Heath Lambert, Albert Mohler, and SBTS Draw Line in Sand on Christian Counseling and Dr. Eric Johnson

Biblical Counseling, Christian Counseling, Nouthetic Counseling, Heath Lambert, Albert Mohler, Dr. Eric Johnson, SBTS


spiritual abuse, clergy abuse, Psalm 23

There has been an ugly conflict in social media these last few days regarding the apparent firing of Dr. Eric Johnson from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). This petition – Petition Against the Wrongful Firing of Dr. Eric Johnson  – has been circulating and thus far has collected 636 signatures.

The introductory paragraph from the petition reads:

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, under the leadership of Dr. Albert Mohler, has decided to fire Dr. Eric Johnson after 17 years of ministry in Christian scholarship and soul-care. His termination was not due to differing Christian beliefs or failed morality but rather due to pressure from an outside organization, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), and its leader, Heath Lambert.

This seems to be a line-in-the-sand moment as SBTS cracks down on what they believe to be the proper way to counsel: using the Bible only.

Here are a few notable comments from signatories:

Kirk Wakefield PhD – United States, Waco – Always amazing that when it comes to physical health such as diabetes, we are all for seeing a doctor, taking medicine, seeking counsel and praying for recovery. But when it comes to mental health, which include congrenital chemical and physiological disorders, we skip straight to words and prayer, but somehow think heaven forbids medicine. May those behind this decision seek an open heart to learn what their closed minds have hidden from them.

Sokho Kim United States, Montgomery Village Dr. Lambert was bashing Dr. Johnson publicly since I was an SBTS student in 2009. Always misquoting Dr. Johnson and making him out to be this DANGEROUS anti-christian professor. (MDiv SBTS ’11)

Amber Weiand United States, Louisville, B.S. Church Ministry: Children’s Ministry from Boyce College My father took his life while I was a student at Boyce. I didn’t feel supported in my grieving process even when reaching out specifically for help to Dr.Lambert. It took my pastor at the church I was attending who was so concerned with the physical evidence of depression setting up counseling with an outside biblical counseling program that I began to find healing.

I can speak from the personal experience the dangers of Scripture Only counseling, it was a contributing factor to my father’s death.

Meg Eldridge United States, Washington Absolutely disheartening from a school that my husband and I invested a lot into. In fact up until last week my husband was considering a starting a PHD at the school. We will no longer give this school which we love another penny. We have seen hearts changed towards Christ, marriages saved, and sinners repent as a result of this counseling methodology. These same people were denied counseling from the ACBC. It is a shame to not train our future pastors to truly walk with those that are suffering as Jesus did. This does not represent a step towards Christ but a step towards fundamentalism.

Here are a few tweets expressing disappointment regarding the firing of Johnson and critique of the counseling at SBTS.

Layne Hancock posted 30 tweets about the “unjust firing.” I have compiled the tweets and other related tweets here:

 

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I saw Dr. Aaron New discussing this situation on Twitter. Dr. New is currently the Chair of Behavioral Sciences Department and Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Central Baptist College in Conway, Arkansas.

He received his MA Marriage and Family Counseling, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), MA in Christian Education at SWBTS, and PhD in Psychology and Counseling, also at SWBTS.

In one of his tweets, he referred to a letter he had written in 2010 (posted at Wade Burleson’s blog here) to Southern Baptists Convention members about their counseling programs. He shared that at one time, there were two counseling programs offered at his alma mater, SWBTS:

  1. Biblical counseling: only the Bible is used to counsel. This is also sometimes called Nouthetic Counseling.
  2. Christian counseling: the Bible and other resources are used in counseling. This was the only program which offered students the pathway for students to obtain counseling licenses.

