Emotional health gospel, and coldness in Christian counseling

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Eric B, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. Eric B

    Eric B
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    I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately, about the often trite response of much of modern Christian teaching. My wife regularly watches, listens, and reads the likes of Joyce Myers, and since she is becoming a Christian counselor, Tim Lahaye. Plus, I remember my own times of going to Christians n times of trouble in my early walk. While preaching the basic Gospel; I just see a coldness that is troubling in some of the things they say, and the way they often say things. Severl well know verses are thrown out at the suffering, to tell them how they should deal with their "trials". But I find now, that these may be taken out of context a bit. One great thing I did get out of my debates with the preterists here and elsewhere over the past year, is a better sense of the "audience relevance" of scriptural statements. There ws a special "peace" offered to those suffering for Christ as the Old Covenant system was going down. We take this today and apply it to our situations, and then get impatient with those who don't "just choose" to "receiv" this peace. But then we admit, it's not such a quick, easy proacess, but a hard, lifelong struggle. This isa causes much confusion. So I have added these thoughts to my Psychology page, which started out as a defense against Christian psychology against "old-line fundamentalists" such as the Bobgans, and Biblical Discernment Ministries; which believe that no psychology is needed since all you have to do is give counselees the scriptures on suffering and contentment, and that should be enough for them to get over their problem; if they are really following God. But now I see that much of the Christian psychology of new-evangelicalism is based on the same basic premise of the old-liners (who are therefore more consistent), and all of them in general have tended to take a very trite and sometimes downright cold and blunt approach, which I feel is very uncalled for, and possibly detrimental to the suffering person.
    I just wanted to see what others thought of this:
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    Even with "the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope" [cited as what counselees need a "dose" of], there is usually no quick
    healing. Many counselors cite the scriptures to the suffering that "His grace is sufficient" (2 Cor.
    12:9), and "all things work together for good for those called according to His purposes
    (Rom.8:28)" which are taken to mean "you were saved from a fate far worse than whatever you
    are suffering now (Rom.8:18), so you have nothing to be discontent about". Then, the counselor himself
    will get very impatient fast if the counselee doesn't get over his anger or bitterness, leading to the
    conclusions that perhaps this person doesn't want help; is "unsanctified", etc. But more
    compassion is called for than this. Basically, a whole philosophy has been set up from this, which actually promotes coldness to the suffering! Basically, the formula goes like this:
    1)We are sinners, therefore we "deserve" pain, or it is "good" for us (the saved) to cleanse us
    2)The circumstances of life is the vehicle through which God sends us some of this pain (yet is obviously withholding most of it for us, and gives "no more than you can bear")
    3)Therefore, we must respond to these circumstances with a positive attitude, or we're "sinning" against God
    4)It is so easy! Just "choose" to do it, and God does the rest, supernaturally (just like salvation). There is no excuse for not claiming this "victory"! [COUGH]itsreallyahardlongprocessofselfeffortSee#1&2[COUGH]!
    5)The person who doesn't is just indulging in some pleasurable sin (of fear, anger, self-pity, etc), and is helpless, and should at first be hit in the face with their "sin", and if that doesn’t work, be left to their own misery until they are willing to "repent".

    These sort of parallel or better yet, are corruptions of the "four spiritual laws" (the basic points of the Gospel—God created us, we fell, He sent His Son to die for us, we must receive Him to be saved); strongly suggesting a different gospel—one that is "no gospel" (good news) at all! At this point, I am no longer even addressing just fundamentalist teachers, as this formula, and the various passages it is read into undergirds almost all of evangelical teaching on "the victorious Christian life"(including charismatics, and including even Christian psychologists criticized by the fundamentalists!); with millions of dollars of books, audio, video, speaking engagements, etc. being sold to masses to whom this "victory" still largely seems to evade, as they keep going back to buy more. The fundamentalists such as BDM and the Bobgans are simply more consistent, with it, since psychology would truly not be needed at all if God just instantly, automatically heals your emotions and makes you content when you simply repent, ask, read the Bible, etc. as people suggest.
    Ironically, as much as these teachers pitch "the Book", they themselves are not even reading it right! Much of this trite coldness stems from a very common, but very wrong reading of various scriptures. 1 Cor.10:13, and James 1:2,3. "There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that all of you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that all of you may be able to bear it". "count it all joy when all of you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience". From these two passages, it is for all purposes taught that the suffering person's pain is good for them! The way the teaching goes; is that if God is allowing this circumstance, He knows it is good for what He wants to make you into (His plan for your future, or just "molding you to the image of His Son"), and you can handle it. We hear of "omelette theories", where eggs have to be broken to make a dish of food, so "brokenness can be good". And also, analogies of an oyster, which gets a grain of sand in its shell, and through a painful process, makes a beautiful pearl. Then, there is comparison to surgery or dentistry: "the Doctor has to excise that bad organ or tooth; you don't understand what he is doing; so just be still and let him". One book or tract I saw years ago said regarding bad circumstances, "they are hurdles" (and of course God knows how high we can jump, though it is "hard" for us and we feel we can't do it). Another said something like "God stretches us almost to the breaking point" to make us grow. Then, we get the perennial trashing of "feelings": "You may feel you can't handle it; but will you trust God's Word, and not your feelings?" The suffering person's feelings are pitted against God, thus completely invalidating their distress! (yet adding to it greatly, as this places them in a great bind!) Like with the old-liners, Jer.17:9 is being referred to, suggesting that the "wicked heart" is making what is really "good" seem bad; or as we call it; "painful". (The context says nothing about reaction to pain). Then, "it is by faith in God's Word that you know that you can handle it, even if you don't feel like you can". Of course, since it is through "faith" we are saved, and without which "no man can please God" (Heb.11:6) and whatever is not, is sin (Rom.14:23; some more verses often used in these situations); we see the warrant to question the sufferer's salvation for not getting over it or at least changing his attitude toward it. Many do not go this far, but instead dismiss them as "Carnal Christians" who are "not filled with the Spirit". But here, "faith", which was the vehicle through which we trust God for salvation, is taken and applied to something it never was directly intended for! So if he still says he can't handle it; then we got him! See; he doesn't want God's help! It's his human pride". He is "exalting himself above God", we even hear! He (or the psychologist accepting his feelings) is denying sin; since our sin is what made us deserve so much pain in the first place (recall; we were spared from so much worse, and this is why we should be happy in the "trial" we get in place of Hell in the first place). Thus, (to some) he is possibly not even saved or sanctified! So of course any "mental illness" that may be connected with the problem is said to be a "choice" of the person's own sinful doing! It is the same basic argument as the physical health gospel: "not enough faith"!
    The problem in these passages is that "Trials" and "temptations" are read as "painful circumstances". But the word translated "temptation" (peirazo/peirasmos) means just that: temptation. Even "try/trial" (dokimos) used here conveys a similar meaning. (other words; such as purosis, "fiery trial", or thilipsis, "pressure/trouble" address painful situations, but these are not used here! Strong's does say that peirasmos "by impl." means "adversity"; but this is from a projection of the common misunderstanding of the word; and not its actual definition based on how it is used in the text!) If the common interpretation were right, then the Bible blatantly contradicts itself; because James then says "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed". This is the same word used in Cor. and we see that it means what we commonly understand as "temptation to sin"; not a painful situation. Yet how many times do we see Christian teachers, counselors and books tell a suffering person "God brought this hardship into your life to test you. You can bear it no matter what it is, because He said you could, and He did it for your good". "Accept it from the hand of the Lord". If he rejects it; complains too much, etc, then he is "despising the chastening of the Lord"*. If that is what "test" (tempt) means, then they are the ones contradicting scripture and accusing God, not the sufferer who says the situation is too much for him to bear! *(while one of Job's friends originally leveled the "chastening" statement at Job's suffering [wrongly, we see from God's response to them in the end!]; Hebrews places it in its correct context of persecution for the faith; not general pain and rough circumstances that occur to all regardless of whether they are God's children or not --which is what people coming for counseling are usually dealing with!)

