Emotionally disheveled lives flowing from the present-day biblical counseling movement is now epidemic. If you are going to condemn counselees and beat them to an emotional pulp with their own faults in order to drive them back to the cross, at least tell them that’s the goal. However, as the logic goes, if the counselee is informed about the counseling agenda, any “change” would be their own decision and not the work of the Spirit.
Supposedly, any true work of the Spirit is going to be apart from anything the counselee knows. In order to teach the counselee to live a “lifestyle of repentance, for the most part ” you must help them see their sin and the “sin beneath the sin.” You must also show them the need to “repent of good works” or the belief that they are able to do a work pleasing to God. As the counselee learns to see their total depravity more and more, the works of Jesus are “manifested” in our lives and “experienced” as if we are doing them, but we are really passive instruments in any godly endeavors. In other words, when it gets right down to it, Jesus obeys for us lest we “have a righteousness of our own.” Any true good works done in the life of the “believer” are “experienced subjectively” and flow from the “objective gospel” which are works accomplished by Christ alone.
So, one really only knows when they commit definitive sin, but good works of any kind are either the “believer’s” sinful works of self-righteousness or the works of Jesus and this is the subjective part of the salvation process. If the “believer” testifies that they cannot do a good work of any kind, they may find forgiveness as long as they are “under the authority of godly men” (ie., Reformed pastors), but if they believe they themselves can do a work pleasing to God, that is mortal sin that cannot be forgiven, viz, they believe a false gospel. This is Martin Luther’s venial/mortal sin construct that formed the Reformation gospel.
Hence, the counselee, by design, is driven to a “despair of self-righteousness” but is unaware of what they are supposed to do about the despair. If the counselee is informed of what to do about the despair; that would be “jumping directly from the command to obedience.”
The result? A mass of confused people and broken lives marked by hopelessness and despair. If the Spirit so chooses to move after the biblical counselors have done their job of stripping the counselee of any “self-righteousness,” the counselee will be shown the gospel “treasure chest of joy” apart from any misguided leading from a counselor resulting in “fruit stapling.”
What’s behind this approach to counseling that is wreaking havoc on the lives of so many? To understand the answer one must take a specific look at how the Bible defines the word “sin.”
Genesis 4:3 – In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Note that sin has a primary desire that drives it—it seeks to rule over people and control them. It’s simply what sin does. This is why world politics have always been dominated by war and conquest after sin entered the world. Further study reveals sin’s ultimate goal: to bring as much death as possible into people’s lives.
But what does sin use to control people? What empowers sin? What is its mojo? Answer: condemnation. Note that sin crouches at the door waiting for people to not do well. It waits for one to violate their conscience or God’s law and then it pounces. Sin uses condemnation to strip the individual of self-worth and confidence. This is why, for the most part, marriage counseling is dealing with two spouses who come to you with condemnation lists. This is each one’s case for why the other spouse is inept and should submit to the other’s control. This is different from love and why love does not keep a record of wrong (1Cor 13:5).
And this is why Christ endured the cross; to end the law (Rom 10:4); to end condemnation; to strip sin of its power.
1Corintians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Sin remains in the born again believer because he/she still dwells in mortality, but it has been stripped of its power to condemn because Christ put an end to the law. Without a way to condemn, sin can only harass the believer with sinful desires that the believer is no longer enslaved to. Instead, the believer is now enslaved to righteousness (Rom 6:17,18). Hence, Christians fail to fulfill the law through love from time to time because they are “weak” NOT because we are “sinners.” The Bible NEVER refers to believers as “sinners.” It is markedly past tense in the Bible when speaking of the believer…“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). We are not “sinners saved by grace.” If you are still a sinner, you are not saved.
So why then the law? God created the law as a two-fold covenant. Before Christ came, all sin was imputed to the law.
Galatians 3:19 – Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
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[g] 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.
Don’t be mistaken, the older covenant is still in effect but passing away:
Hebrews 8:13 – In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
The present sins of unbelievers are still imputed to the law. When and if they believe in Christ, their sins will be ENDED not merely covered. Christ came to end sin, not cover it. Christ is not a covering for sin, He ended sin. Those who do not believe on Christ will be judged by the law at the final judgment. This is because they are still “under law” (Rom 6:14, 15). Believers will not be present at the final judgment or the “second death.” That judgment concerns the law.
So what does it mean to be under grace? It means that when we were born again the old us under law literally died and was resurrected to new creaturehood. We were given a new heart that loves the law and truth. We are no longer indifferent to the same law that once condemned us.
Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
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.
How do we serve the law under the new covenant? By putting our faith to work in obeying God’s word for loving Him and others:
Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
John 14:15 – If you love me, keep my commands (NIV).
The Christian is free to aggressively love God and others without any fear of condemnation. But, others aside from Christ cannot control you unless they sell you on the idea that you are still under condemnation. And as much as I hate to say it, for the most part, that’s what the institutional church is all about: a desire to control many people through condemnation. That means they must keep you under law and a justification defined by perfect law-keeping which of course requires ongoing forgiveness for “present sin” which of course can only be obtained under the “authority of godly men ordained by God.” Really? Fact is, there is a difference between condemning sin under law and a failure to love as a member of God’s literal family that can bring chastisement. The problem here is a single perspective on law and sin by functioning under the “written code” and calling it “under grace.”
