The Master’s University & Seminary is touted as “one of the leading schools for undergraduate and graduate level training in biblical counseling.” In fact, The Master’s University and Seminary (TMU&S) conducted a survey of “all the Christian counseling programs that are accredited graduate level throughout the United States” and found that, as far as could be determined from the research, TMU&S “had the largest graduate program in the country.” They also reported that, whereas “the average Christian counseling accredited graduate programs has about 40 to 50 students in it,” TMU&S has 270 students.[1] In addition to having a very large biblical counseling program, TMU&S, with its association with Grace Community Church, wields a tremendous influence in the biblical counseling movement (BCM) nationally and internationally, especially because of the leadership of Dr. John MacArthur. Because of its popularity and great world-wide influence, we will be answering this critical question: Is the highly touted, popular, and widely influential biblical counseling program at The Master’s University and Seminary truly biblical?

In this article we will demonstrate that the head of the biblical counseling program at TMU&S models the use of sinful speaking. This is not only taught to the students at TMU&S, but also spread worldwide. To determine whether or not the programs at TMU&S are biblical, it is necessary to put to the test primarily what they do and say during counseling, not just what they say about counseling. We all know the saying, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” We have often said that one must evaluate biblical counselors by what they do in the counseling room, rather than by what they hope to do based upon what they say and write.

In order to find out what they do, it is necessary to find actual live counseling sessions on video, audio, or print and compare what is seen and heard with the Bible. Compared to the plethora of counseling materials that merely talk about the various facets of counseling, there are very few that present literal live counseling. The ones we have examined demonstrate very clearly that the most popular approaches are actually unbiblical. This includes the approaches promoted by the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) [changed to the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC)], the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), and the Biblical Counseling Foundation (BCF).[2]

We have said for years that the major error of the biblical counseling movement is that they are problem-centered with sin-saturated conversations, just like the psychological counseling movement. We have proved repeatedly in our writings that problem-centered counseling inevitably leads to sinful communication. Some time back, to expose this issue in the biblical counseling movement (BCM), we presented the following challenge:

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 sinful 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. 

To date no one in the BCM has answered that challenge.

Until recently we have had no literal counseling sessions to evaluate the counseling program at TMU&S. However, we found two videos of live biblical counseling sessions.[3] The actual counseling is conducted by Dr. John Street, a professor of biblical counseling who chairs the graduate program in Biblical Counseling (MABC) at TMU&S. He previously served as a pastor for 22 years and also taught at Cedarville University and Cornerstone University.[4] Street’s teaching and counseling reveal the influence of the three generations of biblical counselors found in the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), formerly titled National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), and the Biblical Counseling Foundation (BCF). Obviously what Street does in his biblical counseling is what he teaches his students and what he promotes through his numerous contacts worldwide.

We will now evaluate what Street does in his biblical counseling and demonstrate that he, like other biblical counselors, is contrary to the Bible, because in the context of problem-centered counseling he expects and encourages responses that necessarily involve sinful speaking.

Joe and Julie

Street is counseling Joe and Julie, a married couple. The couple Street counseled used their first names and identified the husband, Joe, as being a pastor at Faith Community Church. The wife is Julie, who is six months pregnant. After several email exchanges, we learned that Joe and Julie counseling sessions were re-enactments, meaning that these were not truly original live counseling, but play-acted. We asked if the Joe and Julie in the counseling sessions were the actual counselees and were told that the Joe and Julie in the recorded counseling sessions were re-enacting counseling with the actual couple.

As we asked at the beginning, “Is the biblical counseling program at TMU&S truly biblical?” It is not even how successful it may appear to be, but rather how biblical it is that counts. Street begins the counseling session in a manner quite similar to other nouthetic counselors when he says, “I want to be able to address everything that we can in order to be of help to you.” (Bold added.) Street elsewhere refers to Proverbs 18:13: “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”[5] This verse sets the stage for Street to ask Joe and Julie personal questions and to encourage them to hold nothing back that may be helpful, thereby pressing them beyond biblical limitations to sinful speaking. Yet, in order to honestly and accurately hear the matter, all parties involved should really be heard and that includes those not present, such as spouses, parents, in-laws, other family members, friends, coworkers, etc. All counselors would need to hear from all the people their counselees talk about behind their backs to really know what’s going on according to Proverbs 18:17: “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.”