    Now, to use persecution as an example of what "tempting" was; when the Christians were being persecuted; it was a painful circumstance; but they were at the same time being tempted to either renounce Christ, or return evil for evil. Thus; they were also being "tried" or "tested". The trial or test itself was not the pain or even the circumstance itself (and thus not what was "good for them", or given by God for their "good"), but rather the temptation to do wrong! It's resisting temptation to sin that makes us grow! The very context in the surrounding text of the Corinthians chapter shows us sinful actions that God's people would be tempted to indulge in, in response to hardships. No one is justifying responding to situations with wrong actions. When a person says "I can't take it"; he is not always justifying doing something sinful. In fact, he may actually be resisting the sinful action, and thus fulfilling the scripture! But that doesn't mean that the situation is not having a damaging effect on him. If this were true; then no Christians would have ever died as a martyr! If God allowed the physical torture; then it could not be more than he could bear, and he would live no matter what was done to him. If he dies; it was apparently "too much" for him to bear! So it is obviously not the "painful circumstance" that is being addressed there! (The temptation to renounce God to save his life is what he can resist or "bear", through faith in God's promises! Thus; he would "pass" the test). So likewise, the same can hold true for emotional, mental and psychological pain. Many things do occur in this world, that, like physical pain, are too much to bear. And God allows them, and does not fix all of them at this point. Should we tell children that have been molested (who generally have severe emotional damage, that many cannot recover from) that if God allowed this, then it must be good for them, regardless of what they feel? Most would not say that directly; but ultimately, it is what they believe! (If the person complains too much, questions God and doesn't get over it, then they might eventually tell him that when they run out of patience, after all, as we shall see, they are "sinning" by not getting over it!) And they; like the other forms of health gospels, frequently appeal to "testimonials" of other people (sometimes their own) who have overcome similar situations; but people are different, and not all have the same strengths and weaknesses. Other factors can come into play as well. So you just cannot always blame the victim for refusing to heal!

    Many teachers go on to insist that every little bad thing that happens to Christian is an "attack" of the devil (and/or, therefore a "test" of God). A commonly used illustration is a driver cutting you off at the intersection; or "attacks" against the job, family members or finances. A popular comic style tract even shows a baby crying (in a hectic, backslidden household) because Satan pinches him! Satan "does" these things (with God's allowance), and then Satan puts the negative response, fear, and soforth into your mind. You, of course, have to "resist" this. Satan pulls all of these strings in life, and God just "uses it for your good" and offers you "power" for "peace" and "victory" in it, but only if you display the correct attitude, discussed below. Most of these problems are identical to what the rest of the world experiences. One televangelist and writer mentions a period when she was concerned about business meetings, and people would be late, not excited, and then half didn't show up sometimes. She asks God "why are You doing this to me?", and God supposedly tells her that He is teaching her a particular lesson. On one hand, I find it funny, because this person criticizes, like the others, our tendency to be asking "why" all the time, and especially having an accusatory attitude toward God. But here, not only does God answer to the affirmative (i.e. he did "do it"), but also even explains why! This person would be the first to tell us that not every thought or voice that comes into our head is from God; but one has to measure it with the Bible, and "cast down" anything that "exalts itself" above Christ (2 Cor.10:5, which would definitely include anything "accusatory" against God/Christ). But since this "word" goes along with this teaching, it is apparently not even questioned, but rather readily taken and used to prove to the the readers why they should have a good attitude when they don't get their way! "The world doesn't revolve around you" this person and others like her can be frequently heard saying; but in a case like that, it looks like it does revolve around us; only in a negative sense! I have also heard "You are not important enough for God to overlook in His promises", but we are apparently important enough for God to take some other driver and stick him in front of us, (or allow Satan to do it), and other forms such intervention, to test us to see if we have faith in those "promises".
    From here, we get into the other universally trashed perception (next to feelings), our "understanding". "Don't try to understand it", we are taught. Then Is. 55:8,9 "My thoughts are not your thoughts", and Prov.3:5 "Lean not on your understanding" always come up. For every doctrine that people can't understand and question (The precise formulation of the Trinity, Calvinistic reprobation, the fundamentalist doctrine of good and bad music, aberrant or false groups do it too with their doctrines such as baptismal regeneration and transubstantiation, etc.); this tactic is used. Who can test anything, then? But we see in developing these teachings, that they have used their own understanding and thoughts in interpreting these scriptures. Yes, God is ultimately above our understanding, but they are taking this too far when they use it to silence all challenges to their teachings. It seems that they are the ones who have speculated too much into the unknown, in saying that a particular trouble a person is going through was sent for some good but unknown purpose, for instance, and then using that to try to motivate the person to get over their pain through "thanksgiving". It is only when you question or challenge them, that "man's understanding" becomes wrong. So you can't feel it, and you can't figure it out, you just believe it by faith, and once again, if you don't get over your pain, you did wrong. Once again, the old-line fundamentalists who condemn most of these modern leaders for even speaking of psychology are more consistent with these teachings in saying that it is totally unneeded and unbiblical, if God just zaps your mind with some unfelt "strength" that makes all your pains and suffering not matter when you simply pray and thank Him. If all of this was so true and so simple; you'd think there would be a mass revival with all the people preaching it today. But basically, the lack of such a revival is all on the people and their "sin". (These teachers frequently refer to "all these Christians out there" who are not growing, struggling with the same problems, etc.)

    Once again, many of the scriptures they are using are addressing first century Christians in the unique situation of spreading the Gospel in the world for the first time, in the hostile Roman Empire, under the equally hostile Old Covenant institution which still ruled over many people (until its destruction in AD70). One thing I got out of the debate with preterism was a better sense of the "audience relevance" of many of these scriptures. They were written primarily to the people then, and while they definitely carry over to us in principle; we often carelessly transfer every detail to our experiences, when it doesn't completely fit. Today, by comparison, most Christians in the West enjoy a relatively peaceful mundane life, were we try to spread the Gospel, but the situation is nowhere near as volatile or significant as that faced by the New Testament Christians (or Christians in hostile mission areas today). So in such a time of peace, society has become more decadent, and given over to sin, and this has given rise to more and more open sin, and thus physical and emotional suffering, which becomes the more pressing issue; instead of persecution for Christ, and freedom from the Law that were the main issues of the New Testament. So to portray the daily circumstances of life in this environment as being like as it were, some sort of chess game between God and Satan is quite speculatory, and overgeneralized. In this common theory, it's like any bad thing that happens to us, is; we're walking along one day, and God looks down and says "Oh, [so-and-so] needs a lesson in {patience, endurance, forgiveness, etc}", and then allows Satan to stick a driver in front of us to cut us off to "test" us, or perhaps a bigger problem, like physical ailment (you or a loved one). We have all of this figured out; yet if the person complains that it is unfair, or whatever, he is told not to "lean on his understanding", once again. Yes, we can grow by responding to difficult situations, but to portray God and Satan as "doing" everything to us today tends to create more of a sense of expectation that may be unrealistic, in the first place. This can short circuit the effect the teachers are trying to have, by making one more likely to think God should prevent bad things, since He is so directly "involved" in them; and ask "Why did You do/allow this?" and be disappointed at Him and think He doesn't care when He doesn't prevent them. Also, on the flipside; it can make one wonder why others, especially Christians, aren't punished for doing evil; if God is punishing or "chastising" all of a person's evil, now. So then; God seems very "unfair". Of course, the suffering person who does or thinks all this is "sinning", and castigated by this teaching. (That "bad attitude" is said to be their whole problem in the first place). But perhaps the teaching is orienting his perspective the wrong way. So we tell them not to try to understand everything, and that in the next life, all wrongs will be made right, and then perhaps we'll understand everything. If it's true that God allows much evil to go unpunished this life (including from Christians), then do not tell people that bad things in their lives are specifically "sent" by God, because then; it does seem like He's "picking on" them. We may try to tell them something like "God is giving you special attention (so thank Him)" or "He's given those other people over to their sins, so He doesn't bother with them anymore", but once again, this is all beyond anybody's knowledge. Often fellow Christians following this teaching and using these scriptures make it worse by encouraging someone to "have faith" that God will do something or is doing something, and when it doesn't come to pass, the person is told "well; I guess it just wasn't His will!" What a devastating emotional rollercoaster this can create! (a recent local "testimony" of someone being "miraculously cured" of cancer, and then still dying of it days later comes to mind!) No wonder so many still deep down inside lose faith, despite all of this pep talk! We have speculated to much into the unknown to try to explain what is just common life in a fallen "travailing" world. And when we try to project what we believe God is promising to do, we should remember Deut. 18:22 "when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follows not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; but that prophet has spoken it presumptuously!" So just changing the story to an embarrassed admission that "it wasn't God's will after all" will not fix the damage to the person promised something, as well as our testimony and the credibility of Christ to the watching world. We just should not be so quick to pronounce such things.

