“Theocracy has been rightly abolished not because it is bad that learned priests should govern ignorant laymen, but because priests are wicked men like the rest of us.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory link
I am quite concerned about what I am finding as I research the ins and outs of the biblical counseling movement. Please pay attention to the exact quotes from the websites.
When our 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with her brain tumor, we decided that we were going to get her the best care possible, even if that meant leaving Dallas to do so. Thankfully, we know lots of medical people and we talked to many of them. They told us to stay put in Dallas and have Dr Fred Sklar do her surgery. When he came to our daughter’s room, he told us he was rotating off service and that one of his partners could do it. I would not hear of it. I told him our friends told us to have him do the surgery and that is what I wanted him to do. I was 7 months pregnant, quite upset and was quite adamant. He decided not to mess with me and said he would do it. I am so grateful that he did.
He became quite the advocate for my daughter after her surgery, helping us to make difficult decisions like not to allow her to received radiation, a decision that would later prove to be the absolute correct thing to do. I knew about his background, his academics, his writings and you can be darn sure he went to an accredited medical school and neurosurgical residency program. After all, he was going to be mucking around inside her brain. Why would any sane person do anything different?
Main Point: Biblical counseling messes with your life and your head so you should know exactly what, and who, you are getting.
Who can be a biblical counselor?
In our post Part 1: The Biblical Counseling Movement and Timberlake Baptist Church and Counseling Center, we looked at that Timberlake’s Counseling center.
This counseling center is considered a major ministry of the church and is featured on the website. Not only does this center provide services, it also exists to train members of the church to become certified counselors with the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC)
The International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) is similar to Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) which we discussed in our initial post. According to Heath Lambert, the head of ACBC, the IABC and ACBC are the two largest groups and are often discussed together.
Concerning the historical distinction, nouthetic counselors identify with the founding generation of biblical-nouthetic counseling and leaders in the movement like Jay Adams, Ed Bulkley, and Wayne Mack. Biblical counselors identify with second-generation leaders like David Powlison, Ed Welch, and Paul Tripp. But these historical distinctions do not always amount to institutional distinctions. A few smaller organizations like the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS) are purely one or the other. But large organizations like The Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC), The International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC), and NANC have diverse memberships that identify with each generation. (Ed. note: NANC is now ACBC.)
ACBC has the following to say about Christians and counseling.
Please note the words *intense difficulty.” What does this mean? Does it mean abuse? Serious emotional illness? This statement is directed towards Christians who wish to be counselors.
Every Christian is a counselor. They might not want the work, and they might not be any good at it, but every Christian is a counselor. This is because every Christian has conversations with people who are in trouble and need help.
…ACBC offers counseling and discipleship training because we want the church of Jesus Christ to grow in wisdom and skill about how to say helpful things to people going through intense difficulty.
…At our ACBC conferences you will learn
-How to help someone who feels trapped by a sin they cannot overcome
-What to say to someone who is experiencing a heartbreaking loss
-How to offer care to your friends who are experiencing trouble in their family
So, let’s take look at both groups in terms of the prerequisites in order to begin training.
IABC Counseling Pre Requisites
In order to understand their terminology you need to know these definitions. This terminology is thrown around by ALL biblical counseling groups.
General revelation is the knowledge of God, as well as the knowledge of right and wrong, that can be obtained through nature. This general revelation of God’s existence and basic morality is known by everyone.
Special revelation is the revelation of God that is mainly known as the Bible, which is the inspired word.
The first thing an aspiring counselor must do, after joining IABC, and prior to training, is to affirm what the IABC claims are the Christian beliefs of the organization and to deny the so called *nonbiblical” beliefs. I am including the ones that jumped out to me but read them for yourself. Focus on the difference between general revelation and specific revelation. You will see that IABC shuns general revelation in regards to counseling in order to focus on specific revelation which is vital for their construct that only Christians are competent to counsel.
- We deny counseling theories and practices that are not based on the Special Revelation of the Bible.
- We deny that General Revelation alone was intended to provide the data necessary for life and godliness.
- We deny that either man’s wisdom or General Revelation can be given equal authority with Scripture.
- We affirm that Biblical truths are sufficient, when presented in the power of the Holy Spirit, to enable the Christian to love and obey God and to seek to please Him in every way.
- We deny that man’s wisdom (secular theories and practices) can enable the Christian to love and obey God and to seek to please Him in every way.
- We deny that secular sources are sufficient to establish norms for right and effective living.
- We affirm that the Biblical Counselor builds his system of counseling, including its presuppositions, principles, and theories from Special Revelation.
- We deny that the counselor can build a “Biblical” system of counseling that syncretizes secular sources and the Holy Scriptures.
