“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” ― Shannon L. Alder link
There is lots going on out there, folks. Besides the Ravi Zacharias mess, I am hearing from some folks in Scotland who wish me to continue looking at the Iain D Campbell fall out. It appears we have caused a bit of an uproar. I hope to start working on that this weekend.
Good grief! There is so much to write about when it comes to biblical counseling I almost don’t know how to continue. We will be writing one post a week until this subject is exhausted.
What is ACBC?
I have been trying to find one group that is respected by many in the biblical counseling movement. I have read a number articles and most of them refer to the Association of Certified Bible Counselors (ACBC). Why *certified* you may ask? They are the group that does the certifying. Next week we will look at the certifying process. In fact, we may look at that for a few weeks.
If you disagree with this being the premier biblical counseling certifying group, please give us the alternative in your comments. Make sure you understand that I am taking about biblical counseling and not Christian psychologists.
Here is a example of what I found looking at other sites. Pastoral Counseling.Org is an organization that looks at the plethora of counseling options for folks and it includes everything from chaplaincy programs to post graduate studies. Under the section on how to become a biblical counselor, it states:
For example, you will most likely want to join Bible study groups, and you may want to work through some of the courses in Biblical counseling available online. These online courses are offered through several different groups, including the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), and the Biblical Counseling Institute.
Here is how ACBC describes themselves.
For nearly 40 years, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly known as NANC) has been certifying biblical counselors to ensure doctrinal integrity and to promote excellence in biblical counseling.
What was NANC and why did the name change?
First-my opinion…They changed the name because Nouthetic Counseling got a really, really bad name, deservedly so. They decided to pick a name that sounded more mainstream. “See, we are really just counselors who believe the Bible. Don’t worry.”
Secondly, NANC is now ACBC. They are the same-no matter how hard they try to pretend they are not. In 2013, they wrote an explanation for the name change called From NANC to ACBC.
It is interesting to note that the vote to change the name from NANC to ACBC passed with 91% of the vote. NANC had baggage all over the place. They admit that the movement got its start with Jay Adams. Competent to Counsel is the original book that became the textbook and voice of the movement. I had an original copy of this book which I read in its entirety and actually believed it when I was still wet behind my ears.
The relationship between CCEF and NANC
We will be discussing CCEF in future posts.This is Dave Powlison’s group whom I first heard about when following the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandals. There is an incredibly tight relationship between Powlison, CJ Mahaney, 9Marks and The Gospel Coalition. It is reasonable to assume that CCEF has the same tight relationship with ACBC.
The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) was created to be the training arm of the movement, and the association formerly known as NANC was created to be the certifying arm of the movement. Over the years this second organization has certified thousands of people in every state in the union and in dozens of countries.
Here is the *official* explanation of the name change.
After nearly forty years our association of counselors changed its name for one very significant reason. At ACBC we have a missional passion to spread the truth of the sufficiency of Scripture and the sufficiency of Christ to hurting and troubled people all across the globe. We want to begin to communicate to hundreds of new constituencies and thousands of new people the riches of God’s power to bring change in the most profound difficulties of life.
Using the term “biblical” instead of “nouthetic” makes it more obvious to more people that we are an organization committed to the inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient Word of God to inform the counseling task. Placing the word “certification” in our title makes it obvious that our organization exists to verify and endorse people who have demonstrated competency in biblical counseling practice. Finally, removing the word “national” from our name demonstrates that we are an increasingly international association of biblical counselors.
Apparently the people who liked the *nouthetic* label were concerned that ACBC signaled a changed from believing in the sufficiency of Scripture prevalent in the movement.
Not so, according to the ACBC folks. Read this carefully.
At ACBC we are just as committed to the authority of Christ and his Word as we were when we called ourselves NANC.
Instead, they want to go to the ends of the earth with this movement and apparently the *ick factor* associated with the *nouthetic* label was holding them back.
With regard to our mission, however, we are going everywhere. We are excited as an organization to share this vision with those who have not heard of us, and those who have dismissed us in the past. Our steadfast commitment to our convictions inspires in us a strong desire to communicate them to new constituencies. We are committed to filling the earth with the truth that Christ, and Christ alone, is the sufficient solution to the counseling problems people have.
In other words, they are still the same old, same old and with that one can expect some of the same old weirdness to continue. Their goal is to certify™ a bunch of *excellent* people to counsel. We will talk about their certifying process in the coming posts. The word *excellent* did not come to mind for me.
