Perhaps we should retitle our book to read FOR THE BIBLE, but Against Biblical Counseling. FOR THE BIBLE is truly the thrust of the book. However, our rising concern about the biblical counseling movement influenced the order of the title. Yes, we are FOR THE BIBLE. But we have serious problems with much of what is now called “biblical counseling.”
One of the big problems with the biblical counseling movement is the erroneous idea, encouraged by many organizations, that one needs to take a biblical counseling course or complete a biblical counseling program before one can counsel from Scripture and certainly before one can become an excellent biblical counselor. Therefore, many Christians enroll in these programs with the idea that they need such specialized training before they can or even should minister biblical counsel to another believer. However, the truth is that, for a variety of reasons, one could become a worse counselor after taking such training.
We say categorically in Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible (FTB):
Any person who can be used by the Holy Spirit to lead another to salvation or along the way of sanctification is competent to be used by God to give wise counsel without needing specialized biblical counseling training (p. 11).
The “training” must be biblical, and the promoters of these training programs would agree with that. However, a disagreement we would have with the training program promoters is that they attempt to prepare individuals to be biblical counselors, when they should prepare individuals to give godly counsel as they minister to one another in the body of Christ as part of the biblically ordained ministries found in Ephesians 4:11-16, Romans 12, and elsewhere in Scripture.
One needs to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Such study occurs in worship services, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and at other times of reading and instruction in the Word. It does occur in biblical counseling programs as well, but there is too much error and baggage that occur in and as a result of such programs. We describe these problems in our FTB book.
One feature of many biblical counseling training programs is the identification of a number of areas of problems (including sins and shortcomings) with the Bible verses that may be applicable to such problems. Pastors and lay people alike are then intimidated into believing that they need the training to learn the verses that apply to specific problems before they can minister appropriately.
This may shock those in the biblical counseling movement, but it is entirely unnecessary to take such classes and learn such verses in order to be used by God to minister godly counsel to one another along the way to Christian maturity.
Problems of living present possibilities for Christian growth, but it is not necessary to know or learn specific verses about specific problems for Christian growth to occur.
The driving force behind the desire to be biblical counselors is too often the visibility, respect, and status that accompany the title of “counselor.” This has been conditioned by the secular psychological model. Nevertheless, biblical counsel should be a part of (not apart from) the biblically ordained ministries of the church.
We have studied the academic research on counseling for over 20 years. Based upon our familiarity with the research, and we believe that researchers would agree with us, it would make no difference in the results of biblical counseling whether or not a counselor used or entirely avoided the specific verses related to the problems confronted.
In other words, one does not need to learn the lock-step relationship between specific verses and problems to appropriately and effectively minister to one another in the body of Christ according to God’s Word. Why? Because the true counselor is the Holy Spirit and He will convict a heart and change a life. It is the Word that will be used by the Holy Spirit. Whether one uses specific verses related to problems or other passages of Scripture, the results will be equivalent—except that the handbook-trained biblical counselor more often comes with the worldly baggage described in FTB.
In most instances in which a person needs to change, that individual will know what needs to be changed even before counseling begins. The problem is spiritual stagnation often brought about by disobedience to Scripture. The person is spiritually stagnant and needs spiritual growth. Reading the Word and obeying the Word in any area of life will bring both spiritual and behavioral change in one who desires to follow Christ at the cost of taking up his cross and denying himself.
With all the problems related to biblical counseling training programs, we would recommend that all believers, including pastors, rely on Bible study and prayer for spiritual growth. Pastors should never send their sheep outside the church to psychological or biblical counseling shepherds. And, for all the reasons mentioned in our book, even a biblical counseling program in the church, led by outsiders or even the pastor should be avoided.
Biblical counseling handbooks and training programs should be at best supplementary, just like lexicons, Bible dictionaries, etc. The following are questions we ask of pastors who teach their people by using a manual approach:
1. Are you attracting people to your biblical counseling class by intimidation, no matter how subtle?
2. Do your people regard the biblical counseling manual to be more exciting to study than the Bible, even if they and you would not admit it?
3. Do your people sense greater joy and confidence on your part when you use a counseling manual or handbook?
4. Is there an “in group” of people trained in biblical counseling and an “out group” of those who “only” go to church?
5. Is biblical counsel given in your church truly a part of or apart from the biblically ordained ministries of the church?
Depending on answers to the above questions, it may be that a biblical counseling manual or handbook could be used, provided it is only used as any other supplementary material and presented and received as such. However there is commonly a great misuse of these manuals to the detriment of Scripture. This is partly because of “oversell” on the part of various organizations, the mentality of biblical counseling as an alternative to psychology, and the inherent nature of the problem-centered focus of many such manuals.
A truly confidential survey in congregations that have a class in biblical counseling using a handbook or manual, particularly taught by the pastor, would surely be a shock.
(From PAL, V2N6)