• Book Review of Sacred Friendships by Ian F. Jones

    Posted on October 8th, 2009 admin No comments

    Review of Sacred Friendship by Robert W. Kellemen and Susan M. Ellis

    By Ian F. Jones


    Mark these names and remember them: Vibia Perpetua (181-203), Macrina the Elder (270-340), Gorgonia (325-375), Marcella (325-410), Dhuoda (803-843), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Amelia Wilhelmina Siereking (1794-1858), Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898), and Betsie ten Boom (1885-1944). These are ten members of an assemblage of over fifty women, formerly unknown to most of us, but now revealed in a remarkable book by Robert Kellemen and Susan Ellis.


    Sacred Friendships (BMH Books, 2009) reveals an area of church history that has been overlooked for too long—the important role that women have played in nurturing and preserving the faith and in teaching us today how to minister one another based upon their legacy.


    The subtitle of the book, Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith, captures the essence of the authors’ purpose. Kellemen and Ellis introduce us to each of these women by telling their stories in ways that are, at once, profound and moving. We read of Perpetua, who consoles and comforts her family and her fellow prisoners facing trial and martyrdom, and in her own dying shows us how to live.


    Macrina, the grandmother of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, demonstrates spiritual nurturing, particularly of her daughter Emmelia, and reveals to us the important influence that women have had over the centuries upon the Church Fathers, whose names hold greater familiarity.


    Gorgonia, mother to two bishops, is eulogized by her brother, Gregory of Nazianzus, as a woman of godly character offering wise counsel based on the Word of God.


    Marcella chooses a life of biblical meditation and spiritual mentoring that influences her tutor Jerome. Hildegard of Bingen reveals one of the greatest intellectual minds in her spiritual letters of truth, love, confrontation, and comfort.


    Julian of Norwich builds bridges of reconciliation in human relations, and Catherine of Siena provides spiritual consolation and compassion as she comforts people facing execution and death.


    In the nineteenth century, Laura Smith Haviland opened schools for indigent and African American children and participated in the Underground Railroad. In the twentieth century, Betsie ten Boom provided a model of Christlike hospitality, trust in God, comfort, inspiration, and forgiveness to her more well-known sister Corrie, up to the time of her death in a Nazi concentration camp.


    Kellemen and Ellis uncover a vast storehouse of wisdom, spiritual counsel, and practical direction in the lives of these women. In so doing, they provide a refreshing antidote to an empty feminism void of biblical content and to an equally unbiblical blind dismissal of the value of women. The stories, drawn from five continents and covering nearly two millennia, offer practical wisdom, biblical insight, and inspiration for current approaches to counseling and soul care. 


    There is no claim that these women are perfect; however, their stories and their lives resonate with a desire to know God and His Word. This is not a book to be consigned to the dusty corner of a library shelf, suitable only for reference in some esoteric research project on church history. Rather, it is a book to be read, studied, and applied in our daily walk of faith and ministry.


    To that end, the authors end each chapter with a discussion guide comprised of a series of questions designed to engage the reader in personal and/or group assessment and application drawn from the truths learned from these women.


    Read the book and you will be humbled by the spiritual strength, power, wisdom, and influence of these women.  Gone, but now no longer forgotten, these women teach us how to live godly lives and give spiritual counsel to others, as Kellemen and Ellis draw back the curtain of church history and tell us their stories.


    To learn more about Sacred Friendships and to order your copy, you can visit: http://bit.ly/MG1l5




  • From Victim to Victor

    Posted on August 9th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    From Victim to Victor: Vibia Perpetua, Part I


    Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith: http://bit.ly/YmaM1


    Giving Voice to the Voiceless


    When we think of the early church, our minds focus on the Church Fathers. Sadly, we normally fail even to consider the Church Mothers. Yet, these godly women heroically waged spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Their loses and their victories, their pain and their joy, their walk with Christ and their journey with one another are all an inheritance from which each of us are eligible to draw. There is a mighty company of gallant women believers from whom we can learn.


    Vibia Perpetua (181-203) heads that company. The early Church preserved her manuscript, The Martyrdom of Perpetua, as a martyr’s relic because it is one of the oldest and most descriptive accounts of death for Christ. It is also the earliest known document written by a Christian woman.


    Anyone who has ever suffered for the faith or has been oppressed by the powerful can carry on a conversation and feel a bond with Perpetua. In fact, in the introduction to her story, we read that it was “written expressly for God’s honor and humans’ encouragement” to testify to the grace of God and to edify God’s grace-bought people.[i]


    Of course, even reading the word “martyr” likely causes us to imagine that Perpetua was a spiritual “super woman” whose life and ministry we could not possibly emulate. The story of her life, however, demonstrates just the opposite.


