction comes by the law—that keeps sanctification from the rocks of self-righteousness. It keeps the Christian’s little bark constantly pointed toward his only star of hope—justification by faith in a righteousness that stands for him in heaven. The refuge of the sinner must ever also be the refuge of the saint.

The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

We say again, Only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.

We are united to Christ in whom we are counted as perfectly righteous because of his righteousness, not ours. The demand for obedience in the Christian life is undiminished and absolute. If obedience does not emerge by faith, we have no warrant to believe we are united to Christ or justified (Matthew 6:15; John 5:28-29; Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13;James 2:17; 1 John 2:17; 3:14). But the only hope for making progress in this radical demand for holiness and love is the hope that our righteousness before God is on another solid footing besides our own imperfect obedience as Christians. We all sense intuitively-and we are encouraged in this intuition by the demands of God-that acceptance with God requires perfect righteousness conformity to the law (Matthew5:48; Galatians 3:10; James2:10). We also know that our measures of obedience, even on our best days, fall short of this standard.

This is the fatal Achilles’ heel of Reformed thought: it makes the law intrinsic with justification when in fact we are justified APART from the law. This is what the apostle  Paul meant when he said there is no law that can give life—it’s a justification issue, not an issue of Christian living. Secondly, it rejects the idea that the believer’s former self literally died with Christ and has been resurrected to new life. The apostle made it clear that the law of sin and death can only condemn those who are living and have not yet died with Christ (Romans 7:1-6). It denies the new birth, which has been a reality for the believer even before the cross (John 3:1-15).

The Reformed gospel therefore circumvents the law of life by keeping the Christian under the law of sin and death, and denies that the Christian can have life, and have it more abundantly through obedience. It denies blessings and cursings, fruits of life versus fruits of death, and the Christian’s ability to choose more life rather than suffering death for no good reason:

Due. 30:11 – “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Nothing has ever changed here. For the believer, obedience to the law brings life. The same law that condemns the unbeliever brings life to the believer…

Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

That’s Paul using an Old Testament command to illustrate a New Testament promise of life through obedience. For the unbeliever, the sins they commit against the law are held captive by the law, but when they believe, that law is ended when faith comes; the law that could only condemn now gives life:

Galatians 3:21 – Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

The idea that “guardian” means a “schoolmaster” who continually leads us back to Christ, and the foot of the cross by showing us our inability to keep the law perfectly is a popular Reformed rendering of this text, but that is not what is in view here. The Old Covenant imprisons all of the sin committed by those under it, and when they believe, that law is ENDED:

Romans 10: 4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Christ didn’t come to cover our sins, He came to end our sins. The Old Covenant covered our sin, it was our guardian. But when we believe in Christ, the law of sin and death is abolished and we are set free to SERVE the law of the Spirit of life. This is the abundant love of Christ who did not come to condemn the world: even the law of condemnation is a guardian beckoning the unbeliever to flee the wrath to come by casting that law as far as the east is from the west—along with all of our sin committed against that covenant. The law of sin and death is not a schoolmaster that leads the believer back to the cross—the schoolmaster is dead. We are set free to serve the law of the Spirit of life.

Jay Adams didn’t ask the right question: “Where did all of this anemic Protestant sanctification come from?” But he did work on the right problem: living by biblical generalities rather than in-depth discipleship through learning and application. The results spoke for themselves.

Furthermore, the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd is probably asking the wrong questions as well as working on the wrong problem. They seem to strongly insinuate that a commitment to obedience within the gospel presentation is works justification because the subject is required to do something (agree to a commitment) in order to obtain eternal life.

This threatens to be the same law problem as Reformed thought; the idea that obedience does not bring life. If unbelievers are still under the law of sin and death, and every violation of that law is fruits for death, and we are calling them to flee that death for life, does that not necessarily include obedience that leads to life more abundantly? This seems to demand that only half of Romans 8:2 be presented in our gospel presentation lest it be a gospel of works justification. The cross sets us free to SERVE another master; Christ as opposed to the kingdom of darkness:

Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

“So that.”  “So that…” what? What is the purpose of calling people from darkness into the light? The purpose is “so that” we SERVE the new way of the Spirit. Consider what the word for “serve” is…

g1398. δουλεύω douleuō; from 1401; to be a slave to (literal or figurative, involuntary or voluntary):— be in bondage, (do) serve (- ice). AV (25)- serve 18, be in bondage 4, do service 3; to be a slave, serve, do service.

