In Part One of this article1 we reveal a number of problems and dangers regarding the practices and claims made by Dr. Robert J.K. Law and Malcom
Bowden in their book Breakdowns are good for you! 2 In Part Two we invalidate the four examples from secular literature that Law and Bowden use in their unsuccessful attempt to “prove” their approach is valid.3 In this Part Three we show that the sole support Law and Bowden have for their unique self-pity/mental illness fetish is their own personal say-so.
In their attempt to prove biblically that their counseling has 100% effectiveness, Law and Bowden equate their counseling success with what they call the 100% effectiveness of the “Biblical solution to all of a man’s problems.” They begin their argument by saying:
If the reader is a Christian, he will have no difficulty in agreeing that this is God’s world and were we all to obey his commandments, life on earth would be “sweet and perfect” and relationships with all would be joyful (p. 23).
This general statement implies that law-keeping would have been God’s solution to mankind’s problems if only man had complied. Law and Bowden then trace the rebellion of mankind, his bondage to sin, and his inability to choose God’s way. They then say that “by God’s grace, freeing man from his bondage to sin and his sinful nature…man can freely choose God’s ways.” Thus, within the framework of their belief that the sin of self-pity causes depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, they are trying to make the Bible say that all a person has to do to get over depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia is to “freely choose God’s ways.”
Law and Bowden say that “the reason for the problems in the present world are [sic.] due to man’s sin and rebellion against God.” However, not all personal problems are due to personal sin. Instead, many problems are simply the result of the accumulation of sin throughout the ages that has brought about a general deterioration of what God created in perfection. Law and Bowden fail to mention how this deterioration has resulted in diseases and genetic flaws that may contribute to depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia even without obvious physical markers.
Law and Bowden continue their argument by saying, “The Biblical solution to all of a man’s problems is always 100% effective—when it is put into practice by each person” (p. 23, bold added). For them, the “biblical solution” depends on each person obeying God’s law. However, even the most mature and godly saints are not able to do this. That is why Christ died on the cross, was resurrected, and is our constant intercessor at the throne of grace. Christ alone is the true biblical solution to man’s problems! Even God’s perfect law was not the biblical solution to man’s problems.
When Law and Bowden say: “The Biblical solution to all of a man’s problems is always 100% effective—when it is put into practice by each person,” what they really mean is that “The Biblical solution to all of man’s problems [including schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression] is always 100% effective [restoration to normalcy from mood disorders] when it is put into practice by each person.” And, the message hammered throughout the book is that “The Biblical solution to all of man’s problems,” including schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, is this: “Get rid of self-pity and the ‘mental illness’ will disappear” (p. 3, bold added).
Thus, in the context of their book, the 100% effective “Biblical solution” is transmogrified into Law and Bowden’s solution of getting rid of self-pity to get over depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. They deceptively shift the meaning of the 100% effective “Biblical solution” first to law-keeping and then to their particular brand of counseling, whereby they identify self-pity as the source of the problem and getting over self-pity as the solution. If one were to follow their logic, one would have to conclude that getting over self-pity is the “solution to all of a man’s problems.” And, what about the fact that many people feel sorry for themselves and yet have never suffered from depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia? Or would they wheedle themselves out of that objection by saying that if someone feels sorry for himself that means he is depressed, anxious, or schizophrenic and into denial?
Their claim to 100% effectiveness fails at both the scientific and biblical level. Their distorted reasoning cannot support their claim for success or their claim that their so-called “True Biblical Counselling” can be equated with God’s true biblical solution to mankind’s problems. Nowhere in Scripture can one find Law and Bowden’s diagnosis of self-pity as the source of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia or their brand of counseling presented as the “biblical solution to all of a man’s problems.” In spite of their vigorous attempts, Law and Bowden have failed to prove that their self-pity preoccupation is found in either the secular or biblical counseling literature and are left with an appeal to trust them because, according to them, they are truly biblical and do “True Biblical Counselling.”
We were at a church for 16 years where we ministered biblically to numerous individuals and trained others to do likewise and we have been ministering to people for over 30 years. While we were in the biblical counseling movement, I (Martin) was a plenary speaker and did workshops for biblical counseling organizations and also spoke at a variety of churches. We have also written extensively about this subject. During this period of time we wrote several books about biblically ministering to individuals, couples, and families. During this period of time we became familiar with the leaders in the biblical counseling movement and with the various approaches to biblical counseling. All claimed that they were doing true biblical counseling by whatever term they used. Yet, not one of them proposed the self-pity approach of Law and Bowden; neither would any one of them we know endorse what Law and Bowden promote and practice related to self-pity and that includes Jay Adams, whom they claim and often quote.
