Biblical Counselling as an Aid to Control the Church
This is part of a larger document called The Gospel of New Calvinism which covers both the gospel and Biblical Counselling of new calvinism today.
New calvinism is a term loosely applied to a syncretistic belief system based upon the merging of Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) beliefs and traditional calvinist beliefs. It was a Seventh Day Adventist with calvinist leanings named Robert Brinsmead who was largely responsible for kick-starting what we call new calvinism today. Brinsmead led the Australian Forum (a think tank group of people to discuss calvinist SDA beliefs). In 1970 the Australian Forum commenced to spread its reformed or calvinist SDA views, and these views were taken up by Westminster Theological Seminary (USA).
Also, in 1970 Jay Adams of Westminster Seminary published “Competent to Counsel”, a document that would eventually lead to what we know today as the Biblical Counselling movement. But, the views of the Australian Forum were to also merge with the traditional calvinist views of Westminster Seminary to lead, firstly to Sonship Theology, which was then adapted and relabelled as new calvinism. The traditional calvinist views were to be transformed into the new calvinism of the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR), a phrase apparently coined for new calvinists by Christianity Today in 2006.
So what are the distinctives of new calvinism? It is clear that Brinsmead (with his Australian Forum) and Jay Adams (with his new direction on counselling) both played a major part in this new calvinist belief system. New calvinism is a fusion, a merging together, of traditional calvinism and SDA beliefs. Take the traditional calvinist gospel of the unconditional election which taught that if you were one of God’s elect, you were guaranteed your salvation forever. But if you didn’t persevere in the works of righteousness, then you were not one of God’s elect and therefore you were not going to heaven, ever. That is, one major sinful strike and you’re out!
However, add the SDA gospel which taught that if you fell into sin, you could choose to repent, confess and renounce your sin. In this way God would provide regular sanctification so that you could be regularly justified. Thus, you add the SDA fusion of an ongoing justification based upon an ongoing sanctification (which resulted from your ongoing repentance, confession and renouncing of sin).
This is a major tenet taught by new calvinists today, that we need an ongoing or daily justification.
As we sin daily, so he justifies daily, and we must daily go to him for it.
(Justification Vs Self-justification, The Gospel Coalition National Conference 13/04/11)
Calvinists could now sin and regain their justification and still have a guarantee of salvation at the end. And, the SDAs gained from this a guarantee of salvation which their old gospel didn’t give them.
(For further reading, see The New Calvinism Gospel post and The Gospel of New Calvinism.)
This new gospel of the new calvinists was a seller. That it wasn’t scripturally correct didn’t matter; when did being scripturally correct matter today in an age of such consumerism? (That is, you deliver the goods that the population wants, and they’ll beat a pathway to your door!) No longer did they have to, as calvinists, kick out those who sinned badly, and declaring them to be not of God’s elect. No, that was a thing of the past. Now, if a person could be convinced to repent, confess and renounce his sin, then he could remain in the church, for God would only have granted repentance to his elect. Losing members due to sinful behaviour had been a problem in the past. Not only did it lower the numbers in church (and, very importantly, the offering!) but it prevented the scandal of having sinful church members being the cause of others not coming to their church. But now even the sinners could stay (and play and pay!).
This was to form the basis of Sonship Theology, which taught that, as God’s children, Christians could sin, knowing that if they were of God’s elect, their God would always provide sufficient grace to reinstall them into fellowship. That is, if they were God’s elect, then they couldn’t do anything that would lose them their assurance of salvation.
If you can never be lost, then no sin you commit can ever change that fact. If you repented of your sin, then new calvinism taught that God had given repentance to you as a gift; thus that sin could not affect your salvation. Repentance was the evidence that God was demonstrating that his grace would overcome your sin. If you repented, it demonstrated that you were one of God’s elect. It was the lack of repentance that demonstrated that you couldn’t be one of God’s elect. Now the demonstration of your election had gone from living a puritan lifestyle to a willingness to be able to repent of and renounce any sin you committed!
But how do you administer such a loose belief system? If people may be permitted to sin, then repent, confess and renounce such sin in order to remain acceptable to their God (often for the sake of the church and its leaders!), then what’s to stop them from abusing this system? What’s to stop them from committing sin as and when they like, knowing that they’ll be still able to get up and continue running the race? What checks and balances are there in such a system? You don’t want to kick people out because a good business never kicks out its better customers. But you do need some form of control to prevent it turning into a sin free-for-all. You need “control”!
Enter Biblical Counselling! Over the centuries the catholic church has used the confessional to control its members. Originally known as nouthetic counselling, Biblical Counselling has now taken the place of the catholic confession. New calvinism theology required an ongoing repentance leading to ongoing justification, and Biblical Counselling would provide the practical means by which God’s “elect” would demonstrate their election by the repentance allegedly given to them as a gift from God.