In October of 2013 NANC’s membership voted overwhelmingly to change our name to ACBC in order to communicate more clearly that we are an organization certifying competency in biblical counseling.
What is the Institute of Nouthertic Studies?
This organization appears to revolve around the teachings of Jay Adams. It does not seem to have the breadth of membership or influence that ACBC has. It defines this type of counseling as:
the full force of the Biblical concept of counseling may be set forth while avoiding the many contradictory connotations surrounding the English one. The three ideas found in the word nouthesia are confrontation, concern,and change. To put it simply, nouthetic counseling consists of lovingly confronting people out of deep concern in order to help them make those changes that God requires.
Here is how they discuss their certificate course.
Our Certificate Program in Biblical Counseling consists of over 170 hours of instruction in all aspects of biblical counseling, the majority of which is taught by Dr. Adams. All lectures are now available online and can be studied in the student’s home and at the student’s pace. In fact, with a laptop computer or iPad, students can study anywhere a WiFi connection can be accessed!
Because we are not offering a formal academic degree there are no prerequisites for studying at INS nor do we require tests or written papers. We do provide study questions at the end of the notes for each lecture which the student can use to gage his progress and grasp of the material. While the lectures are challenging and are intended to stretch the student both academically and spiritually, they are not overly academic and can be studied profitably by any motivated student who has a growing familiarity with the Scriptures.
What is a Nouthetic Counselor?
Since we already know that ACBC says that Biblical and Nouthetic counseling are one and the same, I went Pastoral Counseling.Org to see what they had to say.
In more recent years, many people have started using the term “Biblical counseling” instead of Nouthetic counseling to stress the point that the Bible is at the center of this counseling technique. Most who follow the idea of Nouthetic counseling refute mainstream psychiatry and psychology as being humanistic, secular, and fundamentally against Christians and their beliefs. Because of this, very few Nouthetic counselors have any formal training in counseling, therapy, or any related field.
Who can be a nouthetic counselor?
Well, anyone can do it!!
Anyone can be a Nouthetic counselor. In fact, that is the main idea behind this type of counseling. Rather than going to one counselor, people get advice and counseling from everyone in their church. Nouthetic counselors seek to confront people out of concern for their lives and their souls. Every member of a congregation has a duty to provide Nouthetic counseling to those they believe are straying from God’s path or are in need of change.
How do you become a nouthetic counselor?
…To become a Nouthetic counselor, one needs only to be very familiar with scripture and the Bible. There are no educational requirements—in fact, the idea of Nouthetic counseling is that it is done by friends, family, and fellow members of the church in an informal method, not as a type of therapy or formal counseling.
Nouthetic counselors believe that people can only get to the truth of a matter, through scripture and prayer, so you will need to thoroughly understand the Bible and the behaviors of the characters in the Bible. Often, Nouthetic counselors choose to approach a person by comparing their inappropriate behavior to that of a Biblical character and their situation to a story from the Bible. They are able to use the character’s actions and experience as a mirror for the person they are counseling.
There are no formal degree programs, certification programs, or other types of education in the field of Nouthetic counseling. Because the ideas of Nouthetic counseling often clash with psychology and therapy techniques, most Nouthetic counselors do not take formal educational courses in these areas.
How to be a biblical counselor?
Well, anyone can do it.
Quite simply, anyone who wants to be a Biblical counselor can consider themselves one. Biblical counseling is based on the idea that all one needs is a deep understanding of the scripture to offer counseling. While it’s true that many who consider themselves Biblical counselors are ministers or other types of church leaders, this isn’t a requirement. Any person who feels as though they have been called to offer Biblical counseling to another may do so.
Because all Biblical counseling is to be based on the Bible and the scriptures, there is no need for any courses on behavioral study, counseling, therapy, or psychology. Because of this, few Biblical counselors hold degrees in counseling. In fact, the practice of Biblical counseling is expressly against bringing these secular studies and treatments into the discussion. All counseling should focus on identifying sin, changing behavior to overcome that sin, and making one’s life more in line with what the Bible outlines.
Does certification through ACBC or other groups mean anything?
While you can become certified as a Biblical or Nouthetic counselor through the Institute for Nouthetic Studies or through the ACBC, the certification is not an official certification or license recognized at the state or national level. The certification simply demonstrates that you have completed a Biblical counseling program. You will not be able to use one of these certificates to meet the requirements for a job as a licensed counselor, therapist, or other position. However, these certifications do hold some weight with a number of churches and others who practice Biblical counseling.
There is little question that Nouthetic Counseling has a bad reputation. Even ACBC hints at it.
