Want Wisdom? Go to the Old Testament Wisdom Literature.

July 24, 2006

scroll.jpgOne of the many pleasures of working at Dallas Theological Seminary is the opportunity to meet and interact with people like John Hilber, who integrate superior intelligence with a humble spiritual maturity. Before John went to Cambridge University to get his PhD, he was Pastor of a church in Washington. It was there that he wrote one of the best articles I have read concerning the importance of the Old Testament wisdom literature for integrating psychological thinking with Christian thinking. Unfortunately, this article had been buried in a 1998 issue of Bibliotheca Sacra (affectionately called “Bib Sac”) and was difficult to access. John was kind enough to convert the format of the article to fit this blog so you can get it easily in its entirety. I delight in seeing several points supported in his article:

  • The wisdom literature of the OT invites sources outside the canon of Scripture as well as in Scripture itself for the discovery of truth.
  • Wisdom can make use of methods that neither emerge exegetically from the Bible nor utilize the words of Scripture itself. I think this statement would embrace results from secular psychological research as a contribution to truth.
  • Wise counselors hold to the Bible as the only perfect authority for guiding faith and practice.
  • Wisdom calls for a deeper reverence for God in conforming one’s life to the Creator’s design.


From: BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 155 (October–December 1988): 411–22 (reproduced digitally with permission). Any formal citation of this work should reference the original publication with the proper page number.


John W. Hilber

Integration of secular counseling theory and methods in the Christian community continues to be a controversial issue.1 On one side of the debate are those who appeal to the sufficiency of Scripture, contending that modern psychology and psychotherapy are poisoned wells from which Christians cannot drink without compromising biblical truth.2 They say no integration is possible. On the other side of the debate are integrationists, who argue that general revelation is a legitimate source of truth and who therefore attempt a cautious use of modern theory and methods regulated by biblical theology and a Christian worldview.3 No consensus among integrationists has emerged on the method of integration or the extent to which integration is possible.4 But all integrationists share an openness to the contribution of modern psychotherapy.5

Most debate over the validity of integration has focused either on the doctrine of general revelation or New Testament passages dealing with the sufficiency of Christ or of Scripture or the giftedness of the church. But absent from the discussion is any serious engagement with the one area of Scripture that speaks most extensively to the issue of counseling, namely, Old Testament wisdom literature.6 This article addresses the integration question from the neglected viewpoint of Old Testament wisdom literature and the role of the sage in ancient Israel in relation to two questions: Where is wisdom to be found? What was the function of wisdom in the Old Testament community of faith? Read the rest of this entry »

A Thoughtful Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

July 24, 2006


Last week, I had lunch with an long-time friend, Steve Sternberg. I enjoy Steve because he is a thinker and he bypasses popularized slogans, cliches and hype. He can talk intelligently about complex issues in a way that clarifies the arguments on both sides while he maintains his own views strongly. So we can talk about homosexuality from a Christian perspective without bashing anyone. Steve gave me permission to reproduce three of his writings which I have done below. They date back to the late ’90’s but constitute a wonderful resource for study that is still very current.

I. “The GLBSO and Education” was Steve’s contribution to the opinion page of the Daily Campus Newspaper. Here he rebuts three claims that the homosexual community made at a lecture on campus.

II. “Homosexuality, A New Perspective” was written for the Daily Campus Newspaper.

III. “What’s Choice Got to Do With It?” gives Steve’s notes that he used in a human sexuality course at SMU.

I recommend that anyone interact with Steve’s material if he is studying this issue at a thoughtful level. Read the rest of this entry »

Ainsworth’s Secure Attachment A Picture of “Abiding in Christ”

