Someone sent a copy of Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible , written by my wife and me, to John MacArthur, senior pastor of Grace Community Church. At MacArthur’s request, Stuart Scott, who is the pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Community Church, wrote a letter in response to the individual who had originally sent the book and who then forwarded the letter to me. Scott’s letter is specifically critical of the book and generally critical of our work. I wrote to Scott with a copy to MacArthur, inquired whether MacArthur agreed with his letter, and requested a response if MacArthur disagreed with Scott’s letter. Since they did not respond, I conclude that MacArthur agrees with Scott’s letter.
After reading Scott’s criticism of our work I was trying to think of a word that best describes it. The word prevaricate came to mind. According to the dictionary, the first definition is: “to turn aside from, or evade, the truth.” Good word; good definition; good application to Scott’s criticism. Stuart Scott’s criticism of our work is confounded by a series of prevarications as well as logical fallacies.
I think that Dr. Bobgan has done a good job in pointing out a weakness of zealous Christian counselors. On page 69 he said, “The desire is for an expert in understanding human problems and how to deal with them. The assumption is that the trained counselor has special knowledge. The unspoken implication is that the pastor does not.” I can honestly say that their [sic] are a lot of counselors who believe or come across as believing that they know more than the pastor. They believe that without the counselor’s help and discernment, coupled with their ability to dive into the will of man’s heart, their [sic] is no hope. While this itself is prevalent with some young counselors, who have not learned their role in the Body of Christ, this is not Biblical Counseling.
Scott’s strategy is to take this valid criticism of ours but limit it to “zealous Christian counselors” and “some young Christian counselors.” Before departing from the biblical counseling movement, I had been actively involved for many years, almost since its inception. Our criticisms are based on first-hand knowledge of many of the leading counseling organizations, leaders in the field, pastors, students of biblical counseling programs, and many recipients of biblical counseling. Scott must have led a very sheltered existence not to know that the intimidation of pastors without biblical counseling training or certificates is pervasive and is fostered by many in the field.
Apparently Scott has either not listened very well at NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) conferences or ignored what he has heard. In addition, Scott may have some defense wall about him not to have heard from pastors, many of whom have expressed their concern to me over the years regarding the intimidation that occurs with the over-selling of biblical counselor training. Or, it may be that Scott’s personality does not permit openness to the opinions of those who might disagree with him. It may also be due to the fact that Scott’s livelihood depends on the perpetuation of this myth.
Scott and others will protest and even quote one another to the contrary in their effort to demonstrate that they are not intimidating pastors. However, from biblical counselors like Scott you will hear two contradictory messages, i.e. the priesthood of all believers and come unto me all ye who are heavy ladened and desire to counsel self and others and I will show you the way. I am not saying that Scott is speaking with a forked tongue, but there is certainly a sound of duplicity as to who needs training and what kind of training is needed.
While Scott has apparently had a deaf ear and a blind eye to the plethora of pastors who have been intimidated by such individuals as himself, I have received numerous phone calls and correspondence on this. The following is from just one pastor, but it is a sad tale that I have often heard, but that Scott has probably missed through reclusiveness or isolation:
I have just finished reading your latest publication Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your willingness to go in print challenging the biblical counseling movement.
I studied under Jay Adams at Westminster Seminary. I was greatly blessed under Adams and was convinced of the necessity to counsel from the Word of God as a pastor in a local church.
I am blessed to pastor a church where I have preached the whole counsel of God. Very little counseling is needed apart from the preaching of the Word of God, and the counseling that is given each other by the members of this church.
I have counseled couples and seen marriages saved. I have also seen rebellious children changed (some also hardened). The changes came not after weeks and years of “biblical counseling,” but in the context of the fellowship of the church, and usually after one or two periods of confrontation or encouragement using the Word of God.
After being barraged by all the solicitation about getting degreed or certified by conservative seminaries and the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, I was beginning to feel inadequate again. Since reading your book, I will stay with the high calling of the biblical ministry in the local church.
Thanks again for your work. I’m sure you will get much negative feedback. Just count me among those who are greatly appreciative of your book. (Pastor in Tennessee)
Scott continues his letter regarding our work with the following remark:
The difference between Bobgan and one who would hold to Nouthetic Counseling is that Bobgan believes that any use of psychology’s method is wrong. In other words, psychology is one hundred percent wrong, in practice, in terminology, as well as method. Bobgan would say that if you use a term, idea, or concept that psychologists use, then you are trusting in the wisdom of men and not in the Bible. You are then seen as “integrationalists” [sic] for making appointments and using terms like “counselee, counselor, or data.” This is a type of guilt by association.
Please note that Scott has no quote from us and no footnote to our work. That is probably because Scott knows little about us and has jumped to some confusions based on what little he does know.
