Incompetent to Counsel

Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical
Addendum: Incompetent to Counsel

*Note: If you’re disappointed that I’m saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then please read my comments at the end of my first post in this series: http://tinyurl.com/n8k799.

My Premise: Half Biblical Counseling

Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering. When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then such biblical counseling is only half biblical.

Let’s Play, “Can You Top This?”

I have suggested that counseling that is truly biblical could be defined as:

Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s inspired truth about people, problems, and solutions to human suffering (through the Christian soul care arts of sustaining and healing) and sin (through the Christian spiritual direction arts of reconciling and guiding) to empower people to exalt and enjoy God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40) by cultivating conformity to Christ and communion with Christ and the Body of Christ.

If this is true, why then do some biblical counselors minimize suffering? Why do they ignore large tracks of biblical data about “sufferology”?

Throughout this blog mini-series I’ve suggested several answers to those questions. In this post we consider another reason—this one a personal reason.

I believe that there’s great pressure in the biblical counseling “movement” and in the Evangelical world to “prove” one’s “credentials” as a biblical counselor. There’s so much venom out there and false accusations of “psycho-heresy” that some counselors may be tempted to play, “Can You Top This?”

One “biblical counselor” says, “Biblical counseling is about confronting behavioral sin.”

The next counselor, going a step further proclaims, “That’s shallow. Biblical counseling is actually about confronting motivational sins.”

Another counselor responds, “That’s still not deep enough, you have to confront hidden idols of the heart and false lovers of the soul.”

Each counselor “proves” his or her right to claim the mantle of “biblical counselor” because of an ever-deepening emphasis on the depth of sin. Each counselor seems to think that the right pedigree for comprehensive biblical counseling is met through depth confrontation of sin.

Now, please hear me clearly. I believe in a depth of exposure of sin.

In Soul Physicians and in Spiritual Friends, I show that in biblical and historical reconciling we help one another to understand that it’s horrible to sin and it’s wonderful to be forgiven.

Yes, truly biblical counseling exposes sin comprehensively: relationally, spiritually, socially, rationally, volitionally, and emotionally. I have no qualms with that whatsoever.

Incompetent to Counsel

However, there seems to be a false assumption that the person who exposes sin the most comprehensively is the person with the most comprehensive model of biblical counseling.

That’s like asking:

“Of Job’s three miserable counselors, who was the most comprehensive biblical counselor—Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar?”

Well, duh! None of the above!

They each exposed sin. In fact, they competed with one another to be named the champion sin-spotter. Yet God said they did not speak right of Job nor of God.

In the name of trying to be comprehensively biblical, they became incompetent to counsel.

The Fear of Man

Let’s be honest, in Evangelical circles, we get quite competitive about proving our bona fides (supplying evidence that serves to guarantee a person’s good standing, reputation, and authentic credentials).

If I am a Reformed Calvinist, then I’m going to out-Calvin Calvin! “A five-point Calvinist? No way, I’m a 5.5 pointer!” (If you don’t get that, it’s okay.)

Sad to say, in Evangelical circles we succumb to the pressure to out-do one another in order to prove that we have cornered the market on the current “in” issue. “I’m more biblical than you are because . . .”

For counselors today, is it possible that our egos get involved? Is it possible that “eye service as men pleasers” (as the King James puts it) gets involved? Is it possible that the “fear of man” tempts us to become like Job’s counselors?

Nobody wants to be an “outsider.” Nobody wants to be called “weak on sin.” Nobody wants to be labeled a “psycho-heretic.”

So, to be an “insider,” to be called “strong against sin,” to be labeled a “biblical counselor,” we yield to the temptation to bark louder than the next guy about sin’s depths, while rarely addressing suffering’s depths.

We yield to the temptation to minimize suffering because we fear that someone will call us weak on sin. We fear that we’ll be accused of making excuses for sin by talking about suffering.

Let’s refuse to give into the temptation to prove our credentials, to brandish our pedigree, or to please men, by outdoing one another in pitting sin against suffering.

Biblical counseling is rightly big on confronting sin. Hopefully, it is rightly even bigger on sharing grace (where sin abounds, grace super-abounds—Romans 5:20). And hopefully, it is equally big on dealing with suffering.

If we truly want to be comprehensively biblical, then let’s be sure that we address sin comprehensively and that we address suffering comprehensively.

4 Responses

  1. I believe Biblical counseling must be patient and Spirit directed. Too often we are in such a hurry to practice what we know about sin and suffering; we lose sight of the clients needs and ability to receive our wisdom. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." But He also said to his disciples, "I have many things yet to show you, but you are not yet ready to bear them." We have such a patient God, who promises that he will not give us more than we can bear. Only the Spirit knows when to confront sin and explain suffering, only the Spirit can give the patient conviction and revelation. We, as counselors, likewise, must have our ear to the Spirits promptings, if we are to effectively be used by God to help His people. Healing should be the goal of counseling, not competition. One-up-manship can do nothing, but quench the Spirit, for it takes our eyes off Him, and places them on ourselves.

  2. Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

    Wouldn't it be nice if all it took was getting that awl through the ear to keep us a faithful bond-servant?

Leave a Reply