The gospel is a call to be set free from enslavement under the law of sin and death, and to enslavement to the law of the Spirit of life. Consequently, a call to a commitment to be enslaved to the law of the Spirit through obedience as a way to love God and others is a gospel of works righteousness? To notify the subject that they are set free from the fruits of death is ok, but to notify them that they will be a slave to righteousness is works salvation? What is the called out assembly called to? Are we called to holiness, or a label that enables us to yet be enslaved to darkness? Is enslavement to the law of the Spirit of life optional lest it be works righteousness? A jingle that we hear often from the Reformed crowd is the following: “When you are justified, you get sanctification in the bargain.” I wonder if it shouldn’t rather be: “When you are sanctified, you get justification in the bargain.” Justification is free, holiness is what we are called to from our former lawless master. What part of, “You cannot serve two masters” do we not understand? Granted, I say this to make a point, but I wonder if the church wouldn’t be better served as it is mostly populated with the unholy, unslaved saved.

And who are we being called to serve? Is Christ savior only? Or is He also a Lord? To inform a salvation candidate that Christ is not only a savior, but also a Lord is works righteousness? To insist that Christ be recognized for who He is—is a gospel of works? Nay, to love Christ is to recognize Him for who He is…

If you love me, keep my commandments.

You can be saved by Christ, but you don’t have to love Him? You can be saved by Him, but abundant life is optional?  You can remain a slave to fruits of death, but enslavement to Christ is optional?

The Metaphysical Anomaly of Non-Works 

I also fear that the anti-Lordship Salvation crowd has a kinship to the Reformed in regard to this whole business of defining what is a work and what isn’t a work. Mankind is created to work, and when people are alive, they are also working. Life is synonymous with work, man never ceases to work in this life unless he is dead. Hence, man is either producing fruits for death or fruits for life. Either way, he is producing. In regard to the biblical command to “repent and believe the gospel,” or to “obey the gospel,” the ALS crowd insists that this is not an action or a commitment to obey, but a mere “change of mind.” Granted, that is what the word means. But since when is a change of mind not a work? In order to have a change of mind, you must ponder and think—that’s not passive. It is simply impossible to get around the fact that something is required of man in order to be saved. At the very least, a choice is required; specifically, choosing life over death. But choosing life necessarily involves a commitment to obedience—there can be no life without it. The choice to choose life necessarily includes a commitment to future obedience and recognition of who Christ is.

Likewise, in the Reformed crowd, works and non-works are divided by “faith” and “obedience.” Since obedience cannot bring life, or produce fruits of righteousness, and perfect law-keeping by Christ must be imputed to our sanctification by faith alone to keep us saved, certain activities are classified as non-works (by faith) and works. Going to church, meditation, seeking to understand how depraved we are, and prayer are classified as faith while obedience is work. If we live by “faith alone,” primarily through gospel contemplationism, the perfect obedience of Christ will be imputed to our Christian life and we will remain justified. This is behind the contemporary mantras, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day,” and “living by the gospel” etc. Sorry, but preaching to yourself is a work, and in this case, to keep yourself saved because revisiting the cross supposedly imputes someone else’ s obedience to your sanctification. The only problem is…you have to do something for that to happen. Rather, Justification must be a finished work, period. Neither does it, “run in the background.”

In the same way, the ALS camp redefines repentance as a non-work of faith alone. This simply is not reality. Everything is a work. In addition, it would seem that a “change of mind” has nothing to do with what it means to be a Christian moving forward. To acknowledge any future expectations by the Lord, or a recognition of trading one slavery for another is a works gospel. If I tell them they are going to be a slave to righteousness, that’s works righteousness? That’s not a commitment to a new master? And if I tell them that it is, I’m propagating a works gospel? Leaving one master for another isn’t a commitment?

This is barely different than the Reformed gospel that they seemingly reject. In all of this discussion, I often hear that the gospel should be simple. I agree, and I would also ask how much more simplistic could “choose life” be? Ironically, it’s the unbelievers who have no problem with the simple concept of choosing to leave where they are for something else. Things get complicated because of the following idea: suggesting to an unbeliever that they can no longer serve their present master is a works gospel. To suggest that they have to move from point A where death resides, to point B, where life resides, is  works  righteousness.

The Day the Music Died

I witnessed a microcosm of the day that the “first generation” biblical counseling movement died. Pastor Street, with my clueless blessings as a Clearcreek Chapel elder, enrolled in the biblical counseling post graduate program at Westminster Theological Seminary East. The program curriculum was authored by a follower of John “Jack” Miller who was the father of the Sonship discipleship program. The author of the program, and also the director, Dr. David Powlison, is one of the forefathers of the present-day Neo-Calvinist movement.