Henry Wright, whom we mentioned earlier, titled his book A More Excellent Way: Be In Health. The subtitle of his book reveals the content: Spiritual Roots of Disease, Pathways to Wholeness. He says in the Preface: “One of the main themes of this book is the connection between sin and disease.”4 Both bodily diseases and mental disorders are given what Wright considers to be their spiritual roots and causes. Wright’s book is heavily noted with Scripture. Like Law and Bowden, he believes he is doing “true biblical counseling.” Law and Bowden say:
We would contend that the True Biblical counselling we are proposing in this work is as near as we can get to the direct commandments of God for mankind. We have obtained these from the Bible alone which claims full authority in this aspect of man’s life (p. 23).
Wright would claim the same for his A More Excellent Way. And, so would all the others in the biblical counseling movement. Why should one believe Wright any more or less than Law and Bowden? Wright has an extraordinary claim about the relationship between sin and diseases of all kinds. Like Law and Bowden, Wright needs to provide extraordinary evidence for his extraordinary claims. However, like Law and Bowden, Wright only has anecdotes and testimonies absent scientific evidence, which is the hallmark of quacks!
Scientific evidence could be gathered from Wright’s anecdotes and testimonies. The medical records of those who gave testimonies to bodily and brain cures via his method could be examined, their present conditions medically checked, and their future conditions medically noted over time. The same could be done with the 300 individuals counseled by Law. However, in every instance, of which we are familiar, the verification of claims of healings at revivals has been tried, but the claims are proven false or the evidence disappears or excuses are given as to why it cannot be done.
Beware of those like Wright, Law, Bowden, and others, with their extraordinarily unique ideas, who produce no evidence other than anecdotes and testimonials, who believe no scientific evidence is needed for their extraordinary claims, and who claim that since they are doing true biblical counseling no questions should be asked. Because of the extremity of their extraordinary and unique claims with no extraordinary scientific evidence, we regard these as dingbat ideas until scientifically proven otherwise.
We accepted the Law and Bowden challenge and demonstrated by normal scientific standards that their four examples are not creditable from which to generalize as they have done. You will find none of these examples given by Glasser and depended upon by Law and Bowden used in any scientific or academic books, literature, or journals. The only exception is the Western State Hospital example, published in the Research Bulletin, which is an in-house publication and not a peer reviewed journal.
Reality Therapy is not practiced in the institutions mentioned, probably because it lacks scientific proof to establish it as successful as claimed. There is no conspiracy to deny its use, but rather a lack of creditability from research to endorse it above other therapies. If Reality Therapy and the outstanding results stated by Glasser were scientifically confirmed, it would be the treatment of choice throughout the world. In all honesty, it is one of the least used of therapies.
The use of these four cases reveals how ignorant Law and Bowden are of the most elementary scientific standards for credibility. They have recklessly and arrogantly used them to bolster their TBC and to support their mean-spirited conclusions, which are mainly based on extra-biblical material. Let’s face it, all of their examples are based on anecdotes, testimonials, and man’s wisdom, but without any valid scientific support. How can they call what they do “biblical” when they have primarily relied on such subjective sources to prove their so-called “True Biblical Counselling”? If modern medicine, early on, had relied upon such shoddy evidence, blood-letting would still be in vogue today.
There is a lot more biblically, logically, and scientifically wrong about Law and Bowden’s bizarre self-pity fetish than what we’ve revealed, but, suffice it to say, do not trust Law and Bowden’s extraordinarily unique self-pity conclusion. Do not trust their so-called True Biblical Counseling, which is supported by no one they claim. In summary, Breakdowns are good for you! and so-called “True Biblical Counselling” could be bad for you if believed, followed, and acted upon!
1 See https://www.pamweb.org/breakdowns. html.
2 Robert J.K. Law and Malcolm Bowden. Breakdowns are good for you! Bromley, UK: Sovereign Publications, 1999. Hereafter, page references are given in parentheses, i.e. (p. 1).
3 See https://www.pamweb.org/breakdowns2.html.
4 Henry W. Wright. A More Excellent Way. Thomaston, GA: Pleasant Valley Publications, 1999, 2003, p. 7.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, May-June 2009, Vol. 17, No. 3)