Part 2 on depression, and program 4 of our sanctification series. Paul will share his own testimony regarding depression as an unbeliever and believer. The testimony segment of the live program is posted below. Call in and comment or ask a question. Here is the live link for tonight’s program: Thursday night, January 14 @ 7pm
My story starts with fear of something that I was terrified of that was out of my control. It is a testimony of choosing death unto death. I was tricked into choosing a major death decision among many other death decisions. It starts with the importance of properly defining words. This is so very ironic that my story starts as an unbeliever 43 years ago with a major theme of this ministry today: the utter importance of properly defining words. Those who define words define reality and how you live in it; let me strongly suggest that you let God define the words that define life. We are talking about the historical grammatical interpretation of reality. Words mean things that determine life and death. No mass grave has ever been filled without the issue of realty present. No adult person laying in a mass grave is guiltless of letting others define reality and the meaning of words for them. It is also a pity that children die with them. If for no other reason, think for yourself because of our children.
This is the beginning of my testimony, and it starts with fear. As a rebellious teen, I chose my life and death carefully. I didn’t want too much death, just enough to have fun and fulfill my lustful desires without ending up dead. Of course, I didn’t have enough information to frame it that way at the time, but that’s how I functioned. Those who want to control you care little about what you understand, how you function is what they are after. That’s why you must define words for yourself. Never let anyone tell you what a word means—you must understand it in your own mind.
So, as far as taking LSD, that was too much death for me. I made sure I stayed with Death Lite. Therefore, I took a drug called “Window Pane” that was a lesser hallucinogen than LSD. I didn’t want to see monsters and stuff like that; too much death. I just wanted to see fluid running through the veins of leaves and wall paint dancing. But herein is the huge problem: Window Pane is LSD—they just changed the name. I chose a death that I would not have ordinarily chosen; I let others define the word for me, and the result was a death that I didn’t see coming.
I had an absolutely horrible “bad trip.” I was riding in a car tripping with friends and was in a trance for an undetermined amount of time. I came out of the trance upon some kind of physiological trauma experienced with vomiting colors out of my mouth. As I yelled while lurching forward, clouds of colors came out of my mouth. I suspect my heart momentarily stopped or something of the sort. My friends were delighted and wanted to know, “What did you see?! What did you see?!”
After that, I went into some sort of anxiety frenzy that had me walking and walking the same day well into the night until the trip ended. I think maybe I knew that I nearly died. Well, my drug days were over at that point and I stuck with safer death like alcohol and marijuana. Then things get even more ironic. I wasn’t aware that LSD use could lead to flashbacks. Someone handed me one of those Jack Chick-like cartoon tracks with the various and sundry narratives (chick.com). This particular one was a story of a girl who used LSD, became a Christian, and later died from an LSD flashback. I wasn’t aware that one could have LSD flashbacks. Funny, the track didn’t have its intended impact, I didn’t think, “Oh, I will become a Christian just in case I have a flashback and die.” No, I focused on the fact that I could possibly re-experience that fateful day without any warning. Of course, like most religious stupidity, the track exaggerated the flashback experience by stating that one could die as a result of a LSD flashback which is highly improbable, but I was focused on the fear of having that horrible experience again. This began my long journey of a life dictated by fear.
Why didn’t I then go to an expert to see if flashbacks could be prevented some how, or at least dealt with some way in case I had one? The answer to this is simple: experts are adults, and I didn’t want to reveal that I had taken LSD. My fear escalated into anxiety attacks and hyper-ventilation which also feel like near death experiences. Add more fear. I ended up being taken to a doctor by my grandmother who diagnosed me with an “anxiety disorder,” which “runs in the family.” Listen, in the vast majority of adolescent severe anxiety problems complete with panic attacks, this is reality: it’s caused from death choices they have made. In this kingdom, anxiety is epidemic because of death choices—period. And you know what, we just might get into the death/life sanctification paradigm in this depression segment of our Christian living series. Sooner or later we are going to do it in this series, and we just might do it in this depression segment of the series.
