The Evil Within

A number of years ago there was a column in the local newspaper written by a psychologist. The column was what one would expect as it dealt with the problems common to people, like depression, anxiety, relationships and so forth. Since the psychologist did not possess a biblical worldview, terms related to nature or nurture, mental illness and the various treatments were common until one day it all seemed to unravel for this particular psychologist.

The psychologist (not a religious person by his own admission) had a patient that he could not neatly fit into the DSM IV categories. The reason? The psychologist came to believe the man he was counseling was simply evil. The psychologist seemed to conclude that the man did not possess a moral barometer (something Christians would call a conscience). The psychologist was shaken by his conclusion and it led him to consider the spiritual nature of people-something that his training had not explored or considered as it applied to human behavior.

That is what came to my mind in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. What we heard by way of explanation was that the shooter was “crazy”, “sick”, “distraught”, “unhinged” and so forth.  All of that was followed by the usual blame the gun, blame politicians and pleas to “do something” while never suggesting anything specific that would have mattered.

Psychology does not consider evil like the Bible does and our culture is fully immersed in psychological (mostly materialistic\Darwinian) explanations and categories.

Psychology does not consider sin (although a religious psychologist might) and is thus reluctant to deal in moral categories and thus would not label a heinous act as evil\sin but rather as a type of disease, sickness or temporary insanity. That’s what bothered the psychologist I mentioned above. He dealt with mental illnesses, not moral categories and certainly not people given over to evil and the revelation shocked him.

The Bible, on the other hand, diagnoses our fundamental problem. Here is the apostle Paul quoting from, mostly, the Psalms in the Old Testament:

Romans 3:10-18

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
       no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
        no one does good,
        not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
        they use their tongues to deceive.”
   “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16      in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The passage turns on its head the notion that people are “basically good” and when they do bad, evil things like mass murder, they have some mental illness or disease. While not all people act out all the evil they are capable of (thank God), some do and we witness it on a daily basis. Yet, the majority of people remain blind to “the evil within.”

We really should not expect an unbelieving world to grasp all the ramifications of evil since the unbelieving world does not have a fear of God (vs 18). Without that fundamental fear of God the world will always look for solutions for people’s problems apart from considering “the evil within” and will continue to treat evil as a mental illness and\or blame game to gain political points.

Every time there is a terrorist attacks or a mass murder I go into a frustrated funk and grieve about our sin sick world. It takes me a day or two to once again comprehend what is truly going on.

A western person given over to evil can orchestrate a Las Vegas type massacre just as easily as a religiously minded Islamic terrorist.  There is little difference since both spring from a belief system that does not consider the God of the Bible nor mankind’s essential problem of the evil within us all.

What are we to do?

Our theology will control our reaction to these things or something else will. At the very least we can come to understand that God can use horrible evil situations to draw attention to the fact of evil (and the spiritual realm in general) and begin to open the minds of survivors to truth and thus provide the one and only remedy to the evil within us all:

Romans 3:21-24
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

IABC Conference, August 2017

Recently, I rejoined the I.A.B.C. (International Association of Biblical Counselors) and attended the conference in Denver, Colorado on August 3-5. I was blessed by the experience and impressed with the certification ministry that I was first certified with many years ago.

The name for the conference was Real Life, Real Answers-It’s Not a Game! The conference was hosted (hospitality excellent) by Life Fellowship Church in Westminster (suburb of Denver), under the leadership of Senior Pastor Ed Bulkley who is also President of the IABC.

The schedule included three partial days of general sessions and numerous workshops.

Over the years, my wife and I have attended many biblical counseling training conferences by both the IABC and ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) and listened to many speakers and instructors.  We’ve learned much and as a certified biblical counselor with both organizations I usually select the topics and speakers where I stand to gain the most insight and knowledge.

At the IABC Conference two sessions stand out. Both had two parts and we had to make a choice between them in one time slot.

