If God put you together you’re not allowed to separate — says Dr. Heath Lambert, Executive Director of ACBC
It seems that the biblical counseling world has latched on to the topic of domestic violence. Just this last summer IBCD (Institute of Biblical Counseling and Discipleship) devoted part of their 2017 Summer Conference to the topic of domestic abuse. And in 2018 there are several conferences scheduled that will address domestic abuse: the Faith Lafayette BCTC in February, the Association of Biblical Counselors in April, the International Association of Biblical Counselors in August, and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors in October.
Five years ago a person would have been hard pressed to find any national organizations talking about domestic abuse. Today the topic seems to be on everyone’s agenda. We have no qualms with organizations waking up to domestic violence in the church and starting to talk about it. But we do have concerns with what these organizations are saying and teaching.
Thanks to one of our faithful readers, we learned that ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) recently addressed the topic of domestic violence in a Q & A podcast titled Counseling and Controversy and hosted by Dr. Heath Lambert. According to the ACBC website, Dr. Lambert invited people to call in with their hard questions and he would answer them. (No arrogance there). And, as you may have guessed, one of the questions asked concerned domestic violence.
I listened to the Dr. Lambert’s response. It was AWFUL and only confirmed that, yes, we need to be very concerned with what these biblical counseling organizations are saying when it comes to domestic abuse because what is being taught at these counseling conferences is being taught to people who are or are becoming biblical counselors. These counselors are soaking up this garbage and then taking it back to their communities and their churches. And back to victims — victims who will continue to be held in bondage by this evil teaching that parades as scripture.
Below is a transcript of the question and Dr. Lambert’s reply. For those who would like to watch the entire vimeo video, click here. The video is about one hour in length with the question on domestic violence beginning at 44:56 minutes.
So just who is Dr. Heath Lambert? Dr. Lambert is the Executive Director at the ACBC. ACBC is the largest biblical counseling organization in the world with counseling training centers and certified counselors in 29 countries. To read more about Dr. Lambert, you can see his BIO at the ACBC website. [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.]
Do you think there is a time for separation in marriage other than when there is imminent danger (i.e., emotional abuse, sexual addiction, etc.) and what would be your biblical defense for your position? If your answer is no, how do you suggest a woman can be best shepherded when extreme cases arise and there is much to sort out, but there is not physical violence?
Answer by Dr. Heath Lambert, Executive Director of ACBC
And I have to give biblical support, which is more than fair. Okay so I will just let Jesus have a crack at this one. Mark 10:1-12 (ESV) reads:
And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
So Jesus’ response to the question “Can I divorce – can I get separated – for a reason other than physical danger.” Well, Jesus’ response to that is if God put you together you’re not allowed to separate.
If we were talking about physical danger or situation we would want to talk about a way to keep a woman safe, but I’m just going to let Jesus’ words there sink in and go uninterpreted.
As far as how the church could help her – what she could do. And I’ll just again – oh my goodness there’s lots to say about all of this – but maybe I’ll just read 1 Peter 3 1-2 “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
So you know: ‘Wives be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the Word.’ Even if some do not obey the Word. There’s a lot of bad stuff that a man who is not obeying the Word can do. He can do a lot of bad stuff. So this is a kind of a fill-in-the-blank.
‘Likewise wives be subject to your own husbands so even if they (fill-in-the-blank)’ – even if they’re doing all this stuff to me that’s not violent. Well, ‘they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.’
So this is a text that says you be a godly woman. Then that’s going to be really hard. And so how do we support such a person?
Isn’t the Bible amazing. Hebrews 10: 24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
This is a text that is quoted as a preaching passage – go to church on Sunday, be at the corporate worship for Sunday – that’s not what the author of Hebrews is talking about. It’s a counseling passage. Not a corporate meeting passage.
‘Consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another.’
It’s a one another passage. You meet in a one another context. It’s a command that you have to live this Christian life together. And that’s as true for the 1 Peter 3 woman as it is for anybody else.
So I would say to you – you’re asking this question out of a place, I’m sure, of profound pain. Men who don’t obey the word can do awful things. I would encourage you – Jesus did not stop being loving when he gave the command not to separate what God put together. And in fact he wants to teach you about his grace in the midst of your pain. And I would say sometimes we do things as people who are experiencing pain and we try to take this way out that’s our own way out and we think that’s going to be gracious and we think it’s going to be gracious because we think it would feel good. But feeling good is not necessarily what grace feels like. Sometimes graces feels like trusting the Lord to carry you through a very , very, hard reality. And you grow in your love and your confidence in him because He becomes what you need and not this fix-it solution to your relationship.
You can’t do it on your own though. So get with people who are going to one another you and this passage and they’re going to help you know what it means to be a faithful woman in the midst of a really really hard situation.
I’m so sorry for what your dealing with. And I just want to plead with you to find someone who can help you more than I can over the internet.
Further Reading that refutes Lambert’s unbiblical counseling
Concerning Divorce: We have a FAQ page, What about divorce?, that lists several posts.
Regarding supporting a victim: Our FAQ page lists posts and resources to help people learn how to help abuse victims.