And this is the purpose of the biblical counseling movement; it serves the institutional church in keeping people under law so they can be controlled. Supposedly, they have been given authority by God to grant you forgiveness under their authority because you are still a “sinner.” You are supposedly still under law. You can only obtain ongoing forgiveness by acknowledging that you are a totally depraved saint under the authority of some “man of God.”
It is the epic lie of the ages.
This is why the biblical counseling movement focuses on sin rather than love. This is why when you deny that you are a sinner they ask rhetorically: “Did you sin today?” The question should really be: “Did you love today?” But they ask the wrong question because their basis for justification is the law and not the new birth.
1John 3:9 – Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (KJV).
And that’s supposedly ok because Jesus supposedly kept/keeps the law for us. But that is still NOT the manifestation of righteousness “APART from the law” (Rom 3:21).
Mark it well: an emphasis on sin in your life that condemns by other “Christians” is a doctrine of devils and this is nothing new.
Zechariah 3:1 – Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
6 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
Revelation 12:10 – And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Now, many try to make a case that salvation is only a covering for sin and not an ending because of the biblical “coat” analogy. But such coats represent one’s standing, not a covering for sin that is ended. Even if such a case could be made it would only apply to the old covenant and its imputation of sin to the law.
There is only one mediator between God and man; Christ. In Matthew 28:18 we find that “all” authority has been given to Christ and “all” means just that, All, viz, everything. The body of Christ only has one head; Christ Himself. No man or woman has authority to condemn you…
…flee the biblical counseling movement and pursue love.
This is a revised version of an article originally published on January 16, 2012
2 Peter 1:1-14 contradicts almost all of the major tenets of authentic Protestantism: Christocentric salvation; Christocentric interpretation; double imputation; Christocentric sanctification; the total depravity of the saints; sanctification by faith alone; the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event; assurance based on gospel contemplationism; sanctification is not “in our OWN efforts”; the apostolic gospel.
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (v1).
Salvation is not Christocentric. Peter states that we obtained our faith by God the Father AND Jesus Christ.
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (v2).
The benefits of salvation are multiplied by the knowledge of both the Father and the Son. Of course, this knowledge can only come from the Scriptures. Obviously, knowledge of both is required for the multiplication of grace and peace. One may also note that when Peter restates this truth in verse 3, he only mentions the one “who called us” which of course is God the Father.
“The imputed righteousness of Christ” is an often heard slogan among reformed. But it is the righteousness of God that was imputed to us by the New Birth when we believed in Christ (see v1). The believer is righteous because he is God’s literal offspring. Christ lived a perfect life as a man because of who He is (the Son of God), not for the purpose of imputing obedience to us as part of the atonement in sanctification.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (v3).
Again, God the Father is the member of the Trinity who called us. Knowledge pertaining to the Father is efficacious in sanctification.
The Total Depravity of the Saints
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (v3,4).
“Partakers” is: koinōnos from koinos; a sharer, that is, associate: – companion, fellowship, partaker, partner. Koinos means: common, that is, (literally) shared by all or several and is derived from a primary preposition denoting union; with or together, that is, by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition, etc.: – beside, with. In compounds it has similar applications, including completeness.
Sanctification by Faith Alone
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (v 5,6,7).
Obviously, if sanctification is by faith alone, Peter wouldn’t tell us to ADD anything to it.
The Imperative Command is Grounded in the Indicative Event
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v8,9,10,11).
Glorification (and one could argue assurance as well) is an indicative act, but in these verses, it is contingent and preceded by imperatives. Peter uses the conjunction “if” three times to conjoin imperatives preceding the indicative.
Assurance Based on Gospel Contemplationism
One of the more hideous teachings of the Reformation is that guilt is indicative of not understanding grace. Therefore, saints will not be told to take biblically prescribed action to relieve guilt, but will be told to further contemplate the gospel. There is barely anything more powerful in the Christian life than full assurance of salvation, and Peter tells us in no uncertain terms how to obtain it: aggressively adding certain things to our faith.
Sanctification is not “in our OWN efforts.”
Authentic Protestantism, by default, disavows our effort in sanctification by continually utilizing the either/or hermeneutic: it’s either all our effort, or all of Christ. Though we can do nothing without Christ, Peter makes it clear that peace and assurance will not take place if we do not “make every effort” (ESV).
The Apostolic Gospel
“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (v12,13,14,15).
Think about it. It had been revealed to Peter that his departure was near, so his ministry was focused on what he thought was the most important thing that they needed to be continually reminded of. Where is, “The same gospel that saves us sanctifies us”? Where is, “We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day”? Where is, “Beholding the face of Christ as a way of becoming”?
Originally published January 31, 2013
“Don’t misunderstand: the problem of ‘victim mentality’ is not even on the radar screen—they have removed the word “victim” from their metaphysical dictionary.”
“Justice necessarily implies victim. Victim necessarily implies worth. All three are conspirators with the glory story.”