What follows comes from some of the information gleaned from Joe and Julie each completing the Personal Data Inventory (PDI). The PDI requires one to list “Identification Data (Personal), “Health Information,” and “Marriage and Family Information.” At the end of the PDI are the following six questions:

  1. What is the main problem, as you see it? (Why are you here?)
  2. What have you done about it?
  3. What can we do?
  4. Describe your spouse’s personality in a few words (selfish, loving, etc.)
  5. As you see yourself, what kind of person are you? Describe yourself.
  6. Is there any other information we should know?[6]

The use of the PDI amplifies the problem centeredness of the counseling because many more problems are brought up than necessary with more to talk about unnecessarily. The PDI also opens many doors to sinful, unbiblical speaking, which is amplified by putting such thoughts in writing.

Instead of counseling according to the PDI, which invites sinful communication, those who minister must bring the ones in need of help into a daily walk with God, in which they will seek Him in His Word, pray, and open themselves to the work of the Holy Spirit. Then, as they respond to God, they will know what to do by trusting and obeying Him. As God does the inner work and they respond, the glory goes to God and not to man. Personal ministry must be done without sinful, unbiblical conversations that regularly occur through the use of the PDI and other means of digging deeply into the lives of those in need.

Many problem-centered counselors consider the PDI, which only recently arrived in the history of the church, and other such inventories to be valuable, but they are often a detriment when ministering biblically. The PDI is just one more look-alike from the psychological counseling movement. Also, using the PDI is entirely unnecessary as thousands of individuals who call themselves biblical counselors and others who minister biblically have never used one and could claim equally successful cases as the one presented by Street. Prior to the creation and use of the PDI Christians throughout the history of the church ministered to one another and they were in no way hampered or restricted by the absence of anything like the PDI. Actually the PDI with its possible long list of problems could focus on the flesh and divert the counseling away from what the person truly needs: a growing daily spiritual walk with God.

Biblical Standards of Communication

The bottom line is whether or not the words spoken by Street, Joe, and Julie meet biblical standards. The counseling stands or falls on whether or not they meet biblical standards in practice. Joe and Julie are having marital problems. In this counseling session Joe does most of the talking, which is unusual for most marital counseling.[7] Although Joe makes some self-effacing comments, he primarily complains about his wife, is highly critical of her, and exposes what he considers to be her faults to a third party. Such descriptions elicited in the biblical counseling environment are filled with violations of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; and 1 Peter 3:7. The third party (counselor) is usually only an acquaintance or a stranger, who is both eliciting and listening to these sinful conversations, all of which are expected as part of the usual biblical counseling process.

As with most biblical counselors, Street encourages unbiblical remarks along the way. The following are a few of the many questions Street asks in the process of digging for problems and their details:

Can you tell me a little more about that?

Are there any other areas?

Is there anything you want to add to that to help me understand it?

So what else would you like to add to that?

How are you dealing with that?

Street further advances openness and exposure of the couple by saying, “But what you’re sharing with me is helpful.” With Street’s encouragement, support, and expectation, Joe makes a number of clearly unkind, unbiblical remarks. He is clearly NOT loving his wife as Christ loves the church.

In the following video portion of Street’s session with Joe and Julie, we are providing only part of the first counseling session, uninterrupted by our comments. However, keep in mind that Julie is occupied teaching school while six-months pregnant. As you watch the video, note the number of times Joe makes sinful remarks about Julie and spiritually slanders her. Also , note how Street fishes for details of Joe and Julie’s sex life! We mention this to show that such excursions into this sensitive and biblically sacred area of marriage by biblical counselors are not unusual. Street is only doing what is standard for many and what he teaches others to do.

