Christian Counseling: Lent

Lent is a solemn period in the Christian liturgical calendar, dedicated to fasting, prayer, and penitence in preparation for Easter. It commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring Satan’s temptations. Traditionally in the West, beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting until Easter, Lent is observed by various Christian denominations with diverse practices. This article explores the multifaceted aspects of Lent, from its historical origins to its contemporary observance and cultural significance.  Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification.  Christian Counselors, pastors, and others can help others find greater fulfillment and closer union with God during the season of Lent.

Lent is a time of reflection, sacrifice, remembrance and renewal

Key Takeaways

  • Lent is a period of 40 days of fasting and spiritual discipline in the Christian church, leading up to Easter, excluding Sundays.
  • The term ‘Lent’ originates from the Old English word ‘lencten’, which means ‘spring season’, reflecting the time of year when it is observed.
  • Lenten practices vary among Christian denominations but commonly include fasting, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving.
  • Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is characterized by the imposition of ashes, symbolizing penitence and mortality.
  • Lent is a time for personal and communal reflection, aiming to prepare believers’ hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter.

Historical Origins and Etymology of Lent

Lent in the Early Christian Church

The inception of Lent traces back to the earliest Christians who observed a time of fasting and repentance leading up to Easter. This nascent tradition evolved into a more structured period of observance by the fourth century, with Christians in Rome marking a 40-day Lent. The significance of the 40 days was to emulate the fasting of Jesus Christ in the wilderness before commencing His public ministry.

By the seventh century, the Church had formalized the duration of Lent to begin six weeks prior to Easter, excluding Sundays from the count. This adjustment resulted in 36 days of fasting, which was later augmented by an additional four days to achieve the symbolic number of 40 fasting days.

The practice of fasting before Easter was not only a spiritual exercise but also a communal preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It was a time for the faithful to engage in self-reflection and penitence, aligning themselves with the trials and triumphs of Jesus.

The early Church’s approach to Lent included various forms of abstinence, with records indicating the consumption of only bread, vegetables, salt, and water during this period. The Canons of Hippolytus, for instance, permitted only bread and salt during Holy Week, highlighting the austerity of the observance.

The Linguistic Roots of ‘Lent’

The term ‘Lent’ has its etymological roots in the Old English word lencten, which signifies the ‘spring season.’ This connection to spring is echoed in the Dutch cognate lente and the Old High German term Lenz. The word’s origin is tied to the concept of lengthening days during the springtime, a period which coincides with the observance of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar.

The evolution of the word ‘Lent’ reflects a transition from a secular to a religious context. Initially, it described the natural season of spring, but over time, it became associated with a period of penitence and preparation for Easter. This shift underscores the adaptation of language to imbue secular terms with spiritual significance.

  • Old English: lencten (spring season)
  • Dutch: lente (still means spring)
  • Old High German: Lenz (related term)

The linguistic journey of ‘Lent’ from a word describing a season to one encapsulating a solemn religious observance illustrates the dynamic nature of language and its ability to capture the evolving practices and beliefs of a culture.

Evolution of Lenten Observances

The observance of Lent has undergone significant changes since its inception in the early Christian church. Initially a period for preparation of catechumens, Lent evolved into a more structured season of penance and reflection for all Christians. The practice of fasting and abstinence has been a constant, although the specifics have varied widely across different times and traditions.

  • In the early centuries, strict fasting was common, with one meal a day being permitted after 3 p.m.
  • By the Middle Ages, the rules relaxed slightly, allowing a meal at noon and some consumption of fish and dairy.
  • The Reformation brought about divergent practices, with some Protestant groups rejecting obligatory fasting altogether.

Today, the Lenten practices continue to diversify, reflecting the broad spectrum of Christian belief and cultural influences. While some maintain traditional fasts, others focus on charitable acts or spiritual disciplines. The start and end dates of Lent can also vary, depending on the Christian denomination and the lunar calendar used to determine the date of Easter.

The Liturgical Significance of Lent

The Forty Days of Jesus in the Wilderness

The solemn observance of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar is deeply rooted in the scriptural account of Jesus Christ’s forty days in the wilderness. This period of desert solitude was marked by fasting, prayer, and resistance to temptation, a narrative that is central to the Lenten season. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount how Jesus, following his baptism, retreated into the desert to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights; it was during this time that Satan tried to tempt him.

Christ’s time of reflection and preparation in the desert. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

The significance of these forty days is multifaceted, reflecting not only a time of preparation for Jesus’s public ministry but also a model for Christian spiritual discipline. The faithful are called to emulate Jesus’s example, using this time for introspection, penance, and spiritual renewal. The temptations faced by Jesus in the wilderness—often categorized as the temptation of physical gratification, the temptation of pride, and the temptation of power—serve as a framework for understanding the struggles inherent in the human condition.

The period leading up to Easter mirrors the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, preparing for his ministry. It is a time for believers to reflect on their own spiritual journey, drawing closer to the divine through practices that echo Jesus’s own trials and triumphs.

The following list outlines the general understanding of the three temptations Jesus faced, as they are often interpreted in Christian teaching:

  • The temptation to turn stones into bread, emphasizing the physical needs over spiritual sustenance.
  • The temptation to test God’s willingness to protect, challenging divine authority.
  • The temptation to gain worldly power, forsaking divine mission for temporal authority.

Lenten Practices in Different Christian Traditions

The observance of Lent varies significantly across different Christian denominations, reflecting a rich tapestry of traditions and liturgical practices. Protestant and Orthodox Christian traditions, as well as some Anabaptist, Baptist, Methodist, Reformed, and nondenominational churches, engage in Lenten observances, though the practices and the degree of adherence differ.

  • Catholicism typically involves fasting, abstinence from meat, and prayerful reflection.
  • Orthodox Christians may observe a stricter fast, abstaining from meat, dairy, and oil.  Within Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians, days of abstaining include both Wednesday and Friday.  In addition, full fast days differ in structure as compared to the Western Church.   The Orthodox also follow the Julian Calendar which permits a different start for Lent itself than the West.
  • Anglican and Lutheran churches often adopt a moderate approach to fasting, focusing on penitence and self-reflection.
  • In some Reformed and nondenominational communities, Lent may be observed with a greater emphasis on the anticipation of Easter rather than traditional penitence.

While the specifics of Lenten practices are diverse, the underlying intent remains consistent: a period of solemn reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter. This is often expressed through the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Liberal and progressive Christians may place less emphasis on the traditional aspects of Lent, focusing instead on the spiritual anticipation of Easter Sunday. Despite these variations, many Lent-observing Christians incorporate spiritual disciplines such as daily devotionals or the Stations of the Cross to draw nearer to God during this season.

The Theology Behind Lenten Sacrifice

The theology behind Lenten sacrifice is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition of emulating Jesus Christ’s 40-day journey in the wilderness, where he fasted and faced temptation. This period of abstinence is seen as a time for believers to strengthen their faith and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ. Lenten sacrifices are varied and can range from fasting to giving up certain luxuries, all aimed at personal spiritual growth and discipline.

The practice of Lenten sacrifice is not merely about abstaining from material comforts, but rather a transformative experience that aligns the faithful with the spiritual journey of Christ.

Lenten disciplines may include:

  • Prayer and meditation to foster a closer relationship with God.
  • Almsgiving and charitable works as expressions of compassion and solidarity with the less fortunate.
  • Acts of self-denial to cultivate humility and self-control.

These practices are intended to purify the heart and mind, preparing the believer for Easter through repentance, simple living, and a renewed focus on the divine.

Contemporary Observance of Lent

There are a variety of Lenten restrictions, traditions and observances within different Christian denominations

Variations in Lenten Fasting and Abstinence

The practice of fasting and abstinence during Lent varies widely among different Christian denominations and cultures. While some traditions emphasize a strict fast, others adopt a more lenient approach to abstinence. The common thread, however, is the voluntary nature of these practices, often seen as a form of expiation for sin.

  • Catholicism: Abstinence from meat on Fridays, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Lutheranism: Guidelines suggest moderation rather than full abstinence, with a focus on self-denial.
  • Anglican Churches: No specific food restrictions, but encouragement to give up personal luxuries.
  • Methodist Churches: Often observe the Daniel Fast, which includes abstaining from meat, sweets, and bread.

In some regions, the episcopal conference may adapt these practices to suit local customs, replacing strict abstinence with other forms of penance. This flexibility acknowledges the diverse ways in which the faithful can engage with the Lenten season, beyond mere adherence to laws of the church.

The Role of Ash Wednesday

In the West, ashes remind us of this temporal reality and that this world is not forever

Ash Wednesday marks the commencement of the Lenten period, a time of introspection and penitence in the Christian tradition. It serves as a poignant reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God. The day is characterized by the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, often accompanied by the solemn words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The observance of Ash Wednesday is not uniform across all Christian denominations, but it is widely recognized for its call to fasting and prayer. The ashes, typically made from the previous year’s Palm Sunday crosses, symbolize both death and repentance.

The distribution of ashes and the associated rituals provide a tangible entry into the Lenten season, setting a reflective tone for the forty days that follow.

While not a holy day of obligation, Ash Wednesday sees one of the highest attendances at mass, second only to Sunday services. The day’s significance is underscored by the practice of fasting, where observers are traditionally limited to one full meal and abstain from meat. This act of self-denial echoes the sacrifices made by Jesus in the wilderness and sets the stage for the Lenten journey of spiritual renewal.

Lenten Services and Rituals

Lenten services and rituals are integral to the observance of this penitential season, offering a structured approach to reflection and devotion. Many churches veil their symbols of triumph in violet fabrics, signifying a period of solemnity and introspection. The Stations of the Cross, a poignant reenactment of Christ’s passion, are commonly practiced, guiding the faithful through a spiritual journey of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice.

During Lent, the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—are emphasized, encouraging believers to engage with their faith on multiple levels. These practices are not only acts of piety but also serve as a means of achieving justice toward God, self, and neighbors. The culmination of Lenten observance occurs in the Easter Vigil or Sunrise service, where the fast is traditionally broken and the faithful rejoice in the resurrection of Christ.

