ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Biblical Counseling, Guest Post, Master's University / Master's Seminary, Spiritual Bullies

Guest Post: If “Jane” from TMU were to seek “Biblical counseling” #DoYouSeeUs

Biblical Counseling, Nouthetic Counseling, “Jane” #DoYouSeeUs, John MacArthur, The Master’s University


Rebecca Davis, who writes at Here’s the Joy blog, has graciously allowed me to post her new article here. She has been a long-time friend of SSB. I really appreciate this article because in it, Rebecca describes the nouthetic, aka “Biblical counseling,” process that was likely used with Jane. Note: It is my understanding that Biblical counseling is the accepted counseling by John MacArthur.

In Rebecca’s article, take special note how nouthetic counseling works with abuse victims, and contemplate how it might fail to work. It’s one thing to use nouthetic counseling in a normal relationship situation where there is sin on both sides; however, in Jane’s story, she is the victim of rape. A victim is not in sin when they are raped. In nouthetic counseling, part of the counselor’s job is to discover the counselee’s sin and repent of it. So, Jane, a rape victim, would need to discover her sin!


No victim chooses to be raped. If a woman were to walk down the street naked, it still does not give a man the right to rape her. In order to have sex with someone, there must be consent, or else it is rape. There is no consent when date rape drugs are used, period (in Jane’s story, the date rape drug was used).

Before getting started with Rebecca’s article, I want to share a quote that Jane texted me about the “counseling” she received from Leslie Davis, her resident director. Keep this in mind as you read the article:

“Leslie confronted me on multiple occasions over numerous days attempting to find fault, blame, and dissect my account of my rape. She focused on my “heart issues” and constantly accused me of lying to cover up what she thought was consensual, and initiated by hidden sins of lust.” ~”Jane”


If “Jane” from TMU were to seek

“Biblical counseling”


As Providence would have it, when “Jane’s” account of rape in the environment of The Master’s University went viral last week (link), I was barely aware, because I was cleaning bathrooms and listening to lectures on abuse. One of them was “Helping Women with Child Sexual Abuse in Their Past,” by Zondra Scott, whose husband Stuart was coincidentally on the faculty of the Masters College and Seminary in the area of “Biblical counseling.” Her lecture can be heard here (link).

As I then read the original post about Jane with its many comments and then read a number of follow-up posts about Jane, I thought about Jane’s situation in light of the lectures I’d just been listening to.

Zondra Scott’s lecture is purportedly about childhood sexual abuse, but the only time the “childhood” aspect of it is mentioned is when she explains that if a child is currently in danger, then abuse of a child must be reported. It seemed that except for that, the counseling being taught here, which is called “Biblical counseling,” would apply to Jane’s situation.

The term “Biblical counseling,” which has been appropriated by a certain set of counselors, implies that theirs is the only way to counsel Biblically. But since there are indeed other ways to counsel Biblically, and what is now called Biblical counseling used to be called nouthetic counseling, that’s what I’ll call it here.

I’ll give a brief outline of this very typical nouthetic counseling approach, but you can listen to the whole thing here (link) to get it in its totality.

Nouthetic counseling for the abused: the first steps

The speaker tells her fellow nouthetic counselors to start with compassion, to weep with the one who was abused, but then to move on to hope“You don’t want to belabor her pain and suffering. That won’t help her; in fact, it can be cruel. Psychology says her answers lie in getting in touch with her pain, but this is not true.”

The second step is “gathering data” [a common term in nouthetic counseling which sounds cold and clinical and even extra-biblical]. Don’t belabor how severe the abuse was, just get basic facts.

Next is to help her reconcile what has happened, through a Biblical worldview of God’s master plan: the Fall, sin, and suffering, and God’s heart to respond through the gospel.

“The goal of the first few sessions is for her to emerge with a high, perfect, and benevolent view of God. She must come to that. She’ll be doing her homework in that, and there are a ton of verses about it. The power is in the verses. She needs to see this, and she can.”

She must repent of any wrong views of God, embracing that the suffering is no indication of God’s unfaithfulness or indifference. Rather it indicates His desire and purpose to love her more, to be God to her, to be good to her, bringing glory to Himself. [I found this part difficult to understand.]

