The Creaking on the Stairs: Finding Faith in God through Childhood Abuse by Mez McConnell is how God transformed him from a victim to a new man in Christ by grace through faith.1 The back cover indicates that “Mez McConnell is the pastor of Niddrie Community Church near Edinburgh” and says:
This is a book that has no easy answers to the problems of childhood abuse. Instead, it tries to get behind the tough questions of why God permits such horrors to occur in this world. Using his own childhood as a Launchpad, Mez McConnell tells us about a God who is just, sovereign, and loving. A good father who knows the pain of rejection and abuse, who hates evil and who can bring hope even in the darkest place (back cover).
Rosario Butterfield2 wrote the Foreword” and ends by saying: “This is the most disturbing book that I have ever read. And I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
Contrary to Butterfield’s high recommendation for the book and the endorsements by those we list below, we cannot recommend this book. Although the book has some good solid biblical teachings and testimony, it is undone by McConnell’s advice under “Next Steps.” After giving sound advice to “silent sufferers with hidden wounds,” McConnell asks and answers the following question: “So what should you do now?” (p. 227). In Steps One, Two, and Four McConnell gives sound advice for those who have suffered abuse. However, Step Three is a serious enough error and sinful enough recommendation for us to warn against it, rather than recommending the book without a serious caveat.
This book is somewhat like the bad joke in which an individual does something truly outstanding and the punch line is, “So sorry, one mistake,” which undoes all that preceded it. Step Three begins by saying, “You might need some counseling.” McConnell refers to seeking counseling as a sign of strength, not weakness. He describes what the counselor should be like and how the counselor will act. He then says, “We call this kind of counsellor a biblical counsellor because what they are doing is helping apply the truths of the Bible to some of the hurts we have experienced in this life.” He then suggests that the reader can find that kind of counselling at “CCEF, biblical counseling.org, etc.” (p. 230).
CCEF is the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. We have often written about CCEF and been critical of the fact that they recycle psychological theories and therapies and that they are a separated-from-the-church biblical counselling organization that charges fees. In addition, CCEF has other means of generating income as their tax return form shows a total of $4,005,406 for total revenue with the two highest paid employees receiving a total of $280,000 together for salary and other benefits for 2018.
We have examined the counseling done by those at CCEF and found that their idols-of-the-heart counseling, fathered by Dr. David Powlison, violates biblical admonitions, prohibitions, and restrictions of Scripture and is, therefore, sinful. Because CCEF is separated from the church, charges a fee for services, making their counselees clients like their psychological counterparts, and practices sinful counseling, we cannot unreservedly endorse McConnell’s book. McConnell reveals in his book how unhelpful counselors were to him in his plight, but evidently is convinced that biblical counseling is radically different.
In addition to the “Foreword” by Rosario Butterfield, the book carries numerous other endorsers. We assume that they also endorse the entire content of the book, including Step Three, and are, therefore, prime examples of how those who are considered rock-solid leaders of the evangelical faith cannot see what is “hidden in plain sight” in regard to what is called “biblical counseling.” We list these prodigious evangelical leaders with only one designation after their names, even though some have multiple designations. :
Endorsers of The Creaking on the Stairsare:
Chris Larson, President & CEO, Ligonier Ministries
Steve Timmis, Director of Acts29
Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary
Mike Reeves, President & Professor of Theology, Union School of Theology, Wales
Emily Jensen, Cofounder of Risen Motherhood
Matthew Z. Capps, Senior Pastor, Fairview Baptist Church, Apex, NC
Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, World
Gavin Peacock, Associate Pastor, Calvary Grace Church of Calgary
Erik Raymond, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Fellowship Church, Boston, MA
J. Garrett Kell, Pastor Del Ray Baptist Church, Alexandria, VA
Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You
Eric Schumacher, Shepherd, Songwriter, Storyteller at emschumacher.com
Liam Goligher, Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
Aileen Challies, Pastor’s Wife
Anthony Mathenia, Pastor, Christchurch, Radford, VA
Paul Washer, President, Heart Cry Ministry, Radford, VA
Matt Smethurst, Managing Editor of The Gospel Coalition
Doug Logan, Director of the Diversity Initiative, Acts29
Brian Croft, Senior Pastor, Auburndale Baptist Church
Greg Gilbert, Senior Pastor, Third Avenue Baptist Church, Louisville, KY
If one examines every word spoken in literal live biblical counseling, one will find that such counseling depends on sinful conversations fueled and ignited by the counselor. All the live biblical counseling we have seen and described is sinful, but apparently supported by those listed above. All have missed what is “hidden in plain sight.”
The biblical counseling movement was fathered by Dr. Jay Adams (nouthetic counseling) and further developed by Dr. David Powlison with his idols-of-the-heart counseling. Nouthetic counseling was modeled after behaviorism. Idols-of-the-heart counseling is reflective of psychoanalysis. The procedure of such modern-day biblical counseling follows the conversational method of secular psychological counseling with much attention given to the problems as the counselor asks for more details. Then in the behavioristic nouthetic form, the counselor advises external activities that can be done to relieve the situation. In the idols-of-the-heart counseling the counselor attempts to identify what idols may be operating within the inner person to cause the counselee to feel and behave in unproductive ways.
McConnell gives no indication anywhere in his book that he experienced this kind of counseling, with the prying and identifying of idols of the heart. His description seems to align more with the simple biblical ministry of compassion and a believer who really cares about a fellow believer—one who was not in a one-up position of counselor but a fellow human being who does not know all the answers, but who will come alongside and listen without examining or trying to analyze the problem. This would be one who would, by the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit, gently and patiently lead him to the Savior, who knows McConnell through and through and who loves him beyond comprehension. We cannot imagine McConnell having had to buy the compassion of believers, as required at such places as CCEF and other biblical counseling centers that charge a fee for counseling. McConnell’s recommendation of biblical counseling does not even fit with the rest of his book!
1 Mez McConnell. The Creaking on the Stairs: Finding Faith in God through Childhood Abuse. Geanies House Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 2019, pages will be indicated in the text.
2 Rosario Butterfield is a former lesbian who promoted the lesbian cause at the university where she taught. She tells her story of conversion to Christianity and how God dramatically changed her life. We quoted her in our book The Sodomy of Christians: The Biblical View, p. 65-66.