A distinction between biblical counseling and an integrationist model

Those who insist on a biblical counseling methodology begin with the Scriptures. This is their basis. Their writings are filled with biblical exposition, and psychological insights are brought in only in a secondary and tentative manner. In contrast, Christian psychologists often tend to start with psychology and use Scripture to back up their views. Thus, it does not come down so much to whether or not one is committed to the final authority of Scripture in principle. Rather, it is how well and consistently one actually uses the Scriptures in counseling theory and practice. This is how Powlison ends an article titled “Which Presuppositions? Secular Psychology and the Categories of Biblical Thought.” He asks three questions: 1. Does the momentum behind a particular idea come from Scripture or psychology? 2. Is the God-ward referent in immediate evidence when discussing human behavior, motives, norms, problems, solutions and so forth? Or is psychology the moving force in a system and Scripture is employed essentially to window dress and prooftext? 3. Do the observations of psychology illustrate and apply biblical categories of thought about human life? Or is Scripture used to provide illustrations, applications and parallels to secular categories of thought? 

Developments in Biblical Counseling

J Cameron Frazer

Does Common Grace Provide an Objective Basis for Values?


, , , , ,


A common sort of argument is made that “common grace” is a basis for wisdom.  For example, John Coe makes the argument that since Proverbs 8 uses an analogy from ants as a basis to chide a sluggard, “the sage has Cosmic Wisdom setting forth the existential implications and applications of the fact that She is imprinted upon human nature and responsible for governing human actions.”  (John Coe, “Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical”, a paper presented at ETS, Far West Annual Meeting 1991). Coe argues that nature provides an “objective” source of “values”.  And, as part of his proof that the Bible makes this argument he cites to the analogy of bees.

Now there are a number of problems with arguing from the use of an analogy to a structure of “Cosmic Wisdom” “imprinted upon human nature”.  Yet, I will permit a character of Charles Dickens to make a retort:

‘Thankee, sir, thankee,’ returned that gentleman. ‘And how do YOU like the law?’ ‘A–not particularly,’ returned Eugene. ‘Too dry for you, eh? Well, I suppose it wants some years of sticking to, before you master it. But there’s nothing like work. Look at the bees.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ returned Eugene, with a reluctant smile, ‘but will you excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being referred to the bees?’

‘Do you!’ said Mr Boffin.

‘I object on principle,’ said Eugene, ‘as a biped–‘

‘As a what?’ asked Mr Boffin.

‘As a two-footed creature;–I object on principle, as a two-footed creature, to being constantly referred to insects and four-footed creatures. I object to being required to model my proceedings according to the proceedings of the bee, or the dog, or the spider, or the camel. I fully admit that the camel, for instance, is an excessively temperate person; but he has several stomachs to entertain himself with, and I have only one. Besides, I am not fitted up with a convenient cool cellar to keep my drink in.’

‘But I said, you know,’ urged Mr Boffin, rather at a loss for an answer, ‘the bee.’

‘Exactly. And may I represent to you that it’s injudicious to say the bee? For the whole case is assumed. Conceding for a moment that there is any analogy between a bee, and a man in a shirt and pantaloons (which I deny), and that it is settled that the man is to learn from the bee (which I also deny), the question still remains, what is he to learn? To imitate? Or to avoid? When your friends the bees worry themselves to that highly fluttered extent about their sovereign, and become perfectly distracted touching the slightest monarchical movement, are we men to learn the greatness of Tuft-hunting, or the littleness of the Court Circular? I am not clear, Mr Boffin, but that the hive may be satirical.’

‘At all events, they work,’ said Mr Boffin.

‘Ye-es,’ returned Eugene, disparagingly, ‘they work; but don’t you think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need–they make so much more than they can eat–they are so incessantly boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them–that don’t you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to have no holidays, because of the bees? And am I never to have change of air, because the bees don’t? Mr Boffin, I think honey excellent at breakfast; but, regarded in the light of my conventional schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.’

