The Futility of Our Fig Leaves

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach
"Don't tell me what the Bible says! Just give me the application!"

These are not entirely uncommon words in the biblical counseling realm. People make their way to counseling sessions because life or marriage has simply become unbearable, and they naturally want answers. What's more, they want someone to tell them how to apply whatever answers exist.

They don't want to sit and listen any longer than is necessary. They want to do something.

Pastor-counselors will recognize the pressure of a counselee demanding a technique or homework assignment to apply to whatever is at issue. Counselees may recognize the pressure they have felt to discover something--anything--that will bring about a quick resolution to their trouble.

The inconvenient truth, however, is that counseling is often more akin to a marathon than a sprint. Counselors and counselees alike must come to the counseling table committed to the likelihood of a journey to another land, rather than a day trip to a neighboring town.

What we know about successful counseling is this: On the highway of Gospel-driven life transformation, soundbites and checklists will not suffice. But, when the trials of life are at their fiercest, soundbites and checklists are often what the heart of man desires most.

The Trouble with Fig Leaves

In Genesis 3, the Bible's account of the fall of man into sin and death is given. Satan, that old serpent, and man's adversary enters the Garden of Eden, and tempts Eve away from obedience to God, and into cosmic rebellion against her Creator. Adam, the first man, and husband of Eve is there. His silence in the face of treachery resounds to this day, as the first couple exchanged the glory of God for a lie in disobeying the righteous command of God (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6; Romans 1:23).

When Adam and Eve sinned, the Bible says that they immediately became aware of their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). Adam and Eve may have been literally naked, but the Bible isn't primarily concerned here with their attire; rather, the concern is for the weakness, need, and humiliation of the nature of man in comparison to a holy God. Prior to this cataclysmic moment in human history, Adam and Eve had only enjoyed the perfection of their relationship with God, and with one another (Genesis 2:25).

Now there was, for the first time in creation history, a breech in the relationship between God and man, and by extension, between the first couple. Adam and Eve, feeling the intensity of that rupture, knew that something had to be done. One of the many critical errors in their judgment, though, was in deciding that they possessed the wisdom and discernment needed for the provision of a suitable resolution.

What was their answer to the advent of sin and death in the world? Fig leaves for loincloths, and hiding from the only supernatural God of the universe among the trees (Genesis 3:8).

This is What We Do

Following in the footsteps of the first Adam, we are tempted to conclude that when the troubles of life come our way, especially the natural consequences of our own sinful deeds, that what is needed most is for us to do something (Romans 5:12).

Chances are, unlike Adam and Eve in the garden, we are not physically naked. But, much like them, we sometimes act as if we are--spiritually. Rather than turn to God the Father, through God the Son, and in the power of God the Holy Spirit, we are often tempted to drift further away from God because of our awareness that we are naked (weak and needy) before Him. 

By our pride, we are repulsed by our humiliation, and through the futility of our thinking, we sew modern forms of ancient fig leaves together in an effort to cover up our shame.

How do we do this? For some, this takes the form of reputation management before others (John 12:43). For another group, it comes in the form of hiding among education and career. Still others may attempt to camouflage their guilt with sex or chemical addictions, or perhaps even more repulsive to God, is the performance of religious duty--good works (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

What Can Wash Away Our Sin

To be sure, there is a place for human participation in the work of sanctification that is unique and separate from what God does in His miracle of salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). But, this is not what comes first--what shall I do? 

When the trauma and crises of life come, we must hear John the Baptist, who proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and fix our eyes upon Him.

In Genesis 3, what we see is that God, in His wisdom, initiates the process of divine reconciliation--He is the principal agent of change. Foreshadowing what He would ultimately do in the cross of Christ, it is God who brings to the first couple garments of animal skins (Genesis 3:21), because without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22).

As the world would come to know, the blood of bulls and goats was never intended to suffice for the horrific nature of man's transgression against a holy and just God (Hebrews 10:4). Only the shed blood of the sinless Son of God would appease the wrath of God, serving as a propitiation for sin, making possible peace with God for all who believe (Romans 5:1; 1 John 2:2).

The Only Hope for True and Lasting Change

In biblical counseling, the hard work, commitment, and participation of the counselee is critically important. This is why, for example, homework is regularly assigned. If what is discussed in the counseling room is not applied in real life, then counseling will almost certainly fail.

Still, counselors and counselees alike must beware of the human inclination to think, wrongly, that what is needed at the first is for human action to be taken. The Gospel is principally not about what man may do, but about what Christ has actually done. One of the glories of the Gospel is that in the new birth, Christ replaces Adam as the new believer's federal head (Romans 5:19).