Jim Berg led the first session we attended.   Jim’s name is familiar to anyone who has been blessed by Changed Into His Image. My wife and I have done Changed into His Image and have led others through it. Jim’s workshop was titled: Unmasking Addictions: Determining the Primary Cause of Enslaving Behaviors.

The workshop description is as follows:

The battle over underlying cause(s) of addiction continues to rage today. Are addictions determined by moral choices or by neurobiological, hereditary, and environmental influences? God’s sufficient Word roots the final cause in the fallen human heart and provides the proper interpretation for today’s scientific findings. Surprisingly, many secular researchers and practitioners have arrived at causes that reflect what God has already told us in His Word. Those same evidence-based voices counter current popular beliefs (i.e. “Once a drunk, always a drunk,” “You are always in recovery,” etc.)

What Jim seems to mean by this is that due to God’s common grace, secular and often non-spiritual researchers and therapists have discovered that genetic theories, metabolic theories, conditioning theories and adaptation theories, regardless of observations made, do not place the weight of responsibility upon the human heart but they recognize that something is amiss.

What this means to the believer, even an addicted one is that he or she can make choices that align with God’s expectations for His creatures..

Jim provided written evidence (quotes) from the secular sources to make his point. He added that although these researchers counter the prevailing myths their use of psychological terminology do not imply his personal endorsement. In other words many of the experts recognize the problem but fall way short of realizing the answers that are found only in Christ and His Word.

Jim has built on Changed Into His Image with a discipleship curriculum titled Freedom that Lasts. He reports success with it and when I asked him how it compares to the popular Celebrate Recovery he simply responded by saying that Celebrate Recovery is just another 12 step program (something that I’ve heard from other biblical addiction counselors.) and that Freedom That Lasts is not.

I intend to research Freedom that Lasts more. Jim’s website is http://www.freedomthatlasts.com/store

The other sessions my wife and attended that had the most impact were led by Dr. Daniel Berger II. His two-part session description reads as follows:

Most people today believe that psychoactive substances and psychotherapies are proven remedies for mental and behavioral problems categorized in the DSM-V as mental illnesses. Biological psychiatrists in particular and society in general are convinced not only that psychiatric disorders are biological diseases, but also that psychoactive drugs are agents that will fix genetics variances, supplying missing chemicals, and correct brain dysfunctions. In other words, mind-controlling drugs are believed to be medicines that require dependence in order to restore the mind\psyche\soul. But what does Scripture say about attempting to treat the soul with mind-controlling substances?  These sessions will look at what is actually taking place in psychopharmacology from both Biblical and psychiatric perspectives.

It’s beyond the purpose of a blog to chronicle the boatload of information that was downloaded in Dr. Berger’s two sessions. Sufficient to say, I can’t say I’ve seen so much research listed and footnoted like Dr. Berger has done in order to make his point. Impressive is the word.

His central point, in addition to the Bible has the answers, is that top-gun secular researchers and psychiatrists (often non-Christians) know that mind-controlling drugs and the current construct of mental illness is not a solution and that the system is broken. Berger is quick to note that at the clinical level its pretty much business as usual-an alarming contradiction!

Dr. Berger has written a five-volume set of books titled Mental Illness, short volumes that emphasis a different aspect of the issue(s). I am about midway through the first volume and am impressed with Dr. Berger’s research and how he uses the “top-gun experts” own words to illustrate their own lack of confidence in the current construct of mental illness.  Frankly, this makes me sad to realize that the experts know something of the truth because of God’s common grace.  At the “does it matter level” it doesn’t seem to matter because the clinicians and doctors continue to prescribe mind-altering drugs to fix spiritual heart issues. Dr. Berger pointed out this inconsistency in his lectures.

In addition to the five volume set, Dr. Berger has written Teaching a Child to Pay Attention and The Truth About ADHD. His website is drdanielberger.com

I wish to thank the IABC for an excellent conference and Life Fellowship for the wonderful hospitality. I’d like to encourage my readers to check out the IABC at iabc.net as well as Jim Berg’s website and Dr. Berger’s.