Our Mutual Friend

What can be more truly described as worship

There are plenty of people, of course, outside the Church who have a sincere contempt for sermons. There are plenty of people inside who would like, as they put it, to enlarge the field of interest, and to hear the minister of the Church on all sorts of literary, economical, or political questions. There are even people who disparage preaching on the plea of devotion: we do not go to church to hear sermons, they say, but to worship God. The mouths of all these people would be shut in a church waiting assiduously on the teaching of the Apostles, always eager to hear more about Jesus. Preaching is much more likely to fail, even in interest, from want of concentration than from want of range. There are plenty of people to talk politics and literature, and not too many to bear witness to Jesus who will yet extend His sceptre over every field. If the sermon in church is what it ought to be—if it is not an exhibition of the preacher but of Jesus—there should be nothing in it even conceivably in contrast with worship, but the very reverse. What can be more truly described as worship than hearing the word of God as it ought to be heard, hearing it with penitence, with contrition, with faith, with self-consecration, with vows of new obedience? If this is not worship in spirit and in truth, what is? We may sorrowfully confess that in all our churches there is too little worship, that adoration is rare, that while singing is enjoyed the sacrifice of praise is hardly conceived, and the ardour and concentration of prayer strangely unfamiliar, but we will not mend these deficiencies by thrusting into the background the testimony to Jesus. Such a testimony is the only inspiration to worship in the Christian sense of the term, and it is the primary mark of the true Church that it gathers round this testimony and is unreservedly loyal to it.

James Denney, “The Ideal Church” in The Way Everlasting.

The Greatest of Miracles

John Chrysostom preaching on Acts 1:
“For this would be the greatest of miracles, that without any miracles, the whole world should have eagerly come to be taken in the nets of twelve poor and illiterate men. For not by wealth of money, not by wisdom of words, not by any thing else of this kind, did the fishermen prevail; so that objectors must even against their will acknowledge that there was in these men a Divine power, for no human strength could ever possibly effect such great results”

The Relgion of Mrs. Clenham Part 2


, , , ,

The previous post in this series concerning Dickens’ novel Little Dorrit may be found here.

Arthur Clenham comes home to the dismal, dark house of his childhood. The only decorations were framed  images of the Plagues of Egypt.  He and his father have in China on business for 20 years. His father died and has returned to London and the house of his bed ridden mother:

‘I am able,’ said Mrs Clennam, with a slight motion of her worsted-muffled right hand toward a chair on wheels, standing before a tall writing cabinet close shut up, ‘I am able to attend to my business duties, and I am thankful for the privilege. It is a great privilege. But no more of business on this day. It is a bad night, is it not?’ ‘Yes, mother.’ ‘Does it snow?’ ‘Snow, mother? And we only yet in September?’ ‘All seasons are alike to me,’ she returned, with a grim kind of luxuriousness. ‘I know nothing of summer and winter, shut up here. The Lord has been pleased to put me beyond all that.’ With her cold grey eyes and her cold grey hair, and her immovable face, as stiff as the folds of her stony head-dress,—her being beyond the reach of the seasons seemed but a fit sequence to her being beyond the reach of all changing emotions.

At this place we see more evidence the grim legalism of Mrs. Clenham. The Plagues are not seen from the perspective of God’s people as a glorious rescue. She sees them from the perspective of the judged slave masters, “The old articles of furniture were in their old places; the Plagues of Egypt, much the dimmer for the fly and smoke plagues of London, were framed and glazed upon the walls.” The Egyptians were plagued with flies; the flies are in this dark house ( darkness was also a plague).

She revels in her misery.  She bears her place with a false  humility: “a grim kind of luxuriousness.”

She is a sort of Medusa although her head is the one of stone.

The Right Way to Shake off a Viper.1


, , ,

The Right Way to Shake off a Viper
Upon a
Too commonly calling for consideration
What shall good men do when they are evil spoken of?


By Cotton Mather


With a Preface of
Dr. Increase Mather

The Second Impression
1 Cor. 4.12, 13 being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
2 Corinthians 6:4, 8 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience,—, …By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true.

Boston: Printed by S. Kneeland, for
Gerrish and Sold at his Shop 1720

Of the very Reverend
Dr. Increase Mather

In mens’ defaming their neighbors (especially such as have deserved better usage), there is no little evil. Not only does our Savior Christ instruct us to do as we would be done by, but the moral philosophers among the Gentiles, by the light of Nature, say, Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris. Nevertheless, as great an evil as it is, many are guilty of it. And many of the best and most serviceable men in the world have been exposed unto it. The holy prophets heard the defaming of many. The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, being defamed, yet bless those there were most abusive to htem. Nor was there any man in the world more defamed than He has been the Savior of it; who has taught his disciples to forgive their enemies, to bless those that curse them, and to do good unto those that hate them.