- We deny that mental health professionals, by virtue of their training in secular theories and practices, are qualified to equip the saints or build up the Body of Christ through psychological theories and practices.
- We deny that Christians, who depend on their training in secular theories and practices rather than the Bible, are qualified to equip the saints, build up the Body of Christ, or to aid in the process of sanctification.
- We deny that Biblical counseling falls under the authority of psychology.
Is there empirical evidence offered by these groups for the efficacy of biblical counseling? None whatsoever because you can’t put a soul in a test tube.
Academic professors of psychology present empirical evidence that various methods are helpful or damaging. Sadly, that is not the case in the biblical counseling world. In What empirical evidence do you have that Nouthetic counseling is superior to other forms of counseling?
Quite frankly, none. Do you wonder at that? Let me tell you why you shouldn’t. To compare Christian counseling with other forms of counseling is to compare oranges to apples (no, let’s say, oranges and socks!). Consider the goal of Christian counseling over against that of others. Most counseling seeks to solve a person’s problem in order to bring relief. That is the prime goal. In Christian counseling, however, the goal is to honor and glorify God, whether or not relief is obtained. How, then, do you compare the outcomes?
Moreover, since the object of biblical counseling is to bring about change in the counselee that honors God, how would you test for that empirically? Would you put his soul in a test tube, shake it up and hope it turns blue? How would you test whether God was honored, whether the motives of the counselee were sound (since God looks upon the heart; not merely on outward behavior) or whether he only made changes outwardly? How would you determine the extent of the Holy Spirit’s work in the counselee’s life so as to make the desired spiritual changes? In other words, there is no way to obtain empirical evidence. Since it is biblical attainments that are under consideration, it is impossible to get statistical evidence for the spiritual changes that the biblical counselor seeks to bring about.
…So, what does the Christian counselor have to demonstrate the effectiveness of Nouthetic counseling? Nothing, as I said before. And he is absolutely content to say so.
Why is this concerning? This means that an abusive, ill trained or naive counselor does not have to show anything *specific* that occurred from their counseling because the results are spiritual. Frankly, this is downright dangerous and plays into the criticism that such counselors are nothing more than hacks who can get away with anything since the spiritual cannot be measured.
ACBC basic beliefs that must be affirmed in order to be an ACBC certified counselor.
The basic beliefs of this group were a bit harder to come by and interpret. However, the candidate for certification MUST sign a covenant. That covenant, along with Standards of Doctrine, Policies and Procedures, Standards of Conduct and Constitution and By-Laws can be found here.
Here are some statements that I think are relevant to the standards they expect of their trainees.
Please note that I am only presenting what caught my eye. Please read the document in its entirety.
We are an association of Christians who have been called together by God to help the Church of Jesus Christ excel in the ministry of biblical counseling. We do this with the firm resolve that counseling is fundamentally a theological task. The work of understanding the problems which require counseling and of helping people with those problems is theological work requiring theological faithfulness in order to accomplish that effectiveness which honors the triune God. Because theological faithfulness is a necessity in counseling, it is required of this association to articulate our convictions in this regard. We lay down this summary of Christian doctrine, which we believe represents the biblical standards of doctrine that biblical counselors must embrace to do their work faithfully.
They are strict complementarians. This is vital for everyone to know up front.
…God made mankind in two complementary genders of male and female who are equal in dignity and worth. Men are called to roles of spiritual leadership particularly in the home and in the church. Women are called to respond to and affirm godly servant leadership particularly in the church and home.
Counseling must be done through the church.
…The church is the organism through which God accomplishes his mission in the world. It is the main agent for all ministry of the Word, including the ministry of counseling and discipleship.
The following statement may mean that the counselor will focus on sin since that is what is involved in sanctification
..The work of counseling is fundamentally the work of helping Christians to grow in this grace of sanctification.
Ligonier Ministries defines sanctification:
According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 35), sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues
Secular counseling is at odds with biblical counseling.
Because the central elements of counseling include God, the nature of the human problem, and God’s solution in Christ, the counseling methods of secular people are ultimately at odds with a uniquely biblical approach to counseling.
- Biblical counselors must use the Scriptures in counseling as the authoritative and sufficient source for counseling content.
- Biblical counselors must reject any secular counseling intervention that is at odds with Scripture. Secular counseling therapies add nothing essential to the understanding and resolution of counseling problems, though secular institutions can provide assistance to biblical counselors when situations like hospitalization become necessary for extreme and urgent care.
- Biblical counselors must make a distinction between the clear meaning of a biblical text and their opinions and applications they derive from that text. There is an important distinction to be made between the author’s intended, authoritative meaning of the text and our application of that text
- Biblical counselors must care for counselees in making decisions about whether and how they charge fees for counseling. The Bible is clear that ministers of the gospel of Jesus are entitled to earn their living from the gospel. This principle can extend to biblical counselors who serve Christ in vocational ministry.