As we say about such needless excursions: This reveals how deeply worldly this counseling is and the extent to which psychological problem-centered counseling with its expected transparency resulting in sinful communication has been emulated and embraced by the church. As much as prying for details is expected and practiced in biblical counseling, details about a couple’s intimacy should not be shared with a third party in counseling. Nevertheless, such problem-centered counseling depends on such details even in these intimate areas. However, there are ways to minister to couples without invading their bedrooms and physical intimacy through unnecessary sinful communication.

The following video clip is a portion of Street’s first counseling session with Joe and Julie. The video clip begins after Street’s brief introductory conversation and prayer.[8]

This video clip is only one piece of the clear evidence that biblical counseling elicits, engenders, and thereby encourages sinful speaking and other forms of corrupt communication, which calls for its demise. The Bible never set up a pattern of two people meeting together to solve problems through the kind of sinful talk that goes on in biblical counseling. Biblical counseling as conducted today is nowhere found in Scripture. According to Dr. David Powlison, a leader in the BCM, biblical counseling as conducted in the BCM is newly arrived in the church.[9]

Too many in the church have viewed problems according to the secular view that is predominant in psychological counseling, in which one must talk and talk sinfully about self and others to find solutions to personal and interpersonal problems of living. Over the years and in spite of being on our mailing list for many years, many Christians do not get it—that the very words elicited and used in counseling by the leaders of the biblical counseling movement should be their very undoing.

The end of such unbiblical “Biblical Counseling” will only come when the church returns to its high calling of evangelizing, preaching, teaching, and living the doctrines of the cross and the new life in Christ; when believers are learning to walk according to the spirit rather than the flesh; and when mutual care in the Body of Christ thrives.We pray that those believers who have a heart for personal ministry, who desire to strengthen fellow believers in their faith as they are struggling with the difficulties and trials of life, will give heed to these serious faults that impede rather than inspire spiritual growth. We further pray that those Christians who are psychotherapists will realize that they are in even greater biblical jeopardy than the biblical counselors.


In the early years of the PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter we had a column titled “You Decide.” In it we presented a belief or practice and then asked readers to respond. Here we have presented 15 minutes of Dr. John Street’s counseling and made comments about it. Now it’s your turn to decide: Is this kind of counseling talk useful or is it sinful? If you wish to respond, please do so below.

 

14 Comments

  1. This kind of counselling is sinful. I noticed that the husband is judging the wife in front of him. The husband in the video above put down the wife. this is not biblical and it is witchcraft in the church.

    Reply
    • Agree with Rocky. This “counselling” is the opposite of “love covers a multitude of sins”. Instead of covering the sins, they share them with strangers! Whatever happened to “forgive us as we forgive those that sin against us”. Apparently that doesn’t apply to your spouse. Really? Talk about seeing a splinter in someone’s eye whilst ignoring the log. So many Scriptures are the opposite of what is presented in this video.

      Reply
    • Are you sure this video isn’t intended to be a negative example of a hypocritical husband’s sin issues in putting down and blaming his wife, whom he is charged with laying down his life for and washing with the water of the Word?
      Seems like a negative example for biblical counseling students to critique and discern counseling strategies for the husband.

      Reply
  2. That pastor is an arrogant pig. His wife is pregnant and he is complaining she resting too much?!? This “pastor” does not appreciate his wife at all! Why is all the focus on what is wrong with her? Is he perfect? Disgusting. I would never go to this man’s church. And the counselor just sits and goes along with it and doesn’t even defend his sister in Christ. I would have walked out!

    Reply
    • I’m saddened and upset by the the lady’s downtrodden verbal ‘counseling” she has to endure from those two.
      Her spiritual light within has almost been put out by that. I hope she finds some sisters in Christ to giver her SUPPORT and LOVE not browbeating that she has endured to the limits already.
      This is probably why I stay as one of “God’s orphans ” from the church.
      May the Spirit of love and light grace this lady now and forever.