The essay now to be offered unto the reader was printed in London nine years ago. But I never saw it until within these few days; nor lift I to inquire after the author. I find in it not only erudition and ingenuity, a gospel spirit of real piety: and that the author (whoever he be) is a person of great reading and acquaintance with learned writers; and has made his knowledge subservient unto his religion. I have therefore advised the reprinting of it in Boston, hoping that God will bless it, both for the condition of them who are concerned as trangressors, and for the consolation of them who may be concerned as sufferers, by defamations.

Boston, Sept. 1, 1720
Increase Mather

The Occasion of the Ensuing Essay

It has been earnestly wished by some, yea, it has been the firstborn of their wishes, that whatever special temptation and affliction befalls them, the glorious Lord may have some revenues of glory; yea, and his people also some revenues of service from it.

There are those who have seen their desire in this then remarkably accomplished; and it has been sweet uno them; it has been remarkably sweetened the bitters of all their exercises [trials]. I would you should understand, brethren, that the things happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. But then, if we are at any time exercised with injurious defamations, why should not thing temptation and affliction be approved as well as the rest, and the Church of Christ, wherein the case occurs to all that will live godly be interested (if we can attain to it) in the improvement of it [making good use of it]?

It is a pleasant criticism of Cocceius that the Church is compared to a garden of nuts; partly because good men must, like nuts, be well knocked and broken before others can get that good which is to be gotten out of them.

If the Reader et any good by an essay now put into his hands, let him adore the faithfulness of the glorious Lord who ordered a servant of His to be knocked with some calumnies and reproaches; which awakened him (instead of answering and confuting them as ’tis easy for him to do) to set himself upon strengthening his brethren with a discourse on a case wherein very many are concerned. It must be confessed that he had also in this essay a very particular eye to another servant of God whose watchfulness and faithfulness and industry had not excused him from unkind usage (which every wise man looks for) in an evil world.

Plutarch wrote a treatise De Capienda ad hostibus utilitate, How to Profit from One’s Enemies. But Plutarch was a stranger to such maxims as this essay is composed of. And both the author and his friend has great cause to take satisfaction in the divine providence that has brought them forth for the service of the people to whom we owe our all.

The famous Dod had been so greatly defamed by an office of the College whereto he belonged that his vexation upon it threw him into a fever. But God sanctified it for so much good unto him that he sent for his defaming accuser and for the sake of the good he had gained by him heartily forgave him all the wrong he had suffered from him. Anon [quickly thereafter] the accuser himself saw and owned his error.

If the author of this essay may not only gain the good proposed in it, but also do the good that is intended by the writing of it; he will have superabundant reason to forgive those that have been abusive to him; yea, though instead of a smaller number and worthier of a better name, their Name were Legion.

Among the assaults upon him, he has had first and last above a dozen pamphlets published against him unapt ay one of which he never made the least reply; except it were that which the University of Hemstadt made unto an abuse put upon them, Visum eat non alio remedy quad generous silentio & pio contempt utendum knobs esse (Silence and contempt they thought the best reply). This unreplying silence has not proceeded form the weakness of his cause, but from the strength of it. For what loss of time is it (ill to be spared of a short life!) to draw a saw with a people who have no reason or honor in them? These children of unreasonableness write nothing worthy of a reasonable man’s consideration. They themselves arm the considerate Reader with their own refutation. To recite what they say is to refute it. The men and their pens have been such that still when his adversary has written a book he might well take it upon his shoulder and bind it as a crown unto him. The invectives of such people, we have been taught by an archangel; ho little notice and with what patience is to be taken of them.

And sometimes there is occasion to think, how Maximus Tyrius resolves the case: Whether being injured we make a return [give an answer] or no? Say he,“’Tis not at all convenient that an honest man should wrestle a fall with one of another character [a different character then him]; for they were not brought up under the same tutors or unto the same exercises nor do they expect the same success or applause of what they do; so that, All that he does is this. At the take of Cadiz, For Philip, and all the Spanish galleys sired on Sir Walter Raleigh in the van [at the head of] the English navy; Raleigh scored their first and answered with a flourish of trumpets without shooting a gun, till he saw his time and then did notable execution. He takes leave to say he will not once first on any libelers or revilers. He wishes what is here exposed may be acceptable a melody to good men as a flourish of trumpets.

There may come a time for such things to be done as may render the adversaries ashamed of their abusiveness.