Martin Luther had more on his mind than silly Popes when he nailed his 95 Theses to the front door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That protest launched the Reformation, but six months later Luther presented the systematic theology of the Reformation to the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation laid the foundation, and John Calvin later articulated and applied its basic principles to the full spectrum of life in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
The Cross Story and the Glory Story
Luther’s cross story, or theology of the cross is the crux of the Heidelberg Disputation and introduced in the first sentence of the Calvin Institutes:
Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.
That’s Luther’s theology of the cross: a deeper and deeper knowledge of our putrid humanity as set against God’s holiness. And NOTHING in-between. All of creation, all events, and all reality contribute to deeper knowledge of one of these two, and then both as a deeper knowledge of each gives more understanding to the other; knowledge of both, and the experience of both. Hence, every blessing, including our good works which are done by the Holy Spirit to begin with, lends more understanding of God’s glory. Every evil event, sin, and tragedy lends deeper understanding in regard to our total depravity and worthlessness. But of course your mother is dying of cancer; I am amazed that God would give anyone as many years as He has given her. Who are we to think we deserve even one year of life? And what a wonderful opportunity for her to suffer the way Jesus suffered for us!
This is the cross story. See the illustration below. This is a contemporary depiction from that camp—this is their assessment:
Anything else at all that gives any credit to humanity—Christian or non-Christian is the “glory story.” That would be our glory specifically, and not Christ’s. To the degree that humanity is considered, the glory of Christ is “ECLIPSED.” This is the theses of a book written by John MacArthur associate Rick Holland: Uneclipsing The Son. Everything is perceived as speaking through one of these two perspectives. ANYTHING coming from what is perceived as the “glory story” is summarily dismissed. Be sure of it: this is how Calvinists think. This is their worldview.
In one of the former Resolved Conferences sponsored by John MacArthur and Holland, in one of his messages, Holland extols a letter written to Puritan Christopher Love by his wife as he awaited execution. Holland forgot to mention to those listening that Love was executed for espionage against the English government while letting the audience assume he was executed for loftier spiritual-like reasons. The following is excerpts from the letter:
O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ…. I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my own unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory…. Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that the spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above. I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.
Justice? That implies that humanity has some sort of value. That implies that life itself has some sort of value. That implies that humanity should be protected through threat of punishment. That’s the glory story. Therefore, Calvin stated the following:
Those who, as in the presence of God, inquire seriously into the true standard of righteousness, will certainly find that all the works of men, if estimated by their own worth, are nothing but vileness and pollution, that what is commonly deemed justice is with God mere iniquity; what is deemed integrity is pollution; what is deemed glory is ignominy (CI 3.12.4).
Death by Biblical Counseling
The church must face up to a sobering reality in our day. The vast majority of biblical counseling that goes on in our day is based on this construct—you will be counseled from the perspective of the cross story, and anything that smacks of the glory story will be snubbed. You are not a victim. There is no such thing as a victim. Christ was the only true victim in all of history. Don’t misunderstand: the problem of “victim mentality” is not even on the radar screen—they have removed the word “victim” from their metaphysical dictionary. “Victim” is part of the glory story; Christ as the only victim is the cross story. I am not a victim. That’s impossible because my sin nailed Christ to the cross. Thank you oh Lord that I was raped. Thank you for this opportunity to suffer for you. Thank you for the strength to forgive the one who raped me in the same way you forgave me. What a wonderful opportunity to show forth your gospel!
Hence, when the leaders of a Reformed church came to inform parents that a young man in that church had molested their toddler, this was the opening statement:
Today, we have before us an opportunity to forgive.
The parents were then counseled to not contact the authorities. Those who do are often brought up on church discipline. Justice necessarily implies victim. Victim necessarily implies worth. All three are conspirators with the glory story. And be not deceived: this is the logic that drives Reformed organizations that are supposed to be mediators in the church; specifically, Peacemaker Ministries and G.R.A.C.E. A major player in the Biblical Counseling Movement is Paul David Tripp. In 2006, he wrote a book that articulates the horizontal application of Luther’s theology of the cross: “How people Change.” Of course, the title is a lie; if he really believed people change, that would be the glory story. Notice also that it is, “How People Change” and not, “How Christians Change.” That’s because this bunch see no difference in the transforming power of the new birth and ordinary Christ-rejecting people.
In the book, Tripp, like all who propagate Luther’s theology of the cross, posits the Bible as a “big picture” narrative of our redemptive life. The Bible is a mere tool for one thing only: leading us more and more into the cross story and away from the glory story. This is accomplished by using the Bible to enter into the cross narrative and thereby seeing our preordained part in the “big picture” narrative of redemptive history. Though Tripp is not forthright about it in the book, this is known as the Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic. By seeing our life through the cross story, we are empowered to live life for God’s glory. This is done by seeing ALL circumstances in life (Heat) as preordained in order to show our sinfulness (Thorns) and God’s goodness (Fruit) for the purposes of having a deeper understanding of both resulting in spiritual wellbeing. In other words, all of life’s circumstances are designed to give us a deeper understanding of the cross story: God’s holiness, and our sinfulness. I have taken his primary visual illustration from the book and drawn lines to the cross story illustration to demonstrate the relationship (click on image to enlarge):
Understanding this lends insight to Tripp citations on the Peacekeepers Ministries website:
Paul Trip wrote a great post over at The Gospel Coalition blog all about the need for pastors to pursue a culture of forgiveness in their ministry. Pastors (and anyone serving Christ) have a choice:
“You can choose for disappointment to become distance, for affection to become dislike, and for a ministry partnership to morph into a search for an escape. You can taste the sad harvest of relational détente that so many church staffs live in, or you can plant better seeds and celebrate a much better harvest. The harvest of forgiveness, rooted in God’s forgiveness of you, is the kind of ministry relationship everyone wants.”
