Another Example of “Biblical Counseling” that is Enslaving
Christians must always face the threat of man-made traditions being taught as if they were the Word of God. This is how we are brought into bondage and robbed of the freedom for which Christ redeemed us (Gal 5:1ff). Preachers, church teachers, theologians, and fellow Christians confidently repeat the “company line” without ever truly thinking through what they are claiming to be the teaching of Scripture. We are commanded to be diligent and careful in our study and application of God’s Word, workmen in the field of Scripture that will not have to be ashamed when Christ comes. We are to “cut it straight” as Paul told Timothy. Yet today we often see more jagged ripping than straight cutting.
When we hear some pastor or “biblical” counselor confidently make assertions, telling us that we are bound before God to do or to not do…whatever, we need to be very careful that it really is God’s command and not that of man. Today I heard just such an example of a counselor/pastor making this kind of statement that, in my opinion, is not biblical and will most certainly bring the oppressed into further bondage at the hands of the wicked. Here is the statement taken from this fellow’s blog:
As counselors we often come across counselees who are lax in keeping their commitments. A successful and capable woman who is married to a lazy selfish man may realize that she could find a better husband. A father who promises to attend an event with his son on a Saturday, only to be offered great seats at the big game at the last minute, may be tempted to abandon his commitment to his son in order to take the better offer….Expect to do some difficult things for the sake of keeping your commitments. There will be times when you may regret having made a promise, but must still keep it. The capable woman with the lazy husband made a commitment before God, and she must keep it (Matthew 19:6).
He is referring to Psalm 15 which reads:
A Psalm of David. O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psa 15:1-5)
As you can see, this writer takes that phrase “who swears to his own hurt and does not change” and authoritatively announces that “the capable woman with the lazy [and selfish] husband made a commitment before God, and she must keep it.” (Italics mine). He then cites Matthew 19:6 as further support:
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
There is soooo much wrong with this fellow’s use of God’s Word here that it is difficult to know where to begin. I will just make a start and number the points off:
- Why does he zero in on a wife who is the one who wants out of her marriage? In doing so, you see, he places the onus upon the woman to keep her marriage vow. But she IS keeping her vows! Her husband is the one who is breaking his vows! So why has this teacher set the crosshairs on HER?
- The scenario is described in minimizing language. “Selfish and lazy.” Now think this through very carefully. Selfish and lazy. Have you ever known a selfish and lazy man who is married? What did that selfishness and laziness look like? I can tell you. It is no mere Huck Finn skipping school to go catfishing down at the Ol’ Missisip. Oh no. Read about him further in Proverbs where he is called the “sluggard.” This “selfish and lazy” man is a wicked man. He is worse than an unbeliever because he will not provide for his own. He is without empathy and expects his wife to wait upon him, grabbing any income she gets and spending it on drugs or alcohol or toys. I have another name for such a man. He is an abuser. He is abusing his wife. He has regularly, habitually, and without repentance broken his marriage covenant. And that is grounds for divorce.
- The writer quotes Matthew 19:6, one verse out of context, giving readers the impression that filing for divorce for any reason is to break one’s vow and invoke God’s displeasure. Remember, David Instone-Brewer wrote a book about the New Testament teaching (including the Old Testament and Rabbinic backdrop) on marriage and divorce. But this blog post just tosses this one verse out there as support for the position that, well, too bad lady. You married that lazy, selfish, no-good and now you are stuck with him. HE can break his vows all he wants to with impunity.
- The writer is well known in the “biblical counseling” movement. The nouthetic stuff that we encourage people to run from. And in this movement there is a persistent notion that with Bible in hand a counselor can “fix” things. Fix an abuser. Fix an abusive marriage. Fix a selfish, lazy, sluggard. People in this school of counseling are extremely hesitant to just come right out and say it, abuse is biblical grounds for divorce. To do so would bring the wrath and rejection of one’s fellow counselors down upon you. So you won’t find clarity in the literature of this kind of counseling.
What is the true application of this phrase in Psalm 15, “who swears to his own hurt and does not change”? It is this. “Mr. Sluggard, Mr. selfish, lazy, abuser of your wife, breaker of your marriage covenant, YOU will never see God’s holy hill. You will not be allowed into the Lord’s presence. He is going to cast you away into the outer darkness because YOU wickedly destroyed your wife and your marriage covenant. And God hates that violence.”
The kind of teaching then that this article contains brings Christ’s people into bondage. It enables the wicked and oppresses the innocent. And it is all around us today in the churches, in “Christian” books, in “biblical counseling” seminars. Everywhere.
Christian, Christ has set you free. Don’t permit anyone to counterfeit God’s Word with man’s tradition and rob you of that freedom.
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