BJU faulted for response to GRACE report

I haven’t commented here in a long time, but I have to add my two cents in on this. For full disclosure, as a Chaplain, I have done tons of counseling, and I rarely if ever utilize the “Biblical Counseling” methods I was introduced to at BJU and even had somewhat reinforced in Seminary at Southeastern Seminary.

I have a very good friend of mine from my time at BJU, who I still stay in touch with who was specifically impacted by Dr. Mazak’s views on PTSD in a negative way. I’m going to be somewhat vague, but I assure you, I know it happened and saw the results. There were many of us who served in the Marine Corps Reserve while at BJU, and that is where we met. While we were friends, he pretty much accepted the BJU line on theology and practice straight down the line, no questions asked. I, on the other hand, pretty much had made my mind up after my freshman year that my goal was to get through and do ministry outside of a Fundamentalist realm. I became Southern Baptist shortly after graduating.

After graduating, I went into full time ministry and ultimately the active duty Navy Chaplaincy and my friend went active duty in the Marine Corps. During his career as a Marine, he was in both battles for Fallujah, Iraq where the heaviest fighting of the war happened. He actively participated in combat and saw and experienced some very horrible things. When he came back, this of course started causing issues with PTSD. Because of his trust in his teaching at BJU, he actually tried to talk to Mazak about it, and of course I don’t know all the details of what was said; but I do know that he was basically told that it was sin on his part that caused post traumatic stress problems he was facing, and was shown no empathy or understanding of what he went through and was dealing with.

Of course that experience of what he knows is real and the treatment he received when trying to get help from someone he once respected has completely changed his direction. Thankfully, he is still serving the Lord out of the Marine Corps, but will never again support that type of counseling or theology that leads to it, and this from someone who constantly disagreed with me when I would bring up arguments against these things in the past.

By continuing to support this type of “counseling”, BJU is proving that they still know absolutely nothing about dealing with actual problems of severe nature (i.e. sexual assault, PTSD etc.) in people’s lives.

Ben Howard,

Sorry to hear about your friend, but glad he came home apparently safe, except for the PTSD. I cannot even pretend to understand your friend’s experiences over there, but I’ve done enough study about what went on to know the fighting in Fallujah was especially brutal. It was literal house-to-house combat every. single. day. The people our guys were fighting are evil incarnate. I hope your friend recovers from his PTSD.

Sorry as well to hear about the counseling he received from BJU about it. BJU has some serious credibility issues on multiple levels regarding their counseling.

OK, let’s dig in—and moderator, please feel free to build off this/move it elsewhere or whatever—but it strikes me that just as Dinah and Tamar are said to have been desolate after being raped, perhaps what is going on with PTSD is not bitterness, but rather flashbacks. I can think of incidents in my life where I am not bitter or angry about what happened, but I can remember them in vivid detail—and they were by no means as traumatic as I would imagine that forcible rape or being in a vehicle hit by an IED would be..

Is it sin to have this?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

I think what we are labeling as bitterness and being “stuck” is often unresolved trauma. Instead of jumping on the individual and labeling their reactions as sin, we need to be reaching out to them with compassion and helping them with the resources needed to heal from their abuse. I know for me, once I had HEALTHY, experienced counselors who knew how to handle my trauma, that the intense outward symptoms that had been mislabeled as sin started to resolve.

I think we are actually perpetuating the problem when we don’t stop and realize that the reason a victim may not be getting better is in fact our “methods” aren’t working and not because the victim is doing something wrong or sinning. Victims can thrive and heal, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of very very patient, non-judgmental, supportive people who are willing to journey with them.

I realize many viewed the Grace report as just pushing psychobabble, but have any of you actually received secular counseling? It isn’t brainwashing or humanism or anti-God. In fact, it wasn’t until I had counseling from experts who understood trauma, that I was able to finally get to the place that I felt safe enough in church again. The secular counseling actually helped my faith.

I also noticed above that some individuals are trashing the Julie Valentine Center. The Julie Valentine Center has been working with local churches for years to help bridge the gap between the psychological needs of their clients and their spiritual needs. They recently hosted a week long training event to help train church leaders in how to help those struggling in this area.