Then he describes three ways forgiveness can shape your ministry. I’ve listed them, but you can read how he explains them in detail.
“1. Forgiveness stimulates appreciation and affection.
2. Forgiveness produces patience.
3. Forgiveness is the fertile soil in which unity in relationships grows.”
He closes with this exhortation:
“So we learn to make war, but no longer with one another. Together we battle the one Enemy who is after us and our ministries. As we do this, we all become thankful that grace has freed us from the war with one another that we used to be so good at making.”
And concerning another author, they also stated:
Last week, Steve Cornell at The Gospel Coalition blog posted some really great insight into the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. They also offered up some excellent and biblically sound steps in dealing with a situation where an offending party is hesitant to reconcile.
Here he summarizes a key distinction:
“It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—sometimes, a lengthy one”…. His ten guidelines for those hesitant to reconcile are rooted in scripture and, I think, incredibly helpful.
1. Be honest about your motives.
2. Be humble in your attitude.
3. Be prayerful about the one who hurt you.
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem.
5. Be honest with the offender.
6. Be objective about your hesitancy.
7. Be clear about the guidelines for restoration.
8. Be alert to Satan’s schemes.
9. Be mindful of God’s control.
10. Be realistic about the process.
Notice the overall blurring of distinction between the offended and offender with the subject of forgiveness.
The Cross-centered Anti-justice Pandemic is No longer Exclusively a Reformed Thing
Apart from Calvinism, the redemptive historical cross-centered approach is crossing denominational lines en masse. We at TANC see doctrines that were born of Luther’s theology of the cross in non-Reformed circles constantly; specifically, heart theology (deep repentance), exclusive interpretation of the Scriptures through a redemptive prism, Gospel Sanctification, and John Piper’s Christian hedonism. And we also see the same results. It is not beyond the pale for a pastor who has raped a parishioner to be the one counseling the victim sinner. You know, the “sinner saved by grace.”
God is a God of justice, and throughout the Scriptures He demands that we be people of justice. He demands that we come to the defense of the victim. I close with fitting words from church historian John Immel:
And this is the challenge. This is the challenge that I have as a man who is passionate about thinking: to inspire people to engage in complex ideas that drive tyranny. So here’s my challenge to those who are listening.
Do not be seduced into believing that righteousness is retreat from the world.
Do not be seduced into believing that spirituality is defined by weakness and that timid caution for fear of committing potential error is a reason to be quiet.
Do not be intimidated by vague, hazy threats of failure.
Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality. I’m going to say that again to you. This is good. Do not let yourself believe that faith is a license to irrationality.
Do not mistake the simple nature of God’s love for a justification for simple-mindedness.
Do not deceive yourself with the polite notion that you are above the fray, that your right to believe is sufficient to the cause of righteousness. There is no more stunning conceit.
Do not pretend that your unwillingness to argue is the validation of truth.
Know this: Virtue in a vacuum is like the proverbial sound in the forest–irrelevant without a witness. Character is no private deed. To retreat is nothing more than a man closing his eyes and shutting his mouth to injustice.
Virtues are not estimates to be lofted gently against evil.
Virtues are not to be withheld from view in the name of grace.
Virtues are not to be politely swallowed in humble realization that we are all just sinners anyway.
Love is not a moral blank check against the endless tide of indulgent action.
Love is not blind to the cause and effect of reality.
Love is not indifference to plunder and injustice and servitude.
The time is now, you men of private virtue, to emerge from your fortress of solitude and demonstrate that you are worthy of a life that bears your name. The time is now, you men of private virtue, to answer Mick Jagger and all the nihilists that insist we are living on the edge and we cannot help but fall. It is time for you men of private virtue to take up the cause of human existence and think.
~TANC 2012 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny: John Immel; session 1, “Assumptions + Logic = Action.”
Achieving Total Conquest Over Depression, Part 1: Paul and Susan Christian Living Series on Blogtalk Radio Program 3
Introduction for all parts:
Everyone wants to be happy. Happiness is the essence of a quality life. Closely akin to happiness is peace; a relaxed and tranquil state of mind. Clinical depression prevents both and thrusts one into the pits of darkness and despair. Trouble in life can put people into a day by day survival mode, clinical depression puts people into an hour by hour survival mode.
This type of depression is an oppression of the soul that often torments people with out of control thoughts coming from a racing mind. The person may experience psychopathic thoughts that are totally out of character for the individual. Interests and enjoyments vanquish—the depressed person loses all self confidence and believes they are losing their mind.
Depression’s greatest ploy is how it is experienced; it seems to be a foe that attacks from outside of us and oppresses whomever it chooses. In fact, the medical model of depression does nothing to lessen that fear. Can depression come upon us in the same way that we catch a cold? What are its causes, and what is the cure? Is there a cure? Is there hope for those stricken with major depression?
