Paul's Passing Thoughts

The 95 Theses Against Calvinism New and Old

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 18, 2014

Is New Calvinism Old Calvinism?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 19, 2014

1 Kings 8:39: Heart Theology Is Not The Real Reformation

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 25, 2009

“Nobody ever said we change ourselves through obedience, ……..We are to learn, apply, pray, obey inwardly (thinking), obey outwardly, seek wise counsel, love, encourage, instruct, rebuke, disciple, confess, and leave the changing and knowing of the heart to God.”


It happened in the early 90’s. I was in the process of absorbing and applying truth from what I think was in fact a contemporary reformation. There is no doubt, Christianity had relinquished its faith and confidence in God’s word; specifically, in regard to solving the weightier issues of life and godliness, deferring to the so-called “experts” of our day. Jay Adams, a reformed Presbyterian, introduced a structured biblical counseling system that radically changed lives through the power and instruction of God’s word. His thesis, after it was all said and done, and in a manner of speaking, begged this question by children: “Daddy, what did Christians do about serious problems before  Sigmund Freud came along?” Surprisingly, and before evangelicals barely had a chance to catch their breath, something else came along, Heart Theology. Picking up again where my opening sentence left off, the following is how I was first introduced to Heart Theology. I was an elder in a church that was a training center for what was dubbed  “biblical counseling.” The elder that was primarily leading this program was also in the process of obtaining his doctorate degree from another counseling center attached to a reformed seminary. This is where he was introduced to this new counseling theology. It was added as a level 2 program, or addendum to what was already considered radical among evangelicals; namely, the concept that God’s word is sufficient for all matters of life and godliness. I was skeptical in regard to this new twist. Let me explain the basic differences in the two approaches that fueled my skepticism.

First, in regard to the original biblical counseling movement, there are two basic characteristics of biblical counseling  as originally introduced by Adams. First, it changed preaching, which was predominately, and still is to a large degree, “about” the Bible. For instance, there may have been many sermons “about” the importance of communication from the Bible. For example, instances where men misunderstood God and gee whiz, bad things happened after that, so don’t do what they did.  Biblical counseling went beyond that to a deeper and technical understanding that was applied to real life situations. An example would be biblical precepts of communication that could readily be brought to mind in everyday life and applied accordingly. It was and is, technical wisdom from the word of God and specific instruction on how to apply it to real life. Once pastors learned to do this in the privacy of their office, it transferred to the pulpit  where it became preventative medicine for God’s people. Yet another example. Say a young couple in your church decides to marry. What usually happens? We rejoice and marry them! Right? The Jay Adams approach would ask three questions: are these two young people experts on marriage? Probably not. Does God’s word have any wisdom that will prepare them for successful marriage that honors God? Of course. So should we just let them figure it out on their own? Probably not. This introduced Premarital Counseling in the church, with many pastors making it a prerequisite to that church’s participation in the wedding.

The other characteristic was an equal emphasis on justification and sanctification. Let’s be honest, the primary focus of evangelicals is getting people saved. Once there saved, we teach them the importance of church attendance, tithing, and learning about the Bible. Christ never told us to primarily get people saved;  his mandate for the church is to “make disciples.” This is done by counseling with God’s word. Premarital Counseling, like many other aspects of biblical application, is “making disciples.” Preaching from the pulpit should also keep parishioners out of the counseling office as well as divorce court. The contention by Adams that pastors are to primarily counsel and not preach was indeed a shocker to many. Preaching should always contain counsel in regard to the technical application of God’s word to real life.

But in addition to these characteristics, one of the primary elements of this biblical counseling was its emphasis on objectivity. Jay Adams was, and I assume still is, a stickler for objective instruction rather than what was referred to as “fuzzy land.” However, I must concede this one weakness in the contemporary (about 37 years old)  biblical counseling movement; there was a lack of emphasis on the monergistic resources that give us the strength to apply God’s wisdom to everyday life.  But this is  understandable, for Evangelicals were preaching about the forest in habitual fashion. The gargantuan task of showing the importance of the individual trees and their proper application was bound to distract. So, in regard to the biblical counseling movement, I have explained two characteristics, one element, and one fault.

Strange, In the midst of this revolution that was pouring out hope, seemingly without measure, there was another movement afoot that had a compliant against the former and the new; namely, biblical counseling wasn’t vertical enough, Adams had simply refined the emphasis on the outward and made Baptist Pharisees into super Pharisees. Yes, the new reformation (Adams) was bringing about lots of change, but it wasn’t “lasting change.” Their  answer?; they contended that Christians must abandon all emphasis on outward behavior and partake in emphasizing change at the “heart level.” That would be the two elements of the Heart Theology movement: change at the heart level, and real, lasting change (theoretically).

So, what does that look like (not “how,” which might imply some kind of verb to follow)? Well, the key is deciphering the “desires of the heart.” Desires reveal the idols in our heart, or anything that we love more than God (supposedly, according to advocates). So, what does that look like? Well, we analyze desires of the heart three ways. First, by how we respond to circumstances. Second, by asking God to reveal the Idols through prayer. Thirdly, by imagining future scenarios and taking note of how it makes us feel. The second means is direct, God simply reveals it to us directly through prayer. The first and third means require the use of interpretive questions. So for instance, you are watching a football game and your wife demands that you take the trash out “right now!” And this in fact makes you angry. The most common interpretive question is “what did you want?” The answer is the following:  you wanted to be left alone to enjoy the game and you wanted to be shown more respect by your wife. There you have it;  football and being respected are idols in your heart. If you now repent of these idols, they are emptied from your heart and God then fills that void in your heart with himself. To the extent that your heart has idols, God is not present. Depending on the presence and filling of God verses idols, obedience is a “mere natural flow” that doesn’t require effort (works) on our part.

This now brings me to the major characteristic  of Heart Theology, it’s nebulous and subjective. It also brings me to the fault of Heart Theology which is fatal. Unlike the understandable (lack of emphasis on God’s promised resources) and easily adjusted error of biblical counseling, The fatal error of Heart theology is its conflict with 1 Kings 8:39;

“then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind),

This verse emphatically states that only God can know the heart. The Holy Spirit makes it a point to use the subject (God [“you”] ) twice with no words in between (modifiers ect.). This is clearly for the purpose of strong emphasis. We cannot evaluate the heart in regard to idols. Besides, scripture often identifies sinful desires as being located in the “flesh” to begin with.

Though we depend on God’s strength, He would have us to focus on the objective and plain sense of Scripture. Following God’s wisdom and instruction is our role. Knowing and changing the heart is God’s business. Nobody ever said we change ourselves through obedience, Adams certainly never said that. We are to learn, apply, pray, obey inwardly (thinking), obey outwardly, seek wise counsel, love, encourage, instruct, rebuke, disciple, confess, and leave the changing and knowing of the heart to God. Adams said it best in a counseling conference: “The commands in the bible are not to the Holy Spirit, they are to us” and, “Quietism will ruin peoples lives.” There is no new reformation that narrows God’s precepts and wisdom for living to “deep repentance” that requires us to know our hearts. We cannot know our hearts, only God can. If there has been any reformation in the past 30 years, it has been the ability to apply the word of God to  every  issue of life and godliness.