In the counseling world amongst American Evangelicals there are two types of counseling that are prominent: “Christian” counseling and “Biblical” counseling. “Christian” counseling is defined generally by a website as follows:
As a general rule…Christian counseling…[desires] to help people overcome their problems, find meaning and joy in life, and become healthy and well-adjusted individuals, both mentally and emotionally.
In contrast to “Christian” counseling there is “Biblical” counseling, which is defined below:
Biblical Counseling is the process where the Bible, God’s Word, is related individually to a person or persons who are struggling under the weight of personal sin and/or the difficulties with suffering, so that he or she might genuinely change in the inner person to be pleasing to God.
Biblical counseling (also coined as “Nouthetic counseling”) works in three areas: confrontation (where the counselor instructs and guides the counselee from the Scriptures), concern (Where the counseling is always done for the benefit of the counselee), and change (where counseling is done because there is something in the counselee’s life that fails to meet the standards of Scripture, and prevents them from glorifying god in their life).
Biblical counselors often express concern in the way “Christian” counselors conduct counseling with their counselees, and often mention the lack of Scriptures in their counseling. John MacArthur and Wayne Mack mention five specific concerns of “Christian” counselors:
Christian counselors look at the Bible as an “inspirational resource,” but the techniques they use come from secular resources.
Christian counselors ignore many of the attributes of God such as His holiness, righteousness, sovereignty, and instead focus more on His love.
Christian counselors promote some “need” the counselee has to fulfill, rather than dealing with sin in a person, and their desire for God and His will for them. Ultimately, this will give the most satisfaction.
Christian counselors see Jesus, and the gospel, as the tool to heal wounds and hurts of the mind, and rather than as the Savior who forgives sins.
Christian counselors do not see the church as essential in counseling. Instead they see themselves as professionals who are the only ones qualified to serve counselees in this manner.
Each of John MacArthur and Wayne Mack’s observation of “Christian” counselors may be examined in the future. The point of this topic is to discuss something that those of us who hold to a Biblical worldview should be very cautious of when explaining this distinction to people around us.
As those who hold to a Biblical worldview we must consider ending distinctions between the term “Biblical” counselor/counseling and “Christian” counselor/counseling.
In fact, this author is convinced that to be a “Biblical” counselor is to be a “Christian” counselor.
There are several reasons why those who hold to a Biblical worldview should think of these terms as synonymous:
The plain meaining of the word “Christian”: The word “Christian” comes from the Greek word Χριστιανός (Christianos). The root of this word is Χριστός (Christos), which means “Anointed One.” The idea is a person who is a “Christian” is a follower of the Anointed One (i.e., Jesus Christ). They follow Him in terms of His instruction (Matt. 28:18-20), and they seek to please Him in all things (2 Cor. 5:9). A “Christian” by definition follows the teachings of Christ.
The word “Christian” is used in Scripture: The word “Christian” is what people used to describe those who believed that Christ was the Messiah. Those who followed Christ, and His teachings, were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). King Agrippa said that Paul’s testimony was attempting King Agrippa to be persuaded to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). Peter encouraged the saints that if anyone suffered as a Christian, they should glorify God because they have not suffered in vain (1 Pet. 4:16). The word “Christian” defines who a person is, and this is a descriptor one should use with humility, and without reservation.
The word “Christian” carries with it Biblical beliefs: If a person is a Christian they hold (or should hold) to certain Biblical beliefs, which among them are: The inspiration of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), the inerrancy of Scripture (Ps. 18:30), the Triunity of God (Deut. 6:4; Isa.48:12-16), the divinity of Christ (Jn. 1:1-3, 14-16; 8:58), the virgin birth (Isa. 7:14 Matt. 1:18-23), the penal-substitutionary atonement of Christ (Isa. 53:1-10), the resurrection of Christ (Isa. 53:10; Jn. 2:19-20), etc. These are beliefs Jesus Himself taught, that are revealed in Scripture, and a Christian should teach and confess these beliefs.
The “Christian” Counselor uses the truth of the Bible: Because a Christian believes the truth of God mentioned above, this affects how one lives in the world. If a person is a Christian/Biblical counselor they understand the word of God is described as truth (Ps. 119:43, 142, 151, 160). To the Christian, counseling from the truth of God’s word is essential to guiding their counselees. The source of how to observe problems, and the solutions for them, must be observed from a Biblical perspective.
The main problems are when a person contrasts these two adjectives (“Christian” vs. “Biblical”) they are doing three things: 1) A person, perhaps unintentionally, has made the word “Christian” in this context a