Susan and Paul will speak from their own experiences with clinical depression, and how it has stricken others. The topic of depression has been a focus of Paul’s studies for 35 years, and he has experienced it as an unbeliever and believer. But, ideas that come from experience alone are not adequate; facts must explain why life is experienced in the way that it is.
Don’t give depression another year; join Paul and Susan live and contribute to the discussion.
Achieving Total Conquest Over Depression: Part 1; Audio Podcast Link
Greetings truth lovers from the Potter’s House in Xenia, Ohio. This is Paul and Susan Dohse broadcasting live from blogtalkradio.com/falsereformation. Tonight, part 3 of our Christian Living series: “Achieving Total Conquest Over Depression.” [This is part 1 in regard to the subject of depression.]
If you want to join in the discussion, call 937-855-8317—you may remain anonymous—when you hear me say, “This is Paul and Susan, what is your comment or question” just start talking. You can also add to the program by emailing a comment or question to email@example.com that’s paul@ tyrant, tulip, Alice, Nancy, cat .com. We keep an eye on the email during the program. You can also find our published materials at tancpublishing.com.
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Let me begin tonight with this: even though depression has been a significant interest of mine for 35 years, it goes without saying that there is a lot about depression and related struggles that I do not know. Tonight is about what I do know, and how you can use it to help others who are in a state of depression.
First, here is what I know about depression’s most formidable weapon in its arsenal: the idea that depression is [always] a chronic medical problem is a lie. Depression is curable…always. I know this from personal study, personal experience, and my experience with helping others with depression. No, just because I am using the nomenclature, “clinical depression,” doesn’t mean I buy into the medical model. With that being said, I know from personal experience that depression can be caused by physiological conditions. Some medications can cause depression, and it is said that thyroid problems can cause depression as well. As far as the latter—don’t know, but in regard to the former—I do know from experience with other people.
Here is the first thing you do when you get depression: you go to the doctor. Doctors are an efficacious ally in the fight against depression, but many get some important things wrong; specifically, the idea that depression is a chronic medical problem—that’s just wrong.
Ok, so, let’s take my own case with depression for example. My doctor at the time was an awesome doctor, but he and I had some disagreement on this whole “chemical imbalance” thing. Undoubtedly part of God’s plan, I joined a church at the time pastored by a disciple of Dr. Jay Adams. And we have much to say tonight in regard to the infamous Dr.J., but suffice to say for now that I had bought into his idea that depression is not hopeless—there is something you can do about it.
Now, no doubt, people with severe depression probably have a chemical imbalance. And no doubt, medication makes the patient feel better. But here is the question: “Which comes first; the cause or the symptoms?” There is no doubt that causes of depression can lead to symptoms that all but totally disable the depressed person. Listen to me, lack of sleep alone will totally put you down. So here is what I decided early on: Adams’ counseling model was the ticket, but I needed the drugs to help me through the physiological symptoms caused by the depression.
At first, I took the doses prescribed by the doctor, and no doubt, the stuff works. But as I improved, I began cutting the doses back without telling the doctor. Of course, he believed that the medication was making me better, but I believed my change of thinking and lifestyle was making me better and the drugs were just taking care of the debilitating symptoms. He would often say, “Wow, this is great, we are finding just the right balance in the dosage” while in reality I was cutting in half whatever he told me to take. See the problem here? And, was that whole experience kinda fun? Yes it was.
But here is the problem: any sane person is going to naturally assume that because the medication is making them feel better, that the “cure” confirms the diagnosis and this is just not true. Listen, here is something else that we know…long term use of psychotropic drugs will mess your body up bad. Drugs are not the cure.
So, the most formidable weapon of depression is this whole idea that it has a medical cause. You get depression like you catch a cold or something. This leads to the medication whack-a-mole game and the real cause is never addressed. This leads to depression’s second greatest weapon: hopelessness. Um, I suppose people can live without hope, but it ain’t pretty. Who wants to hear a doctor say, “There is nothing we can do”? Second to that, “All we can do is help you cope.” However, whenever you can do something, well, obviously, that gives hope. Here is something about hope and please don’t miss this: the Bible makes hope synonymous with TRUTH. If a “truth” has no hope, it’s probably not true. This whole thing with DOING is big in regard to our discussion about Jay Adams which we will get to shortly.
Thirdly, another big weapon of depression follows: the gravity of it is only understood by those who have suffered from it. Those who have never experienced depression seem to assume that it is an overreaction to the blues or merely being bummed out. To the contrary, depression is a debilitating oppression. Imagine not having any interest in anything, or finding no enjoyment in anything that you formally enjoyed. In fact, things that you formally enjoyed like music may disturb and agitate you. The mind races with uncontrolled and disturbing thoughts. Though most of these thoughts are not accompanied by a desire or motive to carry them out, they are yet very disturbing and will involve hurting one’s self or others. Women will often put their children in the care of others because the presence of the children incite thoughts of hurting them. Of course, because one thinks they are losing their mind because of all of this, sleep deprivation follows which only further inflames the situation.
This is what I mean by the term, “clinical depression.”