    While I do believe that God does intervene in some things, still, we don't always know which things, and shouldn't try to speculate on given instances, and only then claim "we can't understand it". Some things are just good fortune and lack thereof. Fortune, or "luck"; I would define as "an unknown principle of a disposition of a situation to a particular outcome especially to benefit or to adversity that is out of control of the person involved"; rather than any magical or mystical meaning. The emphasis is on "unknown" and "out of control of the person". Whatever exactly, or directly causes things, no one can deny that much of the circumstances of life fit this description, from our perspective. (once again, we cannot comprehend God's perspective). So why speculate? Whether it is God, or just a combination of natural forces (that God "controls" in a more passive way), we do not know. God may use it for some good, but this should not be our primary word of "comfort" to the one suffering from it! This creates expectations of some immediate good, but when it is not seen, then we have to keep pushing it further and further back; until we ultimately conclude it must be some "heavenly reward" beyond this life. What good is all this after awhile to the person suffering now? One writer cites an instance where a person is planning a vacation with him, but then finds he has lost his job. He "trusts God" and goes on the trip anyway. Sure enough, when he gets home, another employer has called him for a job. So "God provided for his needs". Fine. But if this hadn't happened, and he had to foreclose the house, or whatever then, that would have been God's will for Him, and he better not dare "sin" by grumbling about it. He still has other things to "thank" God for, so that is apparently what his true "needs" were! Hence, the definition of "needs" becomes scaled down. So someone else reads this and they expect that to happen for them, but they are not as fortunate, they will be disillusioned, and of course only get a pat answer about "needs" from these teachers. But they shouldn't have set people's hopes up that high in the first place! Phil 4:19 "God shall supply all your needs" and Heb.13:5,6 "Be content with such things as you have: for He has said 'I will never leave you nor forsake you' so we can boldly say 'the Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do to me'" is taken basically to mean that whatever you have at any given time is all you need; if you are being abused by someone, it shouldn't trouble you, because at least they cannot take your soul; and when in danger, don't fear because even if you lose your job, your posessions, etc., that's OK because that would be all you "need" because Christ is "with you". We are told "If you have not accepted His full leading for your life, you will complain because you doubt things will turn out all right". But just what is "all right"? Do Christians never lose everything and wind up on the street? Do they never lose limbs and other body functions? It is very confusing, because on one hand, the way the verses are initially quoted, it looks like God is promising nothing really bad will ever happen, but when it does; then we must revise the definitions of "need" and "all right", with "food" or even "air" as the last resort to prove that every Christian's "needs" have always been "provided for" no matter what happened! But then do Christians never starve to death? What is "all right" about that? That their soul will be in Heaven, of course! While this should give us hope and something to be thankful for, as well as "peace" from any worries about eternity; still, our emotions are based on current situations, and the teachers make it sound like those situations in themselves will be or turn into some later situation (in this life) that is "all right". But that is never promised for this life. So you might as well just say "look to Heaven" as much of the old Church did, but the modern church wants to make it sound nicer. Another approach I have heard is "God is doing something special in your life. It is a special test"; which is basically admitting that He is not keeping this general "promise" to the person, so this is "different", and "special", and the person should all the more thank Him for it. Amazing they will cite the latter and Matt.6: "take no thought saying what shall we eat...drink...be clothed with...for God knows you have need of these things, but seek first His Kingdom" to laypeople; when these were directed to the apostles, and the contexts are covetousness— wanting something just because someone else has it, not because it's needed), not basic physical and emotional needs. (But then basic needs that are lacking are often considered "wanting things someone else has" by the teachers trying to counsel the person to be content!) Yet many of these "apostles" and pastors who quote this today are quite expressive about their struggle for a "living" when it comes to putting financial pressure on their congregations and supporters; especially when they feel people are not giving enough! And they make sure they have far more than their basic needs met! Yet they can so easily say all of these things to the less fortunate. (This issue really does parallel the Calvinistic concept of "preterition", where because we credit God for saving us, we are to "accept the unpleasant from Him" too by assuming that those lost were deliberately "passed over" by Him, because "they deserved Hell anyway". It even shares the reference to the "potter and clay"; and this issue even touches upon foreknowledge/foreordination, with the question of how God creates future good from pain and misfortune. The difference is only in the scope of the "good" (mercy) and "evil" involved (temporal or eternal). Many if not most of these teachers are not even Calvinists, but do not realize how much they have been influenced by this type of thinking regarding God's sovereignty, which greatly shaped Augustinian and Reformed Christianity, and is related to many of the Church's historic problems).


    As for Rom.8:18, "worthy" means (like "temptation") just what it sounds like: "deserving". This compared to the "glory" (honor) that shall be revealed in us. This is in no way dismissing people's suffering as unimportant, insignificant, or having no detrimental effect. Perhaps the most frequently cited, 8:28, is discussing the "no condemnation" in Christ (v.1) which figures in our "adoption" (v.15) and "predestination" (v.29). It is not saying all our suffering is good because "God uses it for some hidden plan"--as if that is what gets us the inheritance being discussed throughout the book. Many other scriptures used also have a similar, particular context. Much of the Christian persecution referred in these verses was not just from the pagans, but also from the Jews, (see for example 2 Cor.10:24-26) whose Old Covenant system of law and condemnation, was passing. They either tried to bring Christians back under the Law; or opposed the cause of Christ altogether, and even got the Christians in trouble with the Romans by excluding them from the immunity to emperor worship the Jews were granted. It all hinged on the "Salvation" from the curse of the Law. In the overall context of Colossians, we see that freedom from "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us" (2:14) is the cause of the "peace" in 3:15, as well as Romans 5:1. So likewise, in Phil.4:6-7 "Be anxious for nothing...And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus", also is pointing ultimately to freedom from being under the Law; which naturally had caused a lot of anxiety. (the Law is discussed a bit in the previous chapter). This is another passage leveled at sufferers, and it is taken to mean some sort of supernatural "serenity" that comes over you and makes your pains not matter. If they don't develop this "peace", then perhaps the person has not received Christ, or at least not been filled with the Spirit. You have to apply it and make it grow by constantly practicing a formula of certain (mechanical) responses, such as reciting a verse, singing, praying, repenting of the "sins" of certain emotions every time a thought comes up; even "rebuking" thoughts and feelings (among some). We are told by different teachers to tell yourself over and over that you can conquer it, "react the opposite way from your emotions", even to "Say you don't want it, and over time this will change your lustful "need" for whatever it is (and then God will(may) give it to you)", etc. Or of course, there's the "thanksgiving" mentioned in the verse. Some will try to say "You're not thanking God for the problem; just thanking Him in it". They'll give a sample prayer like "Lord; I don't understand this, but I trust that You're doing this for my good; so I thank you for your care"; but that for all purpose is thanking Him FOR the problem! Much similar double-talk abounds in this teaching.