Until a person has fixed their gaze upon Him, until their heart has been captivated by His beauty, and until they have discovered that He is, in fact, their only source of true hope for lasting change, they will find themselves continually tempted to sew loincloths for themselves out of the fig leaves of this world, which according to the Bible, is passing away (1 John 2:17).

What Do You Think?

Where are you attempting to hide guilt and shame in your own life?

What is the form of your modern day fig leaves?

Navigating the Intersection of Science and Scripture

“Scripture serves as the only reliable resource for the Christian counselor’s diagnostic terminology and remedy.” John Street, Counseling

As biblical counseling begins to have a helping influence in the lives of many within the church, a commonly asked question concerns the relationship of the counseling model to science. Many who stand in opposition to biblical counseling have suggested that biblical counselors resist science, choosing instead to focus upon things like sin, and the memorization of Bible verses. These critiques, however, are intentionally reductionistic, and misleading.

The intersection of science and medical technology, and the authority of Scripture has become one of the most hotly contested issues of our time. As dwindling segments of western society continue to assert the authority of Scripture over all of life, the heirs of the enlightenment continue to demand that science reign supreme. The Christian who seeks to adhere to a biblical worldview in today’s culture is increasingly left with what appears to be a losing battle. 

The Untethered Heart of Man

The potential effect of this ongoing phenomenon upon the ministry of biblical counseling, and Christian ministry in general, is profound. Perhaps the most well known flash point of this titanic battle for the heart of man is found in the debate over so-called “gay marriage.” There are many relevant factors that have made this our culture’s apparent center of gravity, but none may be more influential than our steady descent into humanism, and Darwinian evolution, buttressed by the throwing off of a biblical worldview.

Untethered from the wisdom of God, the heart of man proves to be like a lost ship on the ocean’s waters, tossed about by the endless flow of thoughts and ideas that seek to find meaning and purpose in the creation, rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

The truth of the matter, however, is that while those who hate Christ continue to deny His Gospel, and proclaim a religion of secularism, there remains a good and proper role for science to play in this life. As a matter of common grace, and general revelation, God has equipped man to inhabit the earth, and to subdue it (Gen. 1:28). This is partly an argument for science, not against.

Under the creation mandate, God has gifted man with a finite, limited capacity to dissect portions of the creation, to see how the various parts exist and co-exist, and to thereby work toward the eradication of disease, and to produce other good works. And yet, the creation, and our ability to perceive it was never intended by God to become the object of our worship, or, to the cause of epistemology, the center of what we believe we know (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 1:21-22).

The biblical counselor, therefore, must recall the Bible’s opening phrase, and fixate their eyes on the One who is the subject of its very first action: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

To the extent that the counselor remains committed to this, they will in turn lead, guide, and direct their counselee to Christ, who is the author, finisher, and perfector of the faith, while confidently gleaning helpful knowledge about man and creation from the practice of scientific research and discovery.

Dr. Jeremy Pierre, in his chapter in the book Scripture and Counseling, has challenged us by reminding that the Bible does not, in fact, tell us everything we need to know for our seventy- or eighty-year journey through life (i.e. cancer research). But, the Scripture’s do provide all that we need to frame our understanding of the origins of the universe, the nature of man, and our relationship to God.

Discerning Science from Pseudo-Science

Contrary to the many myths that have been posited by those in opposition to biblical counseling, today’s biblical counselor affirms the good and proper role of sound, empirical, physical science, while rejecting those unbiblical philosophies of modern psychology that so-often masquerade as physical science.

Even the most cursory research into secular counseling theory makes clear that the immaterial, philosophical commitments of psychotherapy are legion, and require a great faith of their own. To this point, Dr. John MacArthur, in his book Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically, quotes Karl Kraus, a Viennese journalist, as saying, “Despite its deceptive terminology, psychoanalysis is not a science but a religion, the faith of a generation incapable of any other.”

What this discussion informs us of then, is that all Christians must exercise wisdom and discernment when evaluating truth claims that may or may not contradict Scripture, especially those that attempt to explain the nature of man, and the motivations of human behavior. 

It is proving to have been a dangerous experiment in its own right to blindly receive, without question, that what culture calls a science, in any normative sense, is so. Yet, there is a stark difference between taking an MRI of the brain in order to explain traumatic brain injury, and theorizing concerning the heart of man, and what is his greatest need.

All extra-biblical sources of knowledge, therefore, must be properly submitted to Scripture. And, this isn’t the commitment of the biblical counselor alone, but the proper pursuit of all believers of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 4:1).

Join the Conversation

What do you think about the role of science in the Christian faith?