She needs to understand her identity in Christ, that it’s about God, not about us. This will bring true joy and Christ-like change.

She must have a focus on God and others.

She is both able and responsible to change in Christ. She doesn’t need to be defined by it or enslaved to her patterns she has developed.

Nouthetic counseling for the abused: how to change in Christ

As initially impacting as this hurtful and wicked sin is, the long-lasting effects come from the heart. Proverbs 19:3 says, “A person’s own folly begins their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” Effects come from what goes on in her own mind and heart (her beliefs and conclusions about God), how she complicates things with her own sin, and her own fallen nature, fallen condition, and brokenness from the Fall.

The gospel in her daily thinking has got to make a difference to her practically, with all its promises and obligations.

Change is dependent on the Word of God. Besides the Bible, the key players in her change are God, her, and the church.

The “put on put off” principle: She needs to exercise herself to godliness.

She needs to learn to live for God’s glory and needs to depend on the grace of God.

Nouthetic counseling for the abused: dealing with the past

Help her differentiate between guilt and shame. Talk about the innocent difficult past (she was sinned against and is not responsible) and the guilty response past. These may be understandable but are still sin and destructive, such as false refuges, idols, adulterous acts, busy-ness, overworking, novels, cutting, misuse of food or sleep, an idolatrous lust such as a deep soul-satisfying relationship, bitterness, anger, distrust of God, self-pity, victim mentality, comparing, lack of focusing on God and others, self preservation, fears, purging, wrong priorities, deceit, lack of love, fearing man rather than God, etc [these are only a few of the many “sinful” responses listed]. Address these sins; don’t shy away from them. Also address the guilty past not directly related to a response to the abuse. And the God-glorifying past.

Help her put her past in its place, through confession, thankfulness, repentance, etc. Help her outline troubling or sinful thoughts and memories, including flashbacks. She needs to gain control over fearful, inaccurate thoughts about God and herself.

Nouthetic counseling for the abused: renewing the mind

Help her develop new thinking with specific Scriptures and her own specific prayers. She should be changing her habits to righteous alternatives. She should be changing her victim mentality. She needs to be alert to the spiritual battle and her armor becasue Satan has had strongholds in her life, probably for a long time.

She needs to learn how to develop healthy relationships. She needs to confront and forgive the abuser (without bitterness or vengeance). This is not forgiveness for her, it’s for God’s glory and for the other’s good. She may need to report to law enforcement if children are in danger. “Most abusers do not abuse just one child.”  [These are the only two times the abuser is mentioned in the lecture.]

If Jane were to go for nouthetic counseling

I had no trouble believing that Jane could have been invited into a room and seated next to “the stranger” who raped her in order to immediately forgive him, not only because I’ve heard so many similar accounts before, some from people I know very well, but also because this is taught by the nouthetic counselors themselves.

If even now Jane, having been raped ten or so years ago by “the stranger” associated with The Master’s Seminary students, were to come to a nouthetic counselor such as this, she would find that the focus is off the wickedness that was perpetrated on her and the concommitant trauma and betrayal, and is instead on to her own sin. That is, no matter what had happened, no matter how bad it was, if Jane had been used in pornography and sex trafficking, still the focus would be on Jane’s sin.

What didn’t the speaker say . . . about abuse?

Notice that with all the focus on the person’s own sin, there was no mention of trauma and its definition, I assume because the Bible never uses the word (though some, such as Chris Haugee, here, have discussed the trauma-informed care of Jesus Himself). There is no place in this counseling to work through the deceit and betrayal of sexual assault. In fact, the terminology of abuse (perpetrator, predator, molestation, assault, rape, pornography, sex trafficking, etc) is even avoided.

Shame and confusion both get only a tiny mention in the lecture, but in abuse survivors like Jane, the shame and confusion can be overwhelming, so overwhelming that at least at first the counselee often can’t even listen to the Bible verses at all.

The speaker barely mentions flashbacks and fails to mention dissociation at all, even though in abused children the dissociation is sometimes so severe as to develop separate identities. (Counselors will have to figure out how to deal with this on their own, I guess, because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible.)

What didn’t the speaker say . . . about Christian growth?

