Sexual Issues: A Short-Term Model for Promoting Abuse in the Church
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
As most of our readers already know, we have huge issues with the book Sexual Issues: A Short-term Structured Model, written by Harold Wahking and Gene Zimmerman (Baker Books, 1994). This book lurks in Christian seminary libraries and we know that it has been used in a counseling course in at least one conservative seminary (Dallas Theological Seminary) as recently as March of this year. Sexual Issues is just one volume in a 10-part collection with a series title Strategic Pastoral Counseling which claims to “map a new counseling game plan to help those in ministry accomplish more in fewer sessions.” Oh yes, it will certainly accomplish more. With that we agree. But none of it will be good. Other volumes in this mess include one on Understanding and Facilitating Forgiveness, and another entitled Marriage Conflicts. Both of those ought to be real jewels alright.
The man behind this entire series is one David G. Benner, described on the book fly as “a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Redeemer College.” He claims that these volumes will serve as “a step-by-step pastoral counseling model that facilitates spiritual growth and psychological wholeness.” This means then that the overall series in general, and this individual volume (Sexual Issues) claims to be written by Christians, for Christian pastors, to be used in Christian churches, supposedly from a Christian framework. Yet we find virtually nothing biblical or Christian in this volume. As we noted in our book review, and reiterated yesterday, the book recommends not reporting child sexual abuse as a valid option for the pastor if the father/perpetrator seems to be repentant and willing to go to counseling. That advice is illegal, unethical, and well, just plain stupid, not to mention dangerous.
But as I read further in the book, I found more appalling material that our readers need to know about. Why? Because wherever future pastors or counselors are being trained with books like Sexual Issues, abusers are going to be enabled and protected in our churches. Abuse victims will not be protected. In fact, what will happen is exactly what we are all seeing happen in churches — the very pattern that initiated this entire ministry of A Cry for Justice. Many of you have been on the receiving end of this pattern and you know firsthand how evil it is. We should not have to tell seminaries and seminary professors these things. They claim to be “in the know” as the ones competent to be training pastors of the church. Unfortunately it is naive and dangerous for Christians to make such assumptions and cease holding them accountable.
So, as you read the following excerpt from the book, remember that this comes from authors who claim to be Christians, who claim to operate on a biblical foundation, from a book that is published by an allegedly Christian publisher, and which has been and very likely still is being used to train Christian leaders. But most importantly, compare what you read with the Word of God — with such verses as we have quoted at the beginning of this article. Be a Berean. What would Christ say to this fellow “Carl” who comes to his pastor for “advice”?
(NOTE: We could have picked from plenty of the other counseling scenarios in this book to give you examples of the unbiblical nature of this book. Just about wherever you throw a dart at this one, it will hit bad stuff). My additional notes are inserted into brackets where I just couldn’t hold myself back–
I’m Just Not Ready to be Committed to Marriage
Sometimes we stray far from God’s ideal and at other times we get only into some shades of gray. In pastoring people in difficulty, one consideration is to assess how far from God’s ideal the individual is. Another consideration is to assess the readiness of the person to grow from confrontation. Narcissistic people, those who suffer from what the Bible calls ‘arrogant pride,’ will very often just break relationship with anyone who confronts them. [And boy, we all know we wouldn’t want a narcissist/abuser to run off and leave our church!] We can still help them by giving encouragement when we can and by asking questions that may help them confront themselves. The following all too typical pastoral counseling relationship illustrates this difficult task. [Yes, encouraging and asking questions is just what a guy like this Carl needs!]
Carl attended worship regularly and served on church projects at times [i.e., Carl claims to be a Christian and apparently is a member of this pastor’s church]. He was a talkative and outgoing person liked by everyone. He went through a very painful divorce and during his grief had some counseling sessions with his pastor. His ex-wife, he stated [the story according to Carl] was very inhibited, bossy, and critical, just like his mother. He became depressed; she got on his nerves. After 12 years of marriage he had an affair [well, hey, the poor man was driven to it by his inhibited wife who wouldn’t watch porn with him — ok, that’s my theory] . . . affair that lasted six or seven months. He broke it off without his wife finding out [i.e., he never repented]. A year later he had another affair, and when his wife learned of this, she divorced him [man, that woman was cold!].
As the pastor and Carl met one evening before a church committee meeting, the pastor asked, ‘Hey, Carl, how are you doing?’ Carl said that he was doing ok, but that he would like to talk to the pastor about something. He called later and they met in two days.
