Is Biblical Counseling Applicable for Everyone? {Part 2}

(Biblical Counseling Basics Series)

Part One in this series, Is Biblical Counseling Applicable to Everyone, covered the topic of Salvation. In order for Biblical Counseling to be effective, the person has to believe the gospel and be in right relationship with God through Christ alone.

If a person does not truly believe the gospel of grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone then biblical counseling cannot be effective and any principles drawn from the Scriptures becomes nothing more than “take it or leave it advice.”

Here is an example of why getting the gospel right matters.

A very sweet Catholic lady had heard of my ministry at a former church and requested counseling for her and her husband for marriage issues. Her comment to me was along the lines of, “I like how you Protestants use the Bible.”

I thanked her for that but explained that “we Protestants” had major differences with official Catholic teaching on what the Gospel is. She said she knew that but never-the-less wanted to meet because she still thought the principles were valuable.

I agreed in the hopes that the Holy Spirit would lead the couple into the true understanding of the Gospel.

After a few meetings it became clear that what this sweet Catholic woman really wanted was for her husband to apply biblical principles to his life; in particular loving his wife as Christ loved the church and what that meant in her mind.

unshamed-of-the-gospelIn other words she wanted the Bible to be relevant to him; Her not so much.

After a few meetings it became clear that a person could accept a biblical principle yet not embrace the power behind the principle.

In this dear lady’s case she would not accept the gospel of grace and stuck to a gospel of good works. She understood that Scripture could be relevant to their marriage but saw it through the lens of her husband doing good works. She and her husband viewed principles connected with the gospel as a series of do’s and don’ts rather than the very power to change in order to be like Christ. They left counseling after a few meetings because I had to return to the Gospel.

A person must, first, believe the true gospel, and second, then believe the Bible is relevant and authoritative. There is no other way.

Too often we conservative Protestant believers get the gospel right but counseling wrong because we really don’t believe the Bible is neither relevant nor authoritative and prove it by opting for one psychological model or the other.

Nevertheless, the Bible makes important claims about its relevance and authority.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Here Paul makes the basic claim the Scripture is breathed out by God (inspired) and is profitable (more than simply useful) for teaching (doctrine) reproof, for correction and training in righteousness.

The end result of taking Scripture seriously is maturity (completeness) equipping the person for every good work. The Scripture is therefore about life and because the Scripture is about life, it’s also about counseling.

Kevin Carson in, Chapter One, The Richness and Relevance of God’s Word, Scripture and Counseling, puts it this way:

“We live in a broken world where life is teeming with difficulties, pressures, concerns, and really tough circumstances.” [i]

The Catholic couple mentioned above wanted help with their marriage. The Bible speaks to all what biblical counselors call these presenting issues.

The Bible speaks of the biblical roles of men and women. The Bible speaks to conflict and anger. The Bible speaks to sex. The Bible speaks about parenting. The Bible speaks to forgiveness. The Bible speaks to sin; the obstacle in any marriage. The Bible speaks to finances; an issue mentioned in 50% of all divorces.

In other words, the Bible speaks to life in all these circumstances and more!

The only question is: does the believer see what the Bible says about these things as commands to be obeyed and/or principles to be applied to life as a RESULT of the Gospel working in their lives?

The Catholic couple can be excused for not “getting it” for the Holy Spirit has not yet opened their eyes to the Gospel of Grace. We Protestant believers do not have that excuse and the only question is: do we trust the Word of God to be relevant, sufficient and authoritative in our lives (2 Peter 1:3)?

[i] Scripture and Counseling, Bob Kelleman General Editor, pg. 30

Is Biblical Counseling Helpful for Everyone? {Part 1}

(Biblical Counseling Basics Series)

I became interested in biblical counseling while serving in my first church as an associate pastor. The church in question was of the integrationist model (late 1990s) meaning that psychology was integrated into the Bible. I was unfamiliar with the concept of biblical counseling in its purest form because the Bible school I had attended was also integrationist in its approach to Scripture.

A controversy arose at the first church and through the controversy I began to investigate the claims of Jay Adams and other pioneers within the biblical counseling movement.

Some of the critics of biblical counseling raised the question, does biblical counseling work for everyone?

It was and is a loaded question since no type of counseling works unless a person really wants to change.

A far better question would be is the methodology of biblical counseling applicable to anyone?

The answer to that question is no and my response was a person must be a biblical Christian.

All this came to mind as I re-read Professor Stuart Scott’s book, Biblical Manhood-Masculinity, Leadership and Decision Making.[i]

Before Professor Scott discusses masculinity, leadership and decision making he makes it clear what it means to have saving faith. Professor Scott states that saving faith involves:

  • Acknowledging the true reason for our existence and God’s full right to our lives and how we live them (Matt. 16:24-26; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20).
  • Coming to God in humbleness. Recognizing you have nothing to offer God in your defense (James 4:6)
  • Asking Him for his mercy and forgiveness, instead of what is deserved (Lk. 18:9-14)
  • Believing in who Christ is and His payment for your sin (1 Cor. 15:3)
  • Believing that Christ rose from the dead as Lord overall and sits at the right hand of the Father pleading the case of all who believe (1 Cor. 15:4; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 7:25) [ii]

These truths are pre-requisites that must be fully embraced by a person in order for counsel that is biblical to be effective.

Scott goes on to say that many people are self-deceived because they made a profession of faith via a decision for Jesus sometime in their life. He says that a prayer said or profession of faith in a person’s past is not assurance of salvation (although that is frequently implied by those encouraging a person to make such a decision with the add on of once saved, always saved).

Instead Scott emphasizes does the person have saving face NOW!
unshamed-of-the-gospel

Professor Scott puts it like this: “Are you believing now? Is it an ongoing (obedient and persevering) belief that demonstrates that you are a child of God. Christ offered this warning to all who would listen, ‘Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 7:21a)

For this reason Dr. Scott always starts out with a person seeking counseling with the Gospel. He wants to be sure that they have fully embraced the truths that are essential to salvation.

A person must first be in a right relationship with God in the first place to be in the second place in a position where God can change them. The process of change is called sanctification.

The Doctrine of Salvation is not the only doctrine that must be fully embraced before effective biblical counseling can take place. Another doctrine that must be embraced is that the Bible is true, that it has authority and that it is sufficient to change a person who truly desires biblical change. Part Two will cover the relevance and authority of Scripture in the believer’s life.

[i] http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/resources/authors/stuart-scott

[ii] Link to Amazon Biblical Manhood