Insidious Incursion: The Subtle Deceptions of “Biblical Counseling”
By Bruce F. Levi, ICARE Ministries
Insidious is an adjective that describes something that is:
I do not use the word insidious mistakenly or flippantly in regards to so-called “Biblical Counseling” as the title of this article states. What is called “Biblical Counseling” and “Nouthetic Counseling” is not really biblical.
“Biblical Counseling” entraps and beguiles Christians with its false claims of being “biblical.
“Biblical Counseling” is stealthy and deceitful in its use of biblical terms and “dressing up like a Christian” while mixing in false, unbiblical ideas.
“Biblical Counseling” operates in a seemingly harmless way, but is actually very damaging to people who are subjected to it and to core Christian doctrines.
Because “Biblical Counseling” followed Humanistic Psychology and Psychotherapy into the church, a bit of background and a couple of questions seem appropriate:
Would you send a sick family member to a phony doctor?
Would you send a friend to an unethical investment agency that is misusing the investors' money?
Who would knowingly do such unethical, harmful, and foolish things?
Strange Practices for “Christians”
Despite the unethical and sinful nature of the above kind of actions, every year Christian leaders send thousands of their fellow Christians to the spiritual equivalent of “phony doctors” or “unethical agencies.” This happens when Christians leaders send Christians to Humanistic Psychologists and Psychotherapists for “counseling.”
Amazingly, Christian leaders are reportedly the main source of such referrals to Humanistic Psychologists and Psychiatrists!
As a picture of just how wide the deception of Psychology is in the modern church, one of the most popular Christian radio programs and its related huge ministry were founded and led by a “psychologist and author” who openly promoted Psychological ideas and frequently interviewed and recommended Psychologists on his nationwide radio program. http://www.pamweb.org/dobsonbk.html).
Most moderately-mature Christians already know that Humanistic Psychology and Psychotherapy are rooted in and operate under anti-Christian, anti-Bible ideas and are therefore very dangerous and inappropriate.
Sigmund Freud, the “father of psychotherapy” was openly anti-Christian and had an affinity for witchcraft and the occult (http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/churpsyc/freud.html).
Carl Jung communicated with demons (http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/nathanjung.htm).
To learn more how Psychology has infiltrated the Church and deceived many, read Psychology and the Church: Critical Questions, Crucial Answers, by Dave Hunt and T.A McMahon.
We highly recommend The Psychological Way:The Spiritual Way, by Dr. Martin and Deidre Bobgan, for a comparison of how God heals souls versus mankind's weak and inferior ways. Visit the Bobgan's website for more information: www.psychoheresy-aware.org. You will find many helpful books and articles on this topic.
Is Not the Bible Sufficient?
The Bible is clear about how we are to cure afflicted and hurting souls - it is not to be done through man-made, or demon-inspired methods. The Apostle Peter wrote: According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (2 Peter 1:2-4.)
Is the Bible God's perfect Word for us, or did God update the Bible via unsaved, ungodly psychologists? Perish the thought! What possibly can be added to the “all” that is the Word of God? Nothing, of course. Because Peter wrote clearly way back in the first century that the church already possessed “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” just what business do Christians have with Psychology and Psychotherapy?
In a similar vein, Paul wrote: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Because God has already clearly stated that Christian can be “made perfect” (complete) by the scriptures, then just what can Humanistic thought in the form of Psychotherapy possibly have to offer? Is not Psychotherapy rather an attempt by forces of evil to dismantle what the Bible does in the hearts and minds of believers? We think so.
The writer of Hebrews weighs in: 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 (Hebrews 4:12).
Because the Bible is so incredibly insightful and powerful, why would any Christian want to resort to the imperfect, fallible, and changing ways of mankind found in Psychology and Psychotherapy? Why would a Christian downgrade to a such an ungodly system?
