“Biblical Counselors” Such as the Newheisers Would Tell Phinheas that he Had Sinned

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor.

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the LORD, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”

And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'” (Numbers 25:1-13)

At the heart of what is variously called nouthetic or biblical or Christian counseling is the simplistic false assumption that all of our problems are due our own sin. Oh yes, others sin, they say, even sin against us, but the REAL issue for nouthetics is how victims respond to the evil committed against them. And so they are all the time telling their counselees to “look to themselves” and see how they have contributed to the sin scenario. It is not unheard of for such counselors to even address cases of rape this way. And then along with it all goes the rest of the baggage: “are you bitter toward your rapist?” “Are you harboring unforgiveness?” “What did you do to contribute to the crime?” All that sort of wicked stuff.

Jim Newheiser, a reformed baptist pastor, is one of these types and has now become, as I have written about before, the head of the counseling department at Reformed Theological Seminary. Here’s a bio from the RTS site:

Dr. James (Jim) Newheiser, Jr., is the Director of the Christian Counseling Program and Associate Professor of Christian Counseling and Practical Theology at RTS Charlotte.

For 25 years, Dr. Newheiser served as the Preaching Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, California. He is also the Director of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (formerly CCEF West) and an Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College. Furthermore, Dr. Newheiser serves as a board member at both the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) and the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

Rebecca Davis recently posted on her blog, Here’s the Joy, about Caroline Newheiser (Jim’s wife) teaching this very kind of nonsense that is sooooo incredibly damaging to the innocent.

So let’s think about all this a bit. Here is Phinehas, a godly man who was zealous for the Lord. When he saw that evil man and woman fornicating in open defiance of the Lord, committing the very wickedness for which many were dying, he took action. And I suggest to you that he was NOT calm and weepy about that poor couple he was about to run through with his spear. NO! Phinehas was incensed. He was ( to use what is regarded by the nouthetic crowd as a curse word) ANGRY! Yes He not only HATED what they were doing, he hated them! And he killed them!

Now, imagine if Phinehas had “shared his thoughts and heart” ahead of his spear throwing with the local “biblical counselor.”  “Hey, Jim, I gotta talk to you. I, I think I feel rage in my heart. I want to take a spear and turn that man and woman over there into shish-kebab.”  “Oh my, Phinehas, that is sin. You must never be so angry toward anyone.”

Am I really being all that ridiculous here in this imaginary setting? I don’t think so. You see, in the nouthetic counseling crowd not even the holiness of God justifies such anger.

But wait just a minute! God blessed Phinehas for his zeal!  And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them…” Phinehas did what GOD would do! Phineas’ action was Godly action. To be intensely angry at a rapist is Godliness!

But not according to this bizarre brand of “counselor” that seems to have overwhelmed so many Christian churches and schools and organizations today.

You have had this very kind of thing laid on you I bet. Either from a pulpit sermon or by a book you picked up that the local Christian bookstore or at a “Christian” conference, or by some “Christian friend” who just knew the Lord wanted him to rebuke you for your sin – even though YOU were the victim!  I have,

One of the most devious and deceptive and wicked men I have ever known did this to me numbers of times over the years before I wised up to what he really was. He wore a “saintly” disguise but was in fact a reviler who craved power and control for himself. One time a very wicked man, not a Christian, who popped into our church now and then for selfish reasons, phoned me late at night. He was drunk and started to accuse me and use the Lord’s name in his curses. I told him he was evil, that he didn’t scare me, and that if he wanted to make good on his threats to attack me physically, he could come right over now and I would meet him. I also told him that he should be very fearful of God’s wrath against him. He shut up and then hung up.

And what was this fine, eminent, “Christian” man’s response to it all the next day?  “Oh, that was sinful of you to speak that way to him.” He would bring up that accusation repeatedly in the future. What was he really doing? Exalting himself by putting me down. Presenting himself as the greatest, most patient saint of all. He wasn’t angry about the Lord’s name being blasphemed. Oh no. I have no doubt he would have chastised Phinehas.