The speaker failed to mention several important things (such as the conflict between intellectual assent and heart belief, the impossibility of pleasing God unless we live by faith, the larger aspects of spiritual warfare, and others). But the omission that astonished me the most—and never fails to astonish me from nouthetic counselors, though it is so common—is that in all her two hours the speaker never once mentioned the Holy Spirit. She talked about God, Christ, you, and especially the Word of God. She talked about how “the power is in the verses,” even though that is incorrect. (The devils also believe and tremble; Satan quoted verses to Jesus.) Instead, the power to live the Christian life comes through faith in Jesus Christ, in a life lived in the Holy Spirit.

Ignoring the Holy Spirit in Christian counseling—which is so very unbiblical—is a problem I first became aware of in 2008. I wrote about it extensively at the time and later published it here (link).

If I were to “Biblically counsel”

Since and one of the tenets of “Biblical counseling” is that any mature believer who knows the Scriptures is qualified to counsel, and I’ve been getting to know the Scriptures for 40 years, I’ll present an alternative view of “Biblical counseling.”

First, if I were to “Biblically counsel” a young woman like Jane who’d been raped or abused, I’d see it as part of my calling to grieve this tragedy and trauma with her. As she even tries to wrap her mind around the enormity of the evil, I would see part of my responsibility as simply being a good listener, being a “receiver” of her story to grieve with her (rather than a data gatherer in order to find out where she’s sinning). This is Biblical, as we can see that Job, for example, needed others who would grieve with him over his great and tragic loss.

Often what needs to be grieved is a tremendous betrayal. Sometimes, as in the account Jane gave (and accounts of many others I know), the betrayal extends beyond the original perpetrator to others, such as church or school authorities, who should have cared for her but instead shamed and blamed her and punished her.  I’ll remind her that Jesus Himself was betrayed by someone who had decided to join with evil, so He knows this pain personally.

She may well speak of wanting justice or wanting to protect others from this wicked person or letting others know that the church or school is unsafe. Instead of telling her to forgive or to leave it in God’s hands, my Biblical counseling will tell her that God is a God of justice who tells His people to take up the defense of the poor and needy. I’ll use Scriptures such as Proverbs 31:9; 29:7; Psalm 82:2-4; Leviticus 19:15; Isaiah 58:6-7; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 5:26-27; Jeremiah 22:3, and many others. Then I’ll tell her that when she’s ready I’ll support her in her efforts, reminding her that this action isn’t to be expected to accomplish healing, because ultimately healing comes through Jesus Christ.

At some point we’ll talk about how forgiveness is necessary, but I’ll make crystal clear what forgiveness means and doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean reconciliation. It doesn’t mean pretending the heinous crime never happened. It doesn’t mean never talking to anyone about the crime. It simply means opening the hands to release the debt that the offender has against the one who has been harmed. This is the Biblical meaning of the word forgiveness.

I agree that she needs to understand her identity in Christ. I’d want to spend a lot of time on that, because there’s so much beauty there and many excellent Scriptures that tell us who we are in Christ. Who Christ is in us is also very important. I’d be praying for her often that the Holy Spirit would fully reveal to her these Scriptural truths and how they apply in her life.

But even beyond that, for those who have been abused, sometimes the violation has been so severe that their very personhood has been threatened. I want to assure her that she is valuable just as a person, simply by virtue of existing. I’ll assure her that those unborn babies that Christians want to protect are not more valuable than she is. I’ll explain that when her basic human and civil rights were violated, this was an invasion of her personhood that angers God, who will take up her cause. This is very Biblical.

When she’s ready for help with her Biblical worldview I’ll want to help her grasp a more vivid picture of the cosmic battle that is playing out across the ages, good against evil, God and His people against the forces of wickedness. I’d show Scriptural examples of that cosmic battle, and I’d show Biblical evidence that God’s side wins.

But in the meantime, because there is evil—and evil has no significant definition unless it is executed against the eternal souls of human beings—people will be harmed by wickedness. It is a horrible fact, a tragic fact, but a fact nonetheless. And one way that happens is that wolves put on sheep’s clothing and go into the churches and the seminaries and the Christian schools. Yes, this change of paradigm can be like a fault line in an earthquake. But it is true, and very Biblical.

