For the Christian the goal of counselors and ministries ought to be to help people live according to the Word of God. To those who are in Christ, they work to help them understand and apply the law of God as a response to the authority of the creator while they concomitantly help the Christian to apprehend grace found in Christ. A ministry is in the business of equipping the saints in pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) A life of joy is a fruit which is the result of the knowledge of pleasing the Father, honoring the Son and walking in the Spirit. Happiness is not the purpose of ministry, that is not say one cannot be happy in ministry, but the great men of the faith and the apostles lived with severe trials of discomfort, persecution and conflict. A counselor that seeks to suppress the law for the expediency of the illusion of peace is not a shepherd of Christ, but of the world. This is way so many marriage ministries are loved by non-Christians and nominal Christians, because they are of the world. I make a most serious accusation for consider 1 John 4:5: They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. Those who claim to be Christians who teach/advocate worldly wisdom should take head to the damage they are doing to the bride of Christ. 2 Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. They bear the burden described by James, James 3:1 …let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. So I do not make this accusation lightly but with all due gravity, for it is a serious thing. Now, just because one’s ministry is valued by those of the world, doesn’t not necessarily mean that one is of the world. One is of the world if they teach and think in a manner contrary to scripture and especially when they compromise to appeal to itching ears.[i]
The word “world” as used in 2 Peter and 1 John is the Greek word cosmos. It does not refer to the matter and space, but to an order or arrangement. The opposite of a cosmos is chaos or a lack of order and a purely random happenstance of muddle. The apostles contrast the Biblical ordering or arranging of truth, reality and ethics with the arranging of the natural and rebellious man’s commitments to truth, reality and ethics. The whole of this order can rightly be called a philosophy. James tells us the source of the philosophy, which he styles under the heading of wisdom, is crucial to discerning of which order it belongs; either from above, ie the infallible Word of God, or earthy sensual and devilish. Philosophy that is arrived at by our senses is sensual, from fallen thoughts is earthly and even arrived at the suggestions of devils. Again I repeat the warning of the apostle:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8
So that brings me to Christian marriage ministries. Remember their objective is to influence others to live according to the ordering of Christ as revealed in the scriptures. They are to be concerned with holiness not happiness. (Joy is a fruit of the spirit and will follow as an outgrowth of holiness.) So when I observe that what they are teaching is antithetical to the scriptures it is necessary to expose them.[ii] One such ministry that has come onto my radar is Marriage Builders, a site run by best-selling author Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr.. You might be familiar with his book “His needs – Her Needs”. He writes a piece entitled Why Women Leave Men in which he writes that the reason why women file for divorce is they are unhappy, and he seems to validate wives actions for being unhappy. Harley does not present his practice as overtly christian, but he is venerated by many pastors, he speaks at Christian conferences and his books and programs are staples of marriage ministries, so whether he makes himself out to be a christian counselor, others in the church respect him as such. But if he is a christian my analysis is fitting and if not the same charge is leveled against those Christians that advocate his work.
Men’s perceived failure to satisfy their wives is punctuated by the fact that women file for divorce twice as often as men. In other words, their unhappiness with marriage often results in divorce.
The most common reason women give for leaving their husbands is “mental cruelty.” When legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they have been emotionally abused. But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husband’s efforts to drive them crazy. It is usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating other forms of neglect.
….Surprisingly few women divorce because of physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behavior, fraud, or other serious grounds.
Harley’s solution is not to exhort women to pursue a meek and quite spirit, but for husbands to get with her program and make her happy or she will destroy the family. Harley wants to neutralize this threat by submission; that is a husband is to abandon his headship and authority to his wife’s feelings so as to avoid the calamity of a frivorce. He has a little gimmick he calls a Policy of Joint Agreement, wherein the husband submits to his wife and in particular her feelings.
”This policy helps men take their wives’ feelings into account whenever they make a decision. They avoid thoughtless habits, learn to meet emotional needs with mutual enjoyment and resolve their conflicts.”
By take into account, he means make her feelings the primary factor in every decision thereby “meeting her needs” so she will take her hand of the handle of the guillotine. Harley wants men to live in fear of their wives, who if not sufficiently placated, will file for divorce and destroy the home. I searched but I found no such article or reference on his web site that advocated wives fear their husbands or submit to them or even try to make thier husbands happy, but I did glance an article entitled “How to Make your Wife Happy“. (I do get the feeling that if a wife did fear her husband he would be accused of abuse at least according to the Duluth model) This is contrary to the scriptures in which wives are to fear their husbands Eph 5:33. Your translation may substitute a euphemism for “fear”, such as respect of reverence. The word in the Greek is phobos and is translated in every other instance as fear. It is the same word that phobia comes from and used by Paul in Romans 13:4
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Pretty scary stuff and it is clear that Paul does not mean respect but that his use of phobos means fear or even terror. An accurately rendered of Eph 5:33 is
… “but also, every one in particular — each so love his own wife as himself, and the wife — that she may reverence the husband.”
The Bible says wives are to fear their husbands and not the other way around. Harley is advocating that men act like women and women act like men, and hence Transvestism.
His egalitarian Policy of Joint Agreement has no basis in scripture and fails to call for the wife to be subject to her husband in all things.[iv] He fails to call women to repentance for frivolous divorce and covenant fraud. He fails to tell husbands to teach their own wives[v] using Bible’s instructions to her, to sanctify her unto holiness. [vi] Harley also fails to point out that Paul says the order of authority in marriage is part of God’s created order and reflects the order of authority established by God, [vii] with the women under man, man under Christ and Christ under the Father.
If he were interested in aligning a marriage with the Word of God, certainly he would tell men to rule their households well, [viii] warning them to listen to God and not their wives [ix] and he would tell wives to learn the discipline of contentment and the joy of being a helpmate. But he seems far more interested in validating the discontent in women, who buy his books and will feel all tingly as he tells them to suppress the wisdom of scripture and make their man her servant to her happiness. I found his website and his ministry to be worldly according to the scriptures. If this is what passes for christian counsel we are all in desperate need of real shepherds. The Christian family is endangered because of divorce and the shepherds are watching and applauding the slaughter of the sheep.
My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place. All who found them have devoured them; Jeremiah 50:6-7
[i] 2 Tim 4:3
[ii] Eph 5:11
[iv] Eph 5:24
[v] 1 Cor 14:35
[vi] Eph 25-27
[vii] 1 Cor 11:3
[viii] 1 Tim 3:4
[ix] Gen 3:17