Why did I hate the term? Because, in my experience, it was through "counseling" that so much corrupt teaching, deception and outright heresy was sneaking into the church. I was absolutely aghast at some of what went under the umbrella of counseling, both in seminary and in previous churches.
I listened to people teaching that making casual inward promises to ourselves can bind us in crippling "inner vows", that experiences in the womb can become spiritual strongholds enabling demons to control us, that other people's sinful attitudes toward us can be "bitter roots" that twist our own lives in mystical ways, and that the path to freedom is through instantaneous divine revelation and the binding of demonic powers.
Garbage, swill, tripe and foolishness!! What irreverent babble! Warmed-over pseudo-Jungian fantasies lightly baptized with irrelevant Bible verses.
So, I was pretty soured on "counseling". Until I had a chance to sign up for such a course in my new seminary. I haven't even started the course yet, but I'm reading the texts in advance.
And I am thrilled, delighted and profoundly encouraged to see what truly biblical counseling looks like. Jay Adams, David Powlinson, Ed Welch, John MacArthur ... how sweet to see men who take Scripture seriously and trust God when he says that he has provided in his Book all that we need to counsel (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Here are seven core elements that Powlinson and Adams lay out as central to truly Biblical counseling (from Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically, John MacArthur et al):
- God is at the center of counseling. God is sovereign, active, speaking, merciful, commanding and powerful. ... The Bible is authoritative, relevant, and comprehensively sufficient for counseling. God has spoken truly to every basic issue of humn nature and to the problems in living.
- Commitment to God has epistemological consequences. First, other sources of knowledge must be submitted to the authority of Scripture. The sciences, personal experience, literature, and so forth may be useful, but may not play a constitutive role in counseling. ... false counsel must be noted and opposed ... The false claimants to authority must be exposed and opposed.
- Sin, in all its dimensions is the primary problem counselors must deal with. Sin includes wrong behavior, distorted thinking, an orientation to follow personal desires, and bad attitudes. Sin is habitual and deceptive, and much of the difficult in counseling consists in bringing specific sin to awareness and breaking its hold.
- The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer.
- The biblical change process which counseling must aim at is progressive sanctification.
- The situational difficulties people face are not the random cause of problems in living. These difficulties operate within the sovereign design of God.
- Counseling is fundamentally a pastoral activity and must be church-based. It must be regulated under the authority of God's appointed undershepherds.