Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Encouraging Seminar with NANC's Dr. Rick Thomas

This past weekend, my church had the priviledge of hosting NANC fellow Rick Thomas for a 2-day biblical counseling seminar for all of us who were interested in the training. For those of you who may not know, NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) is the certifying and overseeing organization of biblical counselors who, along with CCEF, provides Christ-centered counseling under the auspices of the local church.

Our church currently has three certified NANC counselors on board, and a slew of us in various stages of training. The program of study in which I am enrolled, the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, is the most comprehensive and lengthy of different training options - 14 different distance courses are required, covering 185 hours of lectures, with a plethora of reading material (much of it by Jay Adams). A friend of mine completed this course of study several years ago, and found it extremely helpful. The next step is a two-part exam, wrapped up by having 50 hours of your counseling supervised (and scrutinized) by a NANC "fellow", or mentor. Dr. Thomas is one such mentor, and he spent 11 hours with us over the weekend lecturing on how to serve God by becoming more effective counselors.

Frankly, as a relative "newbie", I probably gained much more from this seminar than some of the more seasoned "veterans" of biblical counseling did. Dr. Thomas taught seven workshops, including topics such as "Gathering Data", "Determining if a Counselee is Saved", "Idols of the Heart", "Suicide" and "Parenting". All were relevant and timely topics.

One of the things that I most appreciated about this seminar was its practicality - Jay Adams' eschatology lectures are nice, and I need to brush up on the finer points of Reformed theology (so I can hold my own with my 5-pointer homies), but in my humble opinion such intellectual gymnastics will lead neither myself nor a counselee closer to Jesus. Never let it be said that sound doctrine doesn't matter; on the contrary! Correct theology informs biblical counsel. The two cannot be separated. In and of itself, however, all the theology in the world will not encourage a struggling believer who is under condemnation...or a professing believer repent of a life-dominating sin.

The afternoon before this workshop began, I had coffee with a young woman who reads my blog and was in Massachusetts over the week. While her Facebook profile maintains she "lives passionately for Jesus" and she had spent 6 months at Vision of Hope (a nouthetic residential facility), by the end of the conversation she told me point-blank that she "wasn't ready" to repent (of her eating disorder and nightly vodka habit). She is currently content to "keep God out" of that area of her life, and keeps re-filling her prescription for bi-polar meds to convince herself she is "sick". If I were ever formally counseling this gal, I would need every speck of advice we learned on Friday night - persistent, redundant questioning (to understand what she is thinking and what does she want); and secondly, to find out if a) she understands what salvation is and b) if she is, in fact, saved.

One of the biggest (perhaps THE biggest) error that can be made in biblical counseling is to inadvertantly counsel an unbeliever. While no biblical counselor would do so intentionally (a person who has not been born again is incapable of pleasing God), I have generally gone on the assumption that when a counselee claims to be a Christian, we should take his or her word for it. This, I learned, is a mistake - almost everyone will claim to be a Christian, but many cannot even articulate the Gospel (this is especially true here in New England). Dr. Thomas included the following definition for salvation in our notes:

"Salvation IS: A counselee becoming aware of his terrible spiritual condition, accepting the just and desereved penalty of eternal separation from God, hearing and believing the Good News of Christ's sole, substitutionary atonement and committing his or her life to Christ as Savior, Disciple, and Lord."
Sometimes the simplest things are the things you remember the most clearly, and during the ensuing discussion on sanctification I appreciated the observation that God prunes differently in brand-new believers than in maturing ones. Drawing on the expectation of fruit, more fruit, and much fruit to indicate one is a true disciple (John 15:1-8), Dr. Thomas pointed out that often outward actions change first after regeneration - "You don't smoke, swear, chew, or go with girls who do," he quipped. Then, however, the Holy Spirit moves on to convict and change the Christian's attitudes - from anger, deep bitterness, etc. This is how the believer continues to be fruitful, but I have noticed it is often the point at which discouragement sets in (including in my own heart!) Not noticing spiritual change, the believer will often conclude, "I quit smoking and drinking, but I still have the black heart - I still have unforgiveness, lust, anger. I must not really be a Christian after all!" He or she sometimes then slips into condemnation or depression, not realizing the slow, gradual pace of the pruning process. The worst thing the blood-bought child of God can do is to assume that because the "rate" of spiritual growth has slowed, the Holy Spirit is not present.