I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “That person committed wickedness. That was evil. You were the victim of a heinous act. It was not your fault.” And I might repeat that many times over. This would be Biblical.

I would confess to the woman sitting across from me that I too have cried out to God “How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked triumph?” And I’ll show that long ago David asked the same question. This would be Biblical.

But a Biblical worldview—the Biblical worldview I’ll present in my imaginary Biblical counseling room—is one that doesn’t really try to fully reconcile what cannot be reconciled by reasoning, but only by the Spirit of God. God is good but He allows evil. How do we reconcile this except by divine revelation? So I would tell her that I’m praying God will help bring her a deep sense of His goodness and His presence in spite of the evil that has been perpetrated on her, because we are in a cosmic battle.

I’ll remind her that she’s in this cosmic battle whether she wants to be or not. She is called, if she is a believer, to participate in the battle, by faith and prayer and truth. If she is unable because of weakness or confusion or other reason, then other believers are called upon to undertake this battle on her behalf.

I would not tell her to “repent of wrong views of God.”  This would be driving the sheep, when the sheep need to be led. Instead of pushing her, I want to remind her that ultimately God’s power of love is greater, not just in eternity, not just in history, but even in her very soul. As she learns to trust Him—sometimes trust Him again—she’ll find a deeper level of knowing and loving Him than she’s known before. I’ll emphasize Ephesians 3:14-21 in this regard, telling her I’m praying as Paul prayed that by the power of the Holy Spirit she’ll know Jesus Christ in her experience in a way that is beyond knowing in the intellect.

We’ll talk about any confusion she may be experiencing, and I’ll remind her that Satan is the author of confusion. If necessary, I’ll help her untwist Scriptures that have been used in false teachings to try to keep her in bondage.

I’ll refer to the change God wants to bring about in her life after this trauma as “healing” because “healing” is a Biblical term too. I’ll encourage her that as she learns to listen to the Holy Spirit, when He makes her aware of sin in her life (through the Scriptures or through other means such as internal conviction), to confess the sin, thank Him for revealing it, by faith turn to Him and away from the sin. This is the “coming to her senses” that is true repentance. But I won’t start labeling as sin all her responses to abuse, only those specifically mentioned in the Bible.

Her Christian growth will come by faith in the living Son of God who has accomplished all her sanctification for her, who invites her to stop striving to fulfill her own holiness and come to Him for rest, through time spent with Him in prayer and in the Word, and simply learning to enjoy Him, as David did. I’ll tell her that just as the battle is a cosmic one, on a battlefield that is not to be seen with this eye of flesh, so this transformation that is to take place in her life will not be by her fleshly efforts, but by faith. This is Biblical.

And I will offer hope, the Biblical kind, over and over. This anticipation and expectation will be that she’ll come through this dark valley of the shadow of death to a large place, a place of joy, because the Good Shepherd cares for her soul. As she trusts Him in this dark place, she’ll come out on the other side stronger, wiser, with greater capacity, and far more prepared for battle. This too is Biblical.

The “counseling” I suggest looks quite different from what was presented at the seminar. But this is also based in the Scriptures, and so it can also be called “Biblical counseling.” I’d like to emphasize that those who claim the term do not have a monopoly on the definition.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a sexual abuse survivor’s analysis of and response to the nouthetic counseling (also called “Biblical counseling”) she received in another school environment.
*Update 9-30-17 That post has now been published, and you can read it here.

38 thoughts on “Guest Post: If “Jane” from TMU were to seek “Biblical counseling” #DoYouSeeUs”

  1. Thank you for a wonderful explanation on the proper counseling for rape victims.

    And thank you for explaining the twisted thinking that nouthetic counselors employ. That corrupt system of biblical counseling uses methods that are ungodly and unbiblical.

    It’s shocking that nouthetic counselors can’t grieve with the victim, discuss betrayal, trauma, or tragedy. These topics are off limits, despite the Bible’s constant comfort in such times.

    I feel sorry for the victims of destructive behavior who’ve been abused this way. by heartless pastors and leaders.

