Our recent book Person to Person Ministry is filled with criticisms of the biblical counseling movement (BCM) and gives reasons why those counselors are not biblical. That is the reason why we put quotes around the word “biblical” in the title of this article. While claiming to be biblical, those in the BCM are not truly biblical. There are exceptions, but in the main these counselors are unbiblical and many of them grossly so. We state the reasons for this in our book, provide specific examples, and discuss what can be done.
Prior to stating our challenge, we need to review several things to clarify our challenge. When we use the word “problem” we are referring to those problems normally talked about with a psychotherapist or a biblical counselor. They are the mental-emotional-behavioral problems for which people seek counseling help. When we use the word “counseling” we are using it in the sense that those in the BCM use it. Those in the BCM use it to mean problem-centered counseling since that is what they primarily do. Problems are presented by the counselee and pursued and discussed by the counselor.
We say in our book:
Problem-centered counseling inevitably leads to sinful counseling. No matter how biblical one claims to be, so-called biblical counseling is defaulted by its problem-centeredness with its sinful communication.
Problem-centered counseling done in the BCM involves many violations of numerous Bible verses warning against such talk. In our book we give examples, such as talebearing, inappropriate (often sinful) discussion (such as in marriage counseling), blaming the past, playing the victim, and dishonoring parents.
In Ephesians 4:31 Paul warns believers against evil speaking or blasphemy, which in the New Testament would include any communication that would devalue another person, as well as its more specific meaning of blaspheming God. Such speech is not edifying and is harmful to one another.
In our book, using biblical standards, we examine two “biblical” counseling approaches. One detailed by Dr. Jay Adams and the other described by Dr. David Powlison. The first by Adams is a quintessential nouthetic counseling case and the second by Powlison is exemplary of the “idols of the heart” approach. The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) is the association promoting nouthetic counseling and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) is the group promoting the “idols of the heart” approach.
In our book, we discredit both approaches by examining them through the lens of Scripture. Adams reveals in detail how nouthetic counseling works through ten counseling sessions with Bert and Sue, a married couple, who seek counseling from their pastor. Powlison reveals the details of a counselee by the name of Wally to show how his “idols of the heart” counseling approach works. By quoting Adams and Powlison and then detailing the scriptural violations, we demonstrate just how unbiblical both approaches are. Biblically speaking, problem-centered counseling is unbiblical because it is problem-centered. The problem-centeredness was assimilated from the psychological counseling movement that preceded it.
With the thousands of individuals claiming to do biblical counseling and the Bible colleges and seminaries that teach it, one should be able to find a biblical counseling session (or a series of sessions) in writing or on audio or video that is truly biblical and therefore having no evil speaking.
We challenge biblical counselors to provide a word-for-word counseling session or a detailed description of one to demonstrate that they are truly biblical. We would ask that whatever might be submitted be what the counselor usually does, rather than a contrived example that would fit the suggestions from our book. Please send it to the address listed below. In our next newsletter, we will report responses to this challenge to “biblical” counselors if we receive any.
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, January-February 2010, Vol. 18, No. 1)