A fourth weapon of depression is isolation. The depressed person believes that no one but them can understand what they are going through, and therefore, no one can help them. This will often lead the depressed person to suffer alone and not seek help.
The fifth weapon of depression is the downward spiral. Thoughts and actions create certain feelings, BUT feelings also produce thoughts. The depressed person’s worst enemy is thinking provided by feelings, and worse yet, when those thoughts are believed to be true. The depressed person will sometimes say, “I feel like I am losing my mind.” Note: their feelings are telling them something, leading to fear that such might happen. This think, feel, think, feel, think, feel, downward spiral is a very dangerous thing. [Thoughts (fears) produced by feelings accompanied by depression are lies].
Yet a sixth weapon of depression is the idea that depression comes from the outside and inflicts whomever it will. Depression is seen as an ominous force that comes from without and cannot be defeated or controlled. Many depressed people wonder if depression is demon oppression, and in fact I believe this to be the case in many instances. Worse yet however is the belief that Christians can be demon possessed, which definitely adds another recipe for disaster to the situation.
But the beginning of complete victory over depression starts with these facts: You are NOT losing your mind, your depression has a cause or causes, and when you find those causes, there are solutions that overcome the causes. In other words, HOPE. Without hopelessness, depression is dead in the water. Hopelessness is the food that feeds the depression beast. Depression has no greater ally than the medical model. This is not to say that depression doesn’t become a medical problem, this is saying the following idea is proven to be a lie: depression is caused by a chronic medical problem that requires medication throughout the remainder of the person’s life. This robs the depressed of hope as they are continually returning to doctors to get their medication adjusted.
Let’s pause here to make a point based on the obvious. Those who have lost a loved one or suffered some other sort of tragedy may become depressed. The cause is obviously grief. The cure is wisdom in regard to grief. The Bible has a lot to say about the proper way to grieve. We are not to grieve as those who have no hope [1Thess 4:13]. Also, we are created to be social beings; people can become depressed because they are lonely. Now look, I am not that much of a social being, so I don’t relate that much to people who are struggling with loneliness, but let me tell you something…I have seen loneliness utterly destroy people. It can be a very strong emotion. This is where I will point to one of many advantages of home fellowships versus the institutional church. Being around lots of people doesn’t cure loneliness, but can rather merely remind you of how lonely you are. Being around lots of people engaging in superficial conversation doesn’t cure loneliness, real friendships are the cure, not people gathered together to pay their salvation dues by participating in institutional sacraments.
Let’s look at another cause and effect depression issue. The Bible teaches that our heart will be where we invest. This is kind of in the area of preventative medicine regarding what we call a “balanced life.” You have an over-investment in a particular area of your life, and then you lose whatever that is. With women, it’s usually children; with men, it’s usually their careers. When the loss happens, it leaves a huuuuuge empty void in the person’s being. Empty nest syndrome can cause very severe depression in women.
These are easily defined types of depression. Tonight, we are dealing with oppressive types of depression which I described earlier—this type of depression seems to come out of nowhere.
What am I saying in all of this? Debilitating depression (not the depression all of us are bound to experience from time to time) is BOTH preventable and curable. And in both cases, practicality and wise living is the key.
So, we have three areas yet to visit tonight in regard to this issue of depression that is of the oppressive type: history, cause, and cure. As Christians, contemporary church history is very relevant to the subject of mental wellbeing among Christians and depression in particular.
When I became a Christian in 1983, one of the things I assumed was that Christians would be experts in good living. I thought, “I am saved, now it is time to get on with this living godly thing.” Boy, was I ever in for a surprise. Secondly, I assumed that no life problem was too big for God, and that the Bible had the answers for all of them. Again, I was in for a really big surprise. From the outset, I was perplexed about all of the discussion surrounding the same gospel that saved us.
Here is what I didn’t understand: Protestantism, hereafter, “church,” was/is predicated on the idea that salvation is a process that is maintained by faithfulness to church and its sacraments. Catholics are pretty upfront about this; Protestants and their “means of grace” are less so. You get saved by faith alone, but then faithfulness to the “means of grace” (grace refers to salvation) keeps the salvation process moving forward.
Both Catholics and Protestants (authentic Protestantism) believe that salvation is an ongoing process, aka progressive justification. Catholics believe in a literal new birth which qualifies one to do good works as one of the sacraments that progress salvation forward. Protestants cry foul on that and deem it works salvation. How then does Protestantism get around the works salvation charge? Well, since mere belief in the gospel that saved you is not a work, you keep yourself saved by returning to the same gospel that saved you over and over again. The likes of Dr. Micheal Horton call this, “revisiting the gospel afresh.”
So, how exactly do you return to the gospel? Well, how were you originally saved? Right, you repented and were forgiven of sin. Think about this: if you keep yourself saved by returning to the gospel, you must still need the gospel and salvation, right? Paul David Tripp calls this a “lifestyle of repentance.” Right, because of “present sin”, Christians still need ongoing forgiveness. Beginning salvation took care of all of our past sin while “preaching the gospel to ourselves every day” takes care of the “present sin.” IF we live our “Christian” lives by faith alone well enough, we will be able to stand in the final judgment covered by the righteousness of Christ and not a “righteousness of our own.” But take note: there is only ONE place where you can receive forgiveness for present sin and keep your salvation moving forward; that’s right, your good ol’ local institutional Protestant church. Look, this is documented Protestant orthodoxy. This is irrefutable.