      Reply
  3. I couldn’t watch the whole thing, just the first two minutes. It was too painful to see the
    wife in so much pain. I pray that the Holy Spirit gets ahold of both of them and helps them to fulfill their respective roles as he leads and loves her and she submits and respects him.
    It can only be done through the Holy Spirit and the Word as they seek to glorify the Lord
    in their marriage, and exemplify the relationship of Christ with His church.

    Reply
    • John, you said as “as he leads and loves her, and she submits and respects him.” We have a problem in the church! How can he lead and love her when he loves himself too much? Men believe he is master over his wife, and she is to submit! Did women get married to have a father figure one who corrects and beats her, commands her to do things? No. Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” as also in Eph. 5:21-33. McGee, and I love his response, “This is for the purpose of order in the home. This is not for the purpose of producing a browbeating husband. I do not believe that God intends for a wife to submit to an unsaved husband who beats her or orders her to do things contrary to her walk with the Lord.” (Thru the Bible commentary). As a woman who loves the Lord, I serve, and am a help meet willingly in love. There are many, many people in marriage who got saved after they were married. Not everyone has been raised in a Christian home, I wasn’t. There is plenty of abuse in the church I can tell you that. I have heard the same sinful talk as was presented in the video above among believer’s. I have had to walk away, and as one said here I can’t even go to church because it has totally lost sight of God’s word, and has been following the words and programs of men.

      Reply
  4. What, I’ve viewed, is shocking!😳
    It, must keep, us on, our toes,🦶🏾
    Wake up! Sleeping, churches,❗️
    As, your members, seem to, doze,😴
    Bobgan’s, gave the, warnings,⚠️
    Now, we’ve seen, it with our, eyes,👀
    They, are truly, gifted,🙏🏾
    Praise, The Lord, He made the wise.👍🏾

    This pastor’s pious, prideful, attitude
    Is pitiful to process!

    Thank you Bobgan’s for your incredible work.
    Your text and this video is powerful proof
    of what you’ve been preaching.
    Great job!

    Reply
  5. OK, I agree with PHAM on all the problems with the BCM, BUT how would you like the meeting to occur. Do you just sit there and wait for someone to talk? Of course prayer should be paramount, but asking questions seems to be the only way to solicit info without the PDI. The couple was reaching out for help from someone they thought would use Scripture to help them. If they knew what they would get psychobabble, they got what they wanted.
    I would love to see a reenactment on how you would like to see it biblically happen.

    Reply
  6. I also clock in early on in the video of being one who felt kicked in the stomach as I watched this. I kept hoping it was going to get better!!
    Before Christ’s beautiful body became a very ugly business…
    When the apostles posted the requirements for who is to function as a leader within the body of Christ, they found it of critical importance to honestly assess what is going on behind the closed doors of these men’s homes within their marriages/families.
    This assessment would have happened by those who were TRUE humble Spirit-filled fellow bothers and sisters – real family members of Christ’s body who have a vested interest in the growing up of all the blood covenant members within their spiritual family circle.
    The business of Churchianity knows nothing about living as that kind of true biblical family.
    This video glaringly shows that this current addition to the false-church system – the business of biblical counseling – is a man-made system, trying to hold back the waters of the natural consequences that must come from our living in hypocrisy.
    The church system man has created does not at all represent the true family of God, filled with the Spirit of God as the early body of Christ was.
    We are a hear-say people now delivering bible talking points…speaking much about biblical truths, teaching head knowledge about Christ with the best ‘performers’ using their will power to try to create inner transformation. Those less motivated to keep up appearances just crash and burn much sooner!

