“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him, you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” Colossians 2:8-10 NASB
I thought about opening this blog post with Paul’s words from Acts 20:29-30, but that might be a bit more intense than what is required for the concerns on my heart, maybe not. I leave it to you to decide.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30 NASB
SEE TO IT THAT NO ONE TAKES YOU…
Recently I googled “Biblical Counselors in my area” and was presented with a list of agencies that classify themselves as biblical counselors. It was alarming that, as I looked at the staff bios, and services offered, none of them (except ours) offer anything remotely resembling biblical counseling. I believe these folks are well-meaning and think they are providing counsel that is biblical, but it seems the phrase, “biblical counseling” has been hijacked and is being twisted outside of its original context. Sadly, even among some within our own ranks.
This is not a new concern. The camel’s nose has been in the tent since the inception of biblical counseling. I am deeply concerned that some who call themselves biblical counselors are embracing practices, theories, methodologies (scientism, enneagrams, EMDR), and other tools and methods that are outside the scope of true biblical counseling. The use of personality tests and such–especially those with their roots in the occult and eastern mysticism–ought not to be entertained by those entrusted with the care of souls.
There are two divergent methods of counseling, one that is man-centered and one that is God-centered. They are not the same.
Integrated and secular counseling are both based on humanistic, psychological theories that change frequently. They are driven by culture and worldly viewpoints about what is right or wrong. There is no call for internal change, only external conformity to a flexible standard in order to
- Make a better society, and
- Help a person feel better about who they are.
These counseling systems promote the idea that the Bible is inadequate to help people with serious problems. They substitute a system which depends on human understanding and ability for spiritual truth. They chafe at the thought of an absolute authority outside of ourselves. Such self-centered counseling is oppositional to the Christian life.
…AND IN HIM YOU HAVE BEEN MADE COMPLETE
The Christ follower is not to indulge in self-sufficiency, be led by his or her self-will, or seek self-esteem. We are called to reject such psychological and unbiblical counsel because it contrasts with what Jesus said in Luke 9:23–24.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
In this passage, we are instructed to deny ourselves. In fact, the Christian is to not only to deny himself, but he is also to die to himself! This is utterly contrary to secular thinking.
The foundation of biblical counseling is the Bible. It is in the Bible we see who we are apart from Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3), and who we are in Christ (1 Peter 2:9, Romans 8:7, Colossians 3:12). We know this is true, for God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Psalm 119:160). The Bible is sufficient to train in all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16). We find within Scripture all the commands and principles necessary for people to live honorable lives with increasing conformity to God’s ideal. Who are we to “improve” upon God’s plan for helping people change?
The Bible is sufficient.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.”Psalms 19:7-11 NASB
Biblical counseling is centered on spiritual growth and change at the heart level that leads to change in life. The biblical counselor teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). We do this in love and with gentleness. Biblical counseling is confrontational, and our aim is transformation.
We offer our struggling friend hope and encouragement through the Scriptures. We show them that transformation and change are possible when they are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We urge them to commit to a course of change that includes putting off the old man, being renewed in the spirit of the mind and putting on the new man (Ephesians 4:23–24).
The ministry of biblical counseling is about teaching a person how to glorify God by how they live their lives. When the aim of the counselee changes from how I can feel better about my situation to one of a desire to grow and change to become Christ-like, wonderful things will happen.
Biblical counseling is discipleship. Discipleship is a role that has been given to the church. Colossians 3:12–17 is the call to the church for counseling one another. Let us examine ourselves to be sure we are not mixing the world into the purity of the Word as we serve the hurting people entrusted to us for soul care.
Although I agree and concur with the content written here I feel I must make a few comments. FIRST, I have experienced the same deception of pastors, elders, and/or many leaders of churches I have spoken with since moving and living in the Seattle/Tacoma WA area. This deception I am referring to are those calling themselves biblical counselors but doing nothing more than referring people out to psychologists/psychiatrists. Or they offer no real tangible help at all. The counsel I have been given, although I would not disagree, came as a pat dismissive solution. An answer that communicates pray, read the Bible, and go to church. Is this not what nouthetic counseling as been accused of in the past? Did not the growth of the biblical counseling movement work to change that view?There is enough information to not be aware of what biblical counseling truly teaches and seeks to accomplish in the life of the body of Christ and abroad. Then I would have to conclude that these leaders to continue to practice the opposite are either not agreeing with the sufficiency of Scripture, give more authority to worldly wisdom, or are willfully ignorant. I would suggest that these pastors read some of the reformers and puritans from the 1400 to 1700’s who practiced Nouthetic counseling but rather they called it congregational care. Most notably Richard Baxter and John Calvin! This is what they invested most of their time on as SHEPHERDS. SECONDLY, at other times the counsel came with accusatory statements. One of the most important principles I was taught in my education was to gain as much facts as possible before giving any in-depth counsel. The Scripture does indeed teach that if you give an answer before you hear the facts of the issues it is a foolish and shameful practice (Prov 18:13). THIRDLY, pastors need to bear in mind when someone comes to them needing counsel, they may also be coming with some vulnerability, seeking compassion, and not expectant of an unjust judgment. The harsh and quick judgements I experienced from these pastors who didn’t even allow me an opportunity to listen to the facts left me hopeless and more depressed than when I stepped into their office. As counselors we need to provide people with hope, not judgement. There will be plenty of time to sort out sin issues later! Pastors also need to be humble, knowing that when someone seeks counsel, they need to be aware that they can also be overcome and taken by the same sin that the person seeking counsel needs help with (Gal 6:1). Just as a side note, not every person seeking counsel is motivated by a sin issue they’re dealing with. In my education I was taught that in order to be a good counselor one must first be a good theologian. It seems as if many of the pastors I have been surrounded with do not know this. But in reverse order! With all the theology education and all the sound biblical theology they teach I find it strange that they’ are not able to transition sound exegesis into sound application or counsel to help the body grow and mature into a godly household (Eph 2:18-22, 1 Pet 2:1-5). Jesus stated that He desires mercy and compassion for one another (Matt 9:13, Col 3:12). We are also instructed to build one another up (1 Thess. 5:9-11). This will not be exercised by setting up harsh legalistic standards (I do not mean holiness), like the Pharisees practiced (Matt 23:4) and setting yourself up as the standard. But by practicing the loving care He had for all people including the prostitutes, tax collectors (who were among the most despised people in Jesus’s day), those stricken with leprosy (untouchable), and those crying out for relief to their plight on this earth. Are we providing rest to others like Jesus desired to? Are we pointing others to Jesus so that they not only find rest on this earth and comforting assurance of rest in the hereafter? Are we laying on heavy burdens on people like the Pharisees or are we helping to carry those burdens (Matt 11:28-30)? While many pastors are always trying to figure out how to “grow” their church maybe they should start seriously and honestly answer there’s questions. They should also ask themselves if it really is their jobs to “grow” the church or just simply be obedient to the imperatives our Lord gave us (Acts 2:42-47 the Lord added, 1 Cor 3:5-6 God gave the increase, John 13:31-35 God receives glory when we love one another sacrificially and lost people are drawn to that type of love which does not exist in their world).
I heartily agree (Julie Ganschow).