Street used what he learned there to add a second level to the training program called “Theology of the Heart.” While the first level predicated on the in-depth discipleship principles of Adams was prolific, this second level was a monstrosity of confusion. The consensus of pastors leaving level one was, “Where has this information been all of my life” while no one really knew what to make of the second level. Some years later, a Clearcreek elder told me what Street thought of what he learned at Westminster: “This is where we have been missing it.” I don’t know if this particular elder, who is of ill character, was telling the truth, but  the idea that Powlison’s construct was a better “second generation” version of the first was not a unique mentality in 1998.

Also, first generation biblical counseling leaders naïvely allowed disciples of Powlison to teach in their schools. By 2006, first generation biblical counseling was all but completely discredited. The stories of changed lives that came out of that revival were relegated to narratives about “super Pharisees.” Pastor Randy Patton once described the first generation as a movement that only “made people better Pharisees.” When I heard him say it, all of the saved marriages, saved lives, and salvation testimonies that I knew of, including my own, that came out of that movement flashed before my eyes, and then went up in flames before me. As one who grew up on mean streets, I can tell you that I had never experienced a more insensitive statement that brushed away years of joy with one stroke. Unfortunately, the second generation biblical counseling that now dominates the American church is characterized by this same insufferable arrogance.

What is this “second generation” biblical counseling? It is simply a counseling construct based on the original Reformed gospel stated in this post with emphasis on its denial that Christian obedience produces life, and life more abundantly. In the latter 90’s many, many pastors left Westminster and returned to their local churches proclaiming, “This is where we have been missing it.”

What is really missing is the life produced by the first generation biblical counseling. Life and love through intelligent biblical obedience has been replaced with David Powlison’s fruits of death. This is not complicated, in a seminar taught at John Piper’s church, Powlison plainly stated the difference between the first generation biblical counseling and the second: one promotes Christian living by returning to the cross for a refueling of Christ’s perfect obedience in order to satisfy the law, and the other leaves the foot of the cross for mature Christian living. The one returns to the cross to keep the law of sin and death satisfied—the other fulfills the law of the Spirit of life with acts of loving obedience.

Our Lord prefers obedience over sacrifice—this is something that the second generation purveyors of death will never understand. Mankind is always working. A choice to do nothing is not faith—it’s a choice that will either produce death or life. And it doesn’t matter who obeys the law in our place to keep us justified—there is no law that can give life no matter who keeps it. So, how do we know for certain that we are not trying to justify ourselves by obedience in our Christian life? Because law and justification are mutually exclusive to begin with, and justification is a finished work accomplished by God only. As Andy Young said in this year’s TANC Conference, “The law is for sanctification.” Indeed, especially since we have already been justified “apart from the law.”

Second generation counseling cannot therefore produce life. It can only produce death. All it is doing is making us better antinomians, and the judgment against it slumbers not. Do not be a participant with it on any level. It is only producing wages for death that will be paid in full. Instead, let us forge ahead in learning the Lord’s instruction and applying it to our lives. let us build lives that will withstand the storms of life. Let us meet together apart from vile antinomians and encourage each other unto good works. Let us love the Lord with all of our being.

paul

Addendum

Since everything man does is a work, let me suggest that the biblical definition of works righteousness, or salvation by works, is the idea that justification is not a finished work. If justification progresses into sanctification (the Christian life), or if the work of the cross continues, then our life and works are juxtaposed onto justification. This makes us colaborers in justification by default.

If there is a beginning justification, subjective justification (the experience of being justified), and a final justification, some sort of role in justification for the believer is unavoidable. For the Reformed, it’s the same faith alone that saved you which requires a decision to not do certain things lest it be works which is in fact doing something. As one pastor stated to me: “New Calvinists tell us: ‘Don’t live by do’s and don’ts.’” See the point? If works salvation is defined by unfinished or unrealized justification, definitions of supposed non-works and works become necessary. I contend that differentiating such is impossible.

However, if we are saved by merely believing in a finished work, even though believing could be considered a work, it is believing in a finished work. The work that saved you is finished. Any idea that justification is not finished, or is “running in the background” of our Christian life must be works salvation.

Therefore, works salvation is defined by the idea that justification is not finished. Admittedly, the question of commitment becomes a difficult question at this point. But, a commitment to do something in the Christian life, in no way finishes the finished work. It is merely a commitment to love Him who first loved us.

 

Calvinism’s Get Out of Election Free Card

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 17, 2014

ppt-jpeg4We will begin this post by reviewing the abysmal belief system that is Calvinism, but in the final analysis, there is good news for those who embrace it; at least in their own minds.