    "Anger" is called a 'sin' based on Eph.4:31 and Col.3:8, especially by the more conservative, such as the old-line fundamentalists (Hasn't this brand of "fundamentalists" and "anger" traditionally gone together?) Yet v.26 of the Ephesians passage says "Be angry and sin not"; (showing it is possible to be angry without sinning) is explained away. What they don't tell you is that there are two different (though related) words, and "anger" in those first to verses basically means "violent passion", not just plain anger at some offense (as is the case in the latter verse). The verse says we should not let the sun go down on our anger, and this is of course what we should strive for. But problems remain, and this instruction is used to suggest people should never be angry about a particular situation again. "Fear" as it is used in the NT also concerns mainly the Law and the pressure from those persecuting Christians over it. It's amazing that many of these teachers try to quash out of existence two basic emotions and use accusations of "sin" to manipulate everyone into Stepford Christians, when many of them get fearful and angry at what they feel threatened by (as we shall see shortly; even though this is disguised and not admitted, or excused as "righteous anger"), and this is somehow OK! And they are trying to motivate people to overcome a "fear" and "anxiety" not being discussed by these passages, by using the very "anxiety" and "fear" these passages ARE discussing (condemnation by the Law: i.e.charges of "sin")! One person goes as far as to paste together verse 18 and 19 of 1 Thess 5 and write that the person who prays "I don't understand why" rather than a thankful prayer "flunks the test", and "has already quenched the Spirit through fear"! (each verse in that immediate passage is a separate issue being addressed). So the person hurt by someone or something in life, rather than the victim of a circumstance, is actually the offender (i.e. "sinning against God")! No wonder there has been so little compassion sensed in the Church!. If the person "groans or complains inwardly", even, this can be "immediately remedied" by "calling his doubt-induced complaining exactly what it is--sin". But just what exactly is it that is being "doubted" then? That it is good for him!
    Fear is said to have at its root "selfishness". A person is afraid of various situations such as losing a job or standing before an audience because of the sin of "interest in self" that causes fear of "looking like a fool" or "looking like a failure in the eyes of family or not being able to provide family and self with necessities of life. while a lot of fear can be from selfishness, this is way overgeneralized and taken to an unscriptural extreme. Just what is this "unselfish" ideal? Are we supposed to want to look like a fool or failure or not providing for the family? Or I guess it's not want them, but simply not mind if they do happen in the future, once again, because if God does allows these things, it's good for us. Then why don't these leaders then put themselves in these situations? They would say they "don't depend on their possessions and comforts", but then we don't see any of them ever doing without it! (As it is, you would really wonder if they would fit the description of 1 Cor.15:19: that if Christ was not risen and our faith turned out to be vain, then would they, like the NT Christians, be seen as "the most pitiable of all men"; or would they still be looked at as having "made it" in the world, despite their industry being based on something false--which the world believes anyway?) Then, I just wonder what about the fear of Communism? Or atheism and humanism? Or the Antichrist? Are those somehow different? Here is a person who "worried" about the Panama Canal giveaway enough to say that it was a proof that non-Christians were not fit be elected to public office by Christians, and sees America's problems as coming from "humanistic Europe", and has thus aided in the Church's rabid sensationalism over the sins of the left, and made a fortune out of a storyline based on the premise that the Great Tribulation is too much for Christians to go through! (hence a "secret rapture", because God just would never put us through such trouble. But it is the "righteous" who are persecuted in these scriptures they cite, rather than being physically prosperous! This should make us think!) Yet it's some person already in such types of situations, or in the gutter, or any other suffering person who isn't "content" who is "selfish"! It gets worse!
    Mentioned is a case of a Christian psychologist telling a person struggling with fear that she was just a "very selfish young woman"; a "turtle hiding under a shell of selfishness. Just throw it away and start thinking more about others and less about yourself". She went away crying, but eventually overcame it. Still, the utter cruelty of this approach is astounding! Even if there might be some truth to this, do we need to be so blunt; at least at that early point in the counseling? (She had just come to him asking about her fears, and he probed into them with about six questions and then made that judgment. This seems to be a very common tactic in Christian counseling offices!) Because a "hard way" works on some people doesn't mean it is right, or from God. If done to the wrong person; you can push them right over the edge, and possibly even put yourself in danger! It could devastate or destroy some people! But of course, then, we would just say it was their own fault! A person who did not "confess their sin" of their fear, for instance, is said to be "incurable". How encouraging! Just consign them to utter hopelessness on top of their problem! Of course, "they did it to themselves"! (and as shall be asked again, how did any non-Christian--who rejects vehemently even the idea of "sin", EVER overcome fear, then?) This basically parallels the secular cliché of "God helps those who help themselves"! (He even calls what he offers "Christian Self-help". The old-liners would justly criticize this, but they use the same exact philosophy about people who don't "repent of these sins" being "incurable"!) She supposedly enjoys "abundant life" now, but you still don't really know what's going on in her heart every day. Especially since this walk is compared to pushing a boulder uphill for the rest of your life, as we shall see. Just as long as they don't hear about the negative anymore, but only hear positive, they are satisfied with the outcome, and that seems to be what this is all about. If you hear someday of her having a heart attack or dying from stress from suppressed fear (it was still there; she simply "didn't act upon it anymore"), then what? Not only that, but "anger, worry and self-pity" are lumped in with "lust" as "fun temporarily" and "emotional satisfactions! No wonder there is so much coldness to the suffering in much of today's counseling! The person's emotions are seen as some sort of game he's playing, or doing for kicks, like with lust. He's getting some sort of enjoyment out of it! No wonder people think they should be so cold and tough with them! Many of the people teaching this have never been in a a place where they felt the deep cutting pangs of rejection and lack of love to the point the only pity they can get is from themselves, or they they are threatened by something terrible, like where their next paycheck or meal will come from! But they know to judge what's in these people's hearts (based on "the Bible" meaning their interpretations of it, seen through their own experiences!) Anger, worry, and self-pity in such cases may bring some sort of temporal relief or comfort, but that is not fun! All we are doing is stabbing our wounded right in the heart and making prooftexted justifications for it, and then traveling the world boasting about these tactics to others in conferences or sermons because "it works"! The end is not justified by the means! Perhaps the biggest proof that God is not actively measuring out earthly "hardships" as "chastisement" every step of the day for our flaws is the fact that He has not struck these leaders down with biblical plagues or taken everything away from them for such crass, callous insensitivity! (or allow a hostile regime to take us over, which was one of their sin-"induced" fears! Instead, He has allowed them all to enjoy a comfortable "American executive"-class lifestyle, and THIS is how they "thank" Him!). I have even seen a teaching that whoever has a hard time dealing with difficulties is "refusing to accept being man", and instead "trying to be God"! ("man" once again defined in terms of "pain"). Accusation after accusation is hurled at the sufferer, and the counselor claims to be speaking the Word of God. Why should anyone even come to God for the comfort and peace they are saying He gives if that apparently is His word to them, and He is so condemning of them?
    We have copied lock, stock and barrel the philosophy of Job's friends, and don't even realize it! Not a clue! We have only rehashed, repackaged, and prooftexted it, and then taken it even beyond their level! God may have corrected Job when his words got too out of place, but He was really angry at his friends who "did not speak right concerning Me". Job was ordered to offer sacrifices for them! That was a very serious offense to Him! Just look at the fact that it was actually their "comfort", with all its charges of sin that made Job sink so much lower into such negative thinking bordering on blasphemy in the first place! (He actually started out more positive!) Yet these leaders today think what they're doing is different because it "worked" on some, who happened to be convinced/convicted of sin through it! I have seen Christians around me walk around criticizing themselves for slipping in their anger and other attitudes, or devotional time, or whatever, (as well as being hard on others) and they "repent of these 'sins'", and ask God's "forgiveness"; but none this even made them grow any faster. They just continued to struggle with it and grow gradually as they always had, and most everyone else does. It's just a guilt trip, that may or may not being results, but Christian growth is about quality; not quantity, and such methods are not necessary, but are contrary to God's love.
     