    I hope the victims know they are valuable to the Lord, and he wishes to comfort and protect them, and right the wrongs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I keep on finding everything twisted upside down in this respect. It seems like there are two basic stories in Job. The first story is that God allowed bad things to happen to Job that Job did not deserve. The second story is that God was able to use ongoing suffering to uncover a sin issue (Job justified himself rather than God) that allowed Job to grow.

    Now, the interesting thing is that Nouthetic Counseling is precisely what Job’s three friends were doing. They said, God would never allow you to suffer unless you had committed some sin, and the greater the suffering, the more significant the sin. God ultimately requires the friends to repent of their improper view of the situation. I keep coming back to Jesus. He suffered the ultimate price, more than we will ever know, without ever sinning. But, I keep thinking that there is a bad theological underpinning in this whole Nouthetic thing that a person who is suffering is being punished by God. Suffering does not equal God’s displeasure. It’s been shown over and over again. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “which prophets did you not persecute?”

    I agree with the post – a victim may be processing trauma in a “sinful” way, that needs to be repented of, but that doesn’t mean that somehow the trauma itself was caused by some sin. I didn’t choose to be born into an emotionally abusive family, yet I do have sinful patterns – sinful coping mechanisms – that I think keep me from experiencing the joy of a fulfilling relationship with God.


  3. I was thinking, as I read how nouthetic counselors rapidly go from the trauma of being a victim to preventing or pointing out sinful responses, of the description of Christ, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoking flax he will not quench.” Christ didn’t rub salt into the wounds of people like Mary when she complained that if Jesus had been there her brother wouldn’t have died; instead, he wept with her. Nouthetic counselling isn’t really Biblical.

    About date rape drugs, and those who try to question the fact that the woman is not responsible for what happens after being given such drugs: It occurs to me that we have a case related in the Bible of rape after administration of what is often used in date rape, alcohol. The account is very clear in stating, that Lot, whatever may have been his other failings, had no responsibility in what his daughters did after they got him drunk. Also, Noah is said to have not known what he was doing when drunk.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rebecca,

    Thank you for writing this. What an incredible difference between the two approaches. Your post will be quite helpful to those looking for help and a reminder to all of us on how to offer loving counsel.

    I wasn’t sure where the post was going when I read “whose husband Stuart…faculty of the Masters College and Seminary in the area of “Biblical counseling”, however you chose a great example for comparison purposes.

    I’m sure you are aware, but others might not know that Stuart Scott’s book “The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective” is the bible with a little b of how to be a husband and sits on most every shelf of any man with Grace/Masters connections. In the wife’s corner you will find the companion book “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace.

    Thanks again!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post! Thank you for sharing. Those who offer “Biblical” counseling to their church goers should not be allowed to counsel abuse victims. Their focus on sin and the inability to deal with abuse with trauma informed care only heaps more abuse on the victim. No wonder there are stories of people who have PTSD due to their experiences in church environments.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “an idolatrous lust such as a deep soul-satisfying relationship” This is included in the list of sins that an “innocent difficult past” may have committed?!?? WHAT??? No wonder I question the marriages of most of the nuttiest women of Christian Patriarchy. They are being told that having a soul-satisfying relationship with another person is a sin, which is why they’re often married to men who are full of unforgivable faults. I expect that these women, when they think deep enough, don’t love their husbands as much as they could (would if they weren’t awful men to start with) and are happy with that because it leaves more room for Jesus.

    Suddenly “God first, husband second, me last” makes so much more sense! And I suddenly weep for these women who have been abused in this form.

    This one line strikes me hardest because all the other “sins” are the natural reaction to being abused, but this one…this one is the thing that all people should strive for and calling it a sin is an abomination! No wonder these people are so messed up and need help!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This was a great article, btw. From the bad counseling part:

    Talk about the innocent difficult past (she was sinned against and is not responsible) and the guilty response past. These may be understandable but are still sin and destructive, such as false refuges, idols, adulterous acts, busy-ness, overworking, novels, cutting, misuse of food or sleep, an idolatrous lust such as a deep soul-satisfying relationship, bitterness, anger, distrust of God, self-pity, victim mentality, comparing, lack of focusing on God and others, self preservation, fears, purging, wrong priorities, deceit, lack of love, fearing man rather than God, etc [these are only a few of the many “sinful” responses listed]. Address these sins; don’t shy away from them.