Biblical Counsellors often encourage people to confess sins, telling them that sin is the basis for their problems, and that the removal of such sin is the first step toward solving their problems. If you have a problem, then sin is responsible somewhere, and that includes you. What sin might you have committed that could have helped cause the problem? If you have a problem with another person, for instance, what is your particular responsibility for what has happened. If your husband has been unfaithful to you, then what might you have done to lead to this happening? Perhaps if you’d been a better wife, then maybe this mightn’t have happened. Biblical Counsellors are seemingly more interested in keeping the peace in the church than they are with seeking actual truth. In fact, truth becomes a problem if it might get in the way of reconciliation!
Church leaders want their churches to be big, rich and successful. This means lots of people putting lots of money into the offering plates! Sinful behaviour and scandals aren’t helpful. Reconciliation for all is the name of the game, even if some truth has to be sacrificed for the sake of the unity of the brethren!
Of course, if these sinners had sinned against another member of that church community, then it required that those alleged victims of the sin (or crime as it would often turn out) also should forgive and forget such sin. If God had forgiven such sin, then those offended church members should be able to do no less than to also forgive and forget. The sinner was now reconciled to the new calvinist God and therefore the victims should likewise be reconciled to the sinner who had offended them – even if that sin was a crime such as child abuse or rape, wife-beating or being unfaithful to one’s spouse.
All this was usually dealt with under the heading of Biblical Counselling, in an effort to get the sinner to repent, confess and renounce his sin. And, of course, the victims were also counselled (biblically, of course!) to give up their feelings (of anger etc) that were not helping in the process of reconciliation. Biblical Counselling became a means by which the church and its leadership might try to retain control over a church which was breaking up due to the aggravated sin of some members.
But many victims of such crime became upset, when they saw the church accept the repentance and renouncing of the sin of the perpetrator. They couldn’t understand why the church was refusing to hand it over to the police, preferring to deal with it within the church body. The victims felt that the church had sided with the perpetrator at their expense, all for the sake of keeping the church “clean” from scandal. The sinner might have been “rescued” for God, but the victims were expected to deny justice to their family because it might harm the eternal security of the sinner. And it was best to keep it out of the hands of secular authorities too. The victim all too often then became the criminal, being treated as such by many churches. The anti-“whistle-blower” mentality is strong in churches that strive for success rather than the gospel. The catch-cry was the fight to maintain the unity of the church, even if it meant creating division to achieve such unity! Divisive elements could easily be persuaded to leave.
Because ongoing justification was dependent upon ongoing sanctification, and because it is to be expected that all will commit regular sin (even church members in good standing), then Biblical Counselling requires that all should be ready and willing to regularly confess sin, repenting and renouncing it. In this way all sin would hopefully be brought out into the open (and dealt with). If a Biblical Counsellor perceived (rightly or wrongly!) a problem with someone, he or she could report such confession to the church for possible disciplinary action. Such disciplinary action could lead to the one confessing a sin to be approached by the church, often in the public forum of a church members’ meeting or church service, in order to challenge that alleged “sinner’ with his or her sin, and a requirement that they deal with it. (Even if they had actually been the victim!)
Public naming and shaming is a part of the discipline of many new calvinist churches. Many also have discipline agreement documents that prospective members are required to sign before they may be permitted to join. Biblical Counselling can be used as a means of control of church members, especially in new calvinist churches such as C J Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries (which has also been extensively exposed as having child abuse problems within its ranks with alleged evidences of cover-up by church leaders – see https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/02/14/the-sex-abuse-scandal-that-devastated-a-suburban-megachurch-sovereign-grace-ministries/).
The confidentiality of the confessional has also been used to attempt control in new calvinist churches – see https://wonderingeagle.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/has-god-foreordained-an-alleged-child-sex-abuse-cover-up-in-sovereign-grace-ministrieschurches-is-that-why-cj-mahaney-is-so-sacred/ to see how C J Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries tried to blackmail one of his members.
It is good that a church should be able to counsel its members and good also that such counselling be Biblical. However, counsellors accredited with Biblical Counselling Australia (as most accredited church counsellors in Australia are today) are neither Biblical, nor good counsellors. And if you feel you have the need of a Biblical Counsellor, be very careful what you say, for what you say may be taken down as evidence and used against you. (Except that they don’t have to read you your “rights” before they start the interrogation!)
In conclusion, when looking for a suitable church to attend, try to avoid those who advertise Biblical Counselling, as it is all too often a euphemism for overly strict discipline and control of its members. And don’t sign a discipline agreement before joining a church. Church discipline is certainly a necessary part of a Christian’s life; all of us must be accountable to someone somewhere for our actions. But when counselling is used for the purposes of establishing authority, rather than helping the person, it becomes a controlling whip in the hands of the church. Control without compassion is a dictatorship.