Time To End The Stereotypes About Biblical Counseling

This is reposted from Dr. Kellemen’s website.  I found it to be an encouraging and insightful post.  Enjoy!

5 Reasons It’s Past Time to End the Stereotypes about Biblical Counseling 

I received an email recently sharing that a counseling professor at an Evangelical seminary said that a certain biblical counselor was “dangerous.” It wasn’t a compliment.

The Evangelical seminary prof teaches in a Christian counseling program that is integrative in perspective. The biblical counselor he was labeling is about the least “dangerous” person I know—both in terms of demeanor/love and in terms of his counseling model/approach.

If this comment were an outlier, I’d ignore it. But because I continue to hear such pejorative comments, I’m moved to address this persistent attitude.

Having many friends in the Christian counseling/integration world, I’d like to say to my friends:

“It’s past time to end the stereotypes about biblical counseling.”

Here are five reasons I believe it’s well past time…

First…Let’s Agree to Skip the Outliers

I understand that you can point to the “outliers” and those anecdotal testimonials that talk about a “harsh, simplistic ‘biblical counselor.’”

I could also point to the anecdotal testimonials that talk about a “Christian integrative counselor who used 99% secular thinking and sprinkled over it 1% out-of-context verses.”

But what do any of those outliers prove other than that any group has practitioners who claim to be a part of the group, but don’t follow the group’s true norms and practices?

I would think that my Christian counseling integrationist friends who value valid research would know better than to point to the outliers…

Second…Let’s Agree to Avoid Old Stereotypes

And I also understand that you can point to some old stereotypes, including books and articles, that may seem to validate your negative view of the modern biblical counseling world. But I’d ask my friends a couple of questions.

1. Are you taking into account the history behind the early biblical counseling writings—the fact that they were written to pull a pendulum back toward the Scriptures—a pendulum that was over 100 years in the making?

2. Are you taking into account not only the parts of those writings that may seem to you to be a tad shallow or naïve, but also reading the other copious pages of those books and articles that were and are indeed deeply insightful about the human condition?

3. Are you taking into account the early writings of the Christian counseling integration movement and the fact that some of those writings, read today, can seem shallow and naïve, lacking a comprehensive biblical understanding of people, problems, and solutions, and looking today less like “integration” and at times more like “syncretism”?

In other words, some of the old stereotypes were never true to begin with—when read within the historical context and read in the context of the chapter/book in which you find them.

Again, I would think that my Christian counseling integrationist friends who value in-depth research, historical context, and comprehensive assessment would produce more appropriate reviews of the biblical counseling world.

Third…Let’s Be Honest about Possible Biased Motivations

As you assess biblical counseling and as you talk to your students about biblical counseling, are you assessing with unbiased eyes—eyes not biased by professional turf wars?

What do I mean by that?

Let’s be honest, part of the “counseling wars” have been fed by turf wars. Some feel a competition for jobs as professors. If biblical counseling were to “win the day” in academia, where would the teaching jobs be for integrationist counselors, especially in seminaries? (Yes, I realize we could turn that question around and ask where would the jobs be for biblical counselors in academia if integrationist models win the day?)

Turf wars also relate to clientele. If biblical counseling wins the day, especially in the church, will there be enough paying clients for the licensed professional Christian counselor and psychologist?

Turf wars also, and perhaps predominantly, relate to ego issues. We all like to be right. We all have a competitive streak. We all want our profession to be held in high esteem. So, if biblical counseling done by equipped pastors and equipped lay people wins the day, then what happens to my profession as a Christian psychologist/Christian counselor/Christian professor? Where does the Christian who is not trained as a pastor, but trained as a psychologist or licensed professional counselor, find validation for his or her professional identity? (Again, I understand that question can be turned around and asked of biblical counseling professors and pastors…)

I would think that my Christian counseling integrative friends who value appropriate introspection and accurate self-awareness of potential motivations, would at least want to ponder what motivations might be driving some of the continuing pejorative stereotypes…

Fourth…Let’s Stay Current

Even if any of the stereotypes evidenced by the outliers or by some pieces of the early biblical counseling writings were true, I would think that my Christian counseling integrationist friends who love to stay current in their research, would…want to stay current in their research!

Are you reading what the biblical counseling world is producing these days?

As you read, are you reading with new eyes—eyes not jaundiced by outliers, prejudicial stereotypes, or professional biases?

Are you reading current comprehensive and compassionate biblical counseling books, blog sites, course syllabi, and articles?

Are you reading books like Counseling the Hard Cases, and Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, and How People Change, andGospel Treason, and Putting Your Past in Its Place, and Redemption, and Give Them Grace, and Rid of My Disgrace, and Shame Interrupted, and Seeing with New Eyes, and so many more?

Are you visiting and researching and learning from biblical counseling blog sites such as those by Paul TautgesBrad HambrickGrace & Truth by the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and so many more?

Are you researching and learning from biblical counseling ministries such as CCEF, NANC, ABC, IBCD, IABC, Faith BCTC, and so many more?

Are you aware of, researching, and reporting on the cutting-edge, compassionate, comprehensive biblical counseling ministry in churches such as Faith Church in Lafayette, IN, Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area, Denton Bible in Denton, TX, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in DC, Parkside Church in OH, Christ Chapel in Fort Worth, TX, Grace Evangelical Free in KY, Sojourn Community Church in KY, The Summit Church in NC, and so many more?

Fifth…Let’s Avoid Pejorative Labels

When I hear that a wise and winsome biblical counseling leader has been called “dangerous,” I have a one-word response: “Seriously?”

Come on, we can do better than that. We can love better than that. We can represent one another better than that.

Let’s eschew labels. When we have legitimate differences that are not induced by outliers, stereotypes, biases, or outdated research, then let’s present our ideas robustly…and without the pejorative labels.

…Let’s Keep the Conversation Going…

Readers of my blog—both from the biblical counseling world and from the Christian counseling world—will find today’s post a tad different. My regular readers know that I spend very little time focused on “what I’m against” or on “criticizing.” I spend most of my time attempting to post a positive presentation of the rich, robust, relevant, relational nature of Scripture.

I don’t want today’s post to be representative of my Changing Lives blog at RPM Ministries. However, I do think this is a conversation worth starting. As biblical counselors and Christian counselors, of all people, we should be able to communicate and we should be able to accurately represent one another without pejorative, biased, inaccurate stereotypes.

And, as I’ve noted a couple of times in today’s post, yes, I recognize that as biblical counselors we need to skip outliers, avoid old stereotypes, be honest about possible biased motivations, and stay current when we research and seek to represent our perspective on Christian integrative counseling.

So, let’s continue the conversation in constructive ways…

Join the Conversation

How might outliers, stereotypes, biased motivations, and outdated research be negatively impacting the accuracy of assessments of the modern biblical counseling movement?

How might outliers, stereotypes, biased motivations, and outdated research be negatively impacting the accuracy of assessments of the modern Christian counseling integrationist movement?

RPM Ministries: Equipping You to Change Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth

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