In the week’s before Johnson’s own announcement, an online petition blamed the timing on Heath Lambert, an assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern and the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), which calls itself the “oldest and largest biblical counseling organization in the world.”
The petition claims that Lambert leveraged the ACBC against Southern, threatening to withhold students from its program if Johnson were to continue to teach. (Southern is one of five Reformed seminaries listed among the ACBC’s certified training centers.)
Both Mohler and Lambert have denied this narrative, with Mohler stating that no outside institution—other than the Southern Baptist Convention itself—factors into Southern’s policy decisions.
He also said that the recent Nashville Statement, signed by Lambert and about 20 other faculty members but not Johnson, played no part in the situation.
(Regardless, Mohler says that Southern’s trustees plan to officially adopt the statement at their next meeting in October. The document, created by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood last month, joins the school’s “clarifying documents” like the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.)
Lambert, who has been on the faculty since 2006, wrote in a blog post last Monday that it “would never occur to me to try to force, cajole, or blackmail [Mohler] into anything.” He also apologized for his “unkind and unloving” speech disparaging Johnson’s approach to counseling at an ACBC conference last year, which the online petition pointed to as evidence of Lambert’s animus toward Johnson.
In the clip, Lambert reads from Johnson’s work and calls his philosophy “dangerous,” “slander,” “corrupt,” and a “mockery of God’s Word.” He clarified, in the wake of the petition, that though it was for the sake of argument, it was a sinful move on his part.
In an interview with CT, Lambert said over the past 12 years, he has raised concerns to fellow faculty, administrators, students, and Johnson himself that Johnson’s counseling philosophy “undermines the authority of the Word of God.”
“I’ve always expressed concern because I think he’s wrong,” he said. “I respect him as a man and a scholar, but we disagree on a crucial issue.”
Johnson’s 2007 book Foundations of Soul Care, which John Piper broadly recommended, proposes a new paradigm for Christian counseling by drawing on insights about human nature from “the Bible and various Christian intellectual and soul care traditions.”
Mark McMinn, professor of psychology at George Fox University, says Johnson and fellow Christian psychologists assert “that the Christian tradition itself has a good deal of psychology in it.