(Related to this doubt is another fallacy: that Romans 7 described Paul pre-conversion. Surprisingly, this interpretation has caught on among some Lordship preachers, and has caused unnecessary doubt and anguish among Christians who are genuinely struggling against their sin).

In a later post, I would like to discuss "How Can We Evaluate if We Have an Idol?", or a desire that displaces our satisfaction in God. This was a useful lecture for every disciple of Christ, not just those counseling people with life-dominating sins.

Dr. Thomas has a treasure-trove of helpful webinars and blog entries on various topics of interest to biblical counselors, Bible study leaders and others in ministry, at his Mt. Carmel Ministries website: http://www.mtcarmelmin.org/. Sooo grateful for the opportunity to study what Scripture teaches us on the importance of discipling others under his tutelege!


Anonymous said...

"Determining if a Counselee is Saved"

Is that a mistake? C-R-E-E-P-Y!

Just for the record, are you still claiming to be a Christian?


Marie said...

Hi Pat,

I don't really need to make that "claim" - Jesus Christ made it for me back in John 14 and 15.

Oh that's right....I forgot; your denomination doesn't encourage Bible reading. :(

No, helping a counselee apply the doctrine of assurance (see Romans; 1 John and much of Galatians) is not a mistake. I know you don't know Him, but Christ Himself had quite a lot to say about fruit evident in the life of a believer, (Matt. 13; John 15 etc.) and both Peter (2 Peter 1) and Paul (2 Corinthians 1; Romans 8) give several elements of assurance that can show us we're truly saved.

Not that you would know anything about that, being spiritually blind and dead in your sin and hatred of His Gospel. Attack and mock all you want; Christ changes lives. I have the privilege of seeing it every day - up close and personal.

donkimrey said...

What's with this "Anonymous?" Sometimes I feel justified in not posting such. don

Anonymous said...

We don't encourage reading the Bible??!! We GAVE you the Bible:)

I'm dead in my sin? I guess you are god, now.

Denomination??? Oh that's right, you like to pretend that the CC is a denomination because it makes you feel justified in admitting that you are in a denomination. The CC dominates.

I guess it wasn't a mistake! YOU can say who is and is not saved. That's a pretty interesting religion you have there. You might want to try Christianity, but then you'd need to hop off of your soap box and throw in your pope hat.

Seriously, who's to say who's right? What if two people of your religious version accused the other of being damned? I know it is a favorite thing to do--accusing others of being damned, but think (ahem) about it.

My new site is nearly built. I do hope you visit often to share your historical and theological ideas; I promise I will give you as much rope as you want.

Marie said...

@ Don - yeah, I usually delete the obvious Chinese Spam-bot anonymous comments, but Pat's I actually enjoy - he (or she?) is a Colorado reader who googles my blog every day. I enjoy posting his venom (pretty sure he's a guy; despite the emotional and passive agressive rhetoric he employs) because it only serves to further highlight his ignorance. As a writer, you're no doubt familiar with the expression (give him just enough rope to let him hang himself").

Ironically enough, one of my recent counselees was sexually molested by a lecherous priest in the apostate "church" he so passionately defends. (Usually they go after little boys - this one must have been a hetero pedophile). Here's the really ironic part, though: the "priest" told the young lady that SHE was the one who would go to hell if she left the romanist church.

@ Pat - really; so "you" gave "us" the Bible? Was that before or after Wycliffe was maligned for translating it, or Hus and Tyndale were burned at the stake? Or perhaps it was before the Bible was listed on the Vatican's banned books? You certainly have an...interesting view of history. (I am laughing as I type this at your sophomoric ignorance.) Come back when you graduate school, sweetie. Someone needs a little lesson on the Early Church Councils. Man. My 10-year-old son knows more about Church history than you.