    The Story of Her Life


    Perpetua lived in Carthage in North Africa during the persecution of Christians under Septimius Severus. At the time of her arrest in 202 AD, she was a twenty-one-year-old mother of an infant son. Born into a wealthy, prominent, but unbelieving family, she was a recent convert with a father who continually attempted to weaken her faith and a husband who was, for reasons unknown to us, out of the picture. Nothing in Perpetua’s situation or background prepared her for the titanic spiritual struggle God called her to face.


    Perpetua, her brother, her servant (Felicitas), and two other new converts were discipled by Saturus. We learn from Perpetua of the arrest of all these faithful followers of Christ. “At this time we were baptized and the Spirit instructed me not to request anything from the baptismal waters except endurance of physical suffering. A few days later we were imprisoned.”[ii]


    A Light in the Darkness: Experiencing the Pain of Others


    Perpetua candidly faces her fears and expresses her internal and external suffering. “I was terrified because never before had I experienced such darkness. What a terrible day! Because of crowded conditions and rough treatment by the soldiers the heat was unbearable. My condition was aggravated by my anxiety for my baby.”[iii]


    This very human woman exudes superhuman strength. In the midst of her agony, she empathizes with and consoles others. Her father, completely exhausted from his anxiety, came from the city to beg Perpetua to recant and offer sacrifice to the emperor. “I was very upset because of my father’s condition. He was the only member of my family who would find no reason for joy in my suffering. I tried to comfort him saying, ‘Whatever God wants at this tribunal will happen, for remember that our power comes not from ourselves but from God.’ But utterly dejected, my father left me.”[iv]


    Note: Read part two of Perpetua’s life in tomorrow’s blog post. Read her whole life story and the story of over fifty additional amazing women in Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith: http://bit.ly/YmaM1

    [i]“The Martyrdom of Perpetua,” in Wilson-Kastner, A Lost Tradition, 19.

    [ii]Ibid., 20.


    [iv]Ibid., 22.

  • The Battle for the Bible

    Posted on June 17th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Eight: The Battle for the Bible

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC


    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.


    My Premise


    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.


    Reviewing the Situation


    Picture the historical situation. American Evangelical pastoral care had moved from a focus on suffering and sin to a focus on self during the 100 years from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement. In isolation from the insights of females and minorities, White male Evangelicals attempted to pull the pendulum back. Given the circumstances, not surprisingly, they pulled the pendulum toward a focus on sin without a commensurate emphasis on suffering.


    The Battle for the Bible (The Readers’ Digest Version)


    But there’s more.


    Preceding and merging into this era, we have the battle for the Bible between fundamentalists and liberals. Theological liberals focused on “the social gospel” and easily accepted the theories of secular psychology. They supplanted salvation with self-realization, replaced theology with psychology, and changed pastoral ministry from shepherding to social work,  psychologizing, and referring parishioners to therapists.  


    Fundamentalists pushed back hard. In reaction, and in an attempt to protect belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Word of God, they:


    1. Separated Heaven from Earth:


    As fundamentalists rejected the social gospel, at times they pulled the pendulum back so far that they also threw the proverbial “baby out with the bath water.” They neglected the truth that Jesus came to give eternal life and abundant life now. Theology and ministry increasingly became about salvation from past sin and eternal life later, but decreasingly about sanctification now, abundant life now, and impacting the world now. It focused on rules and regulations (legalism) and on separation from the world.


    2. Separated Truth from Life:


    Fundamentalists observed liberals throwing out truth and theology. In their battle for the Bible, fundamentalists focused on theology, which was good, but did so often unrelated to life, which was bad.


    3. Separated the Pulpit Ministry of the Word from the Personal Ministry of the Word:


    In an attempt to counteract the diluted preaching and the watered-down theology of liberals, fundamentalists focused on the pulpit, which was good, but minimized the personal ministry of the Word (shepherding, counseling, comforting, Body life, one another ministry, etc.), which was bad.


    Ironically, now no one was using the Bible for counseling! Liberals dealt with daily life through the “social sciences.” Fundamentalists dealt with theology and heaven, but minimized the use of the Bible for one-to-one personal ministry. Fundamentalist-Evangelical seminaries during this era often did not even have a single course on pastoral counseling.


    The Climate that Birthed Modern Biblical Counseling


    Now imagine being alive in this era. Imagine being a pastor with hurting and hardened parishioners. Imagine your options. You could turn to secular psychology to address the personal issues your people were bringing to you. Or, you could ignore their personal issues and just keep preaching from the pulpit theology unrelated to life.