One who is not the most unexceptionable author in the world, though a mighty clerk, a very great scholar and writer (Monsieur Le Clerc) has written a discourse beyond ll exception upon that problem, An Semper Respondendum Calumiis Theologorum written against a man are always answered by him. He wisely answers, “No, by no means; ’tis perfect loss of time. Do you go on writing such books as will be of lasting benefit to making. Those books will be your sufficient and perpetual vindication. The sober part of mankind will be so far from regarding the calumnies published against you, they will but abhor the publishers.

This agrees well with what Sarricius wrote unto Salmasius when he three away his time in answering many books written against him. Non dubito quin the aculeate dicta angant quietemque tuam perturbent sed semel te opertet claudere Aures omnibus ills maledictis, homineque ulcifei composione operum que te digna sint. Amiable revenge truly! to say nothing unto the calumniators but to write something that mankind shall be better for.

If Divines [theologians] writing against a man (which none such ever did yet against the author of this essay that he been sensible of), are so little to be regarded what then are men who proclaim themselves little better than atheists and the profane pamphlets by such en darted against him? The first of a dirt of a street as little to be regarded!

Virtuous men it seems have had the opinion of a paper which I have seen, dispersed among a people so instructed and so disposed that in a little more than one week’s time it was with very near an universal abhorrence chased out of the world. It strangely disappeared at once and hardly anyone man would so expose his own reputation as to be known to countenance it. That atheistical paper had a collections of gross and vile falsehoods wherein the author of this essay is belied with an uncommon degree of malignity. He has been at a loss about a proper conduct on this occasion. On each of the passages (which traduce him in the point wherein if he ever did well and as became an honest man in his life it was in those points!). He might give the answer which honest Valorous Magnus thought it enough to repeat on every charge which his adversary then falsely made upon him; “Mentiris impudentissime: ’Tis a most impudent lie!”

But one the one side had he consulted flesh and blood, the cry would have been, Nos haec patiemur inulti? An Aristotle would have told him, It is a slavish thing when we are used contumeliously to suffer it without returns. An Socrates would have told him, You must think a base thing to be outdone by your enemies in ill turns as by your friends in good ones. AsTerence taught us at school that evil maxim, Veteran serenade injuries invites nova. And should he employ an hundredth part of that armor of righteousness both on the righthand and on the left, that is, both defensive and offensive wherewith he is furnished on this occasion the poor men could not but repent of their having meddled with him.

On the other side Christianity prescribes a world of silence and patience and goodness upon such provocations; and we have an admirable Savior and pattern, who, as sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. [Isaiah 53:7]. He resolved therefor to treat that lil with silence, and as unworthy of an answer, in the conscience of every man who had any real virtue or honor in him. Indeed, if a man were not altogether so richly favored of the Lord abroad it were not little favor to have that within which may comfort him in the testimony of the conscience.

It is a pleasant answer from an honest man unto a passionate Lord, after he had patiently heard I’m call him abundance of bad names, Your honor may speak as you please, but I believe not a word of it. For I know myself to be an honest man. However this course taken by him: He knew no person of the least credibility in the world would ever assert such things to his face or in hi slife; and should be but merely mention the names of those blades who divulged the libel this alone would be (though his own sufficient vindication) yet such an exquisite piece of revenge upon his enemies as is not agreeable with his principles.

Wherefore he remains wholly silent for the present. But lest, after his death, any wicked men should go on to make an advantage of such thing as they have done by this renewed grand father before him, he leaves behind him such well-attested instruments of manuscript as being produced will forever bury in confusion all attempts to wound religion by wounding of a servant of it. We may and should speak upon some wrongs; not for the revenging of ourselves but for the suppressing of lies that my hurt our usefulness.

In the meantime, he would be loath to come short of a Mosunius (commted for by Grotius) who protested he would never sue any man upon action of defamation or safer another to do it upon his behalf. He may go on in doing all the good offices for his people that he can; he is invulnerable. Some names as so oiled that no ink will stick upon them.

It was the counsel of Sadoletus to Erasmus, You see, he counsel, e a full and final answer to all the calumnies that should be cast upon him. ’Tis hoped that the author of this essay will have no need of any other answer to calumnies. This one book [the book which follows] is answer enough; after this, he need never trouble himself about any more he may go on in the better work which his hand finds to do, and not turn aside for any.



Rhetorical Figures: Epanaphora


, , ,

Epanaphora is the repetition of a word (or perhaps words) at the beginning of a series of clauses or phrases:

The Lord sitteth above the water floods.

The Lord remaineth a king for ever.

The Lord shall give strength unto his people.