Scott refers to “one who would hold to Nouthetic Counseling” as if all or even most Nouthetic counselors fall into one category. The fact that Scott is not knowledgeable about the great diversity among Nouthetic counselors reveals ignorance on his part about them. When speaking at a CCEF West conference at the request of Jay Adams, I asked the room full of counselors how many had used material from one or more of the five integrationists I named. With only one or two exceptions every hand in the place went up. Jay Adams can attest to this. The erroneous thinking displayed in Scott’s letter leads me to think that if he had attended that meeting, he would probably have concluded that Nouthetic counselors all use integrationist materials. I would not come to such a conclusion.
Scott says, “Bobgan believes that any use of psychology’s method is wrong.” What does Scott mean by “psychology’s method”? The dictionary defines method as “a way of doing anything; mode; procedure; process.” If by “psychology’s method” he means the over 400 different ways of doing therapy then he is correct. A Christian is wrong to use any of these over 400 different ways or methods of doing therapy because they are only the opinions of men. And, many Nouthetic counselors, excluding Scott, would be in agreement with me about this. Scott may have difficulty answering this, but why use the over 400 often-conflicting psychological methodological opinions of men when one can use God’s truth?
Scott’s letter reveals his flawed reasoning when he attempts to state my position regarding the use of psychology, “In other words, psychology is one hundred percent wrong, in practice, in terminology, as well as method.” That is not my position and I would never say that “psychology is one hundred percent wrong in practice, in terminology, as well as method.” Wrong to use? Yes. But one hundred percent wrong? No. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day, but you wouldn’t want to tell time by it. Furthermore, I have repeatedly said through the years that our criticism has to do with psychotherapy (psychological counseling) and its underlying psychologies, not with the entire field of psychology. Scott needs to answer the question of what practice, terminology, and method from psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies are needed by the church. His answer should be very interesting indeed. After all, what did the church do for almost 2000 years without psychology’s practices, terminology and methods?
Scott’s next remark, “You are then seen as ‘integrationalists’ [sic] for making appointments and using terms like ‘counselee, counselor, or data,’” is stated as if he is presenting my criticism of integrationists. Note the quotes he has around “integrationalist.” Scott is supposedly quoting me in some way, but I have never used the term integrationalist. Integrationist, yes, but integrationalist, no. Also he puts quotes around “counselee, counselor and data,” but I don’t remember connecting “data” with “counselee, counselor.” And, of course he gives no source for his so-called quotes. Also, I have never said one is an “integrationalist” or even an “integrationist” for “making appointments and using terms like ‘counselee, counselor, or data.’” It takes more than that to be an integrationist. That’s a total of three prevarications in one sentence. Since he does not truly know my position, he apparently has to make it up as he goes along.
One important observation is that we do not disagree with their (the psychologists) ability to observe or to gather data by asking questions. The problem we have with psychology is what these people do with the data. It is the psychologized philosophy that they use as a grid to understand this data and to instruct their counselees that we disagree with (II Cor. 10:1-5; col. 2:8). This is where Bobgan has gone astray in his thinking.
Scott makes it appear that I would “disagree with their (the psychologists) ability to observe or to gather data by asking questions.” One more prevarication on Scott’s part. No footnote; no quote from us; just a Scott-says-so-therefore-it’s-true. Scott immediately continues by saying, “The rest of the book is a straw man that he can easily tear down.” In the balance of the book we raise a number of issues that Scott is probably incompetent to deal with and thus has reduced to one “straw man.” As any sophomore philosophy student knows, an accusation of using a fallacy such as the straw man requires the accuser to provide the evidence. Scott is less than sophomoric by accusing and then refusing to provide any evidence.
Unfortunately in the process, because of his presuppositions, he is sloppy in his ability to present the facts clearly. He lumps all counseling groups together even if they have different philosophies of ministry and calls them all “Biblical Counselors” (i.e., Jay Adams and Nouthetic Counseling is not defined properly, instead it is linked to men such as Larry Crabb, pg. 98).
More prevarications. The specific page 98 to which Scott refers contains no reference to Crabb. Later in the chapter we quote a compliment of Crabb by John Bettler, the director of CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation). There was no linking of Crabb with Jay Adams. Chalk up one more prevarication for Scott. Scott is apparently so ignorant of our work that he does not know that Adams supports our views on Crabb. (See Adams’ comments preceding our section on Crabb in Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, Part Two.) We would never link Adams and Crabb, and no honest person who has read even a little of what we have written would make such a statement!