But now (keep in mind, this was back in 2010), the Christian counseling option  – the one which helped students achieve licenses – was being threatened. Read as Dr. New describes the situation in his 2010 letter:

For years, SWBTS has maintained courses and programs representing both camps. They have often been at odds with each other, but they have coexisted. [Paige] Patterson [President of SWBTS] has always been sympathetic to the Biblical Counseling perspective, but he seemed to make room for the Christian Counseling perspective and program. Until recently.

Patterson has decided now is the time to eliminate the counseling program at Southwestern that equips students for licensure. As a SWBTS alum, I cannot express my disappointment in this decision enough. Licensure is a critical part of ministering to people outside of a church setting and is of growing importance within a church setting. Removing a program that equips students for licensure is a retreat from the seminary’s mission, not an advancement. Christian counselors will be less prepared, not better.

In his press release dated January 20, 2010, Patterson offered “financial realities” as a rationale for eliminating the support for two approaches to counseling. You might be interested to know, however, that the Biblical Counseling approach is supported by two professors and about a dozen students. The Christian Counseling approach is supported by five professors and over two hundred students. If the decision were solely a financial one, it would seem prudent to eliminate a program that is not thriving rather than one that is highly successful and drawing students from all over the world.

SWBTS did indeed eliminate the Christian counseling option, leaving Biblical Counseling as the only option for students.

I reached out to Dr. New and asked if he would be willing to share his thoughts and concerns about this ongoing battle between Bible-only counseling and Christian counseling.

I think it is unfortunate that Biblical Counselors have appropriated the word “Biblical” for their approach. It automatically implies that if one works from any other model than their own, they are being un-biblical. That strikes me as arrogant and uncharitable – two qualities that should never be used to describe believers, especially towards each other.

This battle has been waging for a very long time. I’m not sure I have much that would contribute to its resolution. It just grieves me that we can’t treat each other better.

Yes, indeed. In reading comments at various blog posts and articles, many people spoke about how Dr. Johnson was treated because he used the Christian Counseling approach, instead of the Bible-only approach. This sounds like “my way or the highway” to me. Yet Dr. New also offered gracious comments about the Biblical-only adherents:

I have learned from the Biblical Counseling proponents. I have learned ways to harness the truth found in Scripture and communicate it to people who are hurting and struggling. Their profound love and respect for Scripture (when presented correctly) can be inspiring, contagious.

But he offered this concern:

I do worry that they are at risk for making an idol out of Scripture, if that makes any sense. And idolatry always distorts.

I don’t approach the “sufficiency of Scripture” issue the same way they do. But that’s not because I don’t love/respect Scripture enough (as they might accuse me). It is actually *because* of my love/respect of Scripture that I don’t want to make it do something it wasn’t intended to do.

This makes a lot of sense to me. In my personal counseling experience (25 years ago) when I had PTSD, the “Biblical Counseling” method used focused on my sin as the root cause of my PTSD symptoms. But my PTSD surfaced after experiencing a 7.9 earthquake in the Philippines. (I wrote my story here: My Personal Mental Health Story: When Christians Say Potentially Harmful Words to Someone in a Mental Health Crisis).

As it turns out, the PTSD manifested itself after this earthquake, but was actually a result of the physical abuse I incurred by my father from the age of 3 years old until 19 years old. In both of those situations, the earthquake and physical abuse, my sin was not the cause of the PTSD. Those were events/harm that happened to me. So, it seems the very core of Biblical-based counseling is flawed if it assumes that everyone who seeks counseling has sinned and caused their own problems. Was I responsible for the earthquake or physical abuse? No, I was a victim of those circumstances.

I asked Dr. New if he knew of people who had been harmed by Bible-only counseling (and also shared a bit of my personal story). He responded:

I don’t know many personally. But I have read dozens of stories that sound just like yours. It is sad. Tragic. We do have to be willing to acknowledge that there can be really *bad* practitioners in every camp – and that the camp shouldn’t be judged by those bad practitioners. So we have to judge based on either logic/reasoning/coherence or by data on effectiveness.

