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Larry Crabb conference notes – 1

I'm at a School of Spiritual Direction run by Larry Crabb (hence blog inactivity). Lapping it up.  Go here for some lengthy and scattered thoughts about his approach to pastoral counselling.

Anyway here are some random notes taken during the teaching sessions.  They may resonate with you - they certainly do with me...

Notes - part one

We have a core terror

Unmet desires become demands.  Such desires fully faced become a crossroads.

Struggle awakens hope that empowers love (Col 1:4-5)

Or we yield to a spirit of entitlement. Demands! Now!

We live between two epiphanies - Tit 2:11,13 - first appearing: grace; second appearing: glory.

Am I looking for an experience of fullness or for Christ?

What's wrong with me?

- we've made our wounds more important than our sins.

- we have a passionate attachment to the wrong thing.

If u think yr prob is PAIN - all u'll see is RELIEF

If u know yr prob is SIN - You'll seek forgiveness/redemption

- Hos 7:13-14

That's true BROKENESS

All of life is repentance.

People don't have problems to fix - they have journeys to enter

We should always feel out of our depth

We really need a vision for the person

"I've been a psychologist for 40 years, and a good one, but I've never cured anyone."

Is it only sufferings that move you to maturity? No both sufferings and blessings will, if rightly received, chip away at our entitlement spirit.  This is what fuels our clenched fist.  Both miraculous catches of fish (Luke 5 and John 21) caused repentance!   They both undercut merit-thinking.  What we really need is a gracious, receiving spirit. Blessings and sufferings both can do a wonderful job of this.

Our problems are not understandable defensive reflexes but sinful responses that need confrontation and forgiveness.

Don't rearrange the flesh, don't socialize the flesh, release the Spirit.

When u say sin is at heart of problems ur not blaming the victim. In fact the victim blames themselves because of the flesh! They want to be in control.

If Jesus was abused He would have handled it differently to the way our flesh dynamics respond to pain.  Is it wrong to be a victim?  No.  But our flesh handles that pain in all sorts of wicked ways.

Larry said, "What I was saying to my wife as I made my vows is 'I've been dating u 4 a long time, u make me feel nice, ur pretty, u look at me w appreciation, u want to be w me. Let's enter a contract whereby u'll keep me feeling this way for life.' My wife said, 'You don't know but I was abused, but I'm ok now, I'm pretty & personable, u've never violated me, I feel safe w u. I like it. Let's enter a contract...'"  What were we entering into?  Mutual manipulation

A picture of marriage: Two ticks and a dog.  Problem is, most marriages are two ticks & no dog!

Incarnation - He's with us

Subsitutionary atonement - He's for us

Res/Ascension - He's with us

We don't dispense spiritual disciplines like a pharmacist dispenses pills.

'If you want your own way you will have it. Hell is the enjoyment of your own way forever.' Dorothy Sayers

Hell is the suffering of being unable to love.' Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov'

If you just try to untangle the past you get lost. You have to aim for the future. If you go into the past it's only to reorient you because you've gone off course. The goal is the future, not rearranging the flesh for the present.

Somewhere in your soul is a kidney stone. And when you feel kidney stone pain u don't care about blessing others.

[ My thought] Our hope is not our redeeming features, our hope is our Redeemer. But through Him we have some redeemed features - not fully, but noticibly redeemed features. The Scriptures call this the new heart.  And it's ok to encourage our brothers and sisters about these redeemed features!  In fact the Lord has put them there to be developed, built upon etc...

If u only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

If yr only tool is proof texts, exhortation, and accountability - u will treat people utterly simplistically.  You'll bash them.

You get simplicity on the far side of complexity. Don't settle for premature clarity.

If I haven't found a problem in you for which Christ is essential - I haven't found your real problems.

The blood of God had to be shed for the rapist's sins and for mine.  It's not that he needs the cross and I need a bible study! But if that's the case then I won't be scared off by the most depraved of behaviours and I'll never settle for 'good enough Christianity.'