Nope; if you read the post (or better yet, the Bible), you would realize that the issue is NOT that I can difinitively say whether or not someone else is saved. But she (or he) MAY be able to say for herself - basing her assurance on the clear principles laid out in Scripture. Regeneration does not leave someone unchanged; there is (and will continue to be) evidence of salvation in the life of someone who is truly in Christ.

This is Christianity 101, Pat. Unfortuantely, the RCC has taught that the biblical position on assurance is the "sin of presumption" so effectively for so long that this may seem shocking to you, (although even in romanism there is a practice of examen of one's conscience), but I promise you it is in the Bible.

If you would like to discuss assurance of the believer and the implications of Galatians 5:22, I would be happy to oblidge. If you are interested only in ad hominem attacks, there are plenty of other Christians in the blogosphere where you may take your seething ignorance, but it will not be tolerated here.

Thanks for the offer, but I probably will not have time to engage you in online debate for the sake of debate. I have a book at the publisher's right now, and between coursework, ministering to the women I am counseling, interpreting part time and caring for my children, I don't have a whole lot of time to waste in online debates. If you seriously are that incredulous about testing one's self to whether one is in the faith, I would encourage you to read the Epistles. If your issue is that one person cannot definitively judge the salvation of ANOTHER (who claims to be saved), I agree and you have misunderstood my position (and that of NANC). The most common scenario of non-Christians seeking counseling (or discipleship) is people who believe that they are saved, but are later convicted by the Holy Spirit that they are not.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Excuse me, Pat, but the CC DID NOT give anyone the Bible. You obviously have no idea of the history of the Bible if you resort to such foolish comments. The OT was in existence for a 1000 years before the Roman church came into existence. The NT books were considered by the various assemblies as canon before the Romanist Church came into existence.

RCC is an aberrational and heretical organization, and if people become Christians in that organization it is in spite of the teachings and not because of them.

Anonymous said...

•Venom? Because I said you were creepy? The venom comes from you. Look at all the immature names you give Catholics.

•I come every day? No, about every week. I've been able to determine where the fundamentalist talking points come from and I like to see how the fundamentalist sheep eat it up. YOU actually fell for it on your last post about "Peter/pope" but you probably don't even know it. Post themes trickle down and eventually find themselves with the bottom feeders, like this blog.

•I'm a priest? I'm a woman? Great analysis. Why not believe I'm one of the numerous protestant sodomite ministers who outnumber (by impartial sources) our bad clergy? Oh, because you are more interested in propaganda than truth.

•Oh the problems with these comments... they just go on and on.

The important thing is that you actually feeeeel like you are able to determine if someone is saved. And that is indeed creepy.

Seriously, and this is for all of your sheep as well who like to comment. WHY do you believe the Bible is God's word? Who told you that?

The answer is that the that the CC told you. So go on and believe that it fell out of the sky in a nice english format for any nut to wave it overhead and claim to be the infallible interpreter. I'll stick with the Church that had it from the beginning.

Marie said...

#1 - "catholic" = "universal". Applying the term to the false church of Rome is an oxymoron.

#2 - Ok, you're upset because someone (many people, actually) pointed out the fallacy of the papacy and the fact that Peter was 4 centuries removed from it. So you set up a straw man argument on an unrelated issue to stamp your feet. I get it.

#3 - Never said YOU were a priest, and I am assuming you're not a woman. Again, Pat, you need to pay more attention. Point of fact: the RCC has been guilty not only of child molestation on an unprecedented scale, the inherently corrupt organization has tried to cover it up for centuries (as with the numerous mistresses impregnated by evil popes, the very "vicars of Christ", throughout the centuries).

#3b - kindly name (and link) one such "source". With hard data, please.

