A very popular trend in biblical counseling is examining the heart and its idols. Indeed, the Lord is able to do this, but some counselors seem to think they can see into another person’s heart and enable people to discern their hidden motives and forces that drive their external actions. While rejecting Freud and his major theories, they nevertheless are looking beneath the surface and hoping to discover the contents of individuals’ hearts. In other words they are still involved in a form of insight therapy.

Much of this insight therapy practiced by biblical counselors remains Freudian at heart and reflects the tremendous influence of Larry Crabb on their beliefs and counseling practices. Consider the following from an article in The Biblical Counselor, which is the official newsletter of NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors), a leading organization in the biblical counseling movement.* In discussing a particular client, the article says:

Fear and self-protection were determining her actions in a way that only God should. Fear of pain ruled her. [1 Cor. 10:13 quoted here]. She had chosen her own escape so as to avoid further pain. Sadly, her self-protective action would lead to even greater pain as she lived with the abuse of her daughter….

A biblical counselor helps the person identify the habits and controlling desires, the idols, of his heart. For the mother mentioned above, the idol was, “I will not do anything that will cause me to experience the emotional pain of my past again.” Avoidance and denial had become a way of life. (Bold added.)

One familiar with the writings of Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Larry Crabb would see the obvious influence. However, those who promote such teachings have no doubt learned them from other biblical counselors and truly believe that they are anti-Freud. In fact, the author of the above quote contends that:

The biblical concept of the heart, how it works and the impact it has on our lives, frees the church from Freud and his devastating concept of the unconscious. It enables us to completely reshape our conceptualization of problems, especially those dealing with the past. . . .

Biblical counseling deals with the heart, not with the unconscious. We must grow in confidence and readiness to step out to reclaim in counseling the surrendered territory of the “psyche” – the soul.

This example reveals how psychoheresy has invaded the biblical counseling movement and shows how many who call themselves biblical counselors inadvertently follow Freud and arrogantly enter into the realm reserved for the Holy Spirit.

Indeed the Bible says much about the heart and the inner man. It also reveals who is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings (Jer. 17: 9-10).

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:12-13).

Only God can see into the human heart. It is presumptuous to believe that we can know another person’s heart when the Bible declares that people are deceived about their own hearts, let alone other people’s. If a sinful attitude is expressed, the expression is external and can be seen by others, but the true reason for the expression is known only to God. For instance, a person may seem haughty when, in fact, the person may be painfully shy. How can a biblical counselor presume to know a person’s attitude behind acts that may only suggest the presence of that attitude? He cannot perceive, let alone judge, the contents of another person’s heart.

Preaching is a far better means of dealing with matters of the heart. When the Word of God is faithfully taught, the Holy Spirit Himself can directly reveal to one the contents of one’s own heart and bring repentance, correction, and change. A counselor may easily mistake the contents of another person’s heart and mislead the individual by attempting to reveal the contents of that person’s heart.

Adler once said that a counselor has to be an excellent guesser. Why settle for a guesser to look at the contents of an individual’s heart, when the Holy Spirit is active and effectual in disclosing and displacing any idols in one’s heart?

Biblical counselors who work towards insight of the sort illustrated above are following the path of insight psychotherapy and attempting to do what only the Lord and His Word can do. They may thus encourage believers to focus on themselves as they seek to find out what’s inside. Christians who truly want to know the contents of their heart—inner attitudes, fears, motives, and all—have a Resident Counselor living within them. This Comforter-Counselor is inside and therefore has the only true view of the heart. Seek God, just as the David did:

Search me, O god, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

Let God do the searching instead of trying to see what’s on the inside. Look to Him instead of inside self. He will reveal what needs to be known through His Spirit and His Word. Why settle for anything less than the best? Why settle for guesses when truth is available?

*Craig R. Rowe, “The Unconscious or the Heart? The Biblical Counselor, http://www.nanc.org/Uploads/1/Resources/98/73unconscious–rowe_138.pdf.

(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2009, Vol. 17, No. 2)