    I feel like you could do an entire article on how crazy this list of supposed sins is. Self preservation is a sin? Busyness? Fearing Man after one has been violently attacked potentially? And, as I already mentioned, novels blows my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Julie Anne,

    Re: Abusive Theology

    I’ve been thinking about this article on nouthetic counseling ever since you posted it.

    For many of us who’ve been saturated in the Bible since infancy, sometimes we don’t always see misuses of Scripture until it’s put into story form.

    This story is excellent for understanding abusive theology applied to people who are in pain.

    Scripture can be handled rightly or toxically.—To take life and to give life.

    Nouthetic counseling is cruel. It kicks people when they are down.

    That’s not what Jesus did.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. How can you tell if you are in a church that uses toxic nouthetic counseling if they merely call it “biblical counseling”?

    In my former church one pastor keep referring to “the sufficiency of Scripture in all things.” To a normal person, that might sound innocuous, like, Scripture tells us about God.

    But in a toxic church used by a toxic counselor, “sufficiency of Scripture in all things” can be a code phrase meaning:

    Only my interpretation of the Bible is acceptable. All others is heresy. (Arrogance.)
    No one has authority over your life but me. You cannot hear from God yourself. (“Lording it over” others.)
    “Psychology is ungodly,” because it interferes with my ability to control you and make you do/feel what I want.

    I got away from pastors like that early in life. And I had emotionally healthy pastors, who spoke out against that foolishness. That’s probably why I’m a Christian today.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “These may be understandable but are still sin and destructive, such as false refuges… busy-ness, overworking, novels…. a deep soul-satisfying relationship… comparing…self preservation, fears… wrong priorities… [etc.] Address these sins; don’t shy away from them.”
    The beauty of this approach (if you’re a religious legalist) is that absolutely anything can be interpreted as sinful, with the right spin on it.

    This gives the power-hungry leadership an unassailable device with which to accuse, browbeat and control others. Example…

    Wear make-up? Yes. You are a vain hussy and jezebel looking for trouble.

    Wear make-up? No. You are a rebellious wife who does not care about being sexually attractive to husband.

    Wear make-up? A little bit. Your priorities are wrong, the time it takes to put on make-up in the morning should be used in prayer.

    Wear make-up? A ton of it. Including false eyelashes and giant wigs. You are the wife of a multi-millionaire world-wide televangelist. Can we get you to endorse our newest book and have us as a guest on your show?

    Liked by 4 people

  11. In my former church one pastor keep referring to “the sufficiency of Scripture in all things.” To a normal person, that might sound innocuous, like, Scripture tells us about God.

    I think a lot of normal people in these systems assume that they will be applied with some common sense when they hear these things. So they mentally translate them into acceptable opinions, until something happens like when Jane – where they are struck face first with the crazy side of it. Otherwise you just assume these people will be rational. And kind. And decent.

    Then they are not.

    SongOFJoy, yes. That is exactly how it works. This is how people, women in particular in these orgs, often simply can not win. If you don’t suck up to them, everything you do is wrong. They will find a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Re: Overworking. It’s a mixture of good and bad advice.

    Someone who is an obsessive smoker may go to a therapist and the therapist helps them stop smoking. However, they start overeating. They go to the therapist for overeating and compulsively chew gum.

    In this case, the reward of the habits have been a coping mechanism for trauma, and a healthier coping mechanism is much better than an unhealthy coping mechanism, but there is still some underlying issue that needs to be resolved.

    I would say that overworking is my coping mechanism. Working makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something and that is an antidote for the worthlessness I felt growing up. My thought life somewhat is anchored in that worthlessness and working hard is a mask I wear to convince others and myself that I’m really not as worthless as they might otherwise think.

    I don’t think Nouthetic Counseling would be a good approach for me. They would focus on the overworking, perhaps, and not the worthlessness, which means that I would probably replace the overworking with some other compulsive behavior, and since I’ve tried different stuff and overworking seems to be the least harmful, I doubt that anything I would replace it with would be less sinful.