In the quietude of Lenten services, the community gathers in shared humility, collectively seeking spiritual renewal and deeper communion with the divine.

Cultural and Social Aspects of Lent

Cultural and Social Aspects of Lent

Lenten Suppers and Community Gatherings

Lenten suppers, often held in church parish halls or at home, are a cherished tradition that bring together the faithful after a day of fasting. These communal meals are typically simple, reflecting the season’s emphasis on abstinence and sacrifice. A common Lenten supper may include a vegetarian soup, bread, and water, aligning with the spirit of simplicity and reflection.

The social aspect of these gatherings is significant, as they foster a sense of community and shared experience among participants. From the sacred to the social, these gatherings underscore the importance of community, charity, and tradition. They remind us that, amidst the fast-paced modern life, the observance of Lent provides an opportunity for believers to slow down and engage in meaningful fellowship.

While Lenten suppers vary across denominations, the underlying intent remains the same: to conclude the day’s fast in a manner that honors the spirit of Lent and nurtures communal bonds.

In some traditions, special days such as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are marked with eucharistic communion, further deepening the liturgical significance of the Lenten season. These practices, while diverse, illustrate the rich tapestry of Lenten observance that continues to evolve and adapt to contemporary religious life.

Impact of Lent on Secular Society

While Lent is fundamentally a Christian observance, its impact extends into secular society, influencing both cultural norms and individual behaviors. The period of Lent often sees a surge in charitable activities and environmental initiatives, as the ethos of self-denial and reflection encourages a broader societal engagement with altruistic causes.  For some, it may be a family tradition.  Like a bad habit, some merely give up something they want to improve in their life without much spiritual reflection.  Also, society may also see it as a time of giving up, but not necessarily improving oneself.

  • Many individuals, regardless of religious affiliation, participate in Lenten-inspired practices such as vegetarianism or teetotalism, viewing these as opportunities for personal growth or health improvement.
  • Secular groups and even some atheists acknowledge the value in Lenten traditions, adopting aspects of the observance in support of environmental stewardship.
  • The focus on self-reflection and sacrifice during Lent can lead to a heightened awareness of community needs, resulting in increased volunteerism and support for social programs.

The Lenten season’s call for introspection and sacrifice transcends religious boundaries, fostering a period of communal and individual transformation that resonates across diverse segments of society.

Lent and Interfaith Perspectives

The observance of Lent transcends denominational boundaries, reaching into the broader interfaith community. Some individuals from non-Christian faiths and secular backgrounds find resonance with the principles of Lent, such as self-reflection, sacrifice, and the pursuit of spiritual growth. This inclusivity is reflected in the various ways that people from diverse beliefs engage with the season.

  • Non-Christian participation often focuses on the universal aspects of Lent, like the emphasis on personal betterment and community involvement.
  • Secular groups may reinterpret Lenten practices to support environmental causes or health improvements.
  • Atheists and agnostics sometimes adopt Lenten disciplines as a form of self-improvement or solidarity with Christian friends and family.

The interfaith engagement with Lent underscores the season’s capacity to serve as a bridge between different communities, fostering mutual understanding and respect.

While the core of Lent remains a Christian observance, its themes of introspection and renewal hold a broad appeal. The adaptability of Lenten practices allows for a rich tapestry of observance that can include fasting, charitable acts, or a commitment to change, regardless of religious affiliation.

Spiritual Practices During Lent

Spiritual Practices During Lent

Prayer and Meditation

During Lent, the faithful are called to deepen their spiritual life through the practice of prayer and meditation. This period offers a unique opportunity to engage in more profound reflection and to seek a closer relationship with the divine. Prayer, in its various forms, serves as a conduit for expressing devotion, seeking forgiveness, and interceding for others. Meditation, on the other hand, allows individuals to contemplate the mysteries of faith and to internalize the lessons of the Gospel.  So many individuals merely see Lent as improvement via subtraction but never see it as an opportunity for improvement through addition of a better spiritual life to become closer to God.

Prayer and meditation are key elements of Lent that many secular individuals forget to reflect upon

The practice of prayer can be structured or spontaneous, encompassing traditional liturgies or personal supplications. It is not uncommon for believers to explore different forms of prayer during Lent, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, contemplative prayer, or the Stations of the Cross. Meditation often involves Scripture-based reflection, guiding the faithful to ponder the life of Christ and the meaning of His teachings.

The intentional setting aside of time for prayer and meditation during Lent is a testament to the desire for spiritual growth and the recognition of the need for divine guidance.

Incorporating prayer and meditation into daily life can take various forms, and individuals are encouraged to find practices that resonate with their spiritual journey. Below are some suggestions to enhance one’s Lenten experience:

  • Try a new spiritual practice.
  • Sign up for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration.
  • Experience Mass at a different parish, perhaps one with a diverse congregation.
  • Set reminders to pray at specific times throughout the day.
  • Engage in daily Scripture reading and reflection.

Almsgiving and Charitable Works

During the Lenten season, the practice of almsgiving assumes a significant role in the Christian tradition. Almsgiving is not merely a charitable donation but a profound expression of compassion and solidarity with those in need. It is a tangible manifestation of the Lenten spirit of sacrifice, where the faithful are encouraged to extend the value of their personal abstinence to the less fortunate.

The act of giving is multifaceted, encompassing monetary support, volunteer work, and other forms of assistance. Below is a list of common almsgiving practices during Lent:

  • Monetary donations to religious organizations or charities
  • Volunteering time and skills to help those in marginalized communities
  • Participating in food drives or contributing to food banks
  • Supporting initiatives that address global issues such as hunger and poverty

The emphasis on almsgiving during Lent serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of the human family and the Christian call to serve one another.

The impact of these charitable actions is profound, not only providing immediate relief but also fostering a culture of generosity and empathy. As Lent progresses, the faithful are invited to reflect on the ways in which their almsgiving can continue to resonate beyond the season, integrating these practices into their daily lives for lasting change.

Self-Denial and Mortification

The practice of self-denial and mortification during Lent is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition as a means to emulate the sacrifice and discipline of Jesus Christ during his 40 days in the desert. Believers engage in various forms of self-denial, ranging from fasting to giving up personal pleasures, to foster spiritual growth and strengthen their resolve against temptation.

Denial that is tied to Christ helps the soul learn to grow beyond this world and also learn to control its passions of the body

The following list outlines common forms of self-denial observed during Lent:

  • Fasting or abstaining from certain foods, such as meat or sweets
  • Limiting recreational activities like watching television or using social media
  • Voluntary acts of penance, such as additional prayers or charitable deeds
  • Abstaining from habits that are perceived as vices, to cultivate virtue

The Lenten period is not merely about abstaining from worldly pleasures; it is a time for inner transformation and renewal, a journey that mirrors the spiritual fortitude of Christ in the wilderness.

While the specific practices may vary among different Christian denominations, the underlying principle remains the same: to withdraw from worldly distractions and focus on spiritual enrichment. This period of intentional self-discipline is seen as a preparation for the celebration of Easter, marking the resurrection of Christ and the hope of renewal for the faithful.

Lent as a Period of Reflection and Renewal

The Concept of ‘Bright Sadness’

The term ‘Bright Sadness’ encapsulates the dual nature of Lent as a time for both mourning and joy. It is a period of somber reflection as well as hopeful anticipation. Lent’s ashes re-orient believers to life’s reality, reminding them of their mortality and the transient nature of earthly existence. This acknowledgment of human frailty is juxtaposed with the brightness of the resurrection promise, offering a profound spiritual renewal.

  • The ashes symbolize mortality and penitence.
  • The brightness represents the hope of resurrection and renewal.

The concept of ‘Bright Sadness’ is not just a theological idea but also a lived experience for many during Lent. It is a season where the faithful engage in practices that are both reflective and transformative, leading to a deeper understanding of the self and one’s relationship with the divine.

Preparing for Easter: Repentance and Hope

The journey through Lent is a transformative experience, culminating in the joyous celebration of Easter. It is a time when Christians engage in deep reflection and seek spiritual renewal. The practices of repentance and hope are not merely ritualistic; they are avenues to a profound personal and communal transformation.

During this period, believers are encouraged to examine their lives in the light of Christ’s sacrifice and love. This self-examination often leads to repentance, a turning away from sin and a recommitment to follow Jesus more closely. The hope of Easter, the resurrection of Christ, stands as a beacon of promise, offering a spiritual spring to those who embrace its message.

Lent is not just a season of grief; it is also a season of hope. As the faithful prepare for Easter, they are reminded that renewal and hope are always possible through the grace of God.

The preparation before Easter is well-established in Christian tradition, with specific practices varying across denominations. However, the core intent remains the same: to ready the heart and mind for the celebration of the resurrection, which affirms the hope of eternal life.

Personal and Communal Transformation

Dying in Christ, means also rising with Christ. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

Lent serves as a profound period of personal and communal transformation, where the faithful are called to introspect and renew their commitment to a life of Christian values. This transformative journey is not just an individual endeavor but extends to the community, fostering a collective spiritual growth.  As the Church teaches, those who die with Christ, will rise with Christ.  During the period, one reflects on Christ’s death and our own personal sins and finds focus to rise with Christ in forgiveness and new life.

  • Intentional pause for reflection
  • Renewal of Christian commitment
  • Fostering collective spiritual growth

The annual season of Lent invites Christians to an intentional pause to reflect on ways that may have led them astray. It is a time when the sacrifices and disciplines undertaken are not merely for personal edification but also for the edification of the community at large. The shared experience of Lent can lead to a strengthened sense of unity and purpose among believers.

The transformative power of Lent lies in its ability to reshape not only individual lives but also the fabric of the community. Through shared practices and mutual support, the faithful are reminded of their interconnectedness and the collective journey towards spiritual maturity.

Educational Resources and Community Support for Lent

Guides and Devotionals for Lenten Observance

The observance of Lent is deeply enriched by the use of guides and devotionals, which provide structure and inspiration for the journey towards Easter. Many resources are available to assist individuals and groups in their Lenten practices, ranging from daily reflections to comprehensive leader’s guides. These materials often include prayers, scripture readings, and meditations tailored to the liturgical season.