Our lesson in all this? Don’t listen to Newheiser. Don’t listen to these lying accusations made by arrogant seekers of self-glory. Walk away. And before you walk, tell them they have no zeal for the glory of God nor do they hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Jim Newheiser is Still no Defender of Abuse Victims – Don’t be Deceived by His Claims

The following is a link to an article by Jim Newheiser who is now head of the counseling program at Reformed Theological Seminary. It is entitled Helping Churches to do a Better Job Handling Cases of Abuse. Read it for yourself at the link.


I have criticized Newheiser before for his abuser-enabling teachings on this subject. In this article, written just last September, he makes statements that might lead people to think he is a real ally to abuse victims. Be assured that he is not. “Biblical Counselors” work from a foundation theology that is unbiblical and erroneous. These people always attribute sin and blame and guilt to most anyone they counsel, including abuse victims. In addition, Newheiser continues to deny that divorce is the right approach to marriage to an abuser. He even accuses the victim of “hardening her heart” if she decides to do so and in connection with that accusation it is quite plain that he is accusing ministries such as Light for Dark Times and Unholy Charade of enabling victims to “harden their hearts” rather than remaining married to the abuser.

Just check out some of these quotes from Newheiser’s article and you can see for yourself what I mean. The first quote is how the article opens and the reader will think, “alright, he’s finally getting it.” But it’s not to be.

Sadly, I have been witness to a discouraging pattern in local churches as they handle cases involving abuse. It begins as church leaders are made aware of a situation in which a husband is acting abusively towards his wife, and it has been going on for quite some time. The abuse may include any or all of the following: coercion, threats, outbursts of anger, or some degree of physical force. Typically, church leaders get involved late in the situation because the victim is in fear of reporting her abuser, or perhaps thinks she is somehow to blame for his actions.

Church leaders often initially treat these cases as typical marital conflict, treating the sins of each party in a more or less equal way. They fail to make a sufficient distinction between the wife’s “misdemeanor” sins of provocation or disrespect, and the husband’s “felonious” sins of murderous anger. Abusive husbands intensify this problem as they manipulate the situation and focus their counselor’s attention on the wife’s faults.

But, alas, read on:

As the church intervention progresses, the relationship between the husband and wife continues to deteriorate. In spite of the husband’s promises to change, hateful outbursts of anger, intimidation, manipulative control and even violence persist. Church leaders realize the seriousness of the husband’s sin, and take steps to put pressure on him and to protect his wife and children. They counsel the husband separately with the hope that he will truly repent and the marriage can be reconciled. Sometimes at this stage the church leaders agree that a physical separation may be necessary for the safety of the wife and children.[1]

When the pressure is ramped up, the husband willingly participates in counseling and is outwardly compliant towards church leadership. The wife, on the other hand, begins to be influenced by certain friends, family, and various victims’ advocates (online and in print) who tell her that her church leadership has failed and that she should divorce her husband. Her heart becomes hardened and eventually she announces that she is done and plans to leave.

Note two particular points (I bold-faced them). 1) The “let’s never talk about divorce as an option” language starts here. “Sometimes as this stage the church leaders agree that a physical separation may be necessary…”. Newheiser has always equivocated in this manner on this point. The fact is, he teaches that divorce is always a sin, never God’s will, even for the victim in abuse cases.  2) Secondly, note that Newheiser, incredibly, accuses the abuse victim who resolves to leave her abuser of having hardened her heart!! And of course it is obvious that Newheiser slams people like us for convincing abuse victims that they should not only leave, but divorce their abuser. So you see how deceptive he is being here as he claims to be an authority on how to help abuse victims!!