July 24, 2006


Now I wish I had read Becoming Attached when it was first published in 1998. Robert Karen, PhD has provided a very readable history and research findings about (the subtitle) First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love. I could not resist carrying these empirical findings into the spiritual realm to gain deeper insights into the truth of the Bible. Specifically, I think our early attachment experience shapes the way we attach to God. So I have played with the patterns of Securely Attached and Anxiously Attached children (a la Mary Ainsworth, 1913-1999) to see how they might describe the Christian notion of “Abiding in Christ” as written in John 15. There are several patterns that are amazingly parallel! For example, in a “Strange Situation” in which mother is away, the securely attached baby actively seeks mother when distressed, maintains contact with her when she comes back, and is readily comforted. The anxiously attached baby in the same situation avoids mother when distressed and seems blasé. Furthermore, this child is difficult to soothe after separation. The child is angry and seeks comfort simultaneously. Isn’t this a picture of how we abide in Christ? If we are secure in our faith and in our relationship with God, then when we don’t experience his presence with us, we actively seek Him and, when we connect with Him, we are readily comforted. But if we are anxious and insecure about our abiding relationship with God, we avoid Him in the midst of stress and we are hard to comfort, even angry at God for “letting us down.”

becoming-attached-book.jpgThe appendix on page 444 of the book summarizes nine such patterns that I think describe our personal relationship dynamics with God very accurately. It supports my belief that the way we experience parents as infants and toddlers greatly influences the way we view God as adults. Fortunately, nothing is totally determined and any early programming can be reprogrammed to allow for more personal growth.

Ethics, Organizational Trauma, and Hope

July 23, 2006


one-bad-apple-spoils.jpgI had lunch last week with Dr. Dale Godby who, like me, is concerned about how the ethical misdeeds of one part of a group impacts the whole group. How does one bad apple spoil the batch? Dr. Earl Hopper and Meg Sharpe have been researching this issue in London for years. They are coming to Dallas on March 30, 2007 to lead a workshop that will address these issues that we are faced with frequently, but that we don’t often think through extensively. A few examples of the relevance of this topic are the pastor’s involvement with pornography (my last post), the Catholic priests’ involvement with child abuse, and the Enron debacle. None of these are isolated events that we are insulated from. Here’s the announcement about the event that will be cosponsored by CAPS, which I represent, and DSPP & DGAP, which Dale represents.

Dallas Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology and Dallas Group Analytic Practice

Saturday March 3, 2007

On Saturday, March 3, Earl Hopper, Ph.D., and Meg Sharpe, BA (Hons), two psychoanalysts and group analysts from London, will present a program on trauma in organizations, with special reference to violations of Codes of Ethics and the recovery of morale and hope.

What happens to organizations when they are broken, wounded or ‘traumatized’? In the case of Enron, trauma and moral corruption were closely linked, and these processes were fatal. In the case of the Church, the cardinal virtues were threatened. Closer to home psychoanalytical organizations have experienced strain, cumulative and catastrophic trauma, involving the loss of hegemony over training mental health professionals, drastic reductions in economic and status rewards, and the apparently widespread failed dependency on leaders who violated boundaries with patients and colleagues. Will these recursive traumas prove fatal for psychoanalysis and related forms of therapy? Can our professional organizations and colleagues rediscover their faith in psychoanalytical values and clinical principles?

Earl Hopper will present his theory of incohesion in the unconscious life of traumatized social systems, and Meg Sharpe will discuss the loneliness of those involved in boundary violations, and the ways in which they personify the roles that emerge in traumatized organizations. Both speakers are concerned with the development of realistic hope and task-appropriate levels of morale as antidotes to the spread of moral corruption that follows failed dependency on our leaders.



Ethical Response to Porn Charges Against Pastor

July 23, 2006

xxxchurch.jpgWe are being confronted frequently with this kind of news. The newspaper article copied below is from Charlotteville, Virginia, but it could be from anywhere. [edit in light of responder: My intent is not to focus on this specific case, but rather to examine our response].  The legal response is easy. When a person breaks the law (child pornography), he must pay the consequences which in this case will mean some jail time. But the ethical response is a little more tricky. [edit in light of responder: In this specific case, we should not presume guilt] Here are some questions that occur to me:

  • If you are a friend of the family, do you break off your friendship (feeling deceived) or do you seek to encourage him in the role of a Barnabas?
  • If you are a member of that church congregation, do you defend him or chastise him?
  • Is a Christian obligated to handle this kind of situation any differently than a non-Christian?
  • Is the organizational response to this situation different than an individual’s response? That is, Can the chairman of the board of elders response be the same as a personal friend’s response?
  • How much can we learn about how a man can be preaching a message on “A Heart for Christ” (January 14-15, 2006) while carrying on illegal acts on the side? Should we try? [edit: Am I guilty of assuming guilt here?]
  • To what extent am I capable of behaviors that are inconsistent with my public declared belief system — even if not illegal or unethical?