In 2013, right after NANC became ACBC, Heath Lambert, the executive director, first of NANC, then of ACBC, wrote Have You Been Burned By A NANC Counselor? This was posted on the ACBC site. He admits to some problems and says that such treatment was wrong.
Some of the stories are really bad: A NANC counselor . . . “Told my brother to get off of his prescription medication,” “Told my aunt to return to her abusive husband,” “Told my mom she was sinning by using psychiatric medication,” “Berated my depressed brother for being guilty of sin.”
However, he states that he thinks NANC was still a pretty awesome organization. Of course, he was the head of it when it was NANC. What could he say?
First he apologized and claims that this is not what it was supposed to be.
I have a hard time with this explanation. This is what 9 Marks says when another famous church goes off the rails and beats up members like the situation at The Village Church and Karen Hinkley. Actually, I believe that many people who practiced abusive counseling did so because they were taught to do so. NANC needs to take responsibility for that.
He believes that the many of the good ones are being judges by the few bad ones and claims that there are 100 good counselors to every bad one. No proof but it is a nice round number
I was stunned that he compared NANC counselors being judged by one bad apply to the police force being judged by one dirty cop. Heath Lambert is obviously unaware of how much supervision and training that the average police officer receives. Their training and the training at ACBC, as our readers will see, are on different planets.
Instead he appeals to some Hallmark version of NANC counselors. He even claims that there are 100 good counselors for every one that is not. Of course, in the tradition of biblical science, one speaks what is instead of proving what is. They have NO organization overseeing these supposed counselors who have received meager training.I shall discuss this in future posts.
most of the stories I hear about NANC counselors are wonderful. I have seen NANC counselors, with my own eyes, weeping with folks going through tremendous pain. I’ve been in the homes of our counselors and seen pictures of families with hand-written notes expressing that their family is together today because of the care they were shown.
…Those stories aren’t as sensational as the tragic ones, but they are true. They are also, 100:1, the ones I hear most frequently.
He says that we should be encouraged by the level of training received in NANC.
I think this statement is hyperbole. I shall be reviewing the training which I believe is inadequate. This whole *MD being present in the training thing* borders on simplistic and competently trained counselors will know that. Note: Lambert, rarely, if ever, provide details of the doctor and how he/she interacts, etc. In fact, we will see that there is precious little medical or pharmacological training and this is concerning.
The counselors at our training centers offer comprehensive instruction in dealing with all the different kinds of issues that are crucial in counseling—not just in rebuking sin. Whenever NANC offers training we always—always—do it with a licensed medical doctor present who provides crucial medical background into counseling-related problems.
I wonder if there is any way to see how many complaints have been received and adequately dealt with? I wonder if they even keep those records. I suspect not. I have to admit I wonder if they function like some of the elder boards made up of godly™ men who protect their own…
At NANC we also have an ethics and membership committee with people on it who each have decades of counseling experience. Whenever an accusation is made against one of our counselors, that committee investigates the charges and makes recommendations about dealing with them.
Remember, we all make mistakes and liberals make worse mistakes according to Lambert.
He assures us that it is far better to have a mistake made by a conservative than a liberal because the liberal might say someone should get a divorce!
Sooner or later, good counselors will offer bad counsel. How could it be otherwise? The good news about NANC is that when that happens we are committed to the Bible as the perfect standard to judge what is good and bad counsel. We know how and when to improve because we listen to the Bible. The same cannot be said for liberal counselors whose benchmark is their own wisdom. When liberals faithlessly counsel married couples going through a rough period to “just get a divorce” or counsel people that their homosexual lifestyle is acceptable, who is to correct them?
Finally, he says that many of these bad stories are not true!!!
He claims that counselees do not like being confronted by their sin.This continues the impression I have of these guys constantly beating the drum of sin, sin, sin and more sin.
here is only one brand of counseling that is committed to calling people to repent when they are guilty of sin, and that is biblical counseling. To be sure, people need counsel for all sorts of reasons besides their own personal sinfulness.
Heath Lambert and the firing of Eric Johnson
I am going to end it on this final subject. We wrote about Heath Lambert in Eric Johnson Lambasted by Heath Lambert and Fired by Al Mohler. It seems like Lambert is against anyone who does not see counseling from his perspective. He got a decent man, who was a Christian psychologist, fired from SBTS and was not a biblical™ counselor like Lambert who received his PhD in counseling at SBTS. I’ll let you think about what that says about the future of ACBC and their style of counseling.
You will love this video!!