  2. Eric B

    Eric B
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    All of this further makes me really think that we should question whether people who live first-class lives that easily provoke envy (right or wrong) with all the fortune, honor and glory they receive, should be preaching to the poor, struggling and suffering about "contentment". They say it doesn't matter, because if you are confronting them with "truth"; that changes no matter what. Oh, but it does; in one sense! The whole problem here is that people's interpretations are often colored by their perspective and background (experiences). And that is definitely what we see with many teachers. So many have obviously shown themselves to be totally without understanding and empathy. (Perhaps they needed more "trials" in their lives to make them more understanding (e.g.2 Cor.1:4), if their theory were true). Much of their preaching, while having parts of the truth basically boils down to pacifying people, and this can obviously be to ease their own consciences for being so well off in such a world of great needs. It is the same pattern as slavery, racism, the Dark Ages, and every other example of abuse of church control, all of which were similarly prooftexted! The church (most of it, anyway) has reluctantly and silently repented of those sins, but the same spirit still continues through these responses to the miscontent less fortunate, as even Malcolm X and Martin Luther King realized at the end of their lives, the issue was changing from race to class, and who wants to hear the complaining of the less fortunate? Whether it is right or wrong for them to have all their wealth and power (they all defend themselves as "earning it", and those without as not earning it, and/or God is testing them. See how this works!), still, this is from our God-given conscience reacting to seeing so many in need. For this reason; I wouldn't want to be in their situation (see James 5:3), and all the deep down guilt that must go with it. Once again, they say they do not trust in these riches, because they "don't bring happiness anyway", but still, in this society, money and power do make things easier. Once again, let's see them set an example and give up what they have, and adopt a lower middle class life of living "from paycheck to paycheck", and having to struggle to pay all the essential bills. They all teach people to be content like this, and that is a goal people should aim for. But these leaders can be so cold and trite about it, and it naturally makes you think that they just cannot relate to it. They can have a prayer meeting with the board members of their church of ministry organization to ask for a raise just about anytime they feel they need one. If the board can't raise the money, they can always start putting pressure on the laymembers or supporters. Pastors often then just leave, placing a guilt trip on the congregation, as they find more money elsewhere. But the average worker cannot just get his employer to give him more money like that. So they are taught to "just pray about it, and leave it in God's hands", with that "dose" of Phil.4:6, of course. The leaders claim to be practicing the same thing, but as we see they have plenty of strings to pull in in the world, to make it much more likely that "God" gives them what they ask for. (Then, or course, this is taken as "reward" from God for good service*). Then, let's not forget the uncritical praise many of these leaders have heaped on capitalism over the decades, even though it is decadent and promotes many of the sins in society they condemn (which are blamed on others, anyway), as well as making it ever so hard for those with less money, as prices go up, quality goes down, and jobs are even downsized or relocated. But financially; it has been the Kingdom of God to many Christian leaders! So while they portray all of their fame and fortune as "nothing" and that they don't trust in it; many show in their lives that it really must be "something" after all, and for many, this comes out in the form of their overblown fear of some big-bad leftists taking it all away from them. Likewise, why do so many in the world still hoard these things, even though "it doesn't make them happy"? Deep down inside; it's not about "happiness"; it's about comfort (or convenience) and pride, and these Christians leaders, as being as human as everyone else; must remember they are just as susceptible to hoarding these things for the wrong reasons, and using rhetoric to justify and protect it. Everyone knows how "to whom much is given, much is expected", and other teachings from the Gospels and epistles on riches, and that doing without may gain bigger rewards in Heaven (they certainly preach it to others); But don't you find it funny that the leaders, as well as most people who are able, are all willing to choose that "lesser reward" (or perhaps feel that all their "Service and work for the Lord" will make up for it). What does this tell everybody (in the Church and out)? Better "get yours" now (the "seen"), because (deep down) who really knows what is after this? (the "unseen"). This of course, is exactly the human tendency they preach against. But they are human too, don't forget. A whole generation (and much of a racial group) was driven away from the Church because they were promised "pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die", while the leaders laid claim to the best of both worlds! Now the scene is a total mess, with an emotional health/wealth gospel teaching you are "faithless" and "grieving the Spirit" if you don't accept poverty and lack; and on the opposite extreme a physical health/wealth gospel that says you are faithless if you do accept it! (and some who combine elements of both, by emphasizing "ask and wait"). But they're all using the same "faith" tactic, which blames the person. So let the poor and suffering preach to the poor and suffering how to deal with it! One thing about God's Gospel is that it is incarnational. God comes down to our level and redeems us. He does not just sit "up there" aloof, uninvolved, thundering down only lofty, unreachable ideals and judgment at us. He did it that way in the Old Testament, and that was a whole lesson showing that that way did no good for man's condition! But once again, the church continually goes right back to that approach, in various ways.

    *They have basically applied earthly business success principles that have worked for them —still subject to factors of opportunity and good fortune (being in the right place at the right time, etc) that are not shared by everyone else. (So it is very convenient for them to dismiss this and say "no; it's not "fortune"; it's because God gave us what we have, and if you don't have it it is because HE didn't give it to you because it is not His will". Later, they will begin talking about the need for BOTH "trusting God" and "applying principles"). So in that sense, they have "reaped what they have sown". But that is still in an earthly sense; just like all the other big business and govt. leaders. We must not confuse this with the Heavenly sense. We all know the scriptures that say that what is of importance in man's eyes is foolishness to God!

    There have been too many Elijah's and not enough of Jesus in the Church. He never rebuked any of the people "wallowing in sin" like that, but gently instructed them to repent (of their physical sins, not fear or self-pity). Instead; the tough approach was always reserved for the religious leaders! What a reversal! What these teachers are doing is just a more nicer version of the Hellfire preaching of old, which brought tremendous fear on people, and led to much of the atheism and humanism people complain about, though it may have seemed to have worked on some, creating "revival"! Once again, all based on the idea that man is made for suffering and pain. Yes, we are sinners, but a born again person is forgiven his sins, which are no longer legally imputed to him. (chastisement is actually conviction, as we will see. Only in one particular severe case—abuse of Holy Communion; is it sickness or death as described in 1 Cor.11:30). An unsaved person faces judgment after this life if He doesn't repent. This world is NOT a place where everyone is always simply receiving their just desserts, such as little pieces of the Hell we deserve! Instead, "the sun and the rain fall on the just and unjust" (Matt.5:45), and "rain" in such an environment was as good and essential as the sun, not negative as we might think). Likewise we all suffer the curse of the hardships of the fallen world as well. But this is not the same as God sending hardships to "test" people! In the Old Testament, God handed out earthly "blessings" and "curses" to the Israelites through manipulating the environment around them. So rival armies would be empowered or fall, giving Israel either victory, or defeat and captivity according to Israel's obedience. Many people think this just continues on, but all of that was a shadow of spiritual blessings, not the everyday ups and downs of life. Part of our blessings is that God does not deal with us that way; or in all of the earthly analogies cited earlier about pain being good. That approach to the bad circumstances is almost as if "It is, therefore; it's from God" (except for atheism, humanism, leftist politics, of course).
    Most people today are not Josephs ("God meant it for good") or the Old or New Testament Hebrews who were playing a significant part in God's plan of redemption (and thus warned about "murmuring"). Of course; I'm not saying that people should go on murmuring and complaining, but it will be harder for them to find healing if they are loaded down with all the tremendous guilt and fear of these statements--two of the very things they're supposed to be overcoming in the first place!


    Almost all universally even repeat yet another memorized cliché: "don't look at the problem"; "don't look at the circumstance"; "just look at Jesus". Often, the incident with Jesus and Peter on the sea in Matt.14:30 is appealed to: "When he looked at the waves, he began to sink, but when he looked at Jesus, then he could walk on it". First of all, it was Peter who rather foolishly asked to be in that situation (v.28). Not so with the sufferers of today this is quoted to. Plus, while there is a principle here; still, it is not really a fair comparison. Peter did actually see Jesus, not believe in Him "by faith" thousands of years later, after the entire world has called into question the validity of Christ. So you cannot just expect the sufferers of today to "just trust" like Peter could. Jesus Himself said "to whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48). Many of the Christians addressed in the epistles, also, saw Christ, or were at least a generation or two removed from those who saw Him. Faith is hard today, and once again, turning scripture verses into glib clichés is not helpful to the suffering today. Evangelists often compare "faith" in Christ to "faith that a road continues on over the next hill", or "I don't understand how a TV works, but I believe it works". There may some truth in these analogies; but they still will only carry but so far, as they involve things that are daily "seen", and we can there measure the odds that the road will abruptly end, and with no warning. Once again; many of the principles about peace and victory apply to condemnation from the Law anyway. So if a person is undergoing a problem, that problem is going to work itself out to whatever its natural outcome is, regardless of whether the person fears, complains, or just swallows it "quietly" (i.e. "peacefully"). This may be bad for them, but we need not burden them down with further stress, by accusing them, if they have taken the former route, or are "struggling" between them.
    Of course, even all of this "reasoning" should be "rebuked" say some, and it's "by faith" we believe that our trials are "different" from the rest of the world and sent by God for our good, if we just "trust" and don't try to "understand" or "worry". On and on it goes; and then we wonder why many on the world have become skeptics who dismiss faith as an untestable "abstraction".