The doctor prescribed anxiety medication, but I wouldn’t take it because the former bad trip experience was so horrific that I was afraid of any kind of medication. Also, because one of the pranks practiced by my friends was slipping drugs into other people’s drinks, I wouldn’t drink from any container that had escaped my monitoring for any length of time. This is an example of how particular fears can lead to all kinds of paranoid behavior deemed quirky by others: “The guy takes his beverage to the bathroom with him; gee, that’s strange.”
Next I want to talk about my first panic attack. I was riding around with some new friends that had not yet initiated me into their click with their favorite prank. There was a paved road that terminated into a gravel road, but at the point of termination, the gravel road elevated sharply. Driving towards it at night, it looked like you were headed straight into a concrete wall. Of course, they made sure I was riding in the front seat for the event. Well, the joke ended up being on them as I went into severe hyper-ventilation and ended up being taken to the hospital. See how the underlying fear of other things led to this? In addition, panic attacks are also very terrifying, so that was one more thing added to my life that I was afraid of. Add more fear. See how all of this leads to a downward spiral of paralyzing fear? Not only that, I was conditioning myself to react in fearful ways. In other words, we can habituate ourselves with fear to the point where fear becomes a way of life.
So where do we go next with this? As a young man, I continued to make death decisions. Between circa 1976 and 1982, I led a very promiscuous lifestyle. Then came the news that aids had been around since 1969, and could lay dormant for ten years! Nobody knew that during the disco 70’s when one-night “hook ups” where all the rage. Ooops. Again, due to bad information, I thought I was only choosing Death Lite. In my mind, it was likely that I had contracted it when the statistics were considered. Add more fear. See how this works? There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my lifestyle, decisions, and compounding fear coupled with a guilty conscience to boot led up to my major depression. The anxiety came first, and the experts tell us that anxiety always walks side by side with depression. I could go on and on about how decision after decision led to more and more fear in my life.
However, when I got saved, it was a pretty dramatic transformation. And I will be honest with you, I think if someone could have sat down with me and explained what I know now about justification today, I don’t think fear would have ever crept back into my life. My salvation experience was so dramatic and accompanied by so much joy that I doubt I gave much thought to sin early on. But I began to become very troubled about remaining sin in my life.
I was totally dedicated to the idea that the Bible had all answers to life’s questions, I just couldn’t find the answers. I was really, really serious about being a Christian; that’s why I joined a Southern Baptist church and attended a Southern Baptist seminary. But then orthodoxy happened. There is no doubt in my mind that my conversion was genuine, but I joined up with a religion that keeps one under law; so, in regard to how I eventually began to function, I was no whit better off than my miserable former life. In fact, I might have been worse off.
Certainly, my Christian life had far less “big sin” than before I was a believer, but Protestantism calls for the “believer” to remain under the fear of condemnation—that’s just Protestant orthodoxy plain and simple. It has now become plain to me that fear of condemnation is what led me into depression as a believer. Also, condemnation is what empowers sin. To the degree that there is doubt that you are not under condemnation, the sin within can use that to provoke you to sin; the Bible is VERY clear on this. Then, condemning sin committed just gives more fodder for further condemnation; it’s just another downward spiral of fear and condemnation. Let’s note 1Corinthians 15:56-58 on this:
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. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
This passage is soooo major. First, what in the world does “the power of sin is the law” mean? This is the condemnation of the law—this is being under law. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he explains how the sin within uses the law (if it condemns) to provoke us to sin.
Romans7:7 – What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment,deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
I don’t rightly understand the ins and outs of how this works, but the Bible is clear that the possibility of eternal condemnation empowers sin. Somehow, sin uses the possibility of eternal condemnation to create desires that tempt us to sin. This is why Christ came to end the law (Rom 10:4). And this is why men fear death; the judgment that follows. Hence, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” This is what is so important about a proper understanding of the new birth. The old us that was born under law and its condemnation literally dies with Christ, and we are now free to serve another master, not the Sin master:
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.
This is the “Therefore” in 1Corinthians 15:58; we are now totally free to aggressively love God and others without fear of condemnation. And…
1John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected [or matured] in love.