    Re: Control. Absolutely this. ‘Biblical’ is a code-word in Evangelical circles for the appeal to authority fallacy. If it were simply “Nouthetic”, I think we could have a debate about the pros and cons of the approach, but because it’s “Biblical”, all the sudden we are arguing against God and his chosen representative(TM). That’s why I typically ignore books like “Parenting children God’s way” and the like because the author is trying to insert him/herself into a position of unquestioned authority, which is bad news, and usually the advice is similarly authoritarian.


  13. I had some counselling a lot like this from a church I went to..very shaming…it was my sin,and my fault, and I wasn’t working hard enough on forgiving and moving beyond my past…Alls I needed was to memorise scripture to keep the bad nightmares away and the flashbacks from coming…I left there and Im going to a Masters level Christian councillor who deals with Trauma…not only working on my past abuse but also the abusive church issues from incorrect counselling methods

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you for this well thought out and articulate post. I studied counselling at TMU during the same era Jane was there and it never sat right with me, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I haven’t really spent any time or energy thinking about it over the last decade, but reading this post scratched a mental itch I forgot I had. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Could you please explain what you mean by “opening the hands to release the debt that the offender has against the one who has been harmed”? I don’t understand what the metaphor means. Thanks


  16. I didn’t see the link at the very bottom of this post until just now:

    For some excellent examples of how to use the Bible better in counseling see this post by Rebecca (the same person who authored this post).

    She tells another woman’s story. It’s similar to “Jane’s” but it took place a Bob Jones University. The woman does a good job of showing bad biblical counseling and later showing how the Bible could have been used to bring comfort, care, and healing (scroll to the bottom):


    Liked by 2 people

  17. Myra and Darlene, forgiveness is something I want to write about more, but I wish there were two different words for the two kinds of “forgiveness.” One is the heart transaction between me and God that says, “I’ll cancel the debt he owes me. He doesn’t have to repay it. (It would be absolutely impossible for him to pay it anyway.)” The heart transaction is the only one I have complete autonomy over–it’s dependent on no one but me.

    The other kind is the interpersonal transaction that takes place between two people after the first kind has taken place: when the offender is truly repentant (rather than just “saying sorry”) and asks for forgiveness, and it’s granted by the one who has already accomplished that heart transaction with God.

    My post above mentioned things that forgiveness doesn’t include, like reconciling or forgetting, etc. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean that societal judgment shouldn’t still take place, through a virtuous court system. When a crime is committed, it isn’t simply a crime against an individual, it’s a crime against the larger society. A criminal should be punished by his society in order for all to live in peace and order, with right triumphing and wrong being punished. That’s why when a crime is reported, it doesn’t matter if the individual has forgiven or not–a criminal will still be prosecuted.

    Zondra Scott in her lecture talked about how Biblical forgiveness isn’t “therapeutic forgiveness,” for the individual who was harmed, but is for the other person and for God. I strongly disagree. Of course it’s for the individual who was harmed. Heart forgiveness frees the person from being chained to the one he or she formerly hadn’t forgiven. I would also say that when an offender is truly transformed from within so that he has “come to his senses” (repentance), the forgiveness granted transactionally also benefits him. And God is glorified in both.

    Sorry for the long reply! I think there are a lot of misunderstandings about the concept of forgiveness. I’ve seen helpful blog posts about it in various places, and two of the books I worked on also talk about it at length, “Unholy Charade” and “Tear Down This Wall of Silence.”

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Perhaps the absolutely WORST “Christian” movie I have ever seen would be “Loving the Bad Man.” According to the theology presented in this flick if you are raped by a stranger and are a real Christian you will effortlessly forgive him overnight. Then, take the baby he forced you to conceive and visit him in prison with a cute little scrapbook and tell him you love him and want the three of you to be a family. (Ewww!)

    The blonde ditz (no offense to you intelligent blonde women) acts like she is in love with her rapist. Am I the only one who thinks this is a Christianized version of Saturday Night Fever? Pretty grotesque distortion of “loving your enemy” and agape as opposed to eros. Eros isn’t even mentioned in the New Testament, btw.

    I was only able to forgive the kids who sexually harassed me for in high school when I realized three important things.

    They really hurt me. The damage was real.
    They did evil; they had no right to treat anyone that way.
    I had a right to be angry and even yearn for justice.

