In April of 1979, Ken Nally, a 24-year old Talbot Seminary student (Talbot Extension Seminary on the Grace Church campus), committed suicide. His parents filed a clergy malpractice suit, alleging that pastors at Grace Community Church (GCC) had prevented Nally from seeking professional counseling, and had instead counseled him only with Scripture. In 1985, GCC won the case in court; hence, MacArthur's claim that God's Word was not only "on trial," but had won! But was it really God's Word that was on trial and won out at Grace Church? The following excerpts are from two tapes (distributed by MacArthur's ministry) containing comments by MacArthur and GCC's attorney in the case, Sam Ericsson (editorial comments are BDM's):
In response to the question: "In giving full range to the examination process, medical, counseling, etc., does that include secular people, including psychiatrists?"
MacArthur: "YES ... never had any problem with psychiatrists as such. The issue is to send them to a psychiatrist whose value system in the long-term is going to be compatible (emphasis mine). Benefit in short-term is that psychiatrist makes a medical analysis and provides medicine for the short-term situation; but if you're talking about a long-term counseling system, then you've got to hook up a person who has a Christian frame of reference, with a psychiatrist who is going to have a compatible frame of reference. Value system has to be compatible or there will be no effect [of counseling therapy]. We would not want to set aside all psychology or psychiatrists, but simply to say those we would refer to, would be helpful in the long-term, only if their value system was compatible ... which means for the long term, [psychologists and psychiatrists] would have to be Christian."
(1) By definition, it is impossible to have a Christian value system that is compatible with either psychology or psychiatry, because psychology is a false religion;
(2) A regular medical doctor is quite competent to provide a medical analysis; but why send to a combination medical doctor/witchdoctor?;
(3) By definition, psychology's belief system (frame of reference) is the antithesis of a Christian's; it cannot ever be compatible!;
(4) Since the value systems can never be compatible, why refer a person to a psychiatrist?;
(5) How can a person with a different religious belief system, i.e., the psychological cult of self-worship, also profess to be Christian, in light of the fact that the Christian "system" requires putting other's interests before one's own? -- the belief systems are at the extremes of the spiritual continuum (self-love on one end, divine love of others on the other).
Judge Joseph Callan was the presiding judge.
Judge Callan: "It is apparent that clinical psychology and pastoral counseling do not spring from the same well."
Comment: If the judge can recognize that the belief systems of psychology and Christianity are not compatible, why can't John MacArthur?
Sam Ericsson was the attorney for the defense (Grace Community Church).
Ericsson: "The fact of the matter, which came out during the trial, was that he [Nally] had been seen by no less than eight professionals, physicians, and mental health professionals, many of them arranged by John MacArthur or his staff at Grace Church."
Comment: Why would MacArthur arrange for help from the godless profession of psychology? How can MacArthur claim that the issue is one of the Church's right to give Biblical counsel, when he himself arranged for Nally to receive psychological counsel?
Ericsson: "Ken Nally was encouraged to see physicians and Christian psychologists."
Comment: There is no such thing as "Christian" psychology (except in the minds of the psychologists who profess to practice it). Psychology and Christianity are two separate belief systems. (See Judge Callan's insightful comment above.) Therefore, in reality, MacArthur referred Nally to psychological counseling, not Biblical counseling.
In response to a question, "What should pastors be conscious of as they counsel people?"
Ericsson: "Be sensitive to using Biblical procedures, Biblical methods, and Biblical principles, and part of that is to recognize that they [pastors] shouldn't get in over their heads -- that there are other professions. There are physicians, there are counselors, there are psychologists and psychiatrists who do provide assistance. So be sensitive to a person's needs, and don't assume you have all the answers; and there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors -- don't hesitate to bring in other people [the psychologists and psychiatrists] to help."
Comment: In other words, Ericsson is saying that the Word of God is insufficient and that pastors are potentially "in over their heads" in relying solely upon the Bible, and for this reason, we need to bring in the godless psychologists and psychiatrists to help out the poor, insufficient Bible!!! Granted, every pastor may not be thoroughly equipped to counsel using the Bible, but training in true biblical counseling can remedy this situation. At any rate, the problem is not with the Bible and its teachings. (See 2 Pe 1:3 -- "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.") Individual pastors may not have all the answers, but the Bible does!
Overall Summary Comments: These two tapes detail that MacArthur sent Nally to eight different "professionals," including "mental health professionals," and for this reason, MacArthur and staff denied all responsibility for wrongdoing concerning Nally's suicide. In addition, MacArthur and his pastoral staff make no claim to have ever had a "counseling relationship" with Nally, nor do they claim to have given exclusively Biblical advice. Hence, God's Word was never on trial here, but only the right of the Church to counsel in house or to refer the counselee to outside "professionals." The use of "professional referrals" to Nally was never disputed. Grace Church stood for and defended its "right" to refer counselees to psychological and psychiatric "professionals"; and that is all that was on trial.