Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible is the title of our new book. "Against biblical counseling" will seem like strange words coming from us, because we have practiced, taught and supported biblical counseling for many years. Yet, in this book we question the biblical basis of the biblical counseling movement and its practices.
For years we have recommended against psychotherapies and their underlying psychologies. We have severely criticized those Christians who have psychologized the faith. However, in this book we criticize those who propose biblical counseling as an alternative to psychological counseling.
The book is an attempt to answer this question: "Is biblical counseling biblical?" It is an analysis of what biblical counseling is, rather than what it pretends or even hopes to be. There are two major areas of criticism. One is directed at biblical counseling practices; the other has to do with the rationale behind biblical counseling.
We continue to be totally opposed to psychological counseling theories and practices. However, we are now speaking out against the biblical counseling movement. Yet, at the same time, we strongly affirm the biblically ordained ministries presented in Scripture.
Not Recommending Biblical Counseling?
We have taken a huge departure in this book. Some of what we say may come as a shock to many. But, we do not take this step lightly. It is with repentance from our own involvement in the biblical counseling movement that we write this book.
You may wonder how we ever came to this point in our concerns about counseling. Perhaps a little background may help. Since the early sixties, in addition to reading and studying the Bible, we have been extensively reading and studying psychology. We noticed that more and more sermons were becoming tinged with elements of psychology and that more and more Christians were becoming trained and licensed to practice psychological counseling.
Beginning in the late sixties people began coming to us with problems of living. What could we do but minister what we knew from the Word of God? Although times of meeting were arranged and problems were confronted, they were times of prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. All of us sought what Scripture said, for we were all seekers at the foot of the cross. No one was considered a "counselor" and no one was considered a "counselee." All of us were simply Christians coming together to meet a challenge. As believers we all drank from the same fountain, both the ones who sought help for specific problems and those who came alongside.
While we had to learn to avoid using the psychological notions we knew, we did not attempt to develop any specific theories about personal ministry at that time. We simply came alongside to encourage, remind, pray, exhort, and share God’s faithfulness. Thus, while temporarily sharing burdens, each one of us bore our own burden, our own response to God, and our own responsibility before God (Galatians 6:1-5). After all, God indwells each one through the Holy Spirit and thereby enables each one to obey His Word. When we think back to those days, we realize that pastors trusted us to minister in this way because of our past training in psychology. Yet, all the while, we tried to discard that training in favor of ministering the Word of God and trusting Him to do the work.
As we found the faithfulness of God in personal ministry, we thought "biblical counseling" must be the alternative to psychological counseling. We began to teach others what we had learned. We wanted to expose the emptiness of the world’s ways so that Christians would gain confidence in the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in ministering to one another. We finally decided to write a book to reveal the darkness of psychological counseling ideologies in the light of Scripture. We expressed many of our concerns in The Psychological Way/The Spiritual Way and tried to encourage readers to turn back to the Lord and His Word and to find confidence there rather than in the wisdom of men.
By then we had begun a "counseling ministry" in a church. We were training others as "biblical counselors" so that they, too, could minister to "counselees." This began what we now see as a compromise with the world. We thought we had to develop some kind of system of "biblical counseling" as an alternative to the ever-growing popularity of "Christian psychology." After all, there were all those hurting people out there in need of help. We desired to be as biblical as possible, but also as unstructured as possible—to leave God room to work.
By that time we were quite familiar with psychological research as well as with how the Bible could be used in personal ministry. We could identify psychological elements in various individuals’ attempts to integrate psychology and Christianity. However, we did not realize that we, too, were copying elements from the world, such as designating the one who comes alongside as a "counselor" and the person in need as the "counselee." We were encouraging "biblical counseling" as a specific ministry in the church with certain individuals designated as "biblical counselors."
No longer were we simply fellow believers seeking God’s will. We were falling into the trappings of psychological counseling. We were falling into the trap of appointments, one right after another, just as in psychological counseling. We were elevating this as a special "ministry" in the church with training classes and requirements for becoming "counselors." We were inadvertently developing a type of caste system—with those "trained" to counsel near the top. We were doing all of these things, even though we would say at the end of every seminar on biblical counseling: "The ideal church is one with all the biblical counseling anyone would want, but no one would need it." Our reason for saying that was this: where the Word of God is faithfully preached and the hearers apply that Word to their lives in love and obedience, there is no need for biblical counseling. But, since there is no ideal church, there will continue to be problems of living requiring personal care. At that time we were convinced that the personal care should not be psychology or "Christian psychology," but, rather, "biblical counseling."
Through the years we have continued to write books warning about the dangers and antibiblical aspects of various psychoheresies. In each book we attempted to direct readers back to the sufficiency of Christ, the Word of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit. We were initially accused of being negative. So, to counteract that, we encouraged biblical counseling as a replacement for psychological counseling. However, we are now opposed to the biblical counseling movement for the reasons presented in this book. We are so concerned that we are no longer recommending any biblical counseling centers or biblical counseling training programs.
A Dramatic Shift
This is a radical departure for us. We have not come to these conclusions lightly or in haste, but rather with much thought, prayer, and wisdom from others around the country.
The primary thrust of this book is to call Christians back to the Bible and to biblically ordained ministries and mutual care in the Body of Christ. We hope and pray that the errors of biblical counseling will be acknowledged and repented of and that Christians will take greater confidence in the biblical ministries of Scripture, "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12).
(PAL V2N5 * Sep-Oct '94)