But this raises another problem: Biblical Counselors seem to define “effective” different than other clinicians. In practice (if not in policy), Biblical Counselors are more likely to say in effect, “Well, I told them the truth. So that’s a success. It’s up to them what they do with it now.” Whereas, other clinicians would never take this approach.

It will be interesting to see how this situation resolves, or if it resolves. Heath Lambert issued a statement, Clarifying and Confessing.  I did not find it very clarifying, unfortunately. A better title might be Confusing and Convoluted.

The sad part about this ongoing conflict is that if a student wants to pursue counseling at either SWBTS or SBTS, they have one option: Biblical Counseling. This means that students will not be able to obtain licenses using their degrees. This will greatly limit their employment opportunities, plus they will not have learned that it’s not as cut and dry for challenging mental health cases where there are no clear answers in the Bible.

Another very disturbing issue is that with these well-known Baptist institutions, it is setting the precedence among Baptists that Biblical-only counseling is the only correct counseling. This could lead to more harm done if someone needs care beyond a Bible-only-counselor’s abilities. I have heard a number of stories from people who have been admonished for seeking help outside of Biblical-only counseling. That is tragic.

Related articles:

Pastor Chuck O’Neal Continues to Pull the Wool over His Evangelist Friends’ Eyes

Chuck O’Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Jeff Rose, Dr. Edward Delcour, Mike Gendron, Mike Stockwell, and Robert Gray, Evangelism Reformation Conference, Reformation Fire Conference

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I don’t have a problem with those tweets. On the surface, they are fine. But even false teachers get things right. The Bible tells us:

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1:4

 

I haven’t done a post on my ex-pastor for quite a while, but I’ve been disturbed lately to see that he has found a niche with people who agree with him on evangelism, yet probably do not have a clue about his background.

I discovered after the fact that Chuck O’Neal had joined with Voddie Baucham, Scott Brown, Mark Spence, Dr. Jason Lisle,  Jeff Rose, Ben Seewald, Jeff Pollard at the Evangelism Reformation Conference in Texas in June 2017.

 

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This was the only tweet that I found from O’Neal on his Twitter timeline about the conference. He’s known to post many tweets to upcoming events, so it’s odd that he only did one tweet before the event.

 

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However, looking through his Twitter timeline, it appears that Chuck O’Neal and his church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, is also sponsoring/hosting and speaking at a conference with speakers in August 2017.

 

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Why do I even care about what Chuck O’Neal does? Why don’t I just move on? Why does it matter to me?

 

lawsuits chuck O'neal beaverton grace bible church

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The $500,000 lawsuit he filed against me was dismissed about 5 years ago. It matters to me as much today as it did when I posted my first negative Google review about him many years ago. He portrays himself as a godly man, likable, committed Christian, etc, but beneath that facade, he is a fraud. More than that, he is a wolf who devours. Those were the words I used when he took me to court years ago. But nothing has changed.

I care because while he is finding his fairly new niche in the broader evangelism community by making friends on social media and then connecting, these people with whom he meets and speaks do not sit in his pews. They do not see his behavior on a weekly basis. They do not see how he treats people in his church and people who have left his church.

It’s easy to say, “Oh, yea, I know him, he’s a great guy” when you only know him based on evangelism or pro-life connections, but that is not who this man really is.

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I’m sure that most do not have any idea that while he is currently “evangelizing” and speaking on evangelizing, he has anti-evangelized for over a decade and people have been left bruised, battered, and some have even abandoned their faith due to his abusive leadership.

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To those who have worked with O’Neal in evangelism or pro-life efforts, please be advised that when you endorse this man, fellowship with him, speak with him, you are endorsing a false teacher and a wolf. If you recommend Chuck O’Neal to someone who is looking for a church in the Portland area, you are sending people into the arms of one who spiritually harms people.