    Pretending someone’s pain is not real or important, that the perp is an okay guy who meant no harm, and that you must suck it up and smile or God won’t love you….A load of bovine excrement!

    Weird how no one heaps shame and guilt on the rapist. Reminds me of Shariah Law in the Middle East where they stone rape victims for adultery and the rapist pays a small fine. If that.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Another thing, pretending the creep did no wrong and didn’t hurt you cuts off the possibility of forgiveness. We only forgive injuries; we don’t forgive friends who take us out on picnics for example.

    And acknowledging the fact that you are waiving all rights to justice will cause more grief for a while. So, no, forgiveness will most likely make you feel worse in the short term. Though in the long run it does provide healing.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Perhaps the absolutely WORST “Christian” movie I have ever seen would be “Loving the Bad Man.” According to the theology presented in this flick if you are raped by a stranger and are a real Christian you will effortlessly forgive him overnight. Then, take the baby he forced you to conceive and visit him in prison with a cute little scrapbook and tell him you love him and want the three of you to be a family. (Ewww!)

    WHAT??? Idk what to even do with this. Is that a real movie?


  21. I’d just add that I believe reconciliation and forgiveness are different. I believe it’s possible to give interpersonal forgiveness without reconciling. I can forgive a person a debt without being required to lend the person any more money.


  22. From above: “…..The speaker barely mentions flashbacks and fails to mention dissociation at all, even though in abused children the dissociation is sometimes so severe as to develop separate identities. (Counselors will have to figure out how to deal with this on their own, I guess, because it isn’t mentioned in the Bible.)…..”

    My nouthetic counselor told me I was being selfish & self-centered when I mentioned I experienced flashbacks or would dissociate when something was going on. They told me all I had to do was take my thoughts captive, voila!, all would be well. Another formula I couldn’t make work…. They encouraged me to stay in the situation & not even speak up. They discouraged me from setting & enforcing boundaries.

    In my opinion, this type of “counseling” is soul-numbing & destructive. I praise God for opening my eyes when He did, to the BS I was being fed. I pray for others who are seeking help from God’s Word, that they not fall prey to these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Rosie, I can completely relate with you about taking every thought captive. That is exactly what was told to me. Another one was “perfect love casts out fear,” so if I was still having flashbacks, I must still have fear. They didn’t get that flashbacks come when you least expect it, even during times where everything is going well. They are not proficient to help in these difficult kinds of cases. I’m glad you saw through all of that nonsense! Thanks for your comment!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Lea, yes it is a real movie. 😛 Some folks don’t like The War Room, but compared to that stink bomb WR is Oscar worthy!

    I watched it because a lady pastor nagged me into watching it with her. She has an extensive collection of stink bombs more or less “Christian” in content. If I were Catholic I could watch it every Friday of Lent as penance for my sins. It would also help me fast afterwards, since it will kill your appetite.

    Nan is a nice person, but I do not recommend people like her to rape victims seeking counseling. She would chastise the victim for not immediately forgiving and feeling warm fuzzies for the perp. Uh uh. Forgiveness is not cheap or easy! Just ask Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I watched it because a lady pastor nagged me into watching it with her.

    Ha. I guess I should be glad my mom only makes me watch Hallmark movies with her 🙂


  26. I finished TrueFaced since my last post, and they had a good chapter on forgiveness. They put it into two categories – vertical and horizontal. The vertical forgiveness is where we forgive the offender before God for the consequences their sin has had on us. The horizontal forgiveness is where we forgive the offender, but only WHEN THEY REQUEST FORGIVENESS.

    I know many who confuse the two. They think we must forgive the offender without them requesting. The book makes the point that we have forgiveness/salvation available, but we need to ask for it. Why would God hold us to a higher standard of forgiveness than he holds himself?

    I think this is along the same lines as the three forms of forgiveness Barbara mentioned above.


  27. Yes, those terms “vertical” and “horizontal” are a good way to look at it. “Vertical” would match with the heart stance of forgiveness before God, and “horizontal” would match with the transactional forgiveness with the person. In the first, your heart is releasing the offender from the debt. In the second, you’re letting him know he doesn’t have to pay you back. (And again, that isn’t to say he shouldn’t stand trial for his debt to society–that’s a different issue.)


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