I have a problem with the professionalization of talking. That's what's happened with the profession of counselling. As though you need to master a body of knowledge before you can have conversations that matter.

Who is God? Fundamentally He is trinity.  What is His nature?  Answer - to give what is completely Himself for the Other.  To pour all of Himself for the sake of the Other.

Until you relate in a way that requires grace you're not really relating

- most relating depends on civility or self-protection.

Can we stand on Christ with all our weight?  Our self-protective styles of relating show we don't really think so.

We're not going to bring all of us to stand on all of Him until we face our core terror.

The issue is not to heal our memories but to uderstand what's going on in me now.

Col 3:1-5 - you can't put to death what you don't see.

Hearts are deceitful. We're blind. We're stubborn

We've got to see what's behind our styles of relating.  What am I scared of?

Matt 21 - Jesus reached through the fig leaves and was angry to find no fruit.  Fig leaves and no fruit describes the majority of Christianity today.

Are we community of pretenders or the community of the broken?

Jesus doesn't want pretenders.

Augustine has a parable about first things and second things.   Imagine God said 'Make a list of everything u want.  Write it out, take your time.' Then God says 'I'll give u all of it on one condition - that you never see my face.' Your horror at that prospect is your love for God.





0 thoughts on “Larry Crabb conference notes – 1

  1. codepoke

    Thank you so much, Glenn, for sharing this in any form at all. I'm sure you wanted to pretty it up, but this is brilliant, life-changing, church-healing stuff. It needs to be out here, and may the Lord bless us all by engrafting it into our thinking.

  2. bobby grow


    what do you think about Crabb's integration of "psychology" with Christianity? I've had some issues with it in the past . . . although its been awhile since I've been exposed to him.

  3. Gav

    3/4 way through reading. Will have to pick up again tomorrow, very tired and slow reader, but thanks heaps. Good stuff but very confronting to me, esp. with my kids.

  4. Gav

    I have to tell ya, I'm blown away! I had to read it a couple of times, well the last bit anyway. I reckon I've only locked in 10% of whats there though(probably all I can handle right now anyway). Thanks for sharing.

  5. codepoke

    I'm always depressed by the psychology and Christianity turf war.

    Knowing the scripture well gives you a little bit of knowledge about nutrition, but no one questions people who consult with a nutritionist. Knowing scripture well gives you a little more insight into people than it gives you into nutrition, but there's room for people to make their expertise insight into people. There's room for a specialisation in counselling for people with spiritual, Christian gifts.

    The issue should not be with psychology any more than we'd have an issue with oncology, though there's plenty of room for issues with individual philosophies of psychology.

    The problem is that psychologists make their living on the pastor's turf, so we have a war on our hands.

  6. glenscriv

    Gav, pretty cool stuff huh? You ever come across Crabb before? I've linked to a talk or two of his above under 'Other Sermons' - check it out. Classic books like 'Inside Out', 'Finding God' or 'Connecting' would be a good introduction too.


    There's not a Christian counsellor in the world that doesn't mention secular stuff. And there's not a Christian counsellor in the world that doesn't sound like secular counsellors at times. When Crabb talks about 'flesh dynamics' at a subterranean level it might sound like a Freudian sub-conscious - but then so might the bible. I find the 'degree of integration' spectrum to be an almost impossible thing to guage and, what's more, it's not that helpful. Jay Adams for instance claimed to be very purely a biblical counsellor and yet cited the secular behaviouralist Mowrer again and again!

    I think you'd find if you picked up a Crabb book again an extremely biblical doctrine of God, soteriology, anthropology, etc, etc. I defend him against the integration charge here:


    Glad you're enjoying the Crabb stuff! Agree on the cause of the turf war!