An Insidious Incursion Into the Church
In a similar way that Psychology and Psychotherapy have entered into the church and deceived many, so-called “Biblical Counseling” has made an insidious incursion. “Biblical Counseling: has it roots in Psychology, and also is deceiving many Christians.
“Biblically Counseling” is similar to the Emerging Church movement in that is subtly attacks core doctrines of Christianity.
“Biblical Counseling” is a movement among professing Christians. But this dangerous movement attacks the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture and the centrality of God's grace – it does this while claiming to be “biblical.” Insidious indeed!
Some of the dangerous errors of “Biblical Counseling” are:
. Direct attack on the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Jay Adams, the “father” of “Biblical Counseling,” crafted his own translation of the Bible (http://bibles.wikidot.com/adams-ccnt) in which he promoted Psychological terms and concepts. No wonder, for Jay Adams studied psychology under Psychologist Orval Hobart Mowrer. Mowrer died by suicide in 1982. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orval_Hobart_Mowrer).
. Adding to scripture. “Biblical Counseling” mistakenly adds the office or calling of “counselor” to the church when no such office exists. God condemns the action of adding to His Word (Revelation 22:19). “Biblical Counseling” promotes the use of “counselors” rather than the person-to-person ministry or care of souls that the Bible describes and asks Christians to do. See Person to Person Ministry – Soul Care in the Body of Christ at http://www.pamweb.org/e-books/PPM-ebk.pdf
. Eisegesis of scripture. Eisegesis is the reading of a meaning or bias into the text, when no such meaning is there. In his translation, Jay Adams changed many words so he could use the Psychological term “counseling” and its variations. (See http://www.pamweb.org/e-books/PPM-ebk.pdf, Person to Person Ministry – Soul Care in the Body of Christ. Scroll down to page 42 to see the many errors of Jay Adams' thinking.
. Humanism. With its focusing on mankind's problems, rather than on Jesus Christ, His atonement, and His healing power for the hurting soul, “Biblical Counseling” is Humanistic and not God-honoring. To focus on man's problems is to focus on man, which is to not focus on Jesus, which is a subtle denial of God's power, which is which is gross sin. (A focus on man's problems = Not to focus on Jesus = Humanism = Sin).
. Attacks the doctrine of salvation. “Biblical Counseling” fails to incorporate “...grace, the idea which is the most essential in bringing about genuine change in people. It [Biblical Counseling] is centered on problems instead of the person. See http://cafn.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/nouthetic-counseling-scripture-as-a-standard-guideline-for-directional-counsel/
. Legalism. “Biblical Counseling” focuses on the Law of Moses and applies it to the church rather than to Israel, where it belongs. Thus, “Biblical Counseling” misses the whole point of God's redemption of the Church and His healing power and binds people with the Law, from which we were delivered by Jesus (Romans 8:2). To put oneself, or those he “counsels” under the Law, is Legalism.
. Behaviorism. Behaviorism is a type of Humanistic Psychology that focuses on the outward appearance. Behaviorism, as seen in its problem-centered focus, is a hallmark of the falsely-named “Biblical Counseling” movement. Problem-centered counseling is essentially Psychological Behaviorism under another name. Behaviorism is just another form of legalism, as the “counselee” is told to follow a list of do's and don'ts rather than focus on God's grace.
. Authoritarianism. “Biblical Counseling” is very authoritarian in nature with its elevating of the “counselor” who “lords it over” and holds himself superior to the “counselee.” This violates the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers seen in 1 Peter 2:5 and Jesus strong words in Matthew 20:25-27: But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant...
. Undermines of the biblical doctrine of male leadership. “Biblical Counseling” promotes an environment that is particularly dysfunctional for men. As the male counselor usurps the role of the husband, the husband is denigrated in front of his wife and the wife now looks to her “counselor” who is not her “own husband” - in violation of Ephesians 5:22. Some “Biblical Counseling” that I have directly observed, had a woman counseling a man – all the while the local church which perpetrated this error pretended to hold to the doctrine of male leadership!