    We are those who have book-learned Christ; disseminators of spiritual information. The early disciples were Live-wires having experienced the actual Electrical Power cord Himself; the Living power of God through His infilling of His Holy Spirit intimately knowing their Christ-union within.
    The quicker we are willing to stop window dressing what is going on (STOP creating more and more programs like biblical counseling to prop up our (false) salvation message that has eliminated the need for the LIVING GOD) the more we can expect Him to reveal Himself intimately/personally to each one of us as He desires to.
    Forgive us Lord for our hypocrisy and our unbelief.
    Be merciful as You bring your judgment first to the house of God.
    Make us all Live-wires.

    Reply
  7. This poor lady is being abused in this clip.
    Very distressing, would the counsellor allow his mother or sister to be spoken of like this?

    Reply
  8. Just terrible! No wonder she is depressed! The husband is trying to mold her into an ‘image’ he has of what she should be according to his desires. Even if she became what he wanted he still would not be happy the narcissist he is. He claims he wants to honor the Lord, but by being there he has dishonored Him, talking evil of her in front of the so-called counselor is wicked. J. Vernon McGee once said of 1 Peter 3:7, the husband is to treat the wife as a weaker vessel, she is to be treated with honor, the man is to give first place to her. When they enter a room she goes first, he walks on the outside for her protection. When a woman loses her place, she doesn’t go up she goes down. I think every husband ought to treat his wife as someone special. (Quoted from Thru the Bible commentary by J. Vernon McGee). What about her spiritual gifts that God gave her, how can she exercise them when he is forcing his will on her? Let her be herself! Frightening.

    Reply
  9. This is ALL marriage counseling. Sinful exchanges that start with “What’s wrong with your spouse?” I would have slapped both of these guys in the face and walked out if I were her.

    Reply
  10. After two minutes, here’s what I learned about Joe. Joe is not born again. Joe does not trust or love God with all his heart, mind and strength. Joe wants a name for himself. Joe gossips about his wife with other women in the chuch. He is upset and says Julie is not meeting THEIR expectations. He is using “their” expectations to bolster his own personal complaints. Julie did not marry the title/role/profession, she married a man. This man is so self-absorbed with is profession, he has zero room to love anyone else but himself. There is no biblical commands or role called “pastor’s wife.” This is a fantasy he created in his own head. He is not in the slightest concerned with her well being or happiness or security or dare I say her spiritual growth. He is only concerned because of how perceives she is affecting HIS ministry. I had to stop at the two minute mark, when he referred to the church as “his people”. Joe makes me want to puke. The brokenness and repentance and salvation are absent in his life from what I can see. There is absolutely nothing genuine about him. I feel very sorry for Julie. He is destroying her.
    There is like a dozen things that it would behoove Joe to repent of. My guess is, this so-called biblical counselor will never call him on the carpet. Joe may be beyond help, but Julie could come to find her joy in Christ in spite of Joe. I would focus on the one person here who is truly sad and in danger and it is not Joe.

    Reply

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[1] “Ministry Highlights: Biblical Counseling Programs @ The Master’s College,” Biblical Counseling & Discipleship Association Southern California (BCDASoCal) Training Conference, Fall 2011, bcdasocal.org.

[2] Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Person to Person Ministry. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2009, Part Two; Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Stop Counseling! Start Ministering! Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2011, Chapter 3.

[3] John Street counseling: Session 17 – “Actual Counseling Session: Clinical Depression” – Portions of Session 1 & 4, bcdasocal.org, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5tIOC_Sq90.

[4] John Street, https://www.masters.edu/faculty/john-d-street.

[5] John Street, “Gathering Data/Discerning the Problems Biblically,” Video Session Four, BCDASoCal Training Conference, op. cit., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvtvMMs3_Jk.

[6] Jay E. Adams. Competent to Counsel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970, p. 274.

[7] Bobgan. Person to Person Ministry, op. cit., pp. 66-68.

[8]Copyright Disclaimer: See Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, where allowances are made for  “fair use,” https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/107.

[9] David Powlison, “Cure of Souls (and the Modern Psychotherapies),” www.ccef.org/cure-souls-and-modern-psychotherapies.