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Six Crucial Issues in Contemporary Biblical Counseling
Issue No. 1, The “Same Old Issues” Still Face Us
School of Behavioral Sciences, Liberty University
In our contemporary society, there needs to be a clear distinction between Biblical
counseling and secular psychology counseling. Powlison (2010, pp. 241-259) lists Six Crucial
Issues in Contemporary Biblical Counseling including: 1. The “same old issues” still face us, 2.
The questions touching on human motivation must be explored and integrated more firmly
within both our theory and practice, 3. The relationship between human responsibility and
human suffering needs a great deal of clarification, 4. We need to press much further in
understanding the biblical data about the counselor-counselee relationship, 5. Biblical counseling
must be contextualized to new audiences and 6. The relationship of biblical counseling to secular
psychology needs to be publicly clarified. These stated issues are all vitally important, but
selected item is crucial issue number one, “the foundational issue” to continue to be biblical.
Issues two through six are newer and build on this foundation.
“Counseling in the Christian church continues to be significantly compromised by the
secular assumptions and practices of our culture’s reigning psychologies and psychologies” (p.
241). The purpose of nouthetic counseling is “to correct sinful behavior patterns by personal
confrontation and repentance” (Adams 1970, p. 49). The basis of Biblical-nouthetic counseling
is to counteract the infiltration of secularism and bring counseling back into the church. The
church provides soul care for sufferers and sinners. Scripture is sufficient and counseling is a
theological task. The concern about encroachment of secularism in the church is the possibility
of diminishing the authority of the Word of God and its power to transform hearts and lives.
Hebrews 4:12 reads: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-
edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and
marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Scriptures are sufficient
to be skillfully applied to any presenting problem. Based on Scripture, we can counsel each
other. Romans 15:14 reads: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also
are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
Secular psychologies tend to discredit the Bible for meeting the needs of the human
condition. The claim is that Biblical counseling is too authoritative, and behavior may change
due to will power and personal resolve, but our inner heart and life may still be unchanged. We
may be the compliant counselee and adhere to the biblical teachings of the counselor but still be
in sin and this undermines the Gospel (Willard, 1997, pp. 41–42). On the other hand, Powlison
(2010) asserts that when an individual understands grace, “the necessary behavioral changes will
make sense from the inside” (p. 246).
The new birth does give a new heart that desires to obey the Word. Ezekial 36:26-27
reads: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will
remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit
within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Further,
I John 2:3 reads “And by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his
commandments. “When we experience the new birth, we are granted saving faith and begin to
walk in “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Our first act of obedience is repentance. Jesus
said, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). When we are converted, we are no
longer under bondage to sin and our new allegiance is to Christ and we live in obedience to Him.
Romans 6:17-18 reads “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed
from the heart that from of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye
became the servants of righteousness.”
When a preeminent view of Scriptures is taken and recognized as being foundational, this
stance sufficiently and holistically addresses the remaining issues addressed by Powlison (2010,
p. 241). These issues have a common thread concerning the heart condition and why we do
what we do. The relationship between responsibility and suffering is clarified (pp. 246-249).C
When the client’s inner life is responsible for behavior change, the fear of blame shifting to
external circumstances resolves (p. 249). The risk of confrontation is mitigated when the client’s
identity as a child is declared righteous (Rom 3:22) and loved by God (Rom 8:39-39), rather than
criticizing behavior, risking defensiveness (pp. 249-252). The issue of contextualization to new
audiences is curtailed when human motivation is addressed because it undermines the accusation
that biblical counseling lacks “even the rudiments of inner life and motivation” (pp. 253-254).
The distinctive relationship between biblical counseling and secular psychology is clarified when
identity formation is prominent because secular psychology has no real solution to individuation
other than leaning on the sinful self (pp. 255-258). Another milestone is the “same old”
distinctives between biblical counseling, such as a critique of secularism and a biblical
alternative to counseling, are reconciled when the issue of human motivation is appropriately
settled (Powlison, 2010, pp. 241-243).
In reference to Powlisons Appendix 4 and the “Cure of Souls” (p. 269), I agree that it is
preferable for counselors with theological knowledge who will speak the truth in love to help
bring Biblical solutions for the problems people face, to counsel. Adams asserts that counseling
is primarily pastoral work performed in conjunction with the local church, although lay persons
may counsel fellow Christians (Powlison, pp. 130-131). Since Adams presupposes that people do
not inherently have the answers to their problems, counseling must speak “frankly and
authoritatively when communicating the promises and commands of God” (Powlison, p. 138).
The Biblical counselor is to offer counselees God’s grace through a relationship with
Jesus Christ and lead them to repentance of sin so they may experience transformation and hope
and become more like Christ. When a counselor brings grace to sin, which provides the
psychological air necessary for the client to face sin, the client can recognize their inner
completeness in Christ (Col 3:3) through faith that renders sin impotent.
Adams, J. E. (1970).CCompetent to counselC(pp. 45–49). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Adams, J.E. (1986). A Theology of Christian Counseling: Introduction to Nouthetic
Counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resource Library.
Crabb, L.J. (1977). Effetive Biblical Counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Entwistle, D.N. (2010). Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity: An
Introduction to Worldview Issues, Philosophical Foundations, and Models of
Integration. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
McMinn, M.R., & Phillips, T.R. (2001). Care for the soul: exploring the intersection of
Psychology & theory. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Powlison, D. (2010).CThe Biblical counseling movement: History and context. Greensboro, NC:
New Growth.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2011). Hendrickson. (Original work published 1611)
Willard, D. (1997).CThe divine conspiracy: Rediscovering our hidden life in God. New York:
Harper One.
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