#4 - feelings have nothing whatsoever to do with it. If you know anything at all about biblical counseling, you realize that subjective feelings are irrelevant insofar as they do not line up with objective Truth, the Bible. Please not Pastor Kevin Williams' excellent sermon on exactly that subject - Puritan Fellowship on the blogroll. He articulates the teaching on assurance extremely well, if you are actually interested in what God has to say on this vital matter. (I have a "feeling", however, that you are not.) :)

#5 - it is an historical fact that the RCC kept the Vulgate (and later the Scriptures in the vernacular) out of the hands of laymen for many centuries, and tortured and killed those who translated and distributed them to believers. The rationale, which was still being given as recently as the late 20th century, was that "the common person cannot interpret God's Word for himself". Read: "If the people find out what this book really says, we're in trouble! We won't be able to manipulate them anymore!"

Do you honestly think that the sale of indulgences, the existence of purgatory (a very late doctrine, btw), the Marian doctrines (most of which were developed after the 10th century), the priesthood, transubstantiation (another late 10th century idea) or a host of other unbiblical nonsense would have been accepted by the masses, had they been allowed a glimpse into the book to which the clergy claimed exclusive rights?

And don't even get me started on Pelagianism and the Vatican. Fascinating stuff, but no big surprises.

#6 - I've yet to meet a "fundamentalist" (your perjorative for those of us who adhere to the fundamental teachings of Christianity) who believes the Bible "fell out of the sky in English". We do, however, know quite a bit about the translators and evangelists who were burned by the institution you defend for distributing it, without misconstruing every vital doctrine therein. This is a dark, bloody chapter your "church" will never tell you, and no amount of denial will erase.

Pat, it's been fun but I do have stuff to do...and frankly prefer to spend my time serving God than debating unbelievers online. Take care.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hey Pat, the Bible SAYS it is the Word of God. These books of the NT were written long before Roman Catholicism existed. The Bereans were able to interpret the Scripture and were called 'noble" for checking it against the teachings of Paul. No where in the NT will you find anyone saying that the people couldn't understand what it said, and yet Rome decided only they could interpret it and kept it from the people so they wouldn't know the teachings of Rome were corrupt.

Andy said...

The fact that the RCC rejects the doctrine of the assurance of salvation is proof of her Pelagianism.

lyn said...

First of all, the fact that you don't have the courage to post your name is telling, quite cowardly.
Second of all, the Roman Catholic church did NOT give anyone the Bible, God gave us the bible. I recommend this link for further proof, http://www.reachingcatholics.org/who_gave.html

We can indeed tell who is a Christian and who isn't. The doctrine of regeneration is the key behind this, the new birth is the distinguishing mark of a true believer. I am not talking about some church tradition, or some 'work' you perform over and over in order to earn salvation, I am talking about the supernatural work of God in a believer that changes them from the inside out. It's a change of thinking, a renewing of the mind by the studying of His word. Change the way a person thinks and you will change their behavior.
There is SO MUCH wrong with RCC doctrine, it's hard to know where to start. The best place to start is with God's truth; Christ died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. He paid fully the price for sin for all who would be saved by grace. The blood of Christ cleanses us completely, no need to re-sacrifice Him in a wafer repeatedly. The Bible blows RCC doctrine out of the water concerning your mass, Christ is at the right hand of the Father, the writer of Hebrews tells us so. Yet, the RCC insists He is present in a wafer and a sip of MD. Also, the Bible forbids cannibalism, and the drinking of blood. So, one must understand when Christ said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, He didn't mean literally. Otherwise, He'd be going against His own word. He meant we must believe in His sacrifice as complete, finished, all that needs to be done to reconcile sinners back to God was done by Him.

The fact is this, you are caught in false teaching, you are blinded by Satan himself. Unless God looks upon you with favor, you will perish. All the works, rituals, traditions in the world will not save the human soul, how do I know this...the Bible tells me so. 'For by GRACE you have been saved, through faith, and THAT {grace,faith,salvation} not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, NOT OF WORKS {why}, lest any man boast.' Ephesians 2:8.9

Cry out for mercy, just as the tax collector did in Luke 18, 'O God, be merciful to me, a sinner'