Scott goes on to say, “The question we need to ask is, if Bobgan misrepresents Adams and other men by not presenting sufficiently their views, then how can we trust everything or anything else he says?” Scott sets up the straw man fallacy (Bobgan misrepresents Adams), but he has never established that we have ever misrepresented Adams. Scott again uses the establishment of fact by fiat. Through prevarications and fallacies, Scott has raised questions about his own integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness.
With all these prevarications and fallacies in Scott’s one short letter, it raises a question about whether he can be trusted to lead the Biblical Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Community Church. How can he be trusted to lead a biblical ministry that must depend on truth? And also, how long has he inflicted these fallacies and prevarications upon students in his classes, as well as “counselees” in his office?
Scott says, “I think that he undermines himself when he says that a term can only be biblical when it comes from Scripture (this being the basis of his disagreement in Chapter 3).” No quote; no footnote, simply another straw man and another prevarication. Fact according to Scott by his own say so. We have never said “a term can only be biblical when it comes from Scripture.” Scott has a Humpty Dumpty way of using words. He plays an Alice in Wonderland game in which he can give words whatever meaning he chooses.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Scott then asks:
What about terms like “exegesis or Trinity?” [sic] These are just two terms for example that are not found specifically in the Bible and yet exist in the very fabric of Fundamental Evangelical Christianity. The use of the technical legal terms of “counselee or counselor” exist for the sake of clarity.
Since we have never said “a term can only be biblical when it comes from Scripture,” Scott’s straw man doesn’t exist. This belies his argument.
Furthermore, the comparison of words such as exegesis and Trinity with counselee and counselor is a logical fallacy of false analogy. Of the four words only the word Trinity is one that is doctrinal. Exegesis is a means of interpretation of the Bible or literary works. Using the words counselee, counselor, and counseling is most often justified by Nouthetic counselors as originating from Scripture. I say that on the basis of over twenty years in the biblical counseling movement and hearing often how this practice and the terms biblical counseling have been said to have originated in Scripture. To refute that argument by saying that the present-day use of those words by Nouthetic counselors is quite different from such words as counsel and counselor in Scripture does not equal saying anything like “a term can only be biblical when it comes from Scripture.”
In conclusion, the book Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible apparently stands as a personal and financial threat to Stuart Scott or why else all the prevarications and fallacies? I have listened to tapes of Scott’s teachings and read his Level I Introductory Course in Biblical Counseling. There are some serious problems with Scott’s ministry at Grace Community Church.
The very existence of biblical counseling programs, classes and ministries like Scott’s diverts the believer’s attention away from becoming biblically knowledgeable outside of a counseling context and from knowing that it is not knowledge alone that makes one available to be used by God, but rather one’s faith and life put to the test in the crucible of extreme difficulties. On this basis alone most who now counsel would be failures at it.
Since my wife and I left the biblical counseling movement we have often asked, “What did the church do without the biblical counseling movement which is only 25 years old?” No answer has come yet. Maybe Stuart Scott has one. I also ask, “Did Jesus say to make disciples or counselees?” Apparently Scott does not know the difference.
Some years back Larry Crabb was extremely popular at Grace Community Church and at The Master’s College and Seminary. John MacArthur strongly recommended Crabb and his work to others. During the era of Crabb’s popularity at the Grace/Master’s complex we were critical of Crabb and his writings. MacArthur realized he had erred with respect to Crabb and severed the relationship with him.
At one time Gary Ezzo was a popular pastor at Grace Community Church. Ezzo and his work were strongly supported by John MacArthur. After reviewing some of his material we wrote a letter critical of it to Ezzo with a copy to Lance Quinn, who was MacArthur’s assistant at the time. Ezzo continued at Grace Church for a number of years following our critique. Ezzo is no longer at Grace Community Church and the church has taken a firm stand that is critical of his work.
Since leaving the biblical counseling movement I have been critical of the biblical counseling major at The Master’s College. I add to this my criticism of the biblical counseling ministries at Grace Community Church headed by Stuart Scott. MacArthur was wrong about Crabb, was wrong about Ezzo, and is wrong about the biblical counseling movement. Canceling both the biblical counseling department at the college and the biblical counseling ministries at the church would be a dramatic biblical improvement for the Grace/Master’s complex. If the Lord tarries and truth prevails at the Grace/Master’s complex both the biblical counseling major and the biblical counseling ministries will be gone, hopefully sooner than it took with Crabb and Ezzo. In the meantime, the biblical counseling major and the biblical counseling ministries both stand in stark contrast to the true biblical care of souls, which rests on the priesthood of all believers.
NOTE: WHILE SCOTT ACCEPTS FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE LETTER AND CRITIQUE REFERRED TO ABOVE, I LEARNED FROM HIM THAT HE DID NOT WRITE THE LETTER OR DO THE CRITIQUE, IN SPITE OF HIS SIGNATURE AT THE END.