Fear of condemnation provokes one to sin, leading to sin, and more and more condemnation and fear. Yet, Protestant orthodoxy calls for saints to remain under law and fear of its condemnation. The Protestant formula follows: Christ continues to cover our sin if we live by faith alone in the same gospel that saved us. Sin is not ended, it is only covered. And, don’t miss this…if we are not still under condemnation, well, what do we need Christ for? This very question is posed rhetorically as if you are an idiot if you think we are not still under condemnation. Well, if you no longer “need the gospel,” you have tossed Christ aside and moved on to “something else other than the gospel.” Come now, be honest, we hear this constantly among Churchians.
Hence, we can expect that depression is just as prevalent in the institutional church as it is in the world. We can also expect more sin in the church because of double temptation. The world is only tempted to sin by the law of conscience, Churchians are tempted by both. Moreover, the prescription according to Protestant orthodoxy for condemnation is a “return to the same grace that saved you.” The likes of Jerry Bridges call for a re-contemplation of the gospel rather than a change of behavior to deal with the condemnation that shouldn’t be their in the first place. What will this effect? It will bring about a “searing of the conscience with a hot iron.” True, Christians shouldn’t be under the condemnation of the law to begin with, and true, if you change behavior while under the law, that is works righteousness, or merely lesser wages for death, but this approach is a further regression from the truth and makes Christians just as indifferent to the law as unbelievers—they are not free to love the law and to use it for love—they are still enslaved to its condemnation. LOOK! This is NOT rocket science, this is EXACTLY why the church looks like what it does.
Consider the mentality that I had as a depressed Christian. Sure, I was a huge proponent of obedience, but I had a very uneasy relationship with it. Why? I never knew for certain that my obedience wasn’t for purposes of self-justification because of my Protestant single perspective on the law and sin. And in essence how can you? You can’t. Therefore, there is always going to be some level of condemnation in your life provoking sin and leading to more and more condemnation. And going to church adds to that, no? Sure it does; week after week you go there and hear about how terrible you are, and if you are under law—that’s probably true!
Listen to what I said to the elders who interviewed me because I joined a new church in the midst of my depression: “God is the last person I want to see right now.” What’s that? Right, that’s clearly fear of condemnation! When I began counseling with the pastor of that church, consider what I came to him with in regard to how I was dealing with the problem: “I read my Bible (contemplationism) for two hours today and prayed for three hours!” Note that while I deemed myself a proponent of obedience, in reality I was a functioning Christian mystic. When the pastor started instructing me to think differently and do things differently, I expressed my concern as to whether or not “obedience is curative.” He focused on teaching me to cling to the promises of God, and to obey, but we were both confused about obedience being love and not lesser condemnation. Sure, if you cling to the promises of God, and keep a clear conscience before Him, you are going to eventually come out of the depression, and that’s what happened to me eventually, but that’s just putting a Band-Aid on the symptoms. The real problem is condemnation with fear following. A person can reap the benefits of a clear conscience while still functioning as someone who is under some degree of condemnation, but with a proper understanding of justification, there is NOW…NO condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).
No condemnation leads to less and less sin and more and more love. Love “covers a multitude of sin” and “fulfills the whole law.”
Protestant orthodoxy calls for the “Christian” to remain under condemnation of the law and its fear of condemnation. Martin Luther believed that all works performed by Christians need to be “attended with fear” [of condemnation]. John Calvin stated the same in no uncertain terms. In Protestantism, the catalyst for sanctification is fear of condemnation and a continued need for the same gospel that saved you. That is a root source of depression. The present-day biblical counseling movement produces mental illness through its own churchianity, and then cures it by teaching people to sear their consciences with a hot iron. Protestantism produces mental illness, and then presents itself as the cure.
Next week, we will examine concrete actions that one needs to take in order to have complete victory over major depression.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
So, of course, we are a pretty small-time ragtag operation here at blogtalk, so let me give you instructions on how to listen to the program over your phone if you don’t want to be patched in live to discuss this issue on the air. Call in, wait till you hear the show live; then hangup and call back. That’s our signal that you only want to listen to the show over your phone. If you want to be patched in to discuss the topic with Susan and me live, just call in and wait for us to patch you in. If your PC or MAC is near by, turn down the speakers to prevent feedback.
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.
