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The Deadly Dangers of False Doctrine

©2002 by OAIM

For many people, the mention of the word "doctrine" leaves them indifferent or bored to say the least. "All we need is to love Jesus," is the current cry being raised among the congregations of Christian churches today. Doctrine, in some circles, has even been touted as being in opposition to unity in the Body of Christ and is therefore seen as detrimental and is to be avoided at all costs.

However, sound doctrine is at the heart of biblical counseling and should be the central focus of the counselor. This should not be a matter of personal preference, but instead is a basic skill that is required of any biblical counselor. To skirt the issue could be deadly, not only spiritually but physically as well.

If anyone has followed the case of Andrea Yates, you will be able to see how deadly false doctrines can be. From the reports I have heard and her own testimony, although her condition might have been exacerbated by drugs or post partum hormones, the foundational issue that she was grappling with was a false understanding of who God is. She stated that her desire was to kill her children so they would be kept from falling into Satan's hands if they grew up and to punish herself for being a bad mother. What else would cause this if not a false understanding of God?

Let's go back even further to the depression she was fighting long before any of this happened. While the author most certainly understands the strong influence hormones can have on a woman's emotions, I think from the evidence of Yates' statements about her reasoning behind her actions should point us to look at a spiritual cause for this depression, or at least a good portion of it.

Andrea Yates said in her confession statement to the police on the day she killed her children that she had told her husband on the phone to come home because it was "time." During the questioning, she revealed that what she meant by that statement was that it was time for her to be punished for being a bad mother. How could a woman who studied the Bible every day come to such a conclusion as she did? We need only to turn to the teachings of her spiritual mentor to find the answer.

Shortly after her marriage, Andrea was introduced by her husband to a man named Michael Woroniecki. This man was a self-proclaimed prophet and evangelist who traveled from college campus to college campus condemning all who claimed to be Christians and declaring himself to be part of the only true church. Woroniecki's teaching that women were, because of Eve's sin, relegated to be servants of men who could only find their salvation through bearing children and being a good mother and wife. It appears that her husband encouraged her to play this role and did not stop her from trying to live up to this unattainable perfection.

While it is so very sad that this led Andrea to kill her five children, it is even sadder that this happened because the secular "psychological system" refused to consider any religious connection to her depression in the first place. If we could roll back the clock and bring a biblical counselor onto the scene, what difference would there have been? What if Andrea could have been confronted with her false image of God when she first began to be depressed? Could her depression really have been caused by a spiritual issue rather than post-partum depression (hormonal) as the secular community would have us believe?

It has been my experience over the years that sound doctrine is at the root of the depression I encounter from people every day. What someone believes about God is going to determine how he or she will deal with the troubles and tribulations that life sends their way. This is precisely why I stated above that sound doctrine should be the heart of biblical counseling.

When Dr. Adams wrote his, "Competent to Counsel," he wrote it in an entirely different world than what we live in today. At that time, when someone came into a pastor's office and said he was a Christian, more than likely that person's definition of being a Christian was the same as the pastor of his church. Today, however, we cannot and should not assume such a thing.

The dissemination of information, whether through the Internet, TV, radio or print media, has made false teachings more available than ever. A teenager who would never actually go to a Wiccan coven can now slip, unnoticed and anonymously, into a Wiccan room online and learn all there is to know about witchcraft. Websites are abounding and many who claim to have the truth post their writings online for all to read, attempting to sway converts over to their own views.

This is why we no longer have the luxury of assuming a solid foundation in those with whom we work. Although they may sit in the pew on Sunday and receive solid doctrinal teaching, the other six days are often filled with garbage from the media. A biblical counselor can no longer presume a basic understanding of who God is. In fact, we can often accomplish more if we assume that the Christian sitting before us does not know who God really is, and, perhaps, is not really a Christian at all.

Think about Andrea Yates. How different would the situation have been if, instead of drugging her up to help her deal with her depression, a biblical counselor would have asked her that all-important question: "When you say you are a Christian, what do you mean by that?"

This one question can expose many false beliefs as you listen to the response. How do you think Andrea would have responded to that question? I would guess from the articles I have read that it would have been something along these lines: "I am a Christian because I try to be a good mother and wife and I read the Bible all the time."

In her response, we see one of the major red flags that a counselor needs to be on the alert for: basing salvation on works and not grace. You could see that for the woman who responds this way, she believes that the foundational definition of Christian is for a woman to be a good wife and mother and to read the Bible. Most likely someone who is depressed and who responds in this way will be feeling condemned because she knows in her heart that she cannot ever be perfect in her role as wife and mother. Yet she also knows that if she does not live up to this ideal of perfection, she will not be saved.

For many who are depressed, we see a similar pattern. They erroneously believe that their salvation is based on how good of a person they are, but yet, in their hearts, they know that they can never be good enough before God. What a dilemma this causes in a person! They see God as someone who asks them to do what it is impossible for them to do.

To focus on their behavior, therefore, only drives them further into depression. It is their basic understanding of the goodness of God that needs to be challenged. False understandings of who God is need to be torn down and rebuilt according to the truth of Scripture. Once they begin to see that they are working from a false premise of God's character, then they can get a better perspective of the problems that are overwhelming them.

As you help them to rebuild their understanding of the character of God, you show them how grace is the answer to the battle going on inside of them. God knows that we are sinful and that even our best efforts at being good are like filthy rags to Him (Isaiah 64:6). This confirms their feeling that they can never be good enough for God, and it helps them to see that they do not deserve anything from God.
This sets the scene up perfectly to then show them how incredible grace is, given to us, not because we deserve it, but because God is love. God's character is revealed, not to be a sadist who enjoys seeing us squirm in our futile attempts to reach Him, but to be a loving God, one who reaches down to us when we are completely unable to reach up to Him.

Do you think this message of grace could have transformed (and can still yet) transform the life of Andrea Yates? Asking that one question could have saved the lives of those children and have changed years of pain that she has suffered. She bore her spiritual pain alone because of a distant husband (whose beliefs are as mixed up as hers) and a psychological community that refused to see the real issues with which she struggled.

As biblical counselors, let us never shy away from the heart of the matter : sound doctrine. This should be our central focus, first, last and always, testing the beliefs of our counselee to see if they truly do line up with what God has said about Himself in the Bible.

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