. Feminism. “Biblical Counseling” teaches and encourages wives to rebel against and disrespect their husbands, in violation of the Bible's clear teachings at Ephesians 5:22 and other places.
. Promoting various ungodly practices such as: gossiping, tale-bearing, sinful/filthy conversations, dishonoring of parents and spouse, dwelling on past sins, etc. This violates 1 Corinthians 13 and many other commands in the Bible.
. Simony. “Biblical Counseling” promotes the selling of spiritual care for money, which is forbidden in Acts 8:18.
Just What Is “Biblical Counseling?”
The “father” of “Biblical Counseling” is Jay E. Adams. Adams was born in 1929 and is perhaps best known for his book Competent to Counsel, © 1970. Adams developed and widely advocates a method or system that he named Nouthetic Counseling, which is also known as “Biblical Counseling.” Adams originated his teachings while at Westminster Theological Seminary, but that institution does not use his system Wikipedia.com).
As mentioned above, Jay Adams studied Psychology under Psychologist Orval Hobart Mowrer. Mowrer suffered from depression and psychosis and was treated by pharmaceuticals. Adams practiced psychotherapy and came to see its inabilities and developed his own system, which he named “Nouthetic Counseling.”
Adams asserted that the concept of nouthetic is taught in the Bible, but has never given any rationale for it. See how he talks around it here: http://www.ibcd.org/articles/68-what-is-nouthetic-counseling.
Adams further stated that nouthetic activities are related to preaching and discipline, which he claims are central to counseling. However, these are often NOT the keys to effective counseling! This teaching seems to be the source of the heavy-handed, authoritarian, spiritually-abusive nature of “Biblical Counseling.” Jay Adams and others who followed him into the “Biblical Counseling” movement have truly missed the mark here and thereby advocate a biblically incomplete system, which means it is not actually “biblical.” (http://cafn.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/nouthetic-counseling-scripture-as-a-standard-guideline-for-directional-counsel/)
The thee main branches and organizations which promote the insidious “Biblical Counseling” movement are:
1.The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC), which was founded by Jay Adams.
2.The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF).
3.The Biblical Counseling Foundation (BCF).
Several evangelical Christian colleges and seminaries have adopted the nouthetic/Biblical Counseling approach, including Central Baptist Seminary, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, Bob Jones University, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and The Master's College (Wikipedia.com).
Hundreds of local church leaders and Christians in general use this biblically-incomplete (= unbiblical) system. This may be happening out of tradition, lack of scholarship, being deceived by the movement's claim and label of being “biblical,” etc. I am convinced that many already heavy-handed and authoritarian “Christian leaders” use this system because it fits their modus operandi and strengthens their spiritually-abusive ways. I have seen this first hand – it is an ugly thing. This is exactly what Jesus strongly warned against in Matthew 20:25-27 and Luke 22:25-27.
We call on all these schools, organizations, and all others who have adopted so-called “Biblical Counseling” or Nouthetic Counseling to repent and turn to the Scriptures for the healing of souls.
“Biblical Counseling” has a view of man that is unbiblical because it is “...almost completely external and behavioral” and “does not bring into perspective the New Testament concepts of spirit, soul, heart, and the flesh.” Jay Adams, the “father of biblical counseling fails to adequately define “inner or central aspects of human nature” because they “....do not lend themselves to a behavioral (mere outward actions) definition. “Biblical Counseling” discusses sanctification but does not adequately define what the Christian is being sanctified from. It is thus not really biblical. Jesus, on the other hand, focused on the heart over the external and mere outward behavior, which are simply “legalism.” See John D. Carter as quoted in http://cafn.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/nouthetic-counseling-scripture-as-a-standard-guideline-for-directional-counsel/
Adams also “...excludes spiritual issues that underlie behavior...the conceptual status of the inner aspect of man (heart, soul, and spirit) and the inner nature of sin (the flesh) is so fundamental that no model of man and counseling can be called biblical without it.” Again, Adams and “Biblical Counseling” offer an incomplete, and therefore unbiblical system. They are selling “shoddy goods” to the church. See http://cafn.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/nouthetic-counseling-scripture-as-a-standard-guideline-for-directional-counsel/
Biblical counseling....represented by the Nouthetic school of counseling, is unbiblical, not because it does not use the Bible...but because it is not biblical enough...it leaves out certain aspects of human life and function that are essential to having a holistic Biblical perspective. Prasha Maharjn at:
Despite the claims of “Biblical Counseling”movement and its popularity among some Christians, major problems and deficiencies exist with this methodology in terms of its non-adherence to the Bible. We hold that so-called “Biblical Counseling” (a.k.a. Nouthetic Counseling) is grossly misnamed, is not really biblical, and is a dangerous movement that insidiously infiltrated the modern church – it is to be avoided.