    The utter irony of all of this, is that decades ago, as I've mentioned, the mainstream conservative Church was teaching this same stuff, but certainly did not have peace and a "joyful, submissive spirit" when it came to their reactions against the "threat" of communism, how the "godless" and liberals were supposedly destroying this country from within, and the rise of "cults" and other religions ("alien gods") on our turf. (I can think of at least two prominent Christian counseling teachers who are leading voices in this teaching, who also have been leading voices in Religious Right rhetoric with it's obsession with the Left!) All of this was certainly defensiveness over a perceived loss of power and influence, with fear of a possible resulting loss of comfort in the future (when they all "take over" and "persecute" us), and not just a concern for what these movements do to people's souls. And a hypothetical takeover of the country by godless, as well as the attacks we have suffered, was always seen in terms of the evil of others (including judgment to the "sinners" in this country), rather than God "testing" us, or "allowing it for some higher good we don't understand". No; it had to be feared and resisted at any cost! These leaders would have a lot to lose if such a "takeover" happened. (But then, the situation would more closely match what these scriptures are discussing, and I wonder then if they would still be preaching so simplistically on overcoming the "sins" of anger and fear! Many of them believe God spared us of that because of the "righteousness of America", or at least the Christians in America. So this line of reasoning does sort of exalt most of the leaders, once again, by inadvertently suggesting that all their success compared to others comes from some higher level of maturity of their character. They have apparently already "proven themselves" before God, and don't need His "Hand of correction" in as many blatant, visible ways (such as being poor, etc. They've "grown beyond" that stage). —So it seems that protection from suffering are the rewards for "goodness", but these are the same people telling us that God gives us pain and we should accept it because we're sinners! It's only because of the grace of God that we have been spared from what many others go through, and grace is not something "earned because of goodness".)

    The teachers on one hand butter this path to "victory" all up into some simplistic "choice", with ready quips such as "let go and let God"; but then begin speaking about how "hard" a "process" it is. A typical book the subject will cite these passages, and then say that people with "pet sins" of fear/doubt or anger will gradually change and be "assured" by the Lord if they get filled with the Spirit, and immediately "confess" and "ask for forgiveness" each time they have one of those emotions, and of course, do all the disciplines: prayer, Bible study, etc. (If they don't and continue "thinking negatively or doubtfully"; they're once again "grieving" or "quenching" or "losing the filling of" the Spirit!) Since these feelings had developed over years, it will "take time", as "the Spirit is given access to and control of the mind" and replace these thoughts with virtues such as love, kindness and gentleness, before it becomes "permanent". One person admits that after years of writing and teaching on this "thankful attitude", he still has to "work on it, constantly". Where is this "supernatural change", that eventually becomes "permanent" we were promised, then? Some non-believers who see a need to grow, struggle with attitudes, too. He compares this to "pushing a boulder uphill"! And this is supposed to be that "simple choice" of receiving supernatural power or "letting God", remember! It supposedly gets easier as you "walk in the Spirit and try to be grateful by thanking God for His goodness in the things I understand; and thanking him by faith for what He is going to do in the things I don't understand" (once again, the assumption that every bad thing has some specific deliberate intention from God). But has it gotten easier, when it is admitted that the minute you make a slip in this routine, it "rolls back down"? What happened to "just throwing it [the bad habit or emotion] away", as one person was so sharply instructed? We justify making people cry with statements like this, when we know good and well is it not as simple as tossing away an old hat, as that makes it sound like! A couple of temperament types are told that their fight against negative thought patterns will be "particularly hard", but then "with God's help you can learn to be a thankful, content person, but you will have to work on it all your life". But if it's that long, you won't really BE a thankful content person until Heaven! I am not arguing against fighting bad thoughts, but what makes it even harder is that we are framing it in a way that names an ideal that is in practice, unreachable, and making it look like God supernaturally brings us there, but then only later do we admit you probably don't really reach it; it's a "lifelong struggle". We are promising way too extravagantly, and then letting the people down. He says "pressure reveals your spirit. What a man is under pressure is what he is!", meaning that even if you seem composed to the outside world, at places like the home "if you explode under pressure you are admitting that underneath a carefully constructed facade you are an angry person". But under this system of just "fighting" the anger with positive thoughts, yet the anger still has to be suppressed like that, the anger is still there; only pushed further out of sight (and that seems to be what this teaching really aims for). If this is what we would then call "crucifixion of the self"; it is shown to be a mechanical act of suppression, not any supernatural act of God. I'm not saying this discipline is not needed, but let's not confuse things. Let's call it what it really is from the beginning. God helps us by giving conviction that a problem needs to dealt with. This conviction is felt, and then by following it, you are "letting God" (contrary to "you don't go by feelings, but just do this, this, that, that, and the other —"follow these steps", "in faith", and then believe you have the power, and maybe then after years of struggle through this, you will feel something"). But, as these teachers will always only later admit; "God doesn't do it for you". So why initially say He does? This is almost dishonest! How can anyone judge someone else for not making it in this as well as he? (That's when the "just ask for it" part comes in; but this is cyclical: just do; just ask, just do, just ask. The doing will not be possible until you ask, but the asking won't be granted until you do. Round and round goes this merry-go-round, and once again, we wonder why people don't get it).
    They are pulling the wool over people's eyes trying to make it sound so simple and easy, yet emphasizing its hardness in the same breath.

    If anyone thinks this sounds like a Satanic "accusation of the brethren", just remember all the accusing these people have done of their brothers and sisters who come to them (often paying them, at that!) in their time of deep need. "As you judge, you shall be judged". How can you accuse them of "sin", or call them "incurable", when you're not even really completely "cured" yet? The basic difference is that you're "trying" harder, and thus further along on the "growth process" than they. Fine; good for you, praise God! But this does not call for such harsh judgments of those still down in the pits of self-pity, fear, or any other problem. (And 2 Cor.10:12 is often given to those envious of the possessions of others; but it is really talking more along the lines of comparing spiritual maturity, and the "outward appearance"-v.7!)
    But a growth process is not what those scriptures on trials are describing!. There is NO "slow process" there! It was a special grace for those suffering particularly for Christ's name. Just like all the physical miracles we see then, but not now. (Though some claim to continue these things. The more conservative, however reject this the strongest). Those scriptures were referring to something "supernatural" that surpasses understanding; remember! What people are describing now is a natural growth process that is very understandable, and even possible to those without the Spirit!
    The teachers often speak loftily, acting like they have it all licked. But then when you really look closely; they do not always have this "peace" they talk about, and many of them know it and some are even honest enough admit it, as we have just seen, and attributing it to their "sin nature", "old self", etc. when they come around to discussing their ongoing struggles with impatience, short tempers, unfulfilled wants, etc. They say this is because "our old man has to die daily", and some speak of going back and forth between "in the spirit" and "in the flesh" or a state of being "prayed up" that wears off; but if it is so supernatural, and we could just "throw away" bad emotional habits, then wouldn't it be less of a "struggle"? Or are we reading overblown ideals and in practice, a pattern of positive thinking into passages that are not even addressing the mundane problems we experience today? I have seen quite a few times writers and teachers recall some trial in their or others lives, and comment "I don't know how people without Jesus Christ go through trials like this". But the fact is, they do! They have their positive thinking self-help principles without God that can get them through things, and other factors such as personality, inner strength of character, and support; and like us, not all make it, of course. So what people are attributing to some mysterious "peace" from God is really a human capability provided all through common grace. Christians are more likely to benefit from this, because the non-Christian is more likely to deny that he has a problem, or that he needs to try to overcome it, or that certain actions or reactions are "sins" that need to be overcome to begin with. Plus he doesn't have the Holy Spirit to convict him. So many Christians are claiming to be doing so much better than non-Christians, when the difference is not really as great as they think. (Then, they even put down other Christians as not "being filled with the Spirit" because their attitudes aren't right, which is supposedly only possible with the power of God!) We call our growth processes "miracles" comparing them to actual miracles in the Bible, and then speak as if this is completely out of reach to non-Christians. This is based on an assumption that they never deal with growth and character, since (many of us think) all any of them do is indulge in whatever they want (an unfair overgeneralization). Yet we continue to wonder "how they do it". But people see our sins and problems more than we realize, so we are not fooling anyone but ourselves.
    What we have that they don't have is salvation, and along with the "power of God" (the Holy Spirit) unto sanctification, and hopefully, the "peace" that comes from being out from under condemnation (This is what we "believe we have" or "claim" by "faith" even though it may not look like it--unless we have exchanged this true "peace" for something else, particularly some performance-based program!). We hear all this talk about "abundant life"; but life in those statements of Jesus, meant eternal life, not a positive attitude towards circumstances in this life (and I don't even know when and by whom this ever got mixed up). If "victory" is just "overcoming" problems (especially internal), then you should just admit that this final "victory" is really in Heaven! But if it's victory over spiritual death from judgment for sin from the Law, then we see we are being sold something not discussed in these scripture, although it may be a good thing in itself. These just well may be the modern day "money-changers"! As Michael Horton points out in Beyond Culture Wars, (p.233) regarding the "spiritual armor" in Eph.6, "Each piece of the armor has something to do with the objective Gospel. Not one piece of this armor is something we have fashioned. Nowhere in the list, for instance, is 'the pistol of piety', or 'the boots of a good heart and cheerful attitude.' Not because piety is unimportant, or because our inner experience is insignificant, but because when the enemy comes, he is not coming to 'bind' our house or give us generational curses; he is coming to strip us of our faith in the Gospel. He is coming to try to persuade us that we are too sinful; too unholy...We have not advanced enough in the Christian life; we have quenched the Spirit..." [sound familiar? Makes you wonder who the devil is really speaking through these days! He can use bits of the truth, and even quote scripture!] "It is faith that unites us to Christ and all His benefits, so if the devil can take away our confidence in His atoning work, he couldn't care less about wreaking temporal havoc on our family line". [or our own personal lives]. He is the accuser of the brethren, primarily, not necessarily a "pain-giver".