Just a few questions:
1. If you accept the idea that “flesh” and “spirit” refer to parts of regenerate believers rather than to spheres in which people live and by which we are controlled, where does sanctification take place, in the flesh or in the spirit? The same question applies in terms of “old man”/ “new man.” Which of those grows in sanctification?
Answer: This question reflects the fact that the Reformed crowd doesn’t openly discuss what they really believe about this issue, and I commend you accordingly. Authentic Reformed doctrine holds to the idea that the active obedience of Christ is manifested in the “Spirit realm” as a result of what we see in the Bible being imputed to us by faith alone in sanctification (see Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, theses 27). We don’t change. The “Spirit realm” and the “flesh realm” are two forces that put pressure on us, and at any given time, we “yield” to one or the other. This is the position of the elders who are over the NANC training center in Springboro, Ohio according to an email I received from them when they thought I was on board with their doctrine.
Of course, the take on this varies among those in the Reformed tradition. Another example would be the idea that we are still dead spiritually, and the living Christ within us is the one obeying. What is consistent is the idea that this obedience is experienced in a certain way: joy and a willing spirit (see LHD, theses 27); that’s how we know Jesus is doing it and not us. At any rate, the crux of Reformed theology is that all good works take place outside of the believer; i.e., Luther’s “alien righteousness” for not only justification, but for sanctification as well. Your question is at the very core of debates that took place between heretic Dr. Ed Welch of CCEF and the commendable Dr. Jay Adams.
Jay Adams oversees INS as he was pretty much run out of NANC and CCEF—largely due to the fact that NANC and CCEF are both bastions of evil. I find it utterly intolerable that thousands are sent to these organizations daily with the hope of change when these Reformed organizations in fact don’t believe that God changes them. There are no words for my loathing of such hideous deception while these organizations also take people’s hard-earned money to boot. And some don’t go along with these ideas, but they stand silent and therefore are just as guilty. And my “whole life” is contending against this? Perhaps, but better that than one’s whole life buying acceptance with silence. Moreover, people praise CJ Mahaney and co. for their tireless night and day service to the “gospel” which is really the work of the kingdom of darkness against the kingdom of light. A pity that I would counter that with my own life.
Unfortunately, Adams, who is much more advanced in patience than I am—associates with them, and in my estimation thereby causes confusion regarding the kind of counseling that will change people. Also, the possibility that the only biblical counseling organization left on the face of the earth that is not infected with Trippism and Powlisonism is also a major concern. Nevertheless, Adams and his associate, Donn Arms, are the only ones who have taken a stand against the heretical onslaught taking place in biblical counseling circles which is fraught with mindless followers, lackeys, lovers of filthy lucre, shameless cowards, and lying integrationists. The idea that these people care about any marriage or the well being of any saint is laughable.
But to answer your question completely, I believe the Scriptures are clear that the old self was put to death and no longer has the ability to enslave us to sin. The old self was “under the law” which means that the law provoked him to sin and a final judgment according to the law. As long as we are alive, our mortality has influence over us in regard to the old ways of being under the law, but the enslavement is broken. We are in fact born again, and have a regenerated “law of our mind.” Hence, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The warfare takes place inside of the believer between the law of his mind and the “law of sin.” The apostle makes it absolutely clear: this warfare takes place between my “inner being” and “in my members.” What is clearer? Unless the Bible is a Reformed gospel narrative that isn’t meant to inform our co-laboring with God in sanctification. But it is, because we are no longer “under” it for justification, but are informed by it for sanctification. Because the Reformers believe we are still under it, we must continue to live by the gospel that saved us from the law. We are still under it, but Jesus keeps it for us. How this is applied to the Christian life by the Reformers is outright Gnosticism to the core.
Furthermore, the “law of my mind” part of the believer that “delights in the law” in our “inner being” is what grows. Something in us is in fact growing: a host of passages that include 1Peter 2:1-3 make this certain. Really? Jesus isn’t really talking to us when he states, “Well done faithful servant”?
2. Do you believe sanctification occurs completely apart from faith? Do we have everything we need at the point of regeneration, so that further dependence on the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary? It sounds as if that is what you are saying.