But over the course of years from the Protestant Reformation, primarily from people reading the Bible grammatically within the Protestant camp, that gospel began to get integrated with other ideas like OSAS (once saved always saved) and ideas of obedience to the law, but not to the point where it had any real significance. As far as Protestants go, this led to living by biblical generalities. Yet, churchians functioned according to original Protestant tenets, but verbally professed things like OSAS and obedience to the law. As always, real life problems were farmed out to secular “experts” because the church’s business is keeping people saved, not solving life problems. I heard a pastor recently commend himself for not counseling in order to not be distracted from what really matters: the gospel.
In 1970, a Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Jay Adams, decided to pushback against the church’s inability to help people with the word of God. Dr. Adams was like most Protestants of that day; they really didn’t understand what the Reformation was really about. Adams is what we call a grammatical Calvinist; he interprets reality literally, and interprets the Bible grammatically. Much of Adams’ theology is predicated on the plain sense of Scripture, but that’s NOT Calvin and Luther, nor is it Augustine who Calvin and Luther followed. The big three of Protestant soteriology, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, held to a redemptive view of reality (cross metaphysics) and a redemptive interpretation of Scripture.
These are also two different gospels. A grammatical Calvinist believes that salvation is a finished work and the Christian life, or sanctification, is completely separate from justification. The grammatical interpretation of Scripture and reality begins to formulate a hybrid theology with the redemptive fundamentals of Reformed doctrine. But this is not what the Reformers believed. Adams did not understand why the church was so passive in regard to helping people change, but nevertheless, he sought to apply his studies to changing that mode of operation.
In 1970, his book, Competent to Counsel, launched the biblical counseling movement. Let me also say this: Adams wanted this to be a laity movement. Adams was not the founder of CCEF or NANC. He was not in favor of certifying counselors. This is one of the many things he is to be commended for. His movement resulted in a real revival. I believe this movement, primarily in the 90s when it really picked up steam, was one of the few true revivals, if not the only true one post-Reformation. And don’t bring up the Great Awakening as an argument though that is a great example of many, many pseudo Reformed revivals claimed by that camp. The Great Awakening was a product of the American Revolution and its ideas concerning freedom. Then you have Edwards/Whitefield et al riding in on their mangy horses and taking credit for it. They shared the exact same Puritan soteriology that incited the American Revolution. At any rate, the biblical counseling movement was a true revival in that people’s lives were being changed dramatically. I was there and witnessed it with my own eyes, and was an avid supporter of the movement.
Also in 1970, a Seventh Day Adventist theologian named Robert Brinsmead launched a movement that revealed the real and original tenets of the Protestant Reformation. This movement led to several other movements resulting in a massive resurgence of Reformation soteriology known as the New Calvinism movement. Born out of the New Calvinism movement was an alternative to Adams’ counseling construct known as “second generation biblical counseling.” At first, both movements got along ok with Psychology being the primary whipping boy for both movements, but eventually their conflicting gospels would collide. While Jay Adams is the primary personification of first generation biblical counseling, Dr. David Powlison is such for second generation biblical counseling. While speaking at pastor John Piper’s church (the “elder statesmen of the New Calvinism”), Powlison admitted openly that the difference between the two counseling movements is a contrary gospel.
Now, let me make this as simple as I can. In change and problem solving, if you can do something, there is hope—if you can’t do something, there isn’t hope. If the doctor comes to you and says, “There is nothing we can DO,” that is NOT hopeful. If the doctor says, “There is something we can do,” there is hope. This would seem fairly evident. Listen to what Jay Adams told me himself face to face: when he was traveling about speaking at churches regarding his counseling movement, his talks were treated as if they were a “strange new gospel” because he was saying that we could DO something about our problems. A title of a book Adams wrote during that time is “More Than Redemption.” Say what?!! That title and the idea of it is completely antithetical to the Protestant Reformation which contended that justification is the whole enchilada from beginning to end. The point of all of this? In considering where to go for help in the evangelical church, what gospel is the counseling based on? Can one be helped by a false gospel? I think not.
In addressing the causes and biblical cures of oppressive types of depression we cannot discuss everything tonight, but we can discuss the most important things. In the case of my depression, I was never able to pinpoint a specific cause…until recently. I guess the cause is now so obvious that it escaped recognition as the obvious sometimes does—you are looking for something deeper rather than what is right in front of you.
Like most unbelievers, I believe I had an intuitive understanding of the new birth. I think most unbelievers know salvation means being saved from your present life. And that’s exactly the reason that unbelievers resist; even in the face of imminent disaster there is something about their life that they don’t want to give up. Perhaps they think they are free and the Lord’s commands are “burdensome.” At any rate, in my childlike state of mind as a new believer, I was shocked to realize that I was still sinning. You see, I assumed a radical transformation would take place. Sure, my life greatly improved, but I didn’t want to sin at all! I read book after book and agonized over the Scriptures in order to find out what was going on. And of course, no one in the institutional church could correctly explain it to me. The lame explanations that I received didn’t ring true to me [especially the “two natures” fighting against each other motif].