    Since some will even go as far as accusing Christians struggling with bitterness of "having a form of godliness, but denying the power" (2 Tim.3:5; the context is false, but influential teachers!), then where do you draw the line? The only difference is that they just basically suck it up, grit their teeth, pretend everything is OK, and teach us to do the same, calling this "the supernatural power of God" and "the peace that surpasses understanding". Throwing up the "surpasses understanding" part at this point turns it into a shallow platitude. You can't feel it; you can't understand it, you don't even always see it in others, but it is there. They even frequently say "do not do it in your own strength", or "it' feels so hard because you are relying on your own strength", and of course; you gain this "strength from God" by praying for it. But then it doesn't feel any easier, and the teachers affirm this, (often with a special contemptuous emphasis on the word "feel" from some, as if just to rub it in all the more). However, it is by "faith" that you believe "God got you through", they tell you. The classic illustration of this is the popular "Footprints" poster and poem; in which you feel you couldn't go on, but make it anyway, but find that Jesus was really carrying you all the time. Why did not it feel like you were being carried then? I guess, it's made that way deliberately because discomfort is supposed to be good for us, or it's just our "needy" sin nature that makes us hurt, or something like that. I often wonder listening to some teachers, "what are our feelings for, then?" To torment us because pain is good for us, because we're still "sinners"? Has it been purposely set up that way? It's like we go to people experiencing pain; teach God is doing or "allowing" this to them for their good (ultimately because of their sin), to all the more provoke negative feelings, and then spend all of this energy emphasizing to them how they need to go against these feelings, and top it off by accusing them of more sin if they don't! Like life just isn't hard enough for us! This idea that all we need is pain is taken from a grain of truth in scripture, but then overgeneralized into a type of asceticism that is purely Platonic, passed off, like every other so-called "hard teaching" people conjure up as "the offense of the Cross". The offense of the Cross is that we are not saved by our own righteousness (this was certainly offensive to the Jews in the NT, as it is to those in the world and in false legalistic religious movements today), not all these other burdens people place on others (that you wonder if they would lift with one of their fingers). And if our hurt feelings is only from our sin nature, then what about Jesus? He was without sin, and was very distressed emotionally. (Of course they may say "well, since He's sinless; it was OK for Him". But His suffering is the very thing we are pointed to as an example!) Pain tells us something is wrong; not that it's right! It's amazing how much "feelings" are dismissed and put down here, but then the "victory" and "peace" is initially described in a simplistic way that that makes it sound easy and appealing to our desire for quick solutions, ease and good feelings!
    Some can even cite Mark 11:24, in which it becomes like a spiritual "name it and claim it". (The world teaches the same thing, but calls it "the power within", accessed by "believing in oneself" by telling yourself "I can" and then "acting upon it" even if one doesn't feel able, etc., and it would be highly arrogant and presumptuous of us to deny that anyone has ever grown or overcome something by this method). So what is it then? Basically (considering that "peace" in the passage means among other things "quietness"); just shut up, suck it up, block out the bad feelings by giving thanks instead of complaining, and don't bug anyone with your problems. Keep it to yourself; "Give it to God" they often say. (They make it sound, once again, like a quick, easy once-and-for-all transaction; but of course, the bad feeling "comes back", and then you have to "keep giving it back to Him" they later admit). By the way, 1 Pet.5:7, where this is derived from, also has in its context the persecution of the day, as do the nearby verses in Philippians, v.11: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" ("content" here is more like "contented", or "self-satisfied", than the common meaning of "content"); and 13: "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (used to support, once again "you can take whatever it is no matter what"). Also the passages on being happy in the suffering, such James 1:2, mentioned above, Acts 5:41, Rom.5:3,4, Heb.10:34, and 1 Pet.4:12-14. The commonly used 2 Cor.12:10 involves a heavenly vision Paul was given, which might have caused self-exaltation. "grace" used there actually is the same "charis" meaning "unmerited favor", involving once again salvation from the curse of the Law. It is certainly not something worked up by trying to squelch one's feelings or pretending the pain doesn't matter. Salvation is the invisible change in us that is believed by faith and not sight or feelings (as it is based completely on legal imputation, anyway) and is gradually worked out in growth. Let us not overgeneralize something like this. Heb.12 "run with patience the race set before us", and "chastening of the Lord", doesn't even say it is speaking of physical tribulation. The previous chapter is the "faith hall of fame" which mentioned some saints who suffered as inspiration; along with Jesus Himself right in v.2 and 3; but the immediate context of this passage seems to be personal sin. (in fact, v.4 says their problem hasn't even come to "blood" yet!) The "chastisement" is to be "rebuked", meaning conviction (see Greek). Even "scourge" allows a figurative meaning, so this is spiritual, not physical or emotional torment! Then, there is John 15: "I am the true vine, [you are the branches] and my Father is the farmer. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges ("prunes") it,
    that it may bring forth more fruit". The key word there, "Kathairo", means "to cleanse", or to "prune"; fig. to "expiate". This is interpreted with an analogy "pruning is a painful process where the pruning hook cuts off dead branches and anything else 'unfruitful' so more fruit can grow; so this is God using unpleasant circumstances to make us grow". But the passage says nothing about "unpleasant circumstances". That was ASSUMED based on the interpretations of the other scriptures. (Scripture does interpret scripture; but you have to make sure various scriptures are referring to the same thing before you paste them together into a systematic doctrine). Once again, conviction is what God prunes or cleanses us with, (and it can be painful in a way), but there is nothing in this to suggest God manipulating circumstances in the material world just to get at us. Heb. 4 shows "rest" from "our works" is the fulfillment of the old sabbath commandment! Yet ironically; we see these scriptures are used to turn this "peace" right back into work (they even admit it as such!) that ultimately (to many) can help indicate our standing before God! (i.e. developing good attitudes in these situations). No wonder so many are confused and don't get it!

    People are so used to hearing tough talk like "just do it", "just keep trying", "that's life; deal with it", "just let it roll off your chest", "you're your own worst enemy"; we hear both in the world, and also (often disguised) in Christian teaching. Only now, we say it is "different" because we put God's name into it, and paste scripture verses over it. We are told to "go to God"; "give it to God"; as the solution, yet it becomes quite "obvious" —from "God's own spokesmen", what His answer will be: God says all these same things! In fact, when we hurt or worried about something, He is probably just angry at our "sin" of doubt! (until we "confess" it, of course). Might this be what makes it so hard for people to trust God and pray, in the first place? I just cannot help but hear a similar ring in "His Grace is sufficient" the way it is often thrown out to suffering people, and one mayor's "Well, at least they're alive" (meaning, basically, a certain group of people in the city do not deserve the care that others get).
    --and this is what they call "encouragement"! To some prospective counselors, sympathizing is even warned against as "feeding" people's "self-pity". Much self-pity comes from the lack of compassion prevalent in a world and church driven by such cold pat answers! "Hard truth" it is, indeed. Talk about asking for bread and being tossed a rock!