A careful analysis of the the above, and more, unbiblical teachings and practices of Jay Adams of “NANC” and David Powlison of “CCFE” can be found in the book, Person to Person Ministry – Soul Care in the Body of Christ. It is available free online at: http://www.pamweb.org/e-books/PPM-ebk.pdf
An expose of the Biblical Counseling Foundation can be seen at: http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/images/bcfpaper.pdf
Yes, it's true, if you want to know the Truth like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, you will need to do some study and work: “These were more noble...in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
To learn more about what merely purports to be “biblical counseling” but is man-centered and continues to operate at various Christian colleges and churches, see the book, Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/e-books/ABC-webbk.pdf.
See also: Competent to Minister - The Biblical Care of Souls http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/e-books/CTM-ebk.pdf
Here is a new book that also covers this topic: Stop Counseling! Start Ministering! http://www.pamweb.org/e-books/Stop-Start_ebk.pdf
To read how problem-centered, Humanistic “counselor” Larry Crabb infiltrated a well known Christian organization, where he taught for years even after being exposed, see the following articles.
Unfortunately, this well-known Christian organization remains loyal to and employs teachers who follow the misnamed “Biblical Counseling” movement and its spiritually-dangerous ideas. This can readily be seen in the book, Counseling, © 2005, by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Pages 11, 18, 21-25, 89, 101, and 109 are a veritable praise-fest of Jay Adams. On page 258 Adams' ideas are named “balanced, thoughtful.” The above-named problem-centered “counselor” David Powlison is a co-author of this book! The book also praises Wayne Mack - but what is Mack really up to? See
I have interviewed a man who has years of firsthand experience with the dangers and horrific results of the “biblical counseling” movement. He was in Family Life Church in Rancho Mirage, California in the late 1980's to early 1990's when Senior Pastor, Bracy Ball, co-authored the Biblical Counseling Foundation's Self-Confrontation Manual. That manual (1991 edition), page 6, describes Jay Adams' significant influence in its development. Some 40 marriages and families were literally destroyed at that church by the application of the ungodly, problem-centered methods of “Biblical Counseling.” This large church of about 800 people eventually imploded and disbanded as a result of the spiritually-abusive ideas that came from “Biblical Counseling.” The local Christian school experienced great turmoil from the many children who had been indoctrinated with “Biblical Counseling.” One of the control techniques of this church's leaders, as taught and encouraged by “Biblical Counseling,” was heavy-handed authoritarianism. Bracy Ball even humiliated his own wife in front of the entire church, based on the false principles of this dangerous movement.
What should a Christian do? Should he/she follow the Bible or the misguided ideas of men? What is most authoritative – the Bible, or mankind's ideas? What will you do – stand for the Bible or a college or church's bylaws? What is your real authority for Truth?
Why not stand up and do what is right? Avoid "Nouthetic Counseling" and "Biblical Counseling" like the plague. If your chruch's leadership endorses and uses this unbiblical system, print out and give to them the e-books referred to above. Tell them about this article. If they insist on using anti-biblical materials, get out of that church immediately.