  • Daily Devotionals: Offer reflections and meditations for each day of Lent.
  • Leader’s Guides: Equip group leaders with resources for facilitating discussions and worship.
  • Reflection Guides: Contain weekly themes and questions for personal or group contemplation.
  • Lenten Calendars: Visual aids that mark the journey through Lent with specific daily practices or scripture.

The integration of these resources into personal or communal practice can significantly enhance the Lenten experience, fostering a deeper engagement with the season’s spiritual themes.

Particularly noteworthy is the 2024 Lenten Devotional from the Presbyterian Mission Agency, which includes a Leader’s Guide and worship resources that reflect an Earth Care perspective. This initiative exemplifies the evolving nature of Lenten resources that address contemporary concerns while grounding them in traditional observances.  Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and its many blogs on Lent and sacrifice.

Church Programs and Support Groups

Churches play a pivotal role in guiding and supporting their congregations during the Lenten season. Programs tailored to various demographics within the church community offer opportunities for spiritual growth and fellowship. These programs often encompass a range of activities, from educational initiatives to service-oriented projects.

  • Catholic Cemeteries
  • CYO Athletics
  • CYO Camps
  • Hispanic Ministry
  • Multicultural Ministries
  • Outreach Ministries
  • Retreat Centers

In addition to these programs, churches may offer specific support groups that focus on the Lenten journey. These groups provide a space for individuals to share experiences, reflect on their faith, and encourage one another in their Lenten commitments.

The collective experience of Lent through church programs and support groups fosters a sense of community and shared purpose, reinforcing the spiritual significance of this season.

Online Platforms and Social Media Initiatives

In the digital age, online platforms and social media initiatives have become integral to the observance of Lent. Churches and religious organizations are increasingly leveraging digital tools to engage with congregants and provide resources for Lenten practices. These initiatives range from daily devotional emails to interactive prayer apps, all aimed at enhancing the spiritual journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

The use of social media for Lenten observance has facilitated a communal aspect of the season that transcends geographical boundaries. Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are utilized to share reflections, prayer requests, and words of encouragement. This virtual community support is particularly significant for individuals who may not have access to a physical church community.

The integration of technology into Lenten practices reflects a broader trend of faith communities adapting to the digital landscape. It underscores the potential for technology to enrich spiritual life, rather than detract from it.

The following list highlights some of the key online initiatives supporting Lenten observance:

  • Daily Lenten meditation and prayer guides
  • Virtual retreats and webinars on spiritual topics
  • Hashtag campaigns for sharing Lenten experiences
  • Online giving platforms for almsgiving and charity
  • Digital Stations of the Cross and other interactive religious content

Theological Debates and Interpretations of Lent

Theological Debates and Interpretations of Lent

Historical Controversies Surrounding Lent

The observance of Lent has been a subject of theological debate throughout its history. Differences in interpretation and practice have often led to controversies, particularly between various Christian denominations. For instance, while Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians have maintained strict Lenten observances, some Protestant groups have viewed these practices with skepticism, associating them with ritualism and a misunderstanding of grace.

The concept of earning God’s grace through self-punishment, a misinterpretation often attributed to Lenten practices, has been a point of contention. Evangelicals, in particular, have critiqued Lent as implying that human effort can contribute to salvation, a view that contrasts with their emphasis on grace alone.

In the broader context, Lent is not merely a period of abstinence but a time for reflection on the human condition and the grace of God. It culminates in the hope of resurrection, symbolizing a bright future for believers.

Some secular and non-religious groups have also engaged with Lent, reinterpreting the fast in terms of environmental stewardship or health improvement, thus adding a new dimension to the historical debates.

Modern Theological Perspectives on Fasting

In contemporary theological discourse, fasting during Lent is often seen not merely as a ritualistic practice, but as a profound spiritual exercise that engages the faithful in a deeper understanding of self-denial and spiritual growth. Modern theologians emphasize the transformative potential of fasting, viewing it as a means to foster a closer relationship with the divine and to cultivate virtues such as patience, humility, and compassion.

Fasting is seen as an act of reparation for sins to Christ

The approach to fasting has evolved significantly over time. While historical practices involved stringent abstinence, modern interpretations advocate for a more measured and intentional approach. This shift reflects a broader understanding of fasting that goes beyond mere abstention from food to encompass a range of disciplines aimed at personal and communal holiness:

  • Fasting as a voluntary act of worship and self-discipline
  • Abstinence as a tool for spiritual reflection and solidarity with the poor
  • Simplification of lifestyle to focus on spiritual priorities
  • Integration of prayer and charitable actions with fasting

The focus on interiority and intentionality in fasting practices underscores the belief that the outward act of fasting is deeply connected to inner spiritual renewal.

Theological perspectives on fasting also engage with societal and cultural dimensions, recognizing the role of fasting in addressing issues such as social justice and environmental stewardship. This holistic view of Lenten fasting challenges believers to consider the broader impact of their fast, not only on their personal spirituality but also on the world around them.

Ecumenical Views on Lenten Practices

The observance of Lent varies significantly across different Christian denominations, reflecting a rich tapestry of traditions and theological interpretations. Ecumenical dialogue has revealed a shared understanding of Lent as a period for spiritual deepening and communal preparation for Easter, despite differing practices. For instance, while Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians may engage in strict fasting, some Protestant communities focus more on spiritual disciplines like prayer and almsgiving.

  • Catholics: Traditional fasting and abstinence
  • Eastern Orthodox: Rigorous fasts including dietary restrictions
  • Anglicans: Emphasis on repentance and preparation for baptism
  • Methodists: Encouragement of works of love and self-examination
  • Non-denominational: Varied observance, with some eschewing Lenten rituals

The ecumenical perspective encourages returning to the foundational aspects of Lent, such as repentance, self-reflection, and anticipation of the resurrection. This approach resonates with the sentiment that Lent is a season of repentance and preparation, aligning with the core Christian belief in transformation through Christ.

Lenten Dietary Restrictions and Alternatives

Lenten Dietary Restrictions and Alternatives

Abstinence from Meat and Animal Products

The practice of abstaining from meat and other animal products during Lent is a tradition rooted in the desire for simplicity and sacrifice. This form of abstinence is observed in various ways across different Christian denominations. For instance, some communities may abstain from meat for the entire 40 days, while others may do so only on Fridays or specifically on Good Friday.

The distinction between fasting and abstinence is notable in Western Christian traditions, where abstinence typically refers to refraining from meat, but not necessarily from dairy or fish products.

In Eastern Christian churches, the approach to Lenten abstinence is often more rigorous, with the exclusion of all animal products, including eggs, fish, fowl, and milk. This results in a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet throughout the 48 days of Lent. The table below outlines the variations in abstinence practices among different Christian traditions:

Tradition Abstinence Practice Duration
Catholic Meat only Fridays and Ash Wednesday
Lutheran Meat, with some exceptions Selected days
Anglican Meat, with some exceptions Selected days
Eastern Orthodox All animal products Entire Lenten period

The flexibility of modern fasting practices in Western societies contrasts with the more stringent observances in Eastern Christian communities. Each country’s episcopal conference may determine the specific form of abstinence, which can include other forms of penance as alternatives.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options for Lent

The observance of Lent often includes dietary restrictions, traditionally involving abstinence from meat on certain days. However, contemporary practices have expanded to accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets, which exclude all forms of animal products. Vegetarian and vegan options for Lent provide a means to honor the spirit of sacrifice while adhering to personal dietary principles.

For those seeking to maintain a plant-based diet during Lent, a variety of alternatives are available. Lenten meals may consist of simple vegetarian soups, bread, and water, emphasizing the season’s focus on simplicity and abstinence. Moreover, the rise of vegetarianism and veganism has led to an increase in creative and satisfying recipes that align with Lenten practices.

While traditional Lenten fasting rules are more relaxed in Western societies, Eastern traditions often observe a stricter regimen, with some denominations abstaining from all animal products throughout the entire Lenten period.

Here are some examples of plant-based meals that can be enjoyed during Lent:

  • Vegetarian tacos with beans and vegetables
  • Vegan pizza topped with dairy-free cheese and an array of veggies
  • Cheesy manicotti made with plant-based cheese substitutes
  • Hearty chili with lentils and a variety of beans

Health and Nutritional Considerations

The observance of Lent often includes dietary restrictions, which can have significant health and nutritional implications. Adherence to fasting rules, such as those practiced by Catholics, requires careful planning to maintain nutritional balance. For instance, the Catholic tradition of fasting involves consuming one regular meal and two smaller meals that do not add up to a second full meal, with no snacks in between. This practice, while spiritually significant, necessitates an understanding of the body’s nutritional needs during periods of reduced food intake.

Historically, dispensations have allowed for the consumption of certain foods based on regional availability and climate. Such flexibility indicates an underlying concern for health even in traditional practices. Today, Lenten observance can be aligned with positive lifestyle changes, such as increased focus on environmental stewardship and health improvement. Some individuals, including those outside the Christian faith, recognize the value in these practices and adopt them for personal growth and well-being.

  • Suggestions for maintaining health during Lent:
    • Ensure a balanced intake of macronutrients within the constraints of fasting.
    • Incorporate nutrient-dense foods to compensate for reduced meal frequency.
    • Stay hydrated and monitor physical responses to dietary changes.
    • Seek guidance from nutritional experts if necessary.

While Lent presents an opportunity for spiritual reflection, it should not come at the expense of one’s health. Mindful eating and informed choices can support both spiritual and physical wellness during this period.

The Future of Lent in a Changing World

The Future of Lent in a Changing World

Adapting Lenten Traditions to Contemporary Life

In the modern era, the observance of Lent has evolved to meet the spiritual needs of a diverse and changing society. Adapting these practices offers an opportunity to refocus on what’s essential and quiet the noise of our daily lives. The traditional pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—remain at the heart of the season, yet their expression may vary to resonate with contemporary believers.

