14 September 2009

The Disguise of Religious Endeavor

A fascinating book that seeks to wed pastoral counseling with the idea that the doctrine of justification by faith fuels development (sanctification) on the past of the person being counseled is William Hulme's Counseling and Theology, published in 1956 by Fortress Press and now out of print. Hulme was a Lutheran professor of pastoral counseling at Luther Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities.

Hulme is a rare blend of psychologically sensitive wisdom and common sense in dealing with complex fallen people, on the one hand, and doctrinally contoured, deep, robust theological conviction on the other--and he brings the two into constant dialogue in this book. This book is one of the factors in forming my new understanding of the gospel this past year. Here's a taste.

When a person's justification is dependent upon his sanctification it is not only justification that is jeopardized but sanctification as well. Since both the meaning of and the power for sanctification reside in the motive of love and this motive is created in the justification experience, it follows that if my sanctification is motivated also by the desire to earn or deserve, I have undercut sanctification at its incipiency because I have corrupted the love motive. (180)

There is a subtle temptation--a particular danger in counseling--for an individual to become egocentric in his endeavors toward growth. Having experienced a certain amount of progress, he may become enthusiastic in his efforts to gain more. Unknowingly he may assume an activist role that is doomed to defeat. He falls into the error of 'trying too hard' and becomes tense in his efforts to overcome irritation, moods, and among other things, tension. Finally, he may break down in complete frustration. What has happened is that self-improvement has become its own motive under the disguise of religious endeavor. . . . Sanctification is also by grace through faith. . . . It is the Holy Spirit himself that is to be sought, rather than his fruits. Growth is growth in grace. (193-94; emphasis added)

Sanctification by gospel!

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