Two of my essays included in a new collection!

They have just published a pair if my essays in Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture. It’s now available on Amazon. You might recognize the title as a response to John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship.

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The contributors of these 35 essays are not the sort of televangelists I usually object to, but top Pentecostal scholars who are taking a stand against abuses such as faux apostles, the Prosperity Gospel, and Onenness Pentecostalism. They are exactly the guys who (more…)

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Is there healing in the atonement?

A friend writes asks about 1 Pet 2:24-25, where Peter alludes to Isa 53:4-6 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” He states: I have always taken this to mean that by His stripes we are “forgiven”, not “physically” healed of some infirmity, though certainly, by being forgiven of something, especially of our sins, there can certainly be a physical healing as well. I have always bounced this verse off the verse in Isaiah 53:5 where it says that “by his wounds we are healed”. I’ve been hearing a lot of teaching where our physical healing comes through His stripes that He bore for us….

Thanks for the question! I know of three perspectives on this question of “healing in the atonement.” I agree with one, partially affirm the second, and wholly reject the third. (more…)

Rediscovering God in the Age of Therapy, Part II

II. COUNSELORS AND THE LANGUAGE OF HEALING

We will now turn our attention to the second question: how do our contemporary counselors use healing nomenclature? The answer is not a simple one, but a survey of two influential “disease” models may help us to find the roots of the therapeutic culture. We begin with the classic formulation of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In the 1930’s, Dr. William D. Silkworth (regarded as one of the ideological co-founders of A. A.) contributed the medical model of alcoholism to the emerging movement: certain individuals are physically/psychologically unable to handle even moderate alcohol use. The alcoholic has a disease of the mind and body – a mind obsessed with alcohol and with taking the first drink, and a body that cannot handle any alcohol without a severe reaction that triggers further compulsive drinking. Alcoholics manifest their disease on three levels: spiritually they are estranged from their Creator through self-centeredness, emotionally they are cut off from human society, and physically they suffer brain damage and ill health. In traditional A. A. teaching, the alcoholic may be out of control, but he is accountable before God and responsible to pursue recovery. While never healed of his alcoholism, he is restored to wellness, one day at a time, through surrender to a Higher Power. [8]

Who, then, is sick? A. A. preaches that a substantial minority of the population has the disease of alcoholism, and that it entails defiance against God. The disease is not universal, nor is it coterminous with what theologians call “depravity.” (more…)

Rediscovering God in the Age of Therapy, Part I

This article was originally published as “Recovering God in the Age of Therapy” by Gary Steven Shogren, in Journal of Biblical Counseling 12, No. 1 (Fall 1993): 14-19.

Note: I wrote this as a lecture in 1992, to comment upon Christian literature of the 80s-90s. I have not attempted to update the examples, since they have retained most of their relevance after nearly decades.

To get a quick scan of our civilization, look no further than the nearest mall bookstore. Naturally, it will carry the standards – Bibles, dictionaries, paperback classics, Cliff Notes. But since its manager has stocked it full of the ideas that consumers are buying this season, it serves as a handy display panel for the collective mind. Without doubt you will notice that merchandise is moving briskly from “Psychology/Self-Help”; a glance at the titles will reveal what’s selling:

Peace, Love & Healing – Bodymind communication and the path to self-healing: an exploration

Forgive & Forget: Healing the hurts we don’t deserve

Healing the Shame that Binds You

People of the Lie: the hope for human healing evil

May it also be said that Christian bookstores are the mirrors of our subculture? Run through the titles on whatever shelf corresponds to Self-Help and try to get a feel for what Christians want to hear:

Healing for Damaged Emotions (text and workbook)

Changes that Heal – How to Understand your past to ensure a healthier future

Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer

Faith that Hurts – Faith that Heals, and so forth; all by evangelical authors, put out by Christian publishers.

Is it a fluke, or do we really yearn for the same higher good – for want of a better term, Inner Healing – as the world at large? We dig deeper, and the likelihood of mere coincidence fades away.

Not only do the covers sound remarkably similar, but the contents read alike. At times the same title (in my case, Forgive & Forget) is found in both stores. And if you are surprised to find “secular” books on a religious bookseller’s Psychology shelf, then you may be even more puzzled to find books from evangelical publishers in the shopping mall. (more…)