Certified Christian Counseling Program: A More Open Dialogue With the World?
Christianity, as it enters this century, has been hit hard by a variety of “isms” within our culture. From secularism and materialism to humanism and atheism, the cultural revolution of the 1960s has taken strong root. From these outward assaults on Christian values, Christians are attempting how to revitalize the Church and answer the call of the new generation without compromising itself.
Is Christianity a static religion or is it adaptive to change? I think a middle ground solution to the question represents Christianity better. Christianity is laid with the truth of Christ which can never change, but it is also a vibrant faith that has universally preached Christ to the nations. This presents a true catholicity of the faith as Christ is worshipped in every tongue and celebrated through various traditions.
Yet, cultural change, the type of change initially pursued in the Enlightenment is an impossible compromise. Terms such as “static”, “old fashioned”, “narrow-minded” and “outdated” are all common terms given to Christians and Christian Counselors. by secularist.s Counselors may deal with a variety of modern issues that can never be compromised or accepted by true Christians. In these sessions, the Certified Christian Counselor must represent the objective code of ethics against the subjective ideals of modern society. Classical Christian philosophy and moral theology must become the stabilizing ingredient amongst moral chaos.
How can Christianity, if it is closed to such modern ideals, be truly open to dialogue in the modern world? How can Christianity present a moral plan for the modern generation? I believe within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II presented a clear response to the modern world. Particularly in Guadem et Spes, the church fathers taught that Christians must proclaim the Gospel and no longer hide in the dark. The previous conciliar church was very closed in its traditions and legalisms, but the council and document pushed for a more open dialogue with the world and to bring Christ to the market place. This is why the nature of the council was pastoral and not dogmatic. Instead of spewing anathemas against the world, the church leaders wanted to engage the world.
This mindset was to not judge, but teach with love. As Christian Counselors, is this not the biggest challenge sometimes? To openly condemn actions against the faith can sometimes alienate the person from the healing power of Christ. When we take Christ to the market place, we must not sacrifice truth, but pastorally we must not judge. Instead we should seek to heal.
Pope Francis embodies this philosophy perfectly in his famous line, “who am I to judge”? The Pope is not suggesting, as liberals hope, that truth is no longer truth or right is no longer right, but instead emphasizing on the mercy of Christ and the pastoral ministry of healing.
The Catholic Church was one of its biggest obstacles to its own self prior to Vatican II. A legalist system of outdated fast regulations, sacramental prohibitions, and scrupulous morality based on an extreme element of punishment instead of love existed within its ranks. This theology alienated many from the Church. If Catholic, who can remember the strict observance of no food or drink before reception of the Eucharist? Who remembers, if one committed a mortal sin, that their soul was now completely dead and unworthy of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? While these ideas seem extreme, they were hardly extreme if one considers the early penalties of the early Church!
After Vatican II, liberals hoped to interpret the change of dialogue with the world as an open buffet for subjectivism. It wished to take away the shackles of Thomistic, ecclesiological and sacramental theology and replace it with a more democratic ecclesiology and open mindedness to new ideologies of the world. Where once strict observance existed, they now seeked to go to the opposite extreme before the council.
However, it was soon apparent, that the Catholic Church’s new dialogue with the modern world was far from as liberal as they wished. Paul VI in Human Vitae, and the long tenure of John Paul II showed that a more moderate road was chosen. While old and outdated traditions and regulations were removed, the Church would still remain orthodox to moral objectivism. It would dialogue with the world in a more pastoral way, but it would not sacrifice or compromise morality.
Protestantism, also, reflected this. While Protestantism is not as dogmatic as Catholicism and does not have the large councils and declarations, the Protestant Churches still realized the importance of modern dialogue with the world. The Protestant denominations stood strong against the sexual revolution and its subjective morality. Throughout America, a variety of grassroot Churches emerged that emphasized the importance of rebirth in Christ. The old “puritan” condemnation of the sinner, has been replaced with ” love the sinner, hate the sin”. Large and small non-denominational churches opened across the United States as individuals revoked past sinful lives with the open and easy mercy of Christ.
This pastoral response to the secular and atheistic world preaches a dialogue of love that remains true to Christ’s teachings, but removes us as judge and executioner. Christ alone knows and understands each person ever created. He alone will judge. Did he not tell the Pharisees and elders who were about to stone Mary, that those without sin can cast the first stone?
So how can Christian Counselors apply this to modern day ethical situations that challenge the orthodoxy of Christian teaching? Let us look at a few cases.
First, there is the issue of homosexuality. A new dialogue is needed with the homosexual community. The Church can no longer condemn them and cast them away from the light of Christ’s mercy and healing. New dialogue requires new ways of thinking and approaching the issue. Sole condemnation of the sin is not the Christian way. Condemnation was a school of thought of a previous generation that over-emphasized the sin and punishment. Yet, in the same breath, we also have a school of thought that over-emphasizes the love and mercy of Christ and totally ignores the sin. These two extremes cause serious issues in dialogue. One attempts to judge, the other ignores and alters the identity of the faith. One can see this type of extremism from such individuals in the Westboro Baptist Church and other liberal communities who marry homosexuals. Both extremes are equally dangerous.
In such dialogue, the Catholic Church has made huge strides in finally admitting that homosexuality is not a choice. The official Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin in itself but when only acted upon. The temptation, the feeling, the thoughts are all temptations. The Catechism encourages homosexuals to continually pray, fast and receive the Eucharist for spiritual graces.
There is a common teaching in Protestant circles as well. Without compromising the sinful nature of such acts, the Protestant Churches also call for a pastoral response; a response that does not reject or hate but instead one that seeks to heal. It is clear that the days of condemning people to Hell is no longer a proper dialogue for Christians to have with the world over moral issues like this, but instead, to present a more Christ-like approach.
One last issue addressed here, of yet many to even mention, is the culture of death. The Catholic and Protestant Churches continue to support the rights of the unborn. This is a non-comprisable position but it does not mean Christian Counselors cannot engage the society of death, or those confused, in a more Christ-like manner.
In approaching the society of death, Christians must set good example. As a young girl makes her way to an abortion clinic, should she be condemned, spat upon and jeered at? How about instead trying to understand the young girl’s situation and trying to pray for her. Or how about preaching love and understanding instead of hate in an attempt to convince her to choose life?
The same is true with the elderly who consider euthanasia. Instead sitting at a philosophical pulpit, why not attempt to understand the person’s grief? Why not pastorally care for them not merely physically but also spiritually and emotionally. The spiritual depression of terminal illness is beyond any of our comprehension unless we experience it. The pain that accompanies it as well can overwhelm a person. Yet, do we visit the sick as Christ commanded? Do we attempt to care for the soul as well? Or are we more concerned only about the philosophy of a person who wishes to die or not die yet do nothing physically and let them decay in solitude?
In conclusion, the new dialogue to the world is not about changing the essence of Christian doctrine, it is about re-emerging from a defensive condemnation state and actually living like Christ. By example we convert, not through anathemas. We live in a pluralistic society and cannot like in the days of Christendom expect complete conformation of individuals to one creed. We must be respectful, yet firm. Ultimately, there is nothing in the Christian dogma that needs changed, it is just how we portray ourselves to the world and that is something we should all reflect on.
If you are interested in learning how to become a Christian Counselor, then please review the program. Thank you for visiting our blog and if you have any questions, please let us know!
Mark Moran, MA