People who haven’t been trained in a particular field and who practice forms of counseling therapy which has negatively effected in these ways can rightly be labeled a quack. Does this mean the quack is wrong in all their advice. No. N

o more than the health quack who gives crazy advice is wrong on all his advice.

Does BJU even have a psychology major? Do they have a man or woman with an authentic doctorate, not one their buddies awarded them at some ceremonial back slapping service, who teaches sound scientific principals of psychology. There are scores, if not hundreds, of real diagnosable mental/emotional problems people can have. I personally know a fine Christian women who takes a prescribed medicine for her schizophrenia. When she remains on the medicine she is 99% normal and functioning. It is a problem she was born with. Thank the Lord for these med’s and qualified people who are properly licensed and screened by state boards.

and one being active in my local American Legion Post, I’ll say the question isn’t are the men in question vets. The question is do\did they believe that PTSD is a real disorder whose underlying cause is not sin. That’s not to say some of PTSD’s symptoms can’t manifest themselves in sin.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

OK, the language being used about people is now getting out of hand. I have unpublished a few posts, including a response that was generally OK, but included one of the unpublished posts. You can certainly disagree with someone’s actions, believe they are wrong, etc., but let’s keep it civil.

Dave Barnhart

I’ve been lurking for some time in this thread; but, finally feel compelled to comment. My perspective is perhaps a little different than many of the contributors here; I attended Bob Jones Academy, but then graduated from two well known secular universities, one public and one private. I have subsequently spent my career working for secular employers.

I am struck by how differently (and poorly) BJU has responded to events compared to secular institutions. Let me give two examples:

  • Firing GRACE. BJU fired GRACE in a (later published) letter, days before the final interviews, but then made no public announcement about doing so. Almost two weeks later, GRACE announces that they have been fired, in a “complete surprise as there had been no prior indications from BJU that termination was even being considered”. The public reaction was overwhelmingly negative and forced BJU on the defensive, trying to explain why they had done so and not bothered to tell anyone (did they think no one would notice?). The ensuing furor caused what would have been a local, or at best, regional, story to become national news that portrayed BJU in a very harsh light. It also guaranteed that the subsequent release of the GRACE report would be national news as well.

How would a secular institution have handled it? BJU must have known that firing GRACE so late in the game would be perceived negatively. When you have negative news, the most important thing is, first: don’t hide it (it makes you look guilty). Second: get your side of the story on the record. A secular institution would have released the news immediately, but with an explanation of the reasons for the firing (made up if necessary). This would have the immediate benefit of putting GRACE on the defensive and would have changed the entire narrative. BJU blundered badly here; no PR department worth its name would have handled it this way; I’d be willing to bet other factors (BJIII?) came into play.

  • Handling of Jim Berg. First, let me say that I know nothing about Jim Berg, nor have any opinion about him; I’ve never met him or read any of his books. But I have read the entirety of the GRACE report. Much of the report is about him and he doesn’t come across well. He admits that he has no formal training in counseling; he admits he was too busy to properly counsel students; he admits he wasn’t aware of SC mandatory reporting laws; he admits to failing to report in several instances – for which he may face criminal liability. Multiple abuse victims tell essentially the same story - that he blamed them for their abuse. The GRACE report recommendations call for him to be essentially fired.

What is BJU’s response? They stand by him; his books remain on sale in the bookstore; and, while he is apparently not teaching this semester, he may in the future. This response (or lack of) ensures that the controversy will remain in the news, and BJU will continue to be impacted negatively.

How would a secular institution handle it? Berg would be immediately fired. If not for the obvious incompetence revealed in the report; then for the distraction he has become to the institution. A secular school would simply weigh the cost of keeping him and the impact he has on the school’s reputation against whatever loyalty is owed him. It would not be a difficult decision; and it would have the advantage of putting the controversy behind them.

Personally, I find BJU’s handling of the GRACE report puzzling. At almost every juncture, they have chosen the path that ensures more controversy, more negative attention, and more damage to their brand. It’s almost as if they have no feel for how their decisions and actions will be perceived by the larger community. In today’s social media environment, it is not possible for them to control the narrative; but they act as though they still can. Perhaps they are so isolated they no longer understand how to relate to the wider world.