  7. bobby grow


    Yeah, I remember one of my profs in bible college --- the 'psyche' prof --- and he just loved to talk about how Christian counseling involves plundering the spoils of Egypt; and I thought that was rubbish then, and still do! My intro to psyche class was way more than I wanted in bible college, and can you believe it, now they actually have a psyche major at my alma mater (that's unfortunate).

    I say all this, because I don't believe integration of "secular" psychology and Christian principles jives (just like I don't think integrating Aristotle with Christian theology jives). How can we engage in integrating principles based upon "naturalistic" assumptions with those that are based upon trinitarian Christian assumptions?

    To be honest, Glen, I'm kind've surprised that you endorse this kind of stuff; it seems somewhat inconsistent with the emphases that I've gleaned from the rest of your theological outlook.

    I read your paper, it is good, and informative; but I simply disagree with the conclusion (I've also read some of Adams' stuff, and I'm not that keen on his stuff or approach either). Btw, Larry Crabb was basically an exalted figure on my bible college campus . . . the fall-out I saw produced by those who embraced his principles was very disappointing.

  8. glenscriv

    Thanks for the responses Bobby, you don't have to apologize.

    In what ways do you see Crabb capitulating to secular psychology? What are the sort of principles that others embraced that concern you?


  9. bobby grow


    Like I said, it has been quite awhile since I've interacted with Crabb; so I don't have any concrete examples (at the moment) to provide you with on that front.

    As far as the principles embraced by others (and this is not necessarily an indictment on Crabb): I recall that a majority of the student body at my school were just enthralled by psychology in general, and the consequence of this was to relegate the sufficiency of the scriptures (and in fact the cross) to an abstraction that has to do merely with "eternal life." In other words, scripture loses its primacy and needs to be supplemented by psychological principles plundered from secular models. So maybe this says more against the maturity level of those students I was surrounded with at school than against Crabb (but I don't think so). Let me give an anecdotal illustration:

    We were in ethics class, the question was posed by the prof: "What if you were a pastor and you had a congregant who was continually struggling with homosexuality; how would you counsel him?"

    I responded. I basically said that I would remind this person of their status as a "New Creation," that the "Lust of the flesh have been crucified for all those in Christ," that we "Need to put death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit," and much more in this rather "Pauline" vein. As I was giving my response a rather rude interjection was made by a guy (one of those deeply enthralled with Crabb and the integrationist stuff) who blurted out: "He's a homosexual . . . ," as if all that I was saying didn't deal with the "deep" "underwater" issues this particular person was dealing with (the hypthetical homosexual). He went on to basically articulate how this person needed to work through his issues (basically repair the flesh).

    Ultimately, I think Christian counselors, like Crabb, have good intentions; but I don't think their method is laudable whatsoever. Do they feel compelled to integrate simply because they were trained in those methods; and then felt like they needed to or could Christianize these secular methods? If people like Crabb are simply trying to get at what "scripture" says on counseling, then why do they need to use the superstructure of secular psychology in order to do that . . . this seems rather redundant. Why not just go to scripture (and trust that it is sufficient when rightly understood and engaged)?

    It seems like folks like Crabb, while saying that they hold to the sufficiency of scripture, in practice don't.

    Glen, how would you differentiate Crabb's integration from say someone like Thomas Aquinas' integration of Aristotle with scripture? This is really the ultimate rub for me.

  10. glenscriv

    Hi Bobby,

    Lost my reply to you, so I'll be briefer.

    1) I hear the integrationist label all the time. I just don't see it in Crabb. Just because a person talks about subterranean flesh dynamics or deep longings etc doesn't make them Freudian.

    2) The man left behind 'psychology' long long ago. His life's passion is to equip the saints to conduct soul care in the context of the body because it is one of our deepest shames as a church to send 'problem people' down the road to the professional.

    3) The whole purpose for going deep is not to make excuses but to expose just how deep our sins go. Again and again he teaches that going deep is for the purpose of revealing the real problem, because only when Christ and Him crucified is *essential* have you gotten to the real problem.