Calvinism is a hopeless belief system. Plainly, there is no assurance of salvation, and it completely devalues life. It posits God as a god that created mankind so that his wrath against sin could bring him glory. He created abject failure in order to bring himself glory. The heroes among the Calvinists are those who eloquently plunge the debts of how evil we are. That would be the Puritans. All of life’s energies are focused on realizing how worthless we are in God’s eyes. The code phrase is “giving all the glory to God.”

Then, at the one last final judgment, you find out if you hated yourself enough to get into heaven by faith alone in sanctification. And if you don’t make it, oh well, you are merely getting what you deserve anyway. The logic follows:

1. God predestined man to sin according to his sovereign design and will.

2. God is glorified by the astounding reality that he would save anybody.

3. God is glorified by the eternal destruction of mankind.

4. Our struggle with the righteousness of this is evidence in and of itself of our wickedness.

The basic logic leads to an inevitable worldview.

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.

So God is God! He rules and governs everything. And everything he does is just and right and good. God owes us nothing.

If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92.

God is not beholden to us at all. He doesn’t owe us anything.

~ John Piper

Likewise, Pastor Steve Lawson, one of the who’s who of the Calvinist resurgence of our day, suggests that Christ himself will personally torture people in hell for all of eternity. Plainly, the Bible states otherwise. Eternal judgment is separation from God. Critical to understanding the Bible is a vast dichotomy between justification and sanctification. There is to be no fear of a future judgment for those who trust Christ, but the Bible does call on believers to fear present consequences for actions contrary to God’s counsel. Calvinism calls for a fear in regard to future eternal judgment among Christians because a dissuasion of security is a Reformed tenet starting with Augustine. No distinction is made between fear in justification (which lacks love and therefore fears judgment) and fear of present consequences in sanctification.

It all looks pretty grim, but membership has colossal benefits for this present life. First, you do not have to take any personal responsibility for what you do. Sinners will be sinners, and we are already damned accordingly. Secondly, it supplies an answer for every question of life: good things that happen are grace; bad things happen because we are evil; and we deserve it. Thirdly, it enables us to detach ourselves from the emotional rigors of this life. We can stand back and observe our own life from a distance. Death, failure, injustice, etc. only serve to show us more of our own depravity as “set against God’s holiness.” The only difference between a lost person and a saved person is the saved person knows of their own depravity. The unregenerate are defined by “Phariseeism,” i.e., they think there is some good within them.

So, how can Calvinists be so happy in all of this? Well, they get the benefit of all of the aforementioned, plus a get out of election free card. The key is the Reformed tenet of the power of the keys. Whatever Reformed elders bind on earth, will be bound in heaven, and whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Reformed elders are mediators between God and man. Yes, fear is a wonderful thing and we can’t be sure we are going to heaven to stay, wink, wink, unless the elders like us. If the elders like us, we are probably in. Membership has its privileges.

I am utterly convinced that this is why there is a church every two miles on the interstate with a 500,000 dollar budget. Listen carefully to what we say: “Such and such is a member in good standing.” Good standing for what? Well, for one, Calvin believed, like all in the authentic Reformed tradition that sins committed in the Christian life “separate us from grace,” viz, salvation. And, forgiveness for that sin can only be obtained through membership in the local church, and by elders who have the authority to forgive that sin. And, only water baptism joins us to the local church. This speaks for itself.

Calvinism is spreading in our culture like wildfire. Any questions as to why? Basically, live by faith alone, and support your local Reformed mediator while living anyway you want to. The fact is, in most Neo-Calvinist churches of our day, people are living in open sin while those who ask questions are the only ones being brought up on “church discipline.” Come now, look around, that’s what is going on. No? This mindset is also responsible for the wildly successful contemporary biblical counseling movement; the good news is that Jesus does everything for you, and if you think you can do anything—you are a Pharisee. A successful marriage is defined as two totally depraved people living together who are on a journey to discover how evil they both are. That was easy!

I believe that we will see huge ecumenical movements in the future that find common ground on the total depravity issue. It will be a common belief that people really don’t change, and that grace defines all of man’s existence. I believe this is the last day’s antinomian blitzkrieg predicted in the Bible, and I believe the hallmark of it will be a reuniting of Protestantism and Catholicism.

Both came from Augustine, and that’s where they will return. The get out of election free membership card will seal the deal. From there, with at least 2 billion votes at its disposal, governments will agree to once again enforce the institutional church’s orthodoxy. This is just a mere repeating of history, and it looks a lot like the book of Revelation. Granted, because of the Enlightenment era and the liberty it exposed humanity to, the final tyranny will not be as ironclad as pax romana, it will be “iron mixed with clay.”

Nevertheless, the freedom offered in antinomianism and its wide easy road will lead to the same bondage experienced throughout human history.

paul

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