The essence of Lent is a call to simplicity and sincerity, encouraging individuals to engage in self-reflection and acts of justice toward God, self, and neighbors.

While the core practices persist, new forms of engagement have emerged, such as digital devotionals and online Lenten calendars, which facilitate a more accessible and personalized spiritual journey. Below is a list of ways individuals can integrate Lenten observance into their daily routines:

  • Engaging in daily quiet prayer, alone or in community worship.
  • Exploring different forms of prayer, like the Stations of the Cross.
  • Reading weekly Lenten reflections to deepen understanding.
  • Participating in charitable works as a form of almsgiving.
  • Embracing simplicity in daily life to foster spiritual growth.

The Role of Technology in Lenten Observance

In the modern era, technology has become an integral part of daily life, and its influence extends to religious practices, including the observance of Lent. The use of digital devices and online platforms has transformed the way individuals engage with Lenten disciplines. For many, these tools offer new avenues for reflection, prayer, and community connection.

  • Digital devotionals and prayer apps provide structured guidance for daily reflection.
  • Online Lenten calendars mark the journey through the forty days with scripture and meditations.
  • Virtual Stations of the Cross allow believers to partake in this solemn tradition from anywhere.
  • Social media initiatives encourage sharing of personal Lenten journeys and support among faith communities.

A digital Lent can become about considering how our devices can help us do justice, practice kindness and demonstrate humility in our world.

While the digital realm opens up numerous possibilities for observance, it also raises questions about the balance between technology and the traditional call for simplicity and detachment during Lent. As such, the faithful are encouraged to use technology mindfully, ensuring it enhances rather than distracts from the Lenten experience.

Lent and Environmental Stewardship

In recent years, the observance of Lent has taken on new dimensions, with a growing emphasis on environmental stewardship as a form of fasting and sacrifice. This shift reflects a broader interpretation of Lenten practices, where the traditional focus on personal penitence is expanded to include actions that benefit the wider community and the planet.

The Lenten period is increasingly seen as an opportunity to engage in practices that not only reflect spiritual discipline but also promote ecological well-being.

For instance, initiatives such as reducing carbon footprints, participating in community clean-ups, and advocating for sustainable policies are becoming integral to the Lenten experience. These activities align with the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—by fostering a sense of responsibility towards God’s creation.

  • Prayer is directed towards seeking guidance for environmental action.
  • Fasting takes the form of abstaining from excess consumption and waste.
  • Almsgiving manifests as support for environmental causes and organizations.

The integration of environmental concerns into Lenten observance is not only a testament to the adaptability of religious traditions but also highlights the role of faith communities in addressing contemporary global challenges.

Conclusion

Have a Blessed Lent and please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

In conclusion, Lent stands as a profound period of reflection, self-denial, and spiritual growth within the Christian tradition. Originating from the Old English word for spring, ‘lencten,’ it has evolved into a significant liturgical season that echoes Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. This time of penance and preparation for Easter is marked by various practices such as fasting, abstinence, almsgiving, and prayer, which are observed by numerous Christian denominations. Lent’s culmination in the celebration of Easter underscores its dual nature of solemnity and hope, inviting believers to meditate on the human condition, the sacrifice of Christ, and the promise of resurrection. As each year brings Lent to the spring calendar, it offers a recurring opportunity for the faithful to deepen their faith and renew their commitment to the principles of Christian living.

To help others through Lent, please review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  A Christian Counselor can better guide individuals through the season of Lent and help them find closer union with God.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Lent in the Christian church?

Lent is a period of penitential preparation for Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting for 40 days, excluding Sundays. It involves fasting, abstinence, and almsgiving in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness.

What does the term ‘Lent’ originate from?

The English word ‘Lent’ comes from the Old English word ‘lencten,’ meaning ‘spring season.’ It is related to the word ‘lengthen,’ referring to the lengthening days of spring.

Who observes Lent?

Lent is observed by many Christian denominations, including Catholic, Lutheran, Moravian, Anglican, United Protestant, and Orthodox traditions, among others.

What is the liturgical significance of Lent?

Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert, enduring temptation before starting his public ministry. It is a time for believers to prepare for Easter through prayer, repentance, and self-denial.

When does Lent typically begin and end?

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. In 2023, Lent started on February 22 and will end on April 8.

What are common practices during Lent?

Common Lenten practices include fasting, abstaining from certain foods or habits, attending special church services, engaging in prayer, almsgiving, and participating in community gatherings such as Lenten suppers.

How does Lent impact secular society?

Lent can impact secular society through the observance of dietary restrictions, the increase in charitable works, and the promotion of reflection and self-improvement themes that align with the Lenten period.

What is the concept of ‘Bright Sadness’ in Lent?

The concept of ‘Bright Sadness’ in Eastern Orthodox circles refers to the season of Lent as a period of grief that ends with the celebration of Easter, symbolizing a time of both sorrow and joy, reflection and renewal.

Additional Resources

“What Is Lent? It’s Meaning and Importance Explained”. Phillips, S. (2024). Crosswalk. Access here

“Lenten Season 101: A Guide for Everything You Need to Know”. Filz, G. (2017). The Catholic Company.  Access here

“What Is Lent? And How Do Christians Observe It?”. Pemberton, R. (2022). Logos.  Access here

“Learn What Lent Means to Christians”. Fairchild, M. (2020). Learn Religions.  Access here

Avoiding Ethical Conflicts in Counseling

Whether a licensed clinical counselor or merely a pastoral unlicensed counselor, there are expectations and standards expected from a counselor.  One could be counseling as a licensed counselor or as certified Christian Counselor and find the same ethical pitfalls that may potential befall oneself with a client.   In a previous blog, we discussed the importance of standards found within the ACA, AACC, or NASW, as examples of how to interact and work with a client as a professional within the field of counseling.  In this discussion, we will review an important article from the APA that discusses how to best avoid potential ethical issues with clients.

Counseling Professionals need to adhere to ethical standards but also be aware of the numerous pitfalls that can lead to unwanted ethical dilemmas

 

We all wish to serve our clients with their best interest at heart.  Christian Counselors take it another level with spiritual emphasis and Christian doctrine.  They see their clients as spiritual children.  Some pastors serve within a clergy-penitent model where they are not merely counseling, but are spiritual mentors and advisors.   In these cases, where the ethical waters muddy, as to whether one is pastor or counselor, one must clearly delineate one’s role with the person and clearly define the lines of what type of counseling is occurring.   As well as in other cases, when counselors work with state authorities or firms in relationship to working with individuals within their scope with those authorities or firms.   One’s role, transparency, and matter of operation with mandates to report, will all fall into one’s role and status within the counseling relationship.

The article, “10 ways practitioners can avoid frequent ethical pitfalls” by Deborah Smith takes a very close look at 10 particular types of pitfalls a counselor can find oneself in with a client if not careful.  Smith not only points out these pitfalls, but also directs counselors how to better avoid and protect oneself from them.  She states,

“Talk to the ethics experts, and they’ll tell you the best defense against an ethical problems is a good offense. By looking out for foreseeable conflicts and discussing them frankly with colleagues and clients, practitioners can evade the misunderstandings, hurt feelings and sticky situations that lead to hearings before ethics boards, lawsuits, loss of license or professional membership, or even more dire consequences” (Smith, 2023,p 50).

She continues, “When psychologists do end up in ethical quandaries, it’s often because they unwittingly slid too far down a slippery slope–a result of ignorance about their ethical obligations or thinking they could handle a situation that spiraled out of control (Smith, 2023, p. 50)

To read the entire article, please access here

Relationships

One problem Smith points out is multiple relationships with the client.  Of course, relationships with any client are strictly forbidden, but sometimes other ties can emerge where the counselor and client interact whether at a social scene, or in business, especially in smaller towns.  Smith points out that due to the counselor and client relationship, other interactions can be affected due to the counselors perceived sense of power over the client.  Hence anything outside the counseling sphere should be in the very least brief and if necessary terminated.  This can prevent potential harm or confusing situations that can possibly cause ethical questions or inquiries.

In addition, counselors should not take incoming patients that are family, friends, or associates.  This prevents potential bias.

Confidentiality 

Another problem pointed out by Smith regards confidentiality issues.  Since licensed counselors are mandatory reporters of any crime, it is important for counselors to let clients know the limits of confidentiality at the very beginning within the informed consent form, as well as throughout the session.  If a client wishes to confess a secret, it may be best to again warn the client of the limitations of confidentiality.   Even, pastors, while protected in most states more so than counselors, have an ethical dilemma as to whether report a crime, or reveal possible harm to the client or others.  Unlike the Catholic or Orthodox priesthood, pastors are not held to the strict seal of the confessional, but they still have more flexibility to report things than a priest.

Ensuring that the client understands limits of confidentiality is key to preventing unwanted ethical dilemmas of possible mandatory reporting

 

In such pastoral settings, this is where the pastor or priest guides the person to the proper conclusion of reporting oneself, or turning oneself in.  In the case of a crime, a pastor can encourage oneself  to report oneself to the authorities and accept the consequences as a price of their sin, or if the person is a victim of abuse, help the person find the safety from the authorities that is needed.  While the issue of fidelity and trust is key, protecting the person and measuring trust versus harm is key.  Again, simply by reminding one the limits of confidentiality is key throughout any session.  It can show the veracity of oneself to the client but also the intent for the overall good of not only the client but others involved.  In the more severe case of the priesthood, where counseling is not occurring but instead the Seal of Confession, the priest has the unique position to incur a penance that forces one to turn oneself in if one wishes to receive absolution and can also in the most indirect ways, without names, warn others of possible harm.

Whenever, crimes such as abuse either inflicted by the client or received by the client can create an uneasy balance between confidentiality and mandated reporting.  Again, why it is important to remind individuals of the limitations of confidentiality.

In addition, Smith reminds counselors to store confidential records in the most secure locations, whether they are electronic or written and to fully understand the laws surrounding any possible surrender of these records regarding criminal or civil cases. Smith also encourages counselors to properly document everything.  This means keeping good records and fulfilling all paper work regarding.  This involves properly covering informed consent, patient history documents, dates of service and fees and any diagnostic impressions, relevant phone calls, or follow up efforts if a patient or client discontinues to attend sessions or accept calls.

