Bees, Biblical Counseling, Common Grace, John Coe, Our Mutual Friend, Why Biblical Counseling is Unbiblical
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