Answer: Your question is framed within the confines of the Reformed either/or hermeneutic. Reality is either interpreted through the “glory story” or the “cross story.” This is the interpretive foundation of Reformed theology as stated in Luther’s HD. Because sanctification includes us, it must be by faith alone like salvation or it includes our glory as well. Therefore, where faith is, it must be by faith alone because faith is of God who will not share His glory with another. Therefore, if our doing is involved with sanctification, it must occur completely apart from faith. It must be the glory story, or the cross story. Reformed proponent Gerhard Forde states this in no uncertain terms.
Biblicists reject that metaphysical presupposition with prejudice. We stand with our beloved brother James, whom Luther rejected for obvious reasons, in saying that faith and works are together in sanctification while faith is alone in justification. Luther and his Reformed minions believe that grace is fused with works apart from our faith when it is faith in the works of Christ alone in sanctification (LHD theses 25).
Also, “Do we have everything we need at the point of regeneration, so that further dependence on the Holy Spirit is no longer necessary?” Again, we see Reformed metaphysics. If any part of our story is in the narrative, it’s semi-Pelagianism and not the cross story. This is a rather simple concept. All of the power that raised Christ from the dead is credited to our account in salvation. The Holy Spirit, our “HELPER” (ESV) “helps” us (that’s what a “helper” does, they “help”) in appropriating the blessings of salvation. He aids us (that’s what a “helper” does, he “aids”). And those blessings are appropriated “IN” (that’s a preposition) the DOING (James 1:25).
3. Do you believe Jesus’ actions are ever to be considered not only as instructional as a pattern for our obedience, but as motivation to imitate him?
Answer: As many have forcefully argued in several articles, especially Presbyterian Pastor Terry Johnson, God uses many different incentives to motivate us other than gratitude and meditating on the salvific works of Christ. This was also Adams’ primary contention against Sonship Theology.
4. Do you see any difference between God’s work in a believer that replaces his need to obey and God’s work in believers motivating them to obey?
Answer: The very question suggests a “need” to “replace (s)” the “need” of a believer to “obey” in sanctification? Of course, a clear distinction is not made regarding….in sanctification or justification? But, NO SUCH NEED EXISTS for sanctification. Our work in sanctification has NO bearing on our justification. The premise of the question is based on faulty Reformed presuppositions.
5. How do you see the Reformed doctrine as teaching that sanctification completes justification?
Answer: They call it a “CHAIN” (The golden chain of salvation-Romans 8:29,30). What’s a “chain”? What happens if you remove the middle links of a “chain” ? It’s not completed—this would seem apparent.
In 1 Kings 3:3 we read,
Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David (HCSB).
What a clear and explicit statement of how one goes about loving God! These days, there is much confusion about this very point. There are those who would tell us, in near monkish terms, that one loves God by all sorts of personal disciplines and denials. Yet, we find no such things in the life of David—a life, in general, that is mentioned here as exemplary enough to hold up as an example. Of course, David had his faults—which are set forth in the Bible, but for the most part, he was willing to follow God’s commands, and repent when he failed to do so (there are no greater repentance psalms in the Bible than those written by him).
Don’t let anyone tell you that by following man-made restrictions and regulations one best loves God. Col. 2: 23 says it all:
Of course, they have a reputation for wisdom because of their self-imposed worship and supposed humility, and ascetic treatment of the body, but those things are of no value in keeping the flesh from satisfying itself.
God Himself has set forth the terms by which He is served in love. These, here, are termed “the statutes of David.” That does not mean that he set up his own statutes, but that he faithfully followed God’s (for the most part, that is—note the qualification about the high places in this verse).
If you want to love God, you will do as the Lord Jesus (Who never failed to do so) did—you will keep His commandments. Fundamentally, love is not a feeling. Love is giving: “God so loved the world that He gave”; “He loved us and gave Himself for us,” etc. The great commission is explicit: “teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.” These statements all reflect the same activity, namely, giving.
In the passage from 1 Kings, the word “walking” is the usual Hebrew expression for speaking of one’s lifestyle (or, as we also put it, how one conducts himself). So, John says in his two short epistles that he is delighted to hear how the reader’s children “walk in the truth.” That is, they live lives characterized by God’s truth. And, tying all of this together, he speaks in those letters of “love in the truth.”