Thursday, June 08, 2006

Counsel Aimed At the Heart

David Powlison in an article entitled Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair" (Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol 13, Nu 2, Winter 1995). It is interesting to read how much of secular counseling replaces one "heart idol" with another "heart idol" - they simply switch idols on the "heart" shelf. At the heart of counseling is this question: Who will our hearts worship - idols or desires of the heart or God? Hence the importance and relevance of Powlison's words.

It is obvious that if idolatry is the problem of the “co-dependent,”then repentant faith in Christ is the solution. This stands in marked contrast to the solutions proffered in the co-dependency literature, whether secular or glossed with Christian phrases. That literature often perceptively describes the patterns of dysfunctional idols—addictions and dependencies— which curse and enslave people. The idols which enslave the rescuer or the compulsive drinker do not work very well for them.

The literature may even use “idolatry” as a metaphor, without meaning “idolatry against God, therefore repentance.” The solution, without exception, is to offer different and presumably more workable idols, rather than repentance unto the Bible’s Christ! Secularistic therapies teach people eufunctional idols, idols which do “work” for people and “bless” them with temporarily happy lives (Psalm 73).

So, for example, self-esteem is nurtured as the replacement for trying to please unpleasable others, rather than esteem for the Lamb who was slain for me, a sinner. Acceptance and love
from new significant others, starting with the therapist, create successful versions of the fear of man and trust in man rather than teaching essential trust in God. Self-trust and self-confidence
are boosted as I am taught to set expectations for myself to which I can attain. The fruit looks good but is fundamentally counterfeit. Believers in false gospels are sometimes allowed to flourish temporarily.

Therapy systems without repentance at their core leave the idol system intact. They simply rehabilitate and rebuild fundamental godlessness to function more successfully. The Bible’s idolatry motif diagnoses the ultimately selfdestructive basis on which happy, healthy, and confident people build their lives (eufunctional idols), just as perceptively as it diagnoses unhappy people, who are more obviously and immediately self-destructive (dysfunctional idols). (p. 37)

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