I get it. You think I’m nuts because Chuck O’Neal is so nice, wouldn’t hurt a fly, has nothing but the love of God in him. I know how he presents himself. That’s what I thought when my family started attending his church. Some who read this will doubt me. I understand that. However, after reading this post, and looking at the links, you cannot deny that the behavior described is troubling. It’s not enough for you to ask Chuck O’Neal about my claims. Obviously a wolf is going to speak strongly against anyone who exposes him. He has a whole website against me to convince you that I’m the one who is wrong and he uses all sorts of “proof” that I am evil and not to be trusted. That is foolish.

 

If you care about the Gospel, care about families, care about the spiritual health of people, please do due diligence and do your homework on this man.

 

What’s disturbing to me is this man has been able to pull the wool over so many men’s eyes. Have they done due diligence in investigating O’Neal or his history? All it takes is a simple Google search to see that there are many issues with Chuck O’Neal that show up on the internet. Has any of the people he is teaming with chosen to reach out to his victims? No one has contacted me. My contact information is pretty easy to find on Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc. If you would like to speak/connect with people who have been harmed by Chuck O’Neal, I can give you references.

Do they realize that:

  • that numerous people, including pastors at John Mac Arthur’s Grace Community Church,  advised him to withdraw the lawsuit, but he refused.
  • his ministerial license was revoked by the same group who administered it (I can provide names and contact information of longtime godly pastors who licensed him years ago, and then revoked the license).
  • he purchased domain names similar to the name of an ex-congregant in order to “phish” traffic to your site he can spread gossip about ex-members he sued?  Chuck O’Neal
  • he has encouraged shunning for years. If you leave the church, he conveys to the congregation that you were in some sort of church discipline (completely ignoring the church bylaws on church discipline). Many people who left the church on their own were later found out that Chuck O’Neal had “excommunicated” them. He hadn’t informed them of this, but this is what congregants later told them. Congregants were told to never have any contact with those who had left, or they too would be put on the shun list (Mark and Avoid list). I have personal accounts of this “church discipline” shunning practice used as a spiritual weapon by Chuck O’Neal going back at least 15 years. Here is only one story. I know of many others. In Chuck O’Neal’s church, you cannot leave well unless you are moving out of the area for work, etc.

 


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Special note to Jeff Rose, Dr. Edward Delcour, Mike Gendron, Mike Stockwell, and Robert Gray, who are schedule to speak with Chuck O’Neal at his church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, on August 18-22, 2017:

Gentlemen, I would like to reiterate that I am happy to provide contact information to back up anything I mention in this post. My sole purpose is to alert you that Chuck O’Neal should not be standing behind any pulpit preaching, teaching, or speaking. Why do I do this? Because I have seen the harm done in my personal family and many other families. It is devastating. Please, please, do your due diligence! And ironically, I urge you to please do what Chuck O’Neal suggests in the tweets at the beginning of this blog post.

Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 2

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


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Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

Ok, here we go, plowing through Pastor Ken Garret’s dissertation about spiritual abuse. I used the word plowing intentionally. For some of us, it will be work. It is not enjoyable to be reminded about difficult experiences. However, some push that pain under the rug and haven’t been able to process it in a safe environment. If you feel ready to do that, come along and join us. Even if you don’t feel ready, you can still read. And for those who have never experienced spiritual abuse, I’m grateful that you are reading, too. Having compassion and understanding is so important in helping someone who has gone through spiritual abuse.

Just an FYI, Ken has removed his dissertation from his blog because he plans to publish it into a book. Ken has graciously allowed us to continue using his original dissertation for this series. (Thanks, Ken!!!)

Well, let’s dig in. Here is the very meaty paragraph we will start with this week:

Abusive churches, past and present, are primarily characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes.

Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of members’ lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who do not follow the rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly.

Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult, with seemingly few who understand the phenomena of spiritual abuse.

Continue reading

How our Pastor’s Biblical Interpretation Can Affect Our Understanding of Scripture and God

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This is a very insightful statement from C.J. Mahaney.