Competency

Smith also discusses the importance of never taking on a client in a field that a counselor is not comfortable with in regards to practice or expertise.  It is unethical to counsel someone in grief if a person does not possess the knowledge in grief to properly help.  Hence, competence within the field requires the proper academic and professional training in that area to properly help the client.  It is critical that certified non clinical counselors never treat patients with mental pathology or falsely misrepresent themselves as licensed counselors or attempt to counsel beyond their academic and legal abilities.

Whether grief or Christian counseling, one should understand their limitations and competency if not a licensed professional counselor

 

In addition, many professionals, who possess the proper degrees and licensures, also keep their competency through continuing education or certifications.  AIHCP offers a wide variety of mental health certifications in Grief Counseling as well as Christian Counseling.

Another issue of competency would be the situation if a counselor or social worker aided in a case of child custody without enough knowledge about the legal system, court system, or the inner dynamics of the family.   It is important for those who are called to counsel, or offer expert opinion to answer questions one is only competent in.  The attempt to create a false image of genius when competency in the subject is not there is a huge pitfall.

For those with competency in the subject, avoiding bias is key in anything, especially in court cases.  This involves a comprehensive understanding of all dynamics that is not based on third party assessments.  Furthermore, any assessment needs to be completely thorough as well as based on scientific based methods.  Also, it is important to discuss any limitations one may have when counseling or discussing a case in court.  Transparency and honesty in any assessment is key.

Abandonment or Termination?

Finally, Smith points out that counselors need to understand the proper differences between abandonment and termination in practice.  Abandonment is completely unethical and involves abruptly ending all treatment without prior notice.  If a counselor for ethical purposes, or competency, feels he or she can no longer properly help the individual, this should be discussed in detail with the client.  The client should also have input and the two should find common ground in when the last meeting will take place, including any needed follow up, as well as alternative sources for therapy with other more qualified professionals. It can also be beneficial to lay out terms of termination prior to counseling so the client understands whether treatment is short term or long term.  This can lay groundwork for any possible issues or false expectations by the client.

Conclusion

Counseling is meant to cause no harm, but ethical situations can come into play that can potentially cause harm.  By adhering to standards and following protocol, one can better protect oneself and also protect one’s client from unintended harm.  Understanding the counseling system and its ethics and laws, can help the counselor better treat and counsel the client without causing any confusing situations or ethical dilemmas.  It is key to know one’s counseling role and how one is operating as well.  Is one counseling within a licensed clinical framework or pastoral sense?  These are key questions and important issues to identify that play large roles in confidentiality and competency within their legal and academic abilities.

Counselors are called to a high standard of ethics. Please review AIHCP’s Mental Health Counseling Certifications

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Mental Health Certification Programs.  The programs include topics such as grief counseling, anger management, crisis intervention, Christian or spiritual counseling, stress management, EFT, and Meditation.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.  Some professionals may be licensed while others may be looking into these fields as a non licensed professional but still possess the necessary academic or professional backgrounds.

Reference

Smith, D. (2003). “10 ways practitioners can avoid frequent ethical pitfalls”, Monitor on Psychology 34(1).  Access here

Additional Resources

“Counseling Ethics Code: 10 Common Ethical Issues & Studies” Smith, W. (2021). Positive Psychology.  Access here

“Ethical Dilemmas in Counseling”. Nemko, M. (2019). Psychology Today.  Access here

ACA Standards (2014).  Access here

“Eye on Ethics”. Reamer, F. (2006). Social Work Today.  Access here

 

 

 

 

Counseling Ethics for Counselors in Grief or Christian Counseling

This is required reading for students taking SC 570 or GC 400.

The norms of ethics to any particular field helps maintain a standard of quality that is expected from certain professionals within a certain field.  It guides them in situations of doubt, directs them in proper procedure, and protects them and the client from unintended harm.  Dating back to the Hippocratic Oath, the idea to do no harm to those one helps is the cornerstone and foundation of all professional ethics.

Ethics in Counseling

It was not until modern era that ethics began to take a more codified form for professionals.  Thomas Percival due to poor performance in his own medical facility created the standard and blue print for modern medical ethics.  Other professional careers, including, mental health, counseling and anything within human services soon followed with their own standards.  The American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT), the National Association for Social Workers (NASW), the National Organization of Human Services (NOHS) and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) all have developed mission statements and standards and guidelines for professionals to adhere to.  These standards are usually divided into areas of care to the patient, the profession, other colleagues, students, payment policies and publications.   It is important if entering into the counseling field to read through these and understand the ethics one must adhere to.

Counseling involves trust and many ethical standards from various associations ensure the integrity and quality of counseling. All counselors should review the various ethical standards found in ACA or other associations

 

Bear in mind, some counselors are pastoral and others are clinical.  Different states assign different titles to licensure.  In counseling, the most common is Licensed Professional Counselor or LPC.  Other variations can include Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).  Most states require a graduate degree in counseling and a passing of the state board exam to become fully licensed.  Paraprofessionals are unlicensed counselors can work under licensed counselors or within a care facility but there are not able to independently operate.  As for pastoral counselors such as ministers or lay apostolates, these individuals are permitted to operate due to separation of church and state but are restricted beyond the realm of guidance.  Treatment and pathology are alone reserved for licensed professionals in social work, counseling, and psychiatry.   Whether a counselor, social worker or a psychologist, only a healthcare professional such a psychiatrist, medical doctor, or Nurse Practitioner can prescribe medications.  This is why many mental health facilities have the proper prescribers available on staff.

If a pastoral counselor with only a certification from AIHCP in Grief Counseling or Christian Counseling, one must ethically adhere to proper identification.  The term “counselor” can be very misleading because it is so generic and widely used.  Individuals use the term in everyday breath but there is a huge difference between clinical professional counselors and pastoral counselors.  Pastoral counselors operating as grief counselors or Christian counselors can help guide but never treat pathology.  They also cannot mislead clients into thinking they are licensed.  This needs to be understood and articulated upon the first day.  What one can do and not do needs to be clearly articulated to and understood by the client.  As for licensed professionals who receive certifications from AIHCP, this is clearly not an issue.

Some counselors are licensed and others are not. It is important to properly identify your credentials and operate within your legal boundaries

 

In Denise Daniel, short but concise book “Counseling Principles and Christian Beliefs: An Integrated Approach”, she lays out some important concepts not just for Christian Counselors but also any type of licensed or non-licensed counselors.  She first points out the importance of identity and what counselors are or not and what are their limitations as licensed or not licensed or the expertise they possess.  Second, she points out what is the role of the particular counselor.   She emphasizes that most counselors, according to ACA, look to create a professional relationship that empowers and strengthens diverse families and groups to better achieve mental health, wellness, education and career goals.  The aim is more centered around wellness and prevention (Daniel, 2020, p. 3).  The final third point is integration and how one’s own biases, beliefs and codes of behavior come into play as a counselor.  Fortunately, ethical codes point out numerous guide posts for professionals in where and how to integrate themselves with patient care.

According to Daniel, the ACA lays out some core principles.  Among the key themes she addressing in her book are patient autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, justice, fidelity and veracity (2020, p. 5).  Before we review some of the key ethical guidelines, it is important to look at some of these themes and how they apply to licensed counselors but also pastoral counselors, and in some cases, Christian Counselors.  Bear in mind, whether grief counselor, licensed or non-licensed, these themes apply to all in the counseling fields.

Important Themes in the Counseling Relationship

Autonomy refers to allowing the patient to be free to make choices in their overall health and life.  A counselor needs to respect the choices of a client whether approval or disapproval occurs.  For Christian Counselors, this may seem contrary to the goal.  There are certain moral precepts that must be obeyed but in a relationship, one must exercise patience.  Scripture points out that God gave Adam and Eve free will.  He respected autonomy and choices.  Again in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father, permits the autonomy of his son to make poor choices but still never gives up hope that he would one day return.

Non-maleficence refers to doing no harm.  Counselors, whether they want it or not, hold all the power in the relationship and they must be very careful in not allowing that power to become corrupted.  This can happen very easily because the client is in distress and looking for guidance.  A counselor can influence and exploit a client very easily hence numerous standards exist to balance this relationship.  The goal of counseling is to heal not harm.

Beneficence refers to promoting only good for the client.  It involves helping the client with the best possible and verified studies and knowledge on the subject.  It involves looking out for the best of the client and guiding them to their ultimate best end.

Justice refers to fairness to all clients and ensuring equality to the numerous diverse groups one serves.  It also involves understanding social justice and promoting justice for those who are persecuted.

Fidelity refers to faithfulness to the client.  It involves never betraying them, keeping things confidential and not abandoning them.  It means working through the most difficult things and not giving up on them.

Finally, veracity refers to honesty.  Trust and honesty is the foundational rock of all relationships.  Without honesty, one cannot communicate facts, one cannot share realities, and one cannot heal and grow.  Honesty also involves the counselor’s assessments, promises, and outlooks.  Even when difficult situations arise, honesty with respect is expected in a counseling relationship.

Important Ethical Codes

There are a variety of critical ethical codes  that are all found within the various associations that mirror and reflect the themes above but also dictate more detailed situations.

For instance, in the ACA code of conduct A.4.b., it is clearly emphasized that an individual should never impose one’s own beliefs on another and to respect the diversity of the client.  The idea of discrimination against other faiths, cultures, sexualities or values can come into play easily.  This is why the AAMFT’s code 1.1 deals directly with this type of discrimination.  One is not to discriminate against others based on these types of differences.  The AACC has a slightly different tilt on the issue since the type of counseling itself is Biblical and certain life styles or actions are contrary to the type of counseling being sought.  This however does not present a green light for the Christian Counselor to impose own personal beliefs.  AACC’s code 1-340-a reminds the Christian Counselor that one is still to respect the autonomy and decision making process of the client.  Again, 1-530 dictates that the Christian Counselor respect other faith beliefs and only disclose upon request and only if it benefits the client.  Daniels proposes a term referred to as “bracketing” where professional opinions are laid aside and avoiding the triggering of one’s own personal views (Daniels, D., 2020. p.4).  Please also see ACA’s  A.2.c. Developmental and Cultural Sensitivity standard.