Agreed! You basically express the same thought I’ve been saying about this issue. You are right that at just about every turn in this entire GRACE saga BJU has invited further questions and controversy.

As I said earlier, without Berg (& BJIII) the GRACE report never would’ve happened.

Ok, so “without Berg the whole thing would have never happened”…let’s say that is true, but I seriously doubt it. I don’t think BJU had the tools to approach abuse (or PTSD, for that matter) rightly, and I think, given from what I have read of the GRACE report, anyone else in his role would probably have handled it similarly. That’s why I think that the insular culture of BJU - the persistent hiring of only BJU bred faculty - is such a huge problem, as I said before.

Does that really mean or do anything in the long run right now? Is it really necessary to spend a lot of time crushing Berg in particular? Or is Berg just the favored whipping boy now?

I get that he was a part of the problem, by the blame ultimately goes to the very top…Drs Jones and the Board. Don’t let them off the hook as well.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

So here goes:

With regard to this comment

Explaining myself:

  • I’m quite a fan of “the Far Side” which often uses absurdist humor (from Wiki: ” Its surrealistic humor is often based on uncomfortable social situations, improbable events, an anthropomorphic view of the world, logical fallacies, impending bizarre disasters, (often twisted) references to proverbs, or the search for meaning in life.”
  • My questions to Joel Shaffer were indeed absurd. You would never ask questions like that of someone who had experienced literally a gun to his head
  • There may be a bit of satire in my question as well. Poking at flawed counseling in general (I did not mention Berg and when I made the comment I did not have him in mind).
  • Of course we all are aware that there has been flawed counseling: where rape or assault victims were questioned in that way
  • So I was making a larger point using an absurdist modus
  • I am not a hostile critic of BJU itself. You can see that in my comments on this very same thread. I am critical of BJ III (same thread with regard for his being a magnet of bad PR)

And like Forrest Gump “That’s all I have to say about that.”

I wish I could wholeheartedly agree with DJ Houk in toto, but from years of watching secular universities and government harbor frauds (Elizabeth Warren, Cornel West, Ward Churchill), criminals (Bill Ayers, others of the Weather U-ground), and the like, I’m not persuaded that BJU’s response is that out of the mainstream for the secular world. Getting to a certain level of authority and power does seem to insulate a person from accountability, especially on the left side of the aisle (but not exclusively).

But that said, “what everyone else is doing” is not the question at hand. Rather it is whether the counseling structures at BJU (a) tend to place blame for sexual crimes on the victim (explicitly, implicitly, or even just in the eyes of the victim) and (b) are prepared to deal with the reality of the flashbacks and such that characterize what we call PTSD at this point.

So my plea here is that anyone who is familiar with (a) Jim Berg’s books and (b) counseling materials at BJU (Berg’s or otherwise) spend a little time to take a look at them to see what you think. If you think there is something of note, send a note to BJU—and if it suggests that the answers to (a) and (b) are “no”, part of you note might include something like “I am a pastor of a church that has sent this many students to your school in the past decade—and if these abuses are not corrected, I will do what I can to make sure that the number that goes in the next decade is zero.”

I’m no big expert on BJU and the Greenville “cone of silence” many here are alleging, but it strikes me that if some with intimate knowledge start pointing out where things are right or wrong and citing chapter and verse (of counseling materials and the like), things will change.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Given the way secular campuses are responding to allegations of sexual activity and ‘rape’, I’m more concerned about what they are doing - prosecuting everything under the sun as ‘sexual violence’ in a desperate attempt to keep their Title IX funding.

This year, nearly all college students in New York and California started their spring semesters under a new state-mandated regime of sexual policing called affirmative consent (“yes means yes”). Under these policies, any student who cannot prove that he obtained active, ongoing, unambiguous consent to any sexual activity will automatically be guilty of violating campus sexual assault policies. These draconian new rules are binding only on college students. They do not apply to college faculties and administrators, and they certainly don’t apply to the legislators who passed these laws.

