The End of "Biblical Counseling"
For biblical reasons alone, we recommend an end to the biblical counseling movement (BCM). However, we know that like its predecessor, the psychological counseling movement, it will exist until the Lord returns. This is a "short course" condensed from our previous writings. As we said before, the psychological counseling movement was virtually non-existent prior to World War II. It began in the 1950s and has come to full bloom since then. The BCM also did not exist before World War II. Fathered by Dr. Jay Adams, it began in the 1970s. If the psychological counseling movement did not exist, it is doubtful that the BCM would exist in its present form today. The psychological counseling movement set the standard and, as we have documented in Against "Biblical Counseling": For the Bible (ABC), the BCM mimicked much of it. In a number of ways the BCM resembles its predecessor, the psychological counseling movement.
We have documented the rise of the psychological problem-centered counseling approach and, piggy-backing on it, the rise of the biblical problem-centered counseling approach by those who call what they do "biblical counseling. (See Christ-Centered Ministry versus Problem-Centered Counseling [CCM].)
We have shown that many biblical counselors simply follow the one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another, one-fixed-price, one-right-after-another, one-up/one-down problem-centered relationship of their psychological predecessors (see ABC). And, many biblical counselors operate in community counseling centers similar in format to psychology clinics. The BCM would be seriously handicapped if biblical counselors would stop the unbiblical practices of the onerous ones mentioned above, particularly the unbiblical practice of separated-from-the-church counseling centers and the unbiblical practice of charging fees for what should be freely given as mutual care in the body of Christ (Matt. 10:8).
We have explained elsewhere and documented from Scripture that there is no biblical justification for either the use of the terms counselor, counseling, and counselee or the practice of biblical counseling as it is normally conducted today. (See Chapter 3, ABC.) Obviously the New Testament use of the words translated as counsel, counselor, and counsels do have shades of meaning in the Greek. However, in no instance does the use of those words justify what is currently called "biblical counseling."
Now, if biblical counselors were no longer to use the counseling words with all their power, prestige, and baggage and refer to themselves as biblical helpers, how many people would be desirous of filling that role? Consider the word minister, which in the Greek means, among other things, servant and menial. How many biblical counselors would want to use the phrase "biblical minister" in the sense of being a servant and menially waiting on those in need?
The focus of problem-centered biblical counseling is to discuss the problem, view it in the light of Scripture, and to help understand and solve or resolve the problems biblically. In order to do this, the problem-centered biblical counselor begins by finding out about the problem and then discussing it. The very act of this problem-centered, conversational approach is often unbiblical. In the following we give just a few of the many examples of what occurs in much problem-centered counseling and the reason such conversations and discussions are unbiblical.
1. Counseling is a functional environment for women and a dysfunctional environment for men. While most men would naturally avoid it, they are often compelled to become involved. Once men become involved, their spiritual headship (Eph. 5) is easily and often usurped by the biblical counselor. (See "Manís Last Stand," PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter [PAL], Vol. 13, No. 1.)
2. When a man counsels a married woman or a couple, he is likely to displace the husbandís spiritual headship in at least some measure, whether or not the husband is present.
3. A woman counseling a man or couple further erodes the biblical role of men and seduces a man into a relationship that often reduces or erases his spiritual headship (Titus 2). (See PAL, Vol. 13, No. 1.) It is difficult to counsel someone without having a spiritual headship role in the relationship.
4. With certain exceptions that we explain elsewhere, it is unbiblical to discuss marital problems with others or complain about oneís spouse in each otherís presence or absence (Eph. 5:21, 22, 25; Prov. 18:17). Biblical counselors not only hear such unbiblical talk, but, as problem solvers, often encourage it. (See "The Biological and Biblical Dangers of Problem-Centered Counseling," PAL, Vol. 12, No. 3.)
5. Blaming the past is one of the major themes of Freudian and other past-oriented psychologies. By permitting and participating in such counseling, the biblical counselor is clearly being unbiblical (Phil. 3:13, 14).
6. Dishonoring father and mother often occurs in biblical counseling. Contrary to the commandment, individuals are permitted and sometimes encouraged by the biblical counselor to talk about their past and present problems perceived to be related to parents (Exodus 20:12), and the counselee (their term) often goes there without being restrained by the counselor.
7. Problem-centered counseling is really self-centered counseling. Problem-centeredness and self-centeredness are inextricably linked. The problem-centered approach encourages self-centeredness. There is a tendency for self to become exalted instead of denied. (See CCM, pp. 62, 63; 2 Tim. 3:1ff; Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23.)
8. Problem-centered counseling sets the stage for playing the victim and blaming others, instead of recognizing the deceitfulness of oneís own heart as a basis for spiritual growth, and a tendency to see the sins in others, instead of better knowing the sinful self (Jer. 17:9, 10).
9. When problem-centered counselors attempt to go beyond behavior and to explore the heart of another individual and to determine the inner source of external behavior, they are out of their realm of expertise because of the deceitfulness of their own hearts (Jer. 17:9, 10). Only God truly sees into the heart. Counselors can only guess based upon what they see by way of their own personal biases and shortcomings. Diagnoses of another personís inner person are dubious and even dangerous in that they can grossly interfere with what God is doing in the individual.
10. Expression is a byword that many biblical counselors have adopted from their psychological predecessors. While unrestrained expression of feelings, such as anger, may at times be discouraged, too many biblical counselors permit and sometimes even encourage such expression. (See PsychoHeresy, pp. 67-73.) Following the ways of the world, some counselors encourage expression because they are fearful of emotions being repressed into a Freudian-type version of a deterministic unconscious. They fail to teach the value of suppression and fail to encourage their counselees to practice suppression. Paul clearly teaches that strong feelings can be not only suppressed but "put away" (Eph. 4:31).
11. Talebearing is forbidden in Scripture. Nevertheless it is often an integral part of biblical counseling. Talebearing would be slander or gossip that is accepted as true in the conversation of counseling. It is unusual for a biblical counselor to ask for verification, seek proof, or restrain such comments, since that could affect the desired counseling relationship of counselor and counselee (Prov. 18:8). (See "Counseling Encourages Talebearing," PAL, Vol. 13, No. 3.)
12. The one-up/one-down relationship mentioned earlier is clearly unbiblical, but often maintained by many biblical counselors. The expert/"dummy" relationship is a common result of all the emphasis on the certificated, degreed biblical counselor in contrast to mutual care in the body of Christ (Gal. 6:1).
If just the above list of unbiblical practices were corrected by the problem-centered biblical counselors, that would be The End of "Biblical Counseling." However, that could be the beginning of a true biblical, Christ-centered ministry.
PAL V13N4 (July-August 2005)
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