    So now, your task requires pulling back not one, but two pendulums—one that minimized truth and one that minimized life. One that preached and practiced the social gospel and one that preached the Word from the pulpit but did not practice historic shepherding.


    What would you have done? How hard would it have been to pull these pendulums back with biblical balance on heaven and earth, on truth and life, on the pulpit ministry of the Word and the personal ministry of the Word, and on suffering and sin?


    Where Do We Go from Here?


    Tomorrow we’ll observe how the modern biblical counseling movement pulled these pendulums back, but did so with more of a focus on sin, and less of a focus on suffering. We’ll also share why early leaders feared focusing on suffering. What did they feel the ramifications would be?


    In later posts, we’ll consider how their theological perspectives, their personal perspectives, their preaching training, and their views on emotions, all combined with their historical setting to “set them up” for moving from the Church’s historic focus on both sin and suffering.


  • Embracing the Legacy of Comforting Biblical Counseling

    Posted on June 12th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical!

    Part Three: Embracing the Legacy of Comforting Biblical Counseling

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC


    *Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.


    My Premise


    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then I am of the conviction that such biblical counseling is only half biblical.


    The Myth: Dealing with “Suffering” Is Surely “Secular”


    Here’s the myth we face when we say that we must deal with suffering as well as with sin:


    “Oh, that’s just modern secular psychotherapy.” Or, “That’s obviously influenced by Freudianism.” Or, “No one ever said biblical counseling was about suffering until after the advent of modern humanism.”


    Those are each myths.


    Our first post in this series highlighted the theological necessity for dealing with suffering—failing to care for the suffering actually minimizes the universal impact of sin.


    Our second post pondered just a few of many of the biblical mandates for dealing with suffering—such as Job; John 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; Romans 12:15; and the occurrence of parakaleo over 100 times in the New Testament.


    We could also add the Lament Psalms, the very character of God as the Father of the fatherless, David, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul. (In Soul Physicians I present an entire biblical theology of suffering—sufferology. In Spiritual Friends I spend over 100 pages outlining the Bible’s approach to helping the hurting.)


    The Reality: Dealing with Suffering Is Certainly Biblical


    Dealing with suffering is certainly biblical.


    Of course, one could say, “That’s just your flawed interpretation of Scripture.”


    Could be. While God’s Word is inspired, perfect, and inerrant, none of our interpretations are.


    So I’ve also spent over a quarter-century studying Church history: the Church Fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans, African American believers (Beyond the Suffering), and women in Church history (Sacred Friendships).


    Then again, we could run into yet another false accusation: “So, you are saying that tradition is on the same par as inspired Scripture!”


    No. Not at all.


    I am simply saying that since all our interpretations of Scripture are errant, and since some claim that those who deal with suffering are unknowingly influenced by modern secular psychology, that turning to conservative believers pre-Freud could be a good reality check.


    Church History Samplers of Comforting Biblical Counseling for Suffering


    I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the great Reformer, Martin Luther. What many do not know is that Luther was also a master pastor. He left us 1000s of letters of spiritual consolation where he comforted his world-wide parishioners so they could face suffering face-to-face with God.


    In my 359-page dissertation, 104 pages explore Luther’s work focused on suffering and sanctification. By comparison, 71 pages examine Luther’s work dealing with sin and sanctification. Luther, unlike some modern Christian counselors, accurately and adequately blended counseling for suffering and for sin.


    In Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, we learn from the amazing legacy of Black heroes of the faith. As the title suggests, our brothers and sisters understood that biblical counseling must include comforting the suffering. Yes, they certainly care-fronted the sinning, also. Like we should, our African American great cloud of witnesses did both.


    In the forthcoming book Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith, we see women like Margaret Baxter, Susanna Wesley, Sarah Edwards, Susannah Spurgeon, and 47 others, consistently integrating comfort for the suffering and care-fronting for the sinning.


    Together this great cloud of witnesses insists that true, comprehensive biblical counseling has always been about the business of helping both hurting and hardened people through comforting and care-fronting with the goal of increased Christlikeness.


    Where Do We Go from Here?


    Tomorrow, I’ll provide an even broader Church history study, sharing briefly the works of Clebsch and Jaekle, McNeil, Oden, and other Church historians—who each conclude that comprehensive pastoral care has always dealt with both sin and suffering.


    The next blog post I’ll address the question, “What then might it look like to train pastors and lay people to be soul physicians and spiritual friends who deal with both suffering and sin?”