 

In all counseling, it is important to keep the counselor’s personal beliefs removed from the story. In Christian Counseling, while religious values are shared, the personal bias of the counselor must still respect the autonomy of the client, as well as never abandon the client due to immoral choice or life style

 

Common to this ideal of bias and discrimination fuels the idea of abandonment.   Counselors may feel the temptation to dismiss a client who will not listen, fulfill promises, or follow a certain value system.  This unethical practice is condemned in all guidelines.  The ACA guideline A.12. stipulates that counselors never quit seeing their clients without proper continuation of treatment through themselves or through others.  The AAMFT guideline 1.11 shares the same view that no client is to be abandoned and not seen without reasonable arrangements for continued treatment.  The AACC in its rule 1-640-a shares with all other human service entities that a client is not to abruptly abandoned and that treatments are to continue until other options are available.

Another important theme is referral.  Many times, certain counselors may become overwhelmed with a particular issue beyond their standard of care.  This can especially  happen with paraprofessionals or unlicensed counselors who are merely pastoral.  Many fall under this venue.  This does not mean they do not offer a qualify service but due to knowledge or professional and legal limitations, a referral is sometimes necessary.  The ACA guideline A.11.a stipulates that a client that is beyond their skill level or competency should be referred to another professional.  In the AAMFT guideline 1.10 also states that professionals may refer clients to others professionals when they are unable to help.  Again, in the AACC guideline, Christian Counselors 1-240-d, it is stipulated that Christian Counselors should not refer merely based on faith based issues but when situations grow beyond their skill level, they can refer to more capable authorities.

Relationships can also become toxic.  Due to the imbalance of power between in the  counselor-client relationship, abuses of power can occur.  Within the guidelines in all associations are clear cut warning regarding exploitation.  Sexual relationships are condemned in the most strict sense.  It is not uncommon for a vulnerable person sometimes to develop feelings for a counselor and it is important for the counselor to correct and document these advances.   Counselors are also ethically restricted from working with past romances, family, or close friends.  The bias can be strong in these cases in helping the individual.  Counselors also need to keep a distance in cases of friendship.  The relationship is not one of friendship in the social meaning.  Hence, counselors should avoid most social interactions with clients, such as parties, graduations, or dinners.  In some cases, if it pertains to a particular issue or healing, a counselor can appear on a professional basis only. Please refer to ACA -A.5. Prohibited Non-counseling Roles and Relationships which cover a broad array of relationships that can occur that considered illicit in counseling.  In addition a counselor is to refrain from sexual relations in the NASW handbook as well as physical contact (1:10) when such contact would cause psychological harm.  So where a hug or a touch of hand is needed is to be very carefully judged by the counselor.  In addition, language and proper presentation in how one speaks is listed in the NASW handbook under standard 1:12.

One last set of regulations we will look at involves confidentiality.  A counselor sets out on day one what he or she is willing or can do to the best of their abilities.  Within this, there exists a confidentiality that is critical to veracity and fidelity.  The boundaries of that need to be clearly laid out.  All standards assert that counselors are to keep records and conversations private.  Records are to maintained safely, whether paper or electronic, and conversations are to be kept strictly between themselves, unless otherwise dictated.  Exceptions, upon approval of client, can include access to records for particular family, or access to records via other team members treating the individual.  Again, this agreed upon in advance.  Please refer to ACA -B.1. Respecting Client Rights which covers issues of confidentiality as well as exceptions under B.2

Confidentiality is the bedrock of trust between the counselor and client and must be protected and preserved unless under certain exceptions of physical harm to the client or others

 

In cases, where an individual may cause harm to oneself or others, or upon certain legal orders, a counselor may disclose certain information for the overall safety and good of the client or others.  This is far less lax than the seal of confession.

Conclusion

Standards and ethical codes are critical to protect counselor and client.  They also lay the groundwork for better care and healing for the client.  In additional resources and references, there is a list that includes the ACA and others.  Links are provided.  I highly recommend one reviews these regulations and completely understands the ethical expectations of counseling, whether at a pastoral or clinical level.  Whether secular or religious, there are standards that are needed within this special type of relationship.

Ethics and standards are critical to the profession of counseling. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian and also Grief Counseling Certifications

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.  The programs are online and independent study and open to all qualified professionals seeking certifications in Christian or Grief Counseling.

Additional References

“Counseling Principles and Christian Beliefs: An Integrated Approach”. Daniels, D. (2020). Kendal Hunt Publishing Company

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. https://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdfLinks to an external site.

American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). (2023). Code of Ethics. https://www.aacc.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/AACC-Y-2023-Code-of-Ethics-FINAL-Draft.pd

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). (2023). Code of Ethics. https://www.aamft.org/Legal_Ethics/Code_of_Ethics.aspx

NASW, National Association of Social Workers. (n.d.). https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English/Social-Workers-Ethical-Responsibilities-to-Clients

 

 

Anointing of the Sick and a Peaceful Christian Death

Death entered into the world as a result of sin but through Christ, new life and a new beginning is granted.  While fearing death is natural, the Christian can see death as a transition not a final chapter.  It is a doorway to new life and the fullest life possible.  It is not in the temporal world, where humanity’s nature is complete and unbroken, but only in the next life.  In the next life, the soul is reunified with God and through the promised General Resurrection, the guarantee of unification of again and body and soul.  Hence death is not an end but a phase of existence that is only temporary and an opening into a world so much larger.  It thus extremely important to ensure that transition to the next life is a priority.  This is the case for all world religions, but also the same for Christianity.  With Heaven or Hell for eternity in the balance, ensuring a proper and good death with God is essential and vital.

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament in Catholic and Orthodox faiths and a sacred ritual in other Christian denominations for the spiritual renewal of the dying person

 

Christianity has since its conception emphasized the importance of preparing for death.  The Anointing of the Sick has its origins in Scripture. The Apostle James comments, “is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).

Different Christian traditions all believe in the value of anointing in the sick and terminally ill, but others classify it differently.  In Catholicism and Orthodoxy it is a sacrament.  The Anglican Church considers it to have sacramental character and in most Lutheran and other Protestant denominations, see it as a critical ritual of the faith.   As a sacrament, The Anointing of the Sick, and in the past, Extreme Unction, is an outward sign used to manifest and give grace to the soul.  As a sacrament, it gives grace through the source of Christ’s death on the cross that flows through the Holy Spirit to the soul.   It can be received multiple times depending on the grave danger of the person’s condition.   Hence, it can be received in multiple terminal or possible death situations, whether in the hospital or home.  In the Orthodox, it can also be utilized in communal services.  In the West, under extraordinary circumstances, such as before war, soldiers and certain qualifying groups may receive it.

The matter, or visible sign, is the blessed holy oil.  This oil in the West is blessed by diocesan bishop on Holy Thursday.  In the East, this oil can be received throughout the year at the end of Liturgy on certain feast days but in itself is not the sacrament but used for overall physical and spiritual healing and continued good health.  The form of the sacrament constitutes the various prayers and words offered by the priest or minister during the administration of the sacrament.

Holy Oil is used to anoint the sick. It is the visible sign of healing and presence of the grace of God preparing the soul for the next life

 

Last Rites is sometimes confused with Anointing of the Sick.  It is important to note in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Last Rites entails three sacraments.  Anointing, confession and reception of the Eucharist.

The effects of the sacrament and ritual has multiple sacramental and grace infused benefits to the soul.  It forgives sin but also prepares the soul to peacefully accept death and prepare it for reunion with God.  Physically it can heal but healing and miracles are alone determined by the will of God.  There are miraculous cases but these are extraordinary examples and not the norm.  Death is natural and the healing is more so focused on the spiritual than physical.  Although from a physical and psychological standpoint, the ritual can bring mental peace and a presence of God within the mind of the person.  It is comforting to know that Christ is present with one in one’s suffering and death.

Throughout the study of suffering and Christian grief, the Christian does not seek to escape death, deny it, or even escape suffering, but is called to carry one’s cross and unify it with Christ as one’s High Priest.  Christ is the ultimate example of the Suffering Servant and His example of accepting death and suffering should inspire other Christians to do the same.  While always praying for a cure or miracle, the Christian should also be accepting of God’s will.  One should primarily seek spiritual healing and God’s presence in one’s final moments.

During the reception of Anointing, one may be unconscious or awake, but it is critical to voice the need prior of the desire to receive it.  Family or nurses should be made aware of one’s desire to see a minister or priest.  This can be laid out in healthcare directives and becomes critically important if one becomes unconscious and unable to ask for spiritual aid in person.  Also, it is important prior to risky surgery or potential unconsciousness due to drug induced states to request Anointing of the Sick.  Most in everyday procedures that are not risky may simply say a short prayer of contrition and adoration before simple anesthesia but with far more risky procedure one should never leave one’s soul open to possible spiritual risk and danger.

Through Anointing of the sick, Christ comes to us in our dying moments. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program

 

In conclusion, spiritual preparation before death is critical.  If it happens like a thief in the night, one may receive the sacrament post mortem but one should always pray both morning and night proclaiming love of God and sorrow for sins.  One of the most beautiful things one can pray for is a peaceful death where one is able to receive the sacred mysteries in advance.  This is a blessing that many sometimes never think of due to the fear of thinking about death itself.  However, a peaceful Christian death with grace and the image of God is the greatest gift that may be given in this world.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification as well as its Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Both programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

Additional Resources

“WHAT IS ANOINTING OF THE SICK? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?”. Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis. (2006). Access here

“The Anointing of the Sick – Catechism of the Catholic Church”. Catechism of the Catholic Church. CNA. Access here

“Is Anointing Oil Biblical and Should We Use It Today?”. Riggleman, H. (2021). Crosswalk. Access here

“40 Bible Verses about Anointing With Oil”. Knowing Jesus.  Access here

 

Christian Counseling: Understanding Metaphysical Integration of Brain and Soul

Atheistic guided neuroscience has proudly proclaimed the death of the soul with advances of understanding how the brain operates and functions.  As DJ Dobbins in his article, “Does the Soul Exist” proclaimed, “There is nothing left for the soul to do (Dobbins, 2013)”.  It would seem with every emotion, abstract thought and “spiritual” function mapped out throughout the brain that the soul itself is an antiquated ideal.