Affirmative consent laws trivialize sexual assault by turning nearly everyone who has ever dated into a sexual offender. For example, if a student throws her arms around her boyfriend and kisses him without his permission, even if she has done this dozens of times before, she has violated affirmative consent policies. She can, at some later date, be hauled before a campus judiciary on charges of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault should fear this new regime, because it will inevitably confuse rightful cases of abuse with capricious accusations.

Journalist Cathy Young writes, “One would think that [our] legislators would have some second thoughts about endorsing a bill that essentially redefines some 95 percent of human sexual encounters as rape (including married sex, since the bill specifically states that a prior relationship creates no presumption of consent)…

…In April 2014, John (pseud.), a fraternity member with a 3.9 average and an unblemished disciplinary record, argued vigorously against a proposal championed by a fellow student, Jane (pseud.), to eradicate all-male residential fraternities from Wesleyan’s campus. John and Jane had been friends since sophomore year, and in December 14, 2013, they had exchanged text messages in which John asked Jane to hook up. The next morning, John apologized for the messages, and Jane texted back, “we all do dumb shit when we’re drunk, we can definitely put it behind us.”

The week before the vote on the future of Wesleyan’s fraternities, Wesleyan’s dean of students, Rick Culliton, told John that the text messages John sent to Jane in December were a form of “sexual harassment,” and he gave John a “no-contact” order. Culliton’s colleague, Scott Baker, assured John that because the texts were an isolated occurrence, they would not constitute “a serious Title IX concern.”

Unfortunately, it was indeed a serious concern. John was immediately banned from student government meetings, and the proposal to abolish all-male fraternities passed by a 14-12 vote in his absence…

At disciplinary hearings held in May, Wesleyan officials prohibited John from calling witnesses or having legal counsel. John had to write his account of the four-year-old kissing incident without knowing the charges against him. John was found guilty of violating Wesleyan’s sexual harassment and assault policies. He was suspended for two semesters, weeks before he was supposed to get his diploma. One month later, John was fired from his job as a congressional staffer after his employer learned of his disciplinary record. “I cannot believe [Wesleyan made] me a symbol of fraternity power and rape culture for kissing,” John said in an interview with BuzzFeed’s Katie Baker.

Even proponents of these laws admit that they establish a presumption of guilt and strip the accused of due process protections. When asked how an innocent student could prove affirmative consent under the statute, Democratic assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal said, “Your guess is as good as mine.” Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox, admits that under affirmative consent “too much counts as sexual assault” and that innocent students will be branded as rapists. Yet he supports it anyway because “men need to feel a cold spike of fear.


"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ugh. From Jay’s link, here’s a link about what Jesse Matthew, the killer Joe B. referred to about 50 posts ago as having played football for Liberty, was accused of. Not quite sure what to make of “charges were never filed”. The timeline indicates that at both schools, the man was quickly expelled, and this source indicates his victim at Liberty had a hospital report that for some reason did not result in criminal charges. Not quite sure how you document injuries and perhaps even complete a rape kit without getting enough information to file charges for something, but apparently it’s possible. When arrested for the Hannah Graham murder, he was apparently working as a football coach for a Christian school.

Not that this lets BJU off the hook, but clearly other colleges, including secular ones, are really, really dropping the ball in cases like this. Just as clearly, I think employers need to take background checks seriously.

And even worse, the doctrine of affirmative consent seems tailor-made to punish innocent missteps and kill romance while leaving real transgressions unpunished. What a worst of all worlds policy.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim, I like your Far Side style humor. Keep it up! :-)!

Jay, I agree about BJIII and the Board being accountable as well and BJU not being prepared to appropriately handle their counseling. BJIII and the board were the forces behind BJU’s historical insular, inbred, and heavy-handed culture. You take BJIII and Berg out of the GRACE report, the report would’ve been about 20% of the length it was. Would two other people have taken BJIII and Berg’s place? Yes. Might have the culture and counseling then been softer and more gracious? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. In my opinion a president outside of the Family and Bubble would’ve been a healthy change long, long ago. From my personal observation while at BJU I think BJIII had a certain attitude about The U that wasn’t necessarily good. That is why I think if it wasn’t for BJIII and Berg the GRACE report never would’ve happened. BJIII (& the board) set the tone and the culture and Berg was the day-to-day face of that culture regarding counseling.