What are we to make of the truth claims of psychological theory, which so often stand in direct opposition to biblical truth?

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Promoting Sound Structures for Adoption and Reunification

Karis and Liam Waulk, Adopted for Life 
Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC, and himself an adoptive dad, recently wrote an article published at the Washington Post on some of the more difficult scenarios that are sometimes faced by adoptive families.

From severe emotional and spiritual crises, to the potential for disrupted adoptions due to RAD, Dr. Moore wrote with a frankness that teetered on the edge of ominous.

Some in the adoption community shared concerns that Dr. Moore’s article would foster feelings of shame and guilt in families with failed adoptions, or dissuade families from adopting altogether.

While I can understand their concerns, I’m confident that neither of these outcomes was Dr. Moore’s intention.

A Difficult Discussion

It appears, both from the title, and substance of the article, that his concern was properly shaped for the advocacy for children who sometimes find themselves adopted into families that may not have been as prepared for the potential storms of adoption as they ought, or perhaps could have been.

Those of us in the adoption community at any level have no need to shy away from this discussion. It is for the good of the adoption movement, and the children we love and adopt that we enter in.

As with many issues that bear social consequences, awareness is good, proper, and helpful for everyone involved, most notably, the children.

The goal is an atmosphere of sound orphan care. Wherever adoption takes place, more secure, intact adoptive families is the desire. As we see these outcomes realized with greater frequency, God gets the glory, while the children and families get the joy.

Assembling an Army

One comment from Dr. Moore focused upon Jesus’ admonition to not enter military conflict without a prepared army. He likened this warning to those parents who adopt a child without having been adequately committed, resourced, and prepared (Luke 14:31). The obvious danger would be any one of the potential negative or tragic outcomes post-placement.

With gentleness and concern for children available for adoption, and the well-meaning families who may adopt them, I share Dr. Moore’s concerns, especially as I personally detect a type of plateau in the evangelical adoption movement of the past decade.

If there’s any detectable downward trend in the excitement and enthusiasm for adoption within the church, are potential adoptive families at risk of being under-served, under-prepared, and under-resourced? 

If yes, how does this affect the children? And, finally, how then can the church community at large augment this potential lack of support for the advancement of continued orphan care and adoption?

Resourcing Adoptive Families

There are, of course, a number of excellent resources available for both pre- and post-placement adoptive families. From conferences, to books, such as Dr. Moore’s “Adopted for Life,” and the latest from Brian Borgman, “After They Are Yours,” there are now, and must continue to be resources produced by the Christian community that will keep adoption and orphan care before God’s people.

If divorce is the enemy of the family, then ambivalence is the enemy of orphaned children, and their potential adoptive parents.

Borgman writes that, “Adoption is war, but adoptive parents must remember that, despite how it sometimes feels, this war is never with the child…The last thing the Enemy wants to risk is to have children raised in the love and light of Christ’s gospel.”

If Borgman is right, and if Dr. Moore has raised a proper concern, then the church cannot, indeed it must not, fail in its God-given role of caring for the orphan and the widow (James 1:27). 

It will walk in obedience and love by methodically creating structures that promote either reunification, or placement of children who are always at risk of being forgotten.

The church must help adoptive families assemble their armies, for the good of the children, and the families created by adoption, or re-created by the beauty of re-unification.

Join the Conversation

What concerns do you have as either a pre- or post-placement adoptive family, or a supporter of those who are pursuing placement of an orphaned child?

Welcome, Christy Waulk!

Christy Waulk and family.
We're excited to officially welcome Christy Waulk to Baylight Counseling as our newest, graduate-level, biblical counseling intern!

Christy is the wife of Baylight's Founder and Executive Director, Joshua Waulk, and also serves on the organization's Board of Directors as Treasurer.

Christy's journey into biblical counseling began with her love, and commitment to one-on-one Christian discipleship in the church setting, as well as her work with placing and adoptive moms in the domestic adoption community. 

Christy's counseling work at Baylight will focus upon women's counseling issues, parenting (to include work with teenage girls), and adoption related matters. She is passionate about connecting wives, mothers, and girls to the love of Jesus Christ, and helping them learn to apply God's word to their lives.

Christy's educational background includes a B.A. from Campbell University ('00), and an MBA from the University of South Florida ('08). Most recently, she is completing an MA in Crisis and Trauma Counseling at Liberty University ('15), as well as biblical counseling certification from the Biblical Counseling Center in Chicago, IL.

If you or someone you know would benefit from a season of biblical counseling with Christy, she'd be honored to hear from you. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, you can contact Christy by phone at (727) 239-2596, or by Email.