Two guys I really like kind of have some contradictory posts going on that I found rather interesting, so allow me to toss my hat in the ring.
The first is Sam Powell, in a post called The Leaven of the Pharisee. He addresses some of his concerns about Nouthetic (or Biblical) counseling. I can’t say he’s wrong at all, I have seen some counseling atrocities, some train wrecks. The first thing I’d say is that the dynamic and power structure itself is all wrong.
It’s kind of like how you’re just walking down the street and piano suddenly falls on your head. A lot of biblical counseling goes, oh well obviously we have sin issues here. We need to fix what’s broken with you. Uh no, you just need to get this darn piano off my head. Everybody has sin issues, that’s to be expected. Our sin issues rarely cause pianos to fall out of the sky and drop on our heads. Also, I can’t possibly begin to heal until you get this darn piano off of me…..
Often there’s nothing “broken” at all, people are responding in a totally healthy and natural way to being trapped beneath a piano. This is not a “mental health disorder” or a “sin issue,” this is simply life not conforming to how a counselor believes it should go. A lot of Christians probably need to read the book of Job and pay special attention to his “friends,” Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite.
Also, keep in mind Job was a righteous man, God said, and his troubles have absolutely nothing to do with his alleged sin issues or his poor choices.
Conversely however, we have Rick Thomas. He does some good work, mostly around discipleship. Here’s one of his articles, “Is Your Church a Preaching Center or a Discipleship Community?” The dynamic is right, the focus is much more clear. Who are we in Jesus Christ supposed to be encouraging, counseling, mentoring, and discipling? One another. Like, your Christian counselors should be all around you…..
This whole idea that we are all suffering from mental health disorders or that we need “Christian teaching” to straighten us all out, is deeply flawed. It’s flawed in the sense that generally what afflicts us is relationship challenges and fractures….. stemming from a lack of discipleship and poor relationships.
Some studies have shown that what makes for healthy, thriving churches is actually discipleship. Rather then saying there’s something wrong with you discipleship says, you’re one of us now. Now when piano falls on your head, you have a support system in place, encouragement, and the tools you need to get through it.
Ha! And a bit like a Roadrunner cartoon, this time when Wiley Coyote drops an anvil on you, you might have friends to hand you some dynamite…..
Had this discussion recently about a homeless woman, homeless for decades. She doesn’t have a resource problem, she has a poverty of spirit, a soul wound, a relationship fracture. You just can’t heal that by placing her in housing or giving her money. Those things have been done many times over, for some 30 years now.
As Christians we often want to pass the buck, ship someone off to counseling, or tell them to just snap out of it, or speedily address the immediate physical needs, while completely ignoring the spiritual. That’s because discipleship costs us something, it requires an emotional investment and a relationship. We have to actually love one another.