The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Psalm 29, quoted in Henry Peachum, The Garden of Eloquence (1593): Schemas. The repetition can be in any form, a question, a declaration, et cetera. The form is pleasant and emphatic. However, Peachum notes that it can easily be misused. First, it can easily be dragged on without purpose and thus become tedious rather than useful. Second, since the form emphasizes the lead word it misleads if the word repeated is not the central concept of the section.

The Scope of the Fall’s Effect


, ,

It is the human heart that is corrupt (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 14:1; Jer. 17:9; Ezek. 36:26; Matt. 15:19); from it flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23). It is from within the human heart that all iniquities and all sorts of incomprehension flow (Mark 7:21). The mind of humans is darkened (Job 21:14; Isa. 1:3; Jer. 4:22; John 1:5; Rom. 1:21–22; 1 Cor. 1:18–23; 2:14; Eph. 4:18; 5:8). The human soul is guilty and impure and needs atonement and repentance (Lev. 17:11; Pss. 19:7; 41:4; Prov. 19:3, 16; Matt. 16:26; 1 Pet. 1:22). The human spirit is proud, errant, and polluted and therefore has to be broken, illumined, and cleansed (Ps. 51:19; Prov. 16:18, 32; Eccles. 7:9; Isa. 57:15; 66:2; 1 Cor. 7:34; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 5:23). The human conscience is stained and needs cleansing (Titus 1:15; Heb. 9:9, 14; 10:22). The human desire, inclination, and will reach out to what is forbidden and is powerless to do good (Jer. 13:23; John 8:34, 36; Rom. 6:17; 8:7; 2 Cor. 3:5). And the body, with all its members—the eyes (Deut. 29:4; Ps. 18:27; Isa. 35:5; 42:7; 2 Pet. 2:14; 1 John 2:16), the ears (Deut. 29:4; Pss. 115:6; 135:17; Isa. 6:10; Jer. 5:21; Zech. 7:11), the feet (Ps. 38:16; Prov. 1:16; 4:27; 6:18; Isa. 59:7; Rom. 3:15), the mouth and the tongue (Job 27:4; Pss. 17:10; 12:3f.; 15:3; Jer. 9:3, 5; Rom. 3:14; James 3:5–8)—is in the service of unrighteousness. In a word: sin is not located on and around humans but within them and extends to the whole person and the whole of humankind.

Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 80–81.

Objective Humility 


It seems that humility is often defined in terms of how one subjectively feels when in the presence of another. If after spending time with Mr X I feel assured, comfortable, at ease – particularly if Mr X speaks of his own understandable faults – there is the tendency to say that Mr X is humble.

One’s emotions are a sort of judgement. Since emotions are not the product of deliberation and seemingly uncontradictable, there is a strong bias to take that judgment as unassailably true.  Therefore if I feel safe around Mr X , if I feel like he is “open”, then he must be humble.

The trouble here is that humility is not the feeling produced by another. A con man easily produces comfort in another. An awkward man may be humble. Moses was very meek (Numbers 12:3) and very powerful. Humility in another may not make me feel good. Self disclosure may be deceptive.

Indeed, if I leave someone thinking that “he is humble” I am likely wrong, because I am thinking about him. 

Humility in a Christian should be marked by a tendency to not think about oneself and to point others to thinking about the Christ. Humility in a Christian is marked by the readiness to see one’s own sin and that constant move to repentance; to see and treat others as more important; to plainly live as one who has a “Lord”.

Humility is objectively true; humility is not how someone makes you feel.

Taking the Tongue for a Walk


“And their tongue walketh through the earth.” Leisurely and habitually they traverse the whole world to find victims for their slander and abuse. Their tongue prowls in every corner far and near, and spares none. They affect to be universal censors, and are in truth perpetual vagrants. Like the serpent, they go nowhere without leaving their slime behind them; if there were another Eden to be found, its innocence and beauty would not preserve it from their filthy trail. They themselves are, beyond measure, worthy of all honour, and all the rest of mankind, except a few of their parasites, are knaves, fools, hypocrites, or worse. When these men’s tongues are out for a walk, they are unhappy who meet them, for they push all travellers into the kennel: it is impossible altogether to avoid them, for in both hemispheres they take their perambulations, both on land and sea they make their voyages. The city is not free from them, and the village swarms with them. They waylay men in the king’s highway, but they are able to hunt across country, too. Their whip has a long lash, and reaches both high and low.”

Spurgeon, Treasury of David

Psalm 73:9