    So none of these passages supports the trappings of the emotional health gospel: the cold dismissing of the suffering and mental and/or emotional distress of people in the mundane situations of today; or just throwing out trite verse quotes, spiritual clichés and platitudes, expecting that alone to lead people to healing; and the judging that often occurs when the person still doesn't overcome the problem (causing them further mental anguish and hopelessness). This makes the Christian life far more harder than it actually is. (Then we come with "My yoke is easy, and My burden light" on top of it). Once put in context, this whole system of tough talk collapses like a house of cards! Don't get me wrong; there are many Christians who do have a gift of of peace in suffering. I am not saying we should not be thankful or content. It is an ideal we all should strive for. (It's people's prooftexting for cold reactions toward the suffering I am getting at here). But everyone is different, and cannot always be forced into that mold, and in circumstances that have nothing to do with these scriptures. There was a special grace for those persecuted for Christ (Matt.5:10-12). We must not confuse this for natural growth in our natural struggles of today. Failing to separate the two just invites more disillusionment when people try it, or watch us try it, and it turns out not be as definite or as simple as people make it out to be. If "new life in Christ by the power of the Spirit" is just a bunch of "slow painful growth processes", then the nonbeliever can justly conclude that it is just "another philosophy of life; no better than any other, and if it works for you, fine, but I'll use something else". Building a house is no more "done by God" because a Christian does it, than when an non-Christian does it, though the Christian of course thanks God for the provision. Yes, the Christian life is "the narrow way" and a "cross" because the growth/overcoming process is no longer optional as it basically is in the world or moral relativism. But let's not butter this up as some particularly "supernatural" work of God. So I think more straightforwardness is needed-- that Christian growth in the midst of difficult times is very hard and often disheartening, with no simplistic formulas, clichés, or pat answers, and realize that this will call for more tolerance of those who struggle with negative emotions or lose faith. (Writer Philip Yancey in his treatments of pain is an example of someone who really displays compassion and affirmation to the suffering reader. Shamefully, he too is criticized by the more radical conservatives like BDM, for among other things, just so much as the name of one of his books; Disappointment With God! ("How dare anyone suggest such a thing", was the gist of his criticism. I wonder if God turned Mr. Beardsley's world upside down; if he really would just "accept it humbly from God" and have no disappointment at all, as he and other such leaders seem to be mandating for everyone else! People like this seem to direct the blame for everything they see wrong in the world at other people, anyway). For far too long, the church has tried to silence all questions or logic, and pacify people who suffer or question the Church's concepts. It was done more forcefully in the past (which caused many who are now unbelievers to give up on the faith, and conclude we have no real answers, but only want to control people), but now we have just found more polite ways to do it. So we should learn more how to try to meet their needs instead of ripping passages out of their contexts and hurling them at people to justify brushing them aside so we don't have to be bothered with anyone's problems. Christ said "Mans shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of GOd". That does not say "man doesn't really need bread at all, so if he doesn't get any, that is God's will for Him, and all his true 'needs' are being met regardless of what itl looks like".

    While these scriptures in principle do remind us to put our suffering in perspective (2 Cor.4:17, 18), still, we are humans, we still have all our wants and genuine needs,
    and we still "see in a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12). It is still hard for people to be completely
    comforted by the unseen in a world of clearly seen troubles. The Bible does not deny this. These
    "biblical answers" advocates aren't giving us [font size="-1"]ALL[/font] of the Bible's answers to problems; such as love and acceptance from other people of God. (For an example, see 2 cor.7:6,7). Some may [em]say[/em] this, but in practice they have no tolerance for serious problems, which they see as unwillingness to change. Many conservative Christian leaders often seem to act as if the purpose of the church to the suffering is to give him "biblical" counseling so he may get over his problem quickly, then he is to "submit" to the
    church-- which includes "paying and obeying" the pastor! --and these leaders mostly have all of
    their earthly needs met by the organization of the institutional Church! Indeed, the psychology
    critics feel therapy "erodes" the authority of the church, just like CCM and every other outside
    "ministry" people look up to. So it seems that church is all about the pastor and his authority.
    Meanwhile, while people are being urged to meet the pastor's needs, they are not being taught
    compassion to their fellow man; just to do their duty of "worshiping and serving God", and then
    going about their business. This is as much apart of the "me-ism" or self-centeredness of modern
    society that evangelical and fundamentalist psychology critics have decried. James 2:15, 16; the very passage speaking about faith without works being dead; speaks clearly about simply wishing someone "peace"
    (precisely what people are doing by only citing scriptures on peace and pointing them towards our eternal destiny), and without trying to give the person what he needs in the physical realm. 1 John 3:17, 18 speaks about "shutting up our hearts" to them (what we do when they don't respond the way we think they
    should).


    (Many of the references in this section are to Tim LaHaye's Why You Act the Way You Do (Living Books, Tyndale House, 1984), The references have been deprecated because I do not want to look like I am singling him out. I just ran across these statements in the course of reading his treatment of temperament theory, and they epitomize the problem in evangelical counseling, coupled with an eschatological and political philosophy that contradicts much of what they teach others about contentment! This is just the tip of the iceberg!}
     
  3. Marcia

    Marcia
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    Eric, your posts are too long to read! Can you summarize what you are saying in a couple of brief paragraphs?
     
  4. gb93433

    gb93433
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    Eric:

    Dr. Phil. would help your wife more in five minutes than a degree from any seminary in Christian counseling.
     
  5. Eric B

    Eric B
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    Huh?
    Why would she need Dr. Phil. (Isn't he secular humanist anyway?)
    Sorry it was so long. I thought that was better than posting just the link.
     
  6. tamborine lady

    tamborine lady
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    [​IMG]

    Now that you posted the whole thing, could you tell us in 50 words or less what you are talking about?

    Selah,

    Tam
     
  7. Eric B

    Eric B
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    I'm talking about the triteness, pat answers, cliches, etc. and often coldness of Christian counseling, and the misread scriptures it is based on, which are taken to men pain is good for us, and that is why we should hhave a "positive attitude" about it, and counselors can just accuse the sufferers of the "sin" of negative feelings, instead of validating their pain.
    Once again, sorry it came out so long.
     
  8. Joseph_Botwinick

    Joseph_Botwinick
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    Sometimes pain can be a good thing...it lets you know your still alive... [​IMG]

    Sorry. It's late and I am still doing homework, so I am a bit loopy right now... :eek:

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  9. Eric B

    Eric B
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    It can be a good thing; but I think too many Christian counselors and teachers are relying on that premise, and using it to basically dismiss or even make light of the problems of people coming to them. Then they get impatient and judgmental if the person doesn't "get over it" based solely on that "counsel".
     
  10. Eric B

    Eric B
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    Just checked out the links.
    I never knew Joyce Myers was that close to the Word-Faith movement, or at least was not sure, since I may have heard something like that before.
    I do hear her say things that sound like prosperity; but whenever I hear her, she is usually talking about "our attitude" when we don't get our way, and how our "feelings" are always opposite God. So I thought people would basically like her teachings. (She is the one I had in mind above when I wrote about some who combine elements of both teachings that we are faithless if we accept not getting what we want, or faithless if we don't accept it. She's also the one quoted above as sying God told her He was using the poor reception at meetings to teach her man does not live by bread alone).
    Still; while the pfo links speak about her abrasiveness, it seems the tough talk is very common across all of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Right away, the http://www.geocities.com/Bob_Hunter/generational.html site echos the very same problem I am addressing regarding a purely simplistic approach when it says:
    My point here is that it is usually NOT that simple! These things deeply impact our emotions, and while we are free in Christ, that is legally. We are not instantly healed of things such as generations of abuse. If we think so, then there should be no problem with Myers identifying a demon as behind the problem, and instantly rebuking the demon. It's the same basic simplistic message, and the only difference is whether a spirit being is behind the problem or not. (and who can really know?) But the solution in both cases is basically the same, and that is that the power of God instantly removes the problem, if one turns "in faith". If it doesn't; it must be the suffering person's own fault. The advocates of both teachings will talk tough and turn their noses up in judgment at the person who doesn't get over it right away. So I'm sorry, we are often no better than the Word-Faith teaching, and hence why this is called the "emotional health gospel". It is the other side of the same coin!
     

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