So why do some Christians counselors act like the Gospel has no place in the counseling office?
This Gospel Matters series shares the Christ’s compassion for the broken. The Gospel is good news for every person who chooses to trust Christ and accept the gift he offers: new life in him. Life change happens when the broken begin living for God rather than self. The Gospel becomes personal, leading to peace and contentment in every circumstance.
This series answers the question, Is biblical counseling really a viable, possibly a better, alternative than secular counseling?
Read the first post on competency of Biblical Counselors and state-licensed counselors.
Read the second post on Biblical Counseling, the Gospel, and chemical imbalance that may contribute to mental/emotional difficulties.
Read the third post on the divide between Biblical Counseling and some Christian Counseling that negates the Gospel.
Claim #4: These “counselors” are as irresponsible, dangerous and lethal as faith healers. They’re attempting to treat real problems through. . .magic.
My family started going to a chiropractor when I was about 12. At first, it amused me that he could crack my back and supposedly straighten my spine. It stopped amusing me when the adjustments made my back hurt when I had suffered no previous back pain. I asked to discontinue these treatments. For years, I viewed chiropractors as practicing “quack medicine” and as less than “real doctors.”
I have had a fairly similar experience with “family doctors.” While seeing a specialist is fine with me, visiting a family doctor seems a nuisance. A five-minute exam with an ancient stethoscope followed by a trip to Walgreens for medicine is usually their answer for most common ailments. Save me the trip to the doctor’s office, and I think I’d be happier.
Additionally, I have read about some mega-church pastors who love power and money, and who often have scandalous sexual problems. I have no earthly idea why anyone would want to work for one of these men or attend one of these churches. However, I have also personally worked alongside several mega-church pastors who didn’t seem to fit that negative profile and who grew their churches by teamwork, sacrifice, and empowering competent leadership.
Anecdotal Evidence Is Incomplete
The criticisms of biblical counselors are often like my critiques of chiropractors, family doctors, and mega-church pastors. Anecdotal evidence usually paints an inaccurate and incomplete picture.
The Pacific Standard magazine article about biblical counseling wasn’t really anything new. Critiques like this one have been written for the past 40 years when the modern-day biblical counseling movement began. Some critiques are fair and helpful; others simply reflect really negative experiences and use anecdotal evidence to make their case. Ample writing and ministries exist to fairly critique “biblical counseling” but these writings and ministries also demonstrate that “biblical counseling” cannot be easily used as a descriptor because the term “biblical counseling” covers a wide range of practices and groups.
Consider this example of a criticism of biblical counseling found in the comment section: “Go to Jesus. Go to Jesus.” Weird s#*t.
Clearly this comment had some counselor or some experience in mind. Rather than engaging with the issues, some critiques tend to extrapolate personal experiences in order to define their engagement with the issues. If we had a friend who was given bad advice by a biblical counselor or secular psychologist, we can easily conclude that all biblical counselors or psychologists under that theory of counseling must think the same way and give the same guidance.
For instance, many who bash biblical counselors have said that most biblical counselors underestimate the impacts of abuse and counsel with little empathy towards those who are suffering at the hands of an abuser. They might share the stories of “biblical counselors” that have blamed rape victims, trapped abused wives in miserable marriages, and supported cruel insensitivity towards LGBT teens as proof that biblical counseling fails to deeply understand abuse and to empathize appropriately.
A Truer Perspective
I want to make something as clear as possible from a biblical counseling perspective.
- Biblical counseling that blames rape victims for bringing on attacks is not biblical.
- Biblical counseling that supports husbands who endanger wives in violent and abusive relationships is not biblical.
- Biblical counseling that does not report the abuse of a child is not biblical.
- Biblical counseling that fails to confront parents or pastors who mock or mistreat teens struggling with gender identity is not biblical.
- Biblical counseling that does not empathize with those suffering is not biblical.
I don’t doubt that some who claim to be “biblical counselors” have done such things. So have many prosecutors, pro-football players, lawyers, priests, neighbors, judges, coaches, parents, pastors, and teachers who thought they were saying and doing the right thing. In fact, many licensed mental health professionals have dropped the ball in these same areas.
All professionals can at times lack the courage, wisdom, or care to do the right thing and stand up for God’s view of justice in cases of abuse. Not everything that claims to be biblical is; but this doesn’t mean that the biblical approach of speaking the truth in love fails to be a goal worth pursuing. Biblical Counselors take seriously the mandate our message, methods and motives all represent the good news of the gospel and the heart of Christ himself.
The Gospel matters in counseling.