What is the boundary between brain and soul? Is there one? Are they separate, integrated or merely a physical phenomenon.

 

Take into consideration the brain itself.  Within the amygdala, various emotional reactions related to fear and anger are monitored and controlled.  Within the hypothalamus, stress response triggers tied closely to pituitary gland are regulated giving the body its ability of fight or flight.  Within memory itself, the hippocampus creates and stores memory through a flash work of neurons and neurotransmitters creating a pattern of responses that correlate to abstract memory itself.  Upon the cerebral cortex, exist various lobes of the cortex that regulate further emotions, inhibitions, understanding, consciousness, memory and language.   Furthermore, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine can greatly alter emotional moods based on excess or less amounts. What one is left with is an astounding explanation of many metaphysical attributes once solely thought as free of matter and scientific observation.  The intellect and the will, the hall mark classic identifiers of the soul, are left with material explanations that live and die with the functioning of the brain itself.

In fact, all moral behavior can be explained by brain function.  How can one sin or bear responsibility for damaged frontal lobes, mood disorders, or chemical reactions that affect thought and moral decisions.

Also, consider this.  If part of the brain is damaged, one can lose important information of one’s life.  Amnesia and dementia and physical injuries to the brain can alter identity and self through theft of oneself.  If part of one’s brain is altered, taken, or injured, personality and behavior can be greatly altered.  If the left and right hemisphere of the brain is divided, there can become two autonomous actions independent of each other.  So is the idea of the soul merely a mechanical action that exists and dies with the brain’s activity?

Reactions in defense of the soul

Dualism is the most common reaction to the atheistic neuroscience.  Dualistic ideals teach that the brain and soul operate simultaneously.  Rene’ Descartes believed that both the brain and soul operated in parallel of each other.  He properly dictated that something spiritual cannot be spiritual divided unlike the brain and hence the soul operates at a independent level.   Opponents point out that a dual consciousness can arise when the hemispheres of the brain are split.  What does this say of the soul they contend?

Others point out that the soul communicates through the brain.  The fullness of the soul exists independent of the brain but is manifested in the brain.  Of course, this is theological discourse, not scientific observation.

What type of soul?

When incorporating dualism it is important to understand one’s own definition of the soul.  Ideas of the soul and its connection with the body differ from traditions.  From a philosophical Platonic school of thought, the body is a temporal vessel of the soul.  In Buddhism and Hinduism, the soul travels from different material bodies through reincarnation.  In these religious and philosophical traditions, the importance of the body is regulated to a shell.  Hence once the soul escapes the body, what explains its consciousness if the body was just a shell but yet still produced such spiritual activity within its own very functioning?

The soul and the brain are intimately connected in Christian theology. Human nature is both body and soul

 

It is important in Christian Counseling to understand the human nature.

In Christian theology, the body and soul are inseparable .  Before the fall of Adam, the body and soul communicated perfectly.  Adam’s control of his passions and great intellect all pointed towards a body that worked perfectly with the soul in regards to balance of emotion.  Hence Adam’s brain operated at full capacity without defect.  Adam’s endocrine system did not create chemical imbalances.  His neurotransmitters did not create imbalances of serotonin or dopamine to create mood disorders.  In essence, his body was in complete harmony with his soul.

His soul in fact was never created prior to his body.  Unlike Platonic ideas of the soul,  Christian theology teaches that the soul and the body were made for each other.  Hence the intricacies of the brain operating and the soul operating are in many instances one mind.  The fact that metaphysical realties would manifest within matter are no surprise.  The brain, like an interpreter, is able to process abstract spiritual concepts and physically manifest them.  The partnership of the brain and soul is so intense that it is not truly even dualistic.   They were never intended to be separated.

It was the sin and fall of humanity that caused death.  Death, from a Christian standpoint, is an unnatural event.   It is the tearing of the soul from the body.  It is the cost of sin itself.

With the death of the broken body due to sin and its displaced spiritual component, one pays the price for the sin of Adam.  One’s entire life has been a struggle until that moment of death.  The body does not respond to the intellect and will perfectly, the body breaks down, the soul is open to passionate and uncontrolled inclinations.  Due to this temporal dysfunction within the the fallen world, death arrives.

A purely dualistic system of thought sees the soul as an independent rider of the bike that can be cast off the bike at death to exist independently, but the Christian system views the bike and its rider as one system. While the consciousness absorbed through temporal life exists beyond the death, it is through God that it incompletely still exists  awaiting judgement and the return of the body.   While the temporal connection was broken, one’s human nature was not completely corrupted on earth and still yearns the perfect reunion.  The body and soul were made for each other.

Christ’s Resurrection

Christ is the New Adam and hence it is only fitting through His resurrection, His Body was a glorified Body.  Christ was already perfect, but His Body on earth was still temporal despite the Divinity within Himself that allowed Him to perform miracles.  After His Resurrection, Christ’s Glorified Body was the body that is intended for all humanity.  Like Adam’s pre-fall body,  the soul has complete mastery of the body, but it is also glorified.  From Scripture, Christ can manifest differently with light and make it hard for individuals to know who He is.  Furthermore, He is able to transport from different areas, however, due to the wounds on His Hands, Side and Feet, it is clear it is the same Body that was crucified but transformed.

Christ’s glorified Body on earth showed the return of the body to the soul

 

Humanity will share in Christ’s Resurrection. Through Christ’s death, He conquered sin and through His Resurrection promises a full reunion of body and soul.  The temporary exile of the soul from the body is removed.  The body and soul then are reunited in a perfect way.  It is of no wonder then that the brain and soul are so close to each other.  It is natural that they exist side by side and work together in expressing a full human nature.

The Brain as a Metaphysical Organ and Partner of the Soul

While atheistic neurosciences see the brain as the soul from an only observational and empirical standpoint, they cannot philosophically deny possibility of a spiritual component within human nature.  The brain in itself is a metaphysical organ.  It translates spiritual emotion, thought and memory in a material code through the patterns of firing neurons.  Like the ability of radio waves to interpret human words on the radio, the brain and its certain components have the amazing ability to translate the soul.  The soul receives all information through the senses.  The branch of Epistemology or how humans gain knowledge can be divided into the concept of realism.  Within realism, knowledge is gained by the senses.  This was championed by St. Thomas Aquinas.  Hence the soul gains its primary knowledge from its surrounding areas via the senses.  The brain interprets and aids the soul in this material exploration.  Albeit imperfect in the temporal reality due to sin, the partnership still functions.

The brain hence is immersed within the soul and vice versa.  They were never intended to be separated at creation.   The brain is a partner of the soul and all its manifestations aid the soul in understanding reality.

“Proofs” of the Soul 

While the brain is not the soul itself but a partner intimately interwoven with it, the soul after the Fall, was deemed to be separated from the body.  Death is unnatural but the soul still exists beyond as conscious energy.  The amount of time one is separated from the body is not measured in minutes since time is no longer a player after death.  It could be seen like an instant upon the refusion of the soul and body upon where it will enter into its heavenly reward or hellish curse.  However, due to sin, the unnatural state of death kills the broken body and snatches an incomplete human’s soul into eternity without his/her body.

Yet, the conscious energy of the soul, albeit incomplete still has abilities to exist due to God’s plan to reunite it with the body. How this is accomplished is a matter of faith.  The immortality of the soul is a mystery that science cannot explain.  Yet one can see instances of the soul and its operations beyond its interwoven material expressions within the brain.

In Christianity, the notion of spiritual eyes and spiritual senses is well understood.  For instance, knowledge that is gained not through the physical senses explain a deeper existence beyond broken matter in this world.  While empirical science does not accept these ideals or looks for logical explanations, individuals, saints and mystics have all experienced out of body, mystical, and innate discourses that do not permeate from the senses.   For instance, beyond the natural REM dreaming, one can review prophetic dreams or communications.  In some cases, the senses can be utilized but in most cases, the subconscious void of sense perception is open to Divine or angelic communication.  In addition, many who experience Near Death Experience describe their surroundings in detail without seeing the surroundings with their own physical eyes which were closed and brain activity was comatose.   The spiritual eyes yet were able to see and then later recount the instance utilizing memory of the event from a spiritual source.

Moral Implications of Sin and Choice

It would be criminal not to at least react to atheistic neuroscience’s assault on moral theology.  If the brain and its chemical reactions account for all of reality, then how can one be accountable for sin or wrong?  If moods due to neurotransmitters are altered, or parts of the brain are altered or removed hence affecting behavior, how can the soul be a source of morality?

Of course, as stated, the manifestation of inhibitions, decisions,  and thoughts within the brain are clearly listed.  Morality is a complex system of biology, genetics, social norms and learned behavior.  Certain maladies do play a key role in altering behaviors.

For the Christian, it is understood there is a complex and intimate connection between the soul and body.  It is also understood due to the fall of Adam, there is a conflict between mind and flesh.  Due to sin, sickness and death exist as well.  Hence, in many, anti-social disorders, depression and other mood disorders, certain behaviors can manifest.  In fact, removing certain areas of the brain can have staggering effects on moral behavior.   This though in no way complicates the existence of the soul and its connection to the brain.  Again, Christians maintain a intimate relationship between the body and mind albeit a broken one.  Hence explanations for behavior from a purely neurological point are expected but they are not the sole source.

Christian moral theology takes into account mental maladies that reduce culpabilities of the agent committing the offense but conscience, morality and free choice in most cases still exist.  One is not programmed to sin and do evil.  It is through disease, broken nature, environment, and habitual vice that lead to many neuro factors that contribute to a mentally disturbed person as well.  The sickness of the brain that leads to immoral deeds is a sad story but one due to Original Sin.  It exists and plays a factor because the soul and brain are interwoven but it is not the only aspect of the story that dictates what someone is or not.