- Biblical counselors must be committed to the priority of the church in accomplishing their counseling ministry. Biblical counselors will place themselves under the leadership of a church and pursue the accountability of that leadership as it relates to their life, doctrine, and counseling practices.
- Whether the counseling ministry is formally part of the the church or whether church leadership holds the center accountable through board involvement or personal accountability of individual counselors. (Ed. note-this may mean they will communicate private counseling issues with pastors, etc. Check on confidentiality.)
- Biblical counselors will also work to emphasize proper care for the physical body including recognizing the importance of professional medical care for medical problems.
Now look carefully at a few more statements because these theological constructs WILL affect how the person is being counseled.
- Women cannot counsel men because they must not have authority over men NOT because it avoids potential impropriety and safety issues.
women will strive to avoid formally counseling men since this generally requires the task of teaching men with authority which is forbidden by Scripture.
2. Husbands are an authority to which the wives must submit. Think about this in terms of abuse.
Biblical counselors must help their counselees submit to legitimate authority in the context of the home. God has called husbands and fathers to exercise spiritual authority in the home, seeking the welfare of those in his care. God has also called wives to be submissive to their husbands and children to be submissive to the authority of their parents. These authority structures are an incredible blessing when discharged faithfully. Biblical counselors will help family members honor these sources of authority appropriately throughout the various stages of life.
3. The counselor must stress submission of the client to spiritual authority.Think about this in terms of abuse.
Biblical counselors must help their counselees to submit to the authority of their church. God has gifted his church with ministers to shepherd the souls of his people. These shepherds have real spiritual authority that must be followed when it is discharged biblically. Biblical counselors see this authority as a blessing from God given for the good of his people, and therefore endeavor to help their counselees embrace it.
4. Confidentiality is definitely not guaranteed. Make sure you understand this. It appears they are claiming that submission to authority potentially means that the counselor could tell a pastor, church leader, or a husband. Abuse should be reported to the state but this clause gives a much broader audience who can receive reports. Caveat Emptor, folks!
Biblical counselors must also make clear to their counselees that a commitment to biblical authority requires the disclosure of certain kinds of information to certain parties. A biblical commitment to protect counselees from harm as well as commitments to the authority of the home, church, and or state may require disclosure of information that counselees would otherwise prefer to remain private.
5. The Board of Trustees, who all believe in ultimate church authority and the authority of husbands over wives, gets to judge reports of unethical behavior and impose sanctions. This is a closed system with no outside oversight and I believe that it is a potential minefield.
As the board of trustees seeks to accomplish this responsibility they desire to honor the judgment of local ecclesiastical authorities whenever possible. Any verdict, however, about the violation of these standards for our members, or the penalties for violations of our members is at the sole discretion of the board of trustees. It shall be the responsibility of the board of trustees to clearly and publicly communicate the process for reporting violations of these standards, for investigating alleged violations, and for instituting penalties for any violations
The Covenant: Secular psychologists are are lying researchers and only biblical counselors are biblical….
We deny that the findings of secular psychology make any essential contribution to biblical counseling.
God’s goodness allows that secular psychology may provide accurate research and make observations that are helpful in understanding counseling issues. Because unbelievers suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness the efforts of secular psychology at interpreting these observations lead to misunderstanding. Because their observations are distorted by a secular apprehension of life their efforts at counseling ministry will be in competition with biblical counseling. They cannot be integrated with the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Good night! I haven’t even gotten to the actual training. Well, that’s for next week. Here are my list of concerns
- Biblical counseling is focused on sin which is the basis for the counseling issue.
- Confidentiality is not guaranteed and reports could be made to pastors, leaders, husbands, etc.
- It only recognizes complementarianism.
- Women must submit to their husbands.
- Secular psychology is *a pack of lies.*
- Anyone is capable of being a biblical counselor.
- The local church is in charge (Is this another TGC/Acts 29 group?)
- Women must never be in any sort of teaching authority over men and that includes counseling. But men shouldn’t counsel women due to the impropriety of it all. It is all *biblical.*
Here is a list of the ACBC board members. No women allowed on the board of ACBC, just like it says n the Bible….
- Ron Allchin
- Kevin Backus
- Brad Brandt
- Nathan Currey
- Heath Lambert
- Jim Newheiser
- Keith Palmer
- Tim Pasma
- Lance Quinn
- Andrew Rogers
- George Scipione
- Bob Somerville
- John Street
- Steve Viars
As of right now, I would not recommend that any woman who is been abused to receive this sort of biblical counseling.