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What Is Bible-based Counseling?

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
You need to know what Bible-based counseling is.

Family Counseling Ministries -

Psychological Theories Have Become Dominant

"Biblical counseling" is a term that has been weakened by counseling centers across the country which call themselves biblical, while in reality, they are heavily influenced by psychological theories of human behavior and healing. What is the difference between genuine Biblical Counseling and integrated systems (those which attempt to integrate psychology and the Bible)? To answer that, we need to lay out some of the significant characteristics of Genuine Biblical Counseling.

Based Upon God and Scripture
Genuine Biblical Counseling derives its understanding of God and Man from the Scriptures. We must base our practice upon the inspiration, infallibility, inerrancy, and absolute sufficiency of the Word of God. It is a fatal error to say that the Bible is sufficient for salvation, but that we need psychological solutions for sanctification.

Rests Upon the Sovereignty of God

Genuine Biblical Counseling has a high view of the sovereignty and power of God. Psychotherapy thrives because Christians have allowed a weak view of God to infiltrate the Church. Jesus addressed this very problem in Matthew 22:29, when he said, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God." To suggest that God can get us to heaven, but in the meantime, He is powerless to transform our lives and heal our minds borders on blasphemy.

Loving and Gentle

Genuine Biblical Counseling is loving and gentle in the application of the Scriptures. There is a false and negative stereotype that exists toward genuine Biblical counselors-that all we do is look for a sin and pounce on it harshly. The Bible says, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." (Gal. 6:1).

Rooted in Factual Truth

Genuine Biblical Counseling is focused on truth. Biblical counselors want to arrive at a true understanding of God and how He works in our lives. We want to know the truth about the person we are counseling and to help him acknowledge and respond to the truth. We will not focus on dreams, subjective feelings, and hazy memories unless they can be tested for accuracy and verified. Repressed memories, unconscious motivations, and denial of personal responsibility are not part of genuine Biblical counseling. While we acknowledge that we can learn from general observation of human behavior and the physical world, we must never elevate "general revelation" to an equal standing with Scripture. It cannot guide our counseling philosophy or our basic understanding of the heart of man. The phrase "all truth is God's truth" may be philosophically correct, but it does not answer the vital question, how do we know what is true? We should be cautious in accepting counsel from anyone who defends his practice with "all truth is God's truth."

Systematic Theology

Genuine Biblical Counseling is based on solid Biblical study. A sound systematic theology and Biblical method of interpretation is essential for the genuine Biblical counselor. There is no substitute for the counselor having an in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures and how to apply them to the problems of daily living.

Work of the Holy Spirit

Genuine Biblical Counseling is dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Biblical counselors realize that we cannot read the hearts of those we counsel. Only God is able to understand the deepest thoughts, motives, confusions and sins of the counselee. A Biblical counselor does not rely upon his own "expertise" or credentials to delve into the "subconscious" regions of the mind. Rather, he relies upon the truths of the Scripture as the Holy Spirit convicts with power (Jn. 16:8, Acts 2:37).

Repentance and Restoration

Genuine Biblical Counseling leads toward repentance and restoration. The ultimate goal of the Biblical counselor is not to merely help his counselee to feel better temporarily. God is not so concerned with our relief from pain as He is with the molding of our character toward Christlikeness. To relieve guilt without dealing with the issues of the rebellious heart is a disservice to a fellow believer. Paul writes to the church at Corinth: "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it. I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while-yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2Cor.7:8-10).

The Goal of Maturity

The ultimate goal of Genuine Biblical Counseling is spiritual maturity. Paul writes in Ephesians 4 about this goal "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (vv.12-13).

Degrees Not Essential

Genuine Biblical Counseling is not dependent upon degrees, certification, or licensing. Romans 15:14 says, "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." Biblical counselors realize that there are only a few essential qualifications for a competent counselor: one must have an extensive knowledge of the Scriptures (Rom.15:14), a good measure of divine wisdom (experience and common sense under the illumination of the Holy Spirit) (Col.3:16), goodness (consistent, righteous lifestyle with a humble attitude) (1Pet.5:5), an ability to relate to others (Col.4:6), an ability to communicate (Titus 2:8), and a genuine desire to help others (1Thess. 5:14)." (from Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology, by Dr. Ed Bulkley, p.79)

Licensing May Be Detrimental

Secular licensing does not insure competence or effectiveness in a counselor. On the contrary, training that leads to secular certification is likely to impair one's effectiveness in the counseling ministry. A Biblical counselor will never allow himself to be intimidated by secular "experts" or their degrees. Paul writes, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate," (1Co. 1:18,19).

Church Accountability

Genuine Biblical Counseling is church-based. It is not profit-motivated and is under the authority of and accountable to a local body of believers and the pastor and elders. The professional clinical counseling setting has no biblical basis and little accountability.

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