Bottom line: how could I be absolutely sure that anything I did for God in my life wasn’t an effort to justify myself? This threw cold water on any attempts to love God and kept me in constant doubt and turmoil.
Consequently, I doubted my salvation. Not only that, there were sins in my life that I just couldn’t overcome. Here is what I believe led to my depression: fear of condemnation, AND being under law. That’s where it began, and then some of the other factors we have discussed tonight all joined in resulting in a colossal downward spiral. If you doubt your salvation, your hope is greatly diminished. A basic fear of condemnation and judgment, I have come to believe, prefaces the massive list of phobias that exist in our society. The Bible states that fear and death go hand in hand, and the terror of death is defined by the fear of judgment that follows [Hebrews 2:15].
Moreover, a single perspective on law leading to a mentality verbalized to me just the other day, “sin is sin,” leads to slavery to sin because you are still under law and provoked by it leading to even more fear of condemnation [Romans 7:1-11]. I believe my former depression was the result of my defective understanding of law and gospel and justification specifically.
The Bible states that mature love casts out fear, but this does not speak of acts of love per se [acts of love however do bring peace and joy], but a state of being. Working out our love to the point of maturity is the antithesis of being under law and its condemnation—condemnation is impossible, and all that is left is the wages of life as opposed to the wages of death. We are under grace where love fulfills the whole law. If we still need the gospel, that means we still need salvation from the law’s condemnation. In fact, Calvin and Luther both stated that fear of condemnation is the catalyst for sanctification—they plainly said it! Hence, more depression should be expected in the church than anywhere else! [See the booklet, “It’s Not About Election” @ tancpublishing.com].
Fear is a really really big deal, and is more times than not a perquisite to depression. Please note the following from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
[Note that fear/anxiety is associated with almost every mental illness that there is.]
I have come to believe that helping people with the deepest needs of life begins with a biblically accurate view of justification and its relationship to sanctification. This is where it begins, let’s go to the phones.
Susan and I had a glorious fellowship with another Christian couple this afternoon. They are in a ministry of significant influence and will be unnamed. At some point, the conversation turned to New Calvinism. As Susan and I sat and listened to the husband’s testimony concerning what he valued in John Piper’s teachings, I was filled with an understanding in regard to why Piper’s teachings are so attractive. I might add that I was very impressed with his calm, articulate answer immediately following my comment that I believe Piper to be one of the premier heretics of our day.
What this brother described was the fact that serious Christians were looking for an alternative to the fallout from the first gospel wave in contemporary Christian History: raise your hand, sign a card, don’t drink, smoke, chew, or hang out with girls that do. Christianity had been reduced to living by a list of do’s and don’ts by people who didn’t have any life to show for it. Fair enough. Guilty as charged.
But the fact of the matter is that Jay Adams did offer a viable alternative. It was based on hearing the word of God and applying it to our lives according to the whole counsel of God’s wisdom and not just, “stop doing that.” I saw firsthand how this “first generation” biblical counseling movement changed lives in radical fashion, including my own. And the movement continues to do so today even though the fact of that matter is covered up by a whole lot of New Calvinist noise.
To me the crux of the matter is in this brother’s testimony. New Calvinists have effectively sold the idea that they are offering the only alternative to easy believeism in our day. That’s only true because they got rid of the other alternative through slander and persecution, and they know it. Jay Adams’ “first generation” biblical counseling was a threat to the emerging New Calvinist tsunami. Why? 1) Because it worked and God used it to change lives. 2) It was/is the antithesis of New Calvinism because the latter fuses justification and sanctification while first generation counseling doesn’t. Furthermore, this is what New Calvinist David Powlison said was the fundamental difference between the two while teaching at John Piper’s church:
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.
If we associate justification with “conversion,” and we do, Powlison’s statement can be reworded as follows for clarification:
Adams had a tendency to make the cross be for justification (justification cannot be separated from conversion). And the Holy Spirit was for sanctification.
Second generation counseling/New Calvinism is sanctification by justification, and that was also propagated by his mentor that he mentions. New Calvinists choose their words carefully. Imagine how far the movement would get if they didn’t replace “justification” with “gospel”:
The same finished work of justification that saved you also sanctifies you. Or, we must preach justification to ourselves every day. Or, sanctification is the finished work of justification in action.
I explained to the brother that the other alternative was relentlessly persecuted, and that’s why it would seem that there is only one alternative. He concurred that he perceives criticism of Adams taking place on a continual basis. Why? Because the truth he teaches is the competition. It’s a threat.
This is an approach that I have never used before: 1) Powlison admits a fundamental difference between first generation and second generation counseling; ie, sanctification by the cross (justification) verses sanctification by the Spirit apart from the finished work of justification. 2) An alternative is confirmed. 3) You only have the New Calvinists’ testimony that they are the only alternative. 4) Why not investigate and find out for yourself?
He agreed, and was sent off with a copy of The Truth About New Calvinism. Please pray for the situation. Christianity doesn’t need a second gospel wave. The first wave devalued sanctification by focusing on justification only; the second devalues it as well by making it the same thing as justification. Both are just as deadly, and when the novelty of New Calvinism wears off, the results will be worse.