Critical thinking and evaluation of what goes for “Christian” has always been a part of the Christian faith. This past Sunday my pastor preached on Colossians 2:13-19 and in the midst of the sermon he made this brief remark about Paul’s list of characteristics of those who have “false ideas about ‘righteousness’ and salvation”–in other words, those who use their critical evaluation skills to destroy others (rather than build up) or to build their own kingdoms.
Based on Paul’s list, he said these leaders tend to (a) be quick to pass judgment about the views of others, (b) equally quick to dismiss their opponents, (c) and likely to claim a vision or something special on which to base their own beliefs. He added that these leaders commonly hide their views under a veneer of humility.
In the counseling world, we have had many of these thought “leaders.” These are those who have a grain of truth as they point out the flaws in the views of others, who refuse to accept any critique of their own position and claim to have a purer view of the Bible (though never once really articulating it as a positive position).
But is there a place for critiquing others’ models? If so, how do you tell the difference between a false critique and a necessary critique? Try some of these questions:
- Are the critique overly personal? Does the writer give the benefit of the doubt or choose to read the one being critiqued in the worst possible light? If you finish a critique and it seems like the author was making fun of their opponent or making outlandish statements about the intentions or consequences of ideas–then they probably fail the test of constructive criticism and love for all.
- Does the one doing the critique identify where the author has spoken truthfully? If not, then the critique is not balanced.
- Does the critic offer an alternative after making statements of judgment? If not, then it is likely that the critic isn’t really looking for solutions but merely wants to be destructive.
3 responses to “Criticizing Christian Counseling Models”
The Sunday School lesson this week was about Jude. It struck me that a letter so much about correction was so full of the concept of mercy. Much of the correction the author of Jude was giving concerned leaders who “speak abusively against whatever they do not understand”, who are bolder than the archangel Michael in using their confidence of being correct against others (instead of trusting the Lord to rebuke where necessary), who are divisive and care mostly about flattering others, only when it is to their advantage. There really is a danger when we value “getting it right” as a self-promoting ideal.
I am also turning point #3 around in my head quite a bit. I agree with the heart of it, but I think there is a place in the critiquing and questioning process, to be able to ask critical thinking type questions about another person’s reasoning, without having a counter-answer/alternative. I think it is possible to be looking for solutions, to be fairly confident that a particular approach is not healthy or helpful or completely correct, without knowing for sure what the answer is.
I suppose critiquing weaknesses without having confident alternatives requires a spirit of humility that stands together with the person they are critiquing in saying, “there’s a lot we don’t know”. Or just “I don’t know what the answer is” even though I am questioning this answer for these reasons….
I think it’s important to acknowledge, when disagreeing with the model/idea/thoughts of another, the places in which the questions being “answered” by the model/thought are important and still need answering, even if I think the model is wrong. It’s easy to critique the philosophy and paradigm of another, but unless I acknowledge that there are questions the other model is answering that my paradigm does not answer easily (and that, indeed and maybe quite likely, I do NOT have any answer to), my alternative is unhelpful and insufficient. I don’t think I need to have all the answers to helpfully critique, but I do need to acknowledge how/where I see that I do not.
But, I think there needs to be space for the possibility that sometimes, in order to be able to question and critique in a helpful way,one has to be able to question things for which one has not yet figured out an alternative or all the answers.
Thank you for this post. I struggle with this topic. While I love my brothers and sisters in the “Biblical Counseling” world, I do struggle with the attitude that seems to be projected by them many times. That attitude is that I’m right and you are wrong.
I recently read an article about the dangers of using personality tests in counseling. The writer, who I consider my friend, lumped all types of testing in one group. He then laid them against the Bible as though they were somehow in conflict with biblical teaching.
I would add #4 to your above list. Has the one doing the critique fully researched the model he is critiquing?