 

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Help! My Family Member or Close Friend is Trapped in a High-Controlling Church or Cult. How Can I Encourage Them to Leave?

How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom


 

“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults

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I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading

Domestic Violence is NOT a Marriage Issue, but an Abuse Issue

Domestic Violence, Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini, Divorce, Marriage, Abuse, Church Response to Abuse

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The Fallout of Spiritual Abuse on Our Children

Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse

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Spiritual Abuse: What Was the Last Straw That Caused You to Leave Your Abusive Church?

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How has the Josh Duggar Scandal affected you? Are you experiencing painful reminders?

Josh Duggar, sex scandal, painful reminders, homeschool movement, patriarchy, purity and modesty culture, Bill Gothard

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First Church Men’s Breakfast Group

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Families of First Church’s Men’s Breakfast Group Mourn Their Loss

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Please pray for the families of First Church’s Men’s Breakfast Group as they grieve. The Men’s Breakfast Group was comprised of faithful men who cherished God’s word. More than just a once a month pancake gathering, the Men’s Breakfast Group loved serving God near and far. Last year they put a new roof on Widow Smith’s house. But her neighbor Widow Jones didn’t qualify for them to unstop her sink while they were there because she has able-bodied nephews who could do the task.

For this year’s annual short-term missionary trip, the men heard of a village in Kaping, Micronesia that needed a bridge over a creek. While there, they contracted a bacterial infection that the natives are immune to.  Don Miller, a recent convert, had taken a medical journal with the remedy. The book was authored by Terry Gold.

Being the Bereans that they were, they knew better than to receive instruction from a woman and offend God. When they could not determine with absolute certainty that Terry was a man, they threw the book in the ocean, thereby removing the temptation to consult it and condemn their souls while saving their lives. Such was their devotion to the Holy Scriptures.

A mealtrain has been set up to help feed their wives and children for a couple of weeks. To help the families financially, we have started a gofundme campaign as well.

contributed by: ACFJ’s Ellie

So, what does John MacArthur really think about young women going to college?

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Karl Heitman and Matt Tarr come to different conclusions about whether it is okay for young ladies to go to college. Both cite John MacArthur and the Bible to back up their claims. Who is right?

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Can High-Controlling Pastors Lead Their Members into Depression and Even Suicide?

 

Commenters share about high-controlling pastors who leave a path of mental health destruction, even suicide, because they cannot get appropriate help.

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Pat Robertson: Getting a Tattoo is Heathen Practice, Even If Your Tattoo Depicts Jesus Christ

Pat Robertson has flapped his tongue with nonsense again, this time about tattoos. A false teacher gives extra-biblical teachings. Do not dismiss these as simply foolish words, they are wrong and can be harmful to blind followers.

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The Gospel Coalition Shake-Up – Tullian Tchividjian and Too Much Grace for The Gospel Coalition?

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Tullian Tchividjian is booted from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website while C.J. Mahaney and Josh Harris quietly leave TGC council amidst ongoing sex abuse lawsuits in which a former Sovereign Grace Ministries volunteer is found guilty of sex abuse charges.

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Spiritual Recovery and Leaving a High-Controlling Church: Free to Plant, Free to Bloom, Free to Be

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What does freedom feel like for those who have left a high-controlling or spiritually abusive church?

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Patriarchy: Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, Doug Wilson and Damage Control

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Media and blogosphere are abuzz with sex abuse stories coming from Patriarchy proponents, Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. Gothard releases a statement, other Christian leaders defend Patriarchy.

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Doug Phillips: Repentance and Restoration – Is it Possible?

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Articles continue to be written about fallen pastor and Christian ministry leader and pastor, Doug Phillips, who resigned from the non-profit arm of Vision Forum Ministries and from his public speaking engagements.   But what is next?  What does repentance and restoration look like?  Can or should he assume his former positions again?

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