Conclusion

It is of no wonder to the Christian who understands the unity of human nature that the brain and soul closely are correlated.  While separate, they are still intimately interwoven so closely that manifestation of the spiritual is possible.  To atheistic neuroscience this may be hard core evidence that the functions of the brain are the soul but to the Christian it only reinforces the idea that the soul and body are meant to be together forever.  Unlike platonic and dualist ideals that view the body as the inferior partner or temporary shell, the Christian understands that only due to sin does this fallen temporal reality exist.  It is because of sin that the body and soul are not in complete unison and that elements of our body affect our soul and elements of our soul affect our body. It is with this understanding that the Christian can marvel how wonderfully created he/she truly is and how while sin scarred it temporarily, it will one day be completely and perfectly restored.  Human nature is both flesh and soul!

The brain and the soul are tied intimately together. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Christian Counselors need to understand how the brain, its parts, and neurotransmitters play a role in moral action.  It is not a indictment against the existence of the soul but a manifestation of the innate partnership between the brain and soul.  Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

Additional Readings :  Some articles are from an atheistic neuroscience stance and others support Christian belief of the soul. Others are merely educational

“The brain and memory: Understanding how the brain thinks”. NIH. (2022) Access here

“What Part of the Brain Controls Emotions?”. Paxinos, G.  (2018). Healthline.  Access here

“Does the Soul Exist? Evidence Says ‘Yes’”. Lanza, R, MD. (2011). Psychology Today.  Access here

“Why psychology lost its soul: everything comes from the brain”. Paxinos, G. (2016). The Conversation.  Access here

“Neuroscience and the Soul”. Hobson, A, MD. (2004). Dana Foundation.  Access here

 

 

 

 

Christian and Biblical Counseling and Its Proper Use

Christian and Biblical Counseling is important to spirituality and development.  Individuals need spiritual guidance and aid throughout their life from a Biblical perspective.  However, spiritual care is not mental care.  Biblical Counseling is for salvation of the soul but it is not a clinical book for mental health.  When these things are confused and interwoven, it becomes a serious problem and misuse of the Word of God.

Biblical Counseling is important but it has its purposes and limitations. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Furthermore, Christian Counselors who are not Clinical or Licensed Counselors cannot help those suffering from pathology.  They require proper training at the clinical level.  Some clinical and licensed counselors may specialize in Christian Counseling and can treat individuals but they still should know where Scripture starts and ends when treatment is involved for pathology.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

 

 

Please review the video below

Christian Counseling Certification Video on Just War Theory

Just war theory looks at the difference between murder and killing, invasion and defense, and aggression versus protection.  Good nations and good people must stand firm against evil in a fallen world.  It is hence sometimes the duty of the just to defend the weak against the evil of aggression.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.

 

 

Please review the video below on Just War Theory

Christian Counseling Certification Blog on Just War and Putin’s Failure to Adhere

The recent war in Ukraine is an atrocity that screams to heaven for justice.  Vladimir Putin has disregarded all norms of civilized war and like the “Hitlers” before him has become an international war criminal hiding behind a large nation and army.  His war in Ukraine not only fails the standards of justification according to civilized nations and secular society but completely fails all standards of Christian conduct.

This is amazing since many right extremist Christians once hailed him as a good Christian man.  His own puppet regime church in Moscow quietly ignores his atrocities as he unfolds an unjust war in Ukraine and the true un-Christian mask is removed from the face of this dictator. Putin has no care for just war or anything remotely Christian and his behavior in past wars such as in Syria, Georgia, Chechenia and other regions also show the atrocities towards civilians and un-needed death that follows his immoral orders.

The just man and woman though ask questions how a Christian may take up arms against such monsters.  In WW2, millions took up arms against Hitler and were forced into bloody conflict.  Hence how does one retain Christian teaching of “Thou Shall not Murder” in response to unjust aggression.  It seems almost comical to call upon violence to stop violence within Christian teaching.  It seems contradictory but due to the fallen world we live in, we do not have the luxury of living in a white and black world and unfortunately, sometimes, force is needed to stop a greater evil.   This blog will review Aquinas’ theory on just war and also look to understand what it means to be a Christian during war.

What makes a war just? Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification

 

Self defense is a key concept.  One is always entitled to defend oneself within appropriate response as the matter dictates.  If one tries to assault another, oneself is entitled to resist and fight back, even if injury is incurred upon the aggressor.  The intent was never to hurt another person but to protect oneself.  The secondary result in defending oneself is the injury to the aggressor.  This falls within a remote and often unheard moral concept known as the Double Effect.  An action with good intention produces two ends, one good and one not good.  The good result is willed while the not good result is a byproduct.  Hence in self defense, one’s primary vocation to life which is self-preservation is undertaken.  In this endeavor, one seeks to preserve one’s life through appropriate force against an aggressor which results in one’s preservation but also the byproduct of injury to the other.

One often can become confused since Christianity if improperly interpreted produces a pacifism in all cases.   Christ did say to turn the other cheek and warned those who take up the sword will die by the sword.  Do these words contradict self defense and defense of the weak?  Christ never came as a political savior to the Jews despite the horrific treatment they received from the Romans.  Christ was a spiritual redeemer and presented no political doctrine.  What he intended to teach was how we deal with people in our daily life.  We are to accept wrong doing patiently from our neighbor.  We are to turn the other cheek rather than seek revenge.   We are not to take up the sword in revenge or fight with others over trivial things.

Christ, never presented self defense of Himself, in His holy passion.  He accepted the brunt of sin as the sacrificial victim.  It was His vocation.

This does not apply to closing one’s eye to cruelty in this world against the weak or self defense of ourselves.  As long as the intent is just and the force appropriate, then it is justified to help others with the use of force.  Sometimes helping one’s neighbor requires a rise of force.  Is this not true of the great Archangel Michael and his holy war against Lucifer?

Hence, the 5th Commandment rightly states, “Thou shalt not murder”, not kill.  The intent to kill is never primary but always secondary.  The intent is to defend oneself or others against great evil that causes greater harm if one would not act.

In case of WW2, we clearly see the allies response to Hitler as a just cause but lets review the criteria of just war from the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas and apply it to both WW2 and war against Putin.

St Thomas Aquinas outlined the measures to justify force against an aggressor within Christian morality. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Program

 

  1. Aquinas points out that all violence against evil must be a last resort.  Diplomacy must be exhausted.  Other venues to avoid bloodshed must be examined before a defense is established.
  2. Aquinas dictates that the war must be pursued by legitimate authority against the opposing force.
  3. Aquinas requires the war to be a just cause.  Hence defense of oneself or others is a prerequisite for any violence
  4. Aquinas considers probability of success as also a notion, unless of course the war is for one’s very survival itself such as the case of Ukraine.
  5. Aquinas lists right intention as a key as well.  The intention is to restore peace and repel the aggressor.  Revenge is not sought but only justice
  6. Aquinas elaborates that proportionality be equal to the aggression.   Hence justice demands only the required violence to end the conflict and not punish beyond the initial offense of the aggressor.  This also mirrors modern laws which outlaw certain weapons.  This also includes mercy to surrendering combatants.
  7. Aquinas finally demands that the war and violence only be directed at military operations and not against civilians.  This mirrors modern day war which considers attacks on civilians to war crimes.

Like Hitler, Putin fails on every criteria.

Hence the WW2and today’s war against Putin is justified.  Christians must pray for an end of war, forgive their enemies, and promote peace, but if war is needed, good individuals must arise.  The quote attributed to Edmond Burke but truly stated from John Stuart Mill proclaims, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.   That is the rally cry to end pain and suffering when evil arises with the appropriate force of good Christian men and women to take up arms when history calls.

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling

 

Source

Wikiepedia: “Just War Theory”

Christian Counseling Certification Article on Exorcism

One of the most frightful aspects of Christianity is exorcisms.  Exorcisms though have a deep rooted history in Christianity dating back to Christ.  Christ himself cast demons out and taught the apostles how to.  Today, the practice continues in the Church, but most especially within the Catholic Church.

Demons play a dangerous role in our spirituality. Exorcisms cast them from our body. Please review our Christian Counseling Certification
Demons play a dangerous role in our spirituality. Exorcisms cast them from our body. Please review our Christian Counseling Certification

The article, “Exorcisms have been part of Christianity for centuries” takes a closer look at exorcisms and their history in the church.  The article states,

“The Exorcist,” a horror film released 45 years ago, is a terrifying depiction of supernatural evil. The film tells the story of a young American girl who is possessed by a demon and eventually exorcised by a Catholic priest.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review the Christian Counseling Certification program from AIHCP and see if it matches your academic goals

 

 

Christian Counseling Training Article on Becoming Closer to Christ

As Christians, we are always looking for ways to develop a closer relationship with Christ.  Many turn to many devotions, such as the Sacred Heart, others find recourse to the Eucharist.   Some delve deeply into scripture and meditate upon the life of Christ and his message.   In order to grow, we must all have a closer and more personal relationship with Christ.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus. Please also review our Christian Counseling Training
The Sacred Heart of Jesus. Please also review our Christian Counseling Training

The article, “21 Ways to Revive Your Relationship With Christ” lists a variety of ways we can remember Christ and become closer.  The article states,

“Even the most dedicated Christian may sometimes struggle with their relationship with God. They love Christ and want to be close to Him, but for whatever reason, they have begun to drift away from Jesus. It may have been the result of a tragedy or simply from allowing spiritual growth to take the backseat while they focus on more immediate seeming concerns. Once your spiritual growth stagnates, however, it can be difficult to find your way back to Christ.”

To read the entire article, please click here

By becoming closer to Christ, we can become better Christians and bring Christ to the world.   Christ is our Redeemer and as our Redeemer, we need to find faith in Him, and what better way to strengthen faith than to become closer.    Please also review our Christian Counseling Training.