Now, here comes some more victim blaming by Newheiser:

  • Even if the wife is responding imperfectly to her husband’s sinful anger (Prov 22:24-25), her more common marital sins of selfishness and careless speech should not be treated as equivalent to the sins of violence, harsh verbal outbursts (Prov 11:9; 12:18), physical intimidation, and manipulative threats made by her husband. Abusers need to come under the discipline of the church and victims must be protected. Error on the side of safety.

  • Both the abuser and the victim need godly counsel. It is usually best to counsel them separately at first so that the wife’s abuser will not intimidate her during the session. She needs protection and healing. The abuser needs strong admonition and accountability. I highly recommend Chris Moles’ The Heart of Domestic Abuse, which takes a tough love approach with an abuser while also offering hope that he can be changed through God’s Word and Spirit.

See it? While there is a superficial facade of being an ally of the victim, the fact is that Newheiser and his school of counselors always, always, always tell people they counsel that they are guilty of sin. THEIR sin is the problem or at least a good part of the problem. Here, Newheiser so “generously” grants that the abuse victim’s SIN is not as great as her abuser’s! But she is still guilty of sin that has contributed the the abuse. That is what he teaches. He refuses to acknowledge that abuse is NOT the product of the abuser’s “buttons being pushed.” It is not an anger issue. It is the evil of lust for control and power which the abuser exercises and seeks and he would do so even if his wife were as perfect as Jesus Himself!!

Notice once again that in these paragraphs Newheiser, as he ALWAYS does, dances around the fundamental issue of the abuse victim’s biblical right to divorce her abuser. Why? Because Newheiser believes that God never desires divorce for abuse and that at best divorce for abuse is a sin that God will need to forgive.

Lest anyone doubt that what I am saying about Newheiser’s views on divorce for abuse, he convicts himself in the following paragraphs from his article:

  • Churches should handle situations in which the victim of abuse chooses to pursue divorce very gently and carefully. Abused wives often become hardened towards their husbands. They sometimes are critical and disrespectful towards those in the church who tried to counsel them. Church leaders may be tempted to react against this bad attitude by disciplining the wife for her hard-heartedness in pursuing a divorce without clear biblical grounds.[3] Wisdom and compassion are necessary for a biblical response on the part of the church as well as the woman.

  • When a victim has given up hope of her marriage being reconciled it is prudent to ask for patience on all sides. Time should be allowed to see if the Lord might work to genuinely transform the abuser and to soften the heart of the victim. The abuser can demonstrate the sincerity of his repentance by patiently respecting his spouse’s need for time and space rather then pressing to be allowed to return home and have his full marital rights restored. The victim should be assured that she would not be pressured to go back to an unsafe situation.[4]

In spite of the counsel of church leaders (who hope that the marriage can be restored), some victims are absolutely determined to press ahead with divorce. My understanding is that Scripture does not teach that church leaders are obligated to exercise church discipline in every case of divorce. In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul tells a wife not to leave her husband, but then he says, “But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.” Paul cannot affirm her decision to leave, but rather than put her out of the church or treat her as an unbeliever; he speaks to her as a Christian sister and tells her that she must either be reconciled to her husband or remain unmarried.

Can you believe that? My, how gracious. Newheiser cuts her some slack and says, well, ok, let’s not hand her over to Satan via church discipline. Oh, and don’t miss that last statement: Newheisiier says we are to tell her she cannot remarry.

Jim Newheiser is no friend of those who are exposing the unholy charade of the domestic abuser in Christ’s church. He is now the director of counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary and that should frighten us all. Jim, you have no right to exercise the kind of authority you are claiming for yourself over victims of abuse. They do not need to seek your permission nor their church’s permission to divorce. They have every right to remarry. And if you really wanted to help churches do a good job of helping abuse victims and dealing rightly with their abusers, you would see abusers for what they really are. Revilers. People we are not to try to fix, but wicked ones we are to put out of the church. We are not to even eat with such people. You will find that in Paul’s direction to the Corinthians as well.