Why the Gospel Matters in Counseling (Part 2)

Dr. Tim AllchinFor Those Giving Help1 Comment

Isn’t it odd that some Christians in the mental health field act like the Gospel and the Bible aren’t needed in the counseling office?

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 article addresses whether biblical counseling is a viable (or even better) alternative than secular counseling.

Part 1 of this article addresses the first two claims against biblical counseling from this article in Pacific Standard magazine. Here in Part 2, we’ll address two more claims.

3. Simplistic Approach

Claim: Psychologists understand the depth of struggles as well as the solutions; Biblical Counselors (and The Bible) have a simplistic or insufficient approach.

Here is a quote from the article that especially makes this claim: “The premise of biblical counseling is seductive in its simplicity: God has given you a guide to humanity’s most difficult problems, and the solutions are all in one place. But if you grant that non-biblical knowledge has any role to play—whether it is in ‘challenging wrong interpretations of Scripture,’ as biblical counseling pioneer Jay Adams suggests, or in parsing the line between which mental illnesses have biological roots and which do not—then the solutions stop being in one place. Scripture is no longer sufficient. And this upends the very premise of biblical counseling.”

First, the Bible is not a medical textbook and doesn’t claim to be. It’s not an exhaustive history, sociology, or legal text either. However, it does guide us to embrace the usefulness of medicine, history, law, and sociology. It does not give every detail about every aspect of these subjects. However, it warrants us to know and explore the creation God has given us stewardship over.

The sufficiency of Scripture is the belief that God guides every necessary aspect of life through the application of His Word, not that God’s Word speaks about every detail of life.

Second, one of the greatest strengths of the Christian psychologists I have interacted with is they seem to be very good at getting to know someone and entering into the lives of broken people and the complexities of their problems. They are good at observing, classifying, and coaching people past struggling behaviors.

However, I have also observed that their counseling relationships fail to prioritize the importance of faith in the Gospel, the profundity of the Scriptures, and the power of the Holy Spirit in their understanding of wholeness and healing.

I have also seen biblical counselors who race right towards the Gospel, plunge into the depths of Scripture, and encourage spirit-filled choices while failing to understand the complexities of the struggles of the people they desire to help.

When you have a simplistic understanding of someone’s struggle, you will typically counsel the simple Gospel truths of Scripture to address them.

This is how many biblical counselors counsel with only a simplistic understanding of complex problems. This is also why many Christian psychologists ignore the spiritual dimensions of man in their counseling altogether.

If you have an incomplete understanding of someone’s problems, you will tend to prioritize problems differently than those with a more complete understanding of the problem. For instance, a sleep specialist will know far more about sleep disorders than a general doctor. A chaplain may be an expert on the process of grief yet fail to understand addictions altogether. An incomplete understanding leads to incomplete guidance from both psychologists and biblical counselors.

If a counseling approach does not prioritize the spiritual dimension, it is woefully incomplete and will fail to accomplish all it could.

Counseling that fails to understand that eternal matters are of far weightier importance than earthly matters will have different goals and outcomes. It will fail to understand that spiritual matters of the heart are the primary goal of Christian ministry even with the physical healings Jesus did.

If a counseling approach does not prioritize relational understanding, it is also woefully incomplete and inadequate.

Effective counseling happens in relationships where the true heart-burdens of counselees can be drawn out and shaped to become healthier. It should be a mix of grace and truth.

As Christians, our goal in counseling must be to give practical guidance to help people engage in wise living that is consistent with God’s purposes for their lives. We are God’s ambassador in the counseling relationship, and our goal must be to represent Him and the Gospel well.

4. Ethics

Claim: Psychologists have the best intentions and results; Biblical Counselors are irresponsible, dangerous, and doing more harm than good.

Sadly, some biblical counselors have given dangerous or even harmful counsel. However, this doesn’t mean all biblical counselors are that way. Similarly, we hear of shady dealings by politicians, malpractice by doctors, or infidelity by pastors, but these characteristics cannot be applied to everyone in those roles.

Anecdotal evidence can paint an inaccurate and incomplete picture.

The Pacific Standard magazine article about biblical counseling wasn’t anything new. Critiques like this one have been written for over 40 years since the modern-day biblical counseling movement began. Some critiques are fair and helpful; others reflect some negative experiences and use anecdotal evidence to make their case.

Suppose someone has a friend who received bad advice from a biblical counselor or secular psychologist. In that case, they might conclude that all biblical counselors or psychologists 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 toward 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 understand and empathize appropriately.

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 even dropped the ball in these same areas. Anyone can 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 the truly biblical approach of speaking the truth in love is a goal worth pursuing.


I grew up in the biblical counseling movement. My dad was president of ACBC in years past, serves on its board, and founded Biblical Counseling Center (BCC), which has counseled and trained hundreds of thousands of people. As the current executive director of BCC, I have a vested interest in answering critiques of biblical counseling. However, more than that, I am interested in helping people because Christ says to.

Biblical counselors must make sure our message, methods, and motives all represent the Good News of the Gospel and the heart of Christ Himself.

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One Comment on “Why the Gospel Matters in Counseling (Part 2)”

  1. What an excellent and encouraging article; thank you so much. I love the focus on the gospel and agree that it can be easy to see and address the problems or circumstances. But Christ is the answer and God’s glory is our highest calling, and that is where we need to help lead people.
    Thank you, too, for addressing the seeming uptick in criticism toward biblical counselors. It saddens me but doesn’t surprise me. I’ve experienced bad biblical counseling within my family (someone in an abusive marriage who was given horrible, unbiblical counsel) but that is one counselor out of hundreds that I know who are faithfully serving the people that come to them, as I try to do. Your article was a wonderful breath of fresh air.

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