Carl: I sure feel a lot better now that I’m not married to Clara. I know divorce is wrong and all, but I was really miserable with her. And yet I just thought that was what a man was supposed to put up with. [We here at ACFJ are now shouting “abuserese! That’s abuserese! This guy Carl is actively inviting the pastor to buddy with him man to man and justify his divorce.]
Pastor: You missed out on a lot of joy, I believe.
Commentary by the Authors: [the book authors regularly insert commentary and ‘the Pastor’s silent reflections’ in these scenarios]. The pastor is in the Encounter Stage. He does not agree that Clara was a bad wife because Carl would interpret that to mean that the marital problems were all her fault. The pastor does affirm that Carl missed out on a lot of joy. [But notice that according to this model of counseling, the pastor must NOT tell Carl that he was the prime cause of the divorce! Carl might leave, and we just can’t have that!]
Carl: Yeah. She was never satisfied. I couldn’t please her. Well, I’ve met someone I like a lot. We’ve been dating a couple of months and she’s getting serious. Every time she mentions marriage, I panic a bit. [Abuser sign!]
Pastor: You were hurt so badly before that just talking about marriage makes you uneasy, is that it? [Poor, traumatized Carl! And this foolish pastor is spoon-feeding Carl self-justifying excuses!]
Carl: Yeah, I mean, don’t you think I ought to take my time and not get married until I feel ready? [If Carl can get the pastor to agree to the ‘take your time before remarrying’ line, then he can quote the pastor’s words to his girlfriend to push back against her requests that they consider getting married.]
Pastor’s Silent Reflections: What is going on here? He’s met someone, that sounds okay. She is getting serious. He’s scared. That doesn’t quite warrant getting back into counseling. He doesn’t sound as if he’s grieving over Clara. He seems open with me, that’s good. [The pastor has naively swallowed Carl’s feigned honesty and transparency. This pastor is so naive he couldn’t recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing even if the sheep suit was on backwards!] Theoretically he wants support from me to stay away from marriage until he feels ready. There is something else. I imagine he is sexually active with this woman, maybe that’s it. He’s not bringing that out though. Fears my confronting him?
Pastor: I agree that you do well to avoid getting into an agreement to marry when you are just not ready for marriage yet. How come the woman is pushing you to get married?
Commentary by the authors: The pastor asks an indirect question that still invites Carl to open up the issue if he’s ready. This is less confrontational than a direct question: ‘Are you having sex with her?’ [Yep, that’s how the Lord works with the wicked alright. Indirectly. Wouldn’t want to just out and say something like ‘Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites!’]
Carl: Well, she says she likes me a lot and she knows I like her. I guess we do love each other, some. And, well…she’s very sexy.
Pastor: So, if you are having sex together, that may explain part of her desire to get married.
Commentary: The pastor does not accuse Carl of being sexual with the woman. He uses the word ‘if’ and then invites more sharing on a very important issue: understanding the woman he’s dating. [Because, you see, the Lord would never accuse a guy like Carl of sin or anything like that. Carl might get upset.]
Carl: yeah, I think so. I’ve been with three or four women now since the divorce, single women, you know, and as soon as sex starts they start talking marriage.
Pastor’s Silent Reflections: Carl is still very self-centered and shallow. He doesn’t experience women as whole persons, and yet he is so attractive that they are drawn to him anyway. If I could confront him about his shallowness or his having sex with three or four women over the last 18 months, he’ll get huffy and leave. The best I can do is to affirm him and then invite him to grow.
I have to stop there. The “session” goes on just like this and ends with the pastor saying “I’m happy we could talk man to man like this. Keep on growing and come by to share like this anytime.”
The best thing this pastor could do is resign from his pastorate and go let God’s Word straighten out his mind. Because obviously he ceased thinking biblically long ago, if he ever did. In fact, a pastor like this who deals with people like Carl in this manner may well not be a Christian himself.
What is Carl? Carl is a sociopathic abuser of women. Carl is a narcissist. Carl is a wolf in the midst of this pastor’s flock and this so-called “shepherd” is allowing the wolf to consume the sheep. Carl professes to be a Christian. Carl is a member of that church. Carl should immediately be confronted with his sin and due to its severity, the following Scripture should be applied to him so that the entire church will know and the women in the church protected:
1 Corinthians 5:1-7 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Anyone who thinks this is too harsh has no business being a pastor.
And any seminary or counseling professor who cannot immediately recognize that such a book as Sexual Issues is completely contrary to the Word of God and harmful to souls needs to consider closing up shop and sorting out when the discernment of God’s Spirit departed from them. Because they are Ichabod.