    4) Crabb would certainly never say that a person simply *was* homosexual. Crabb's whole thing is that we all deliberately choose relational strategies to avoid false definitions of death and secure false definitions of life. But of course homosexuality is not the problem so much as the solution the person has chosen to a deeper problem - their determination to make life work apart from Christ. The person's problem is precisely that they are not living out of their new creation status and they therefore feed their lusts rather than deem them crucified, etc, etc. The point is not to deny the Pauline material. It's to explore it in great depth.

    5) On the Aquinas point, a) I haven't seen it myself. b) He never claims to be trying to integrate psychology and Scripture, he'd love for the body to function so well that the psychologist loses their jobs!. If anyone concludes he's an integrationist they've got to prove a lot of deception here - I'm not convinced, c) he might be more sloppy than you or I would be in citing secular information - but that's hardly the same as Thomist syncretism, d) Crabb citing secular social sciences (which he almost never does!) is more like a Christian cosmologist citing the findings of secular astronomy than Aquinas relying on Aristotle.


  11. bobby grow


    Man you didn't sleep very long ;-).

    1.) I'm not saying he's "Freudian," per se; just that he has "borrowed" 'language' from an "worldview" that is foreign to the one found in scripture (I'm not fully convinced that form and content are so separable of things).

    2.) Okay, maybe it's just his approach in general that I'm not into; and not his background as a psychologist.

    3. - 4.) Amen. We need to go deep, and if that's all that Crabb is endorsing then I'm all for it. All that I am saying is that how I've seen folks appropriate other folks like, Crabb. They constantly refer to his "principles" instead of Christ and the cross as the remedy to man's deepest problems. Of course this isn't necessarily Crabb's fault, per se.

    5.) Maybe that's the problem, he isn't admitting that he is integrating psychology with scripture. And I won't quibble with you on point d., even though I'm tempted ;-).

    I've gotta run, we're heading off to a "Good Friday" service . . . peace in Christ and Happy Resurrection Day!

  12. glenscriv

    Still not sure what is the substance to the integration charge.

    Is it that he's interested in past trauma etc? I think there are many many pitfalls in this. But then so does Larry. He repeats again and again that the only purpose of going into the past is to assess the core terrors that shape our *current* styles of relating. The purpose is never to simply heal memories or unravel the past - such things are impossible. The point (when you do think about the past) is to realise how shaping those fears / desires actually are in the present. And to confront them and say to them - you are not the controlling reality in my life - Christ is!

    It's that balance of Philippians 3 - Paul actively considers the old life in the flesh, his history, his drives, all that he gained. He adds it up, considers it, mulls it over and concludes that it's dung. Having done so he then forgets what is behind (having dredged it up and mulled it over quite a bit!) and presses ahead. It's that emphasis that must be maintained.

    I'll refrain from saying more on that issue for the minute because I'm not sure whether that's the substance of your charge of 'integration'...

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  14. Tamara

    In the Bible, "God created us in His image." "God so loved the world...(not simply te Christians). Larry just said, there should be less dwelling on our individual 'scars' or disappointments in others. True freedom from that is forgiveness...even asking for forgiveness even if you consider your sin smaller.
    Why? Bigger problems come from smaller we shouldn't forget tose sins or sins against us...which build empathy and compassion as well as boundaries with others....but, these experiences help us to connect with others if the forgiveness is sincere...because, there is no more hate or selfishness that clouds the truth. We are all human, flawed, and God still loves us...with His true unfailing love we grow into better individuals. Because God knows sees our true potential. Potential that we don't see. We as individuals should encourage others in their potential, and not discourage or destroy it.
    That is what Dr. Larry Crabb speaks about. With God and us encouraging others whether they are like us, disappoint us, what God commands us to do..."Love others as (God) loves you."~Thank you. . .Tamara

  15. Glen

    Thanks Tamara. It was a good conference. I recommend the School of Spiritual Direction if you ever have the chance.

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