Here’s the Newspaper article, how do you respond to some of the questions I pose?

By Rob Seal, Daily Progress staff writer; Thursday, July 20, 2006

Albemarle County authorities discovered about 100 pornographic images of girls who appear to be underage on the computer of a former Charlottesville pastor, according to police testimony Wednesday. Gregory M. Briehl, 52, was arrested Tuesday and charged with 20 counts of possession of child pornography and two counts of videotaping people without their consent. Until March, Briehl, of 5360 Quint Field Road, was associate pastor of Peace Lutheran Church. The professional counselor also spent a year-and-a-half as the church’s acting pastor, starting in 2000. In May, Albemarle County police searched Briehl’s home, a guesthouse and his business at First Stone Counseling Center. Authorities Read the rest of this entry »

Divorce Law Change in Louisiana

July 18, 2006

divorce_leger_gr.jpgCan changes is the law change morality? Can legislative reform help individuals make better decisions that lead to happier lives? Is the law capable of anything beyond punishing wrongdoers? I think so and Rep. Ernie Alexander apparently is confident that better laws can help strengthen families. His recent marriage-strengthening initiative is already capturing national attention. The Advocate is a daily newspaper based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana which published this letter on July 14, 2006.

Hailed as the first uniformly applicable legislation since “no-fault” was introduced in 1969 that makes divorce harder to get, Act 743 doubles the living-separate-and-apart waiting period from six months to one year when minor children would be affected by a no-fault divorce. If it is demonstrated that one spouse is guilty of child or spousal abuse, the current waiting period remains unaffected.

Alexander justified his legislation on the basis that divorce hurts children: “We know that in one-parent families, a child is twice as likely to drop out of school, three times as likely to become pregnant as a teenager, six times more likely to be in poverty and 12 times more likely to be incarcerated.” And he cited a study that said the change could cut the divorce rate by 23 percent.

Sen. Bob Kostelka, a retired judge who led the fight for the law in Louisiana’s Senate, reasoned that divorces “were often granted before the couple had worked out issues of child custody and support. That removed the option of reconciliation, because they would be divorced before they had settled important issues” that might have prompted meaningful counseling.

Louisiana Family Forum Action supported this reform legislation that aligns with recent polling data showing that 60 percent of Louisianians believe “divorce should be more difficult to get for couples with minor children than other couples.” A Time-CNN national poll has agreed with these findings.

Moreover, a study by Dr. Linda Waite revealed that “86 percent of unhappily married people who stick it out, find that, five years later, their marriages are happier.” Three-fifths who said their marriages were unhappy in the late 1980s and who stayed married, said their marriages were either “very happy” or “happy” when reinterviewed in the early 1990s.

Act 743 becomes the first enactment in pursuance of a 2001 study by the Louisiana Law Institute urging the Legislature to consider a number of divorce reforms, including longer cooling-off periods.

Health of Marriage in America . . . or Unhealth?

July 18, 2006

husband-wife.jpgAt lunch with my friend Steve Sternberg the other day, he told me about the National Marriage Project at Rutgers. Steve is a down-to-earth guy who has a keen intellect and a philosophical grounding. I read the essay by Barbara Whitehead and David Popenoe entitled Life Without Children.  


A growing percentage of women today are not having any children. In 2004, almost one out of five women in their early forties was childless.  In 1976, it was one out of ten.  “Child rearing is no longer the defining experience of adult life,” says co-director and author of the report’s essay, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. “Parents today feel out of synch with the larger adult world.”

I had intended to write a more lengthy post on this report.  But then I ran across another blogger who had already done it. Steve and Candice have a wonderful blog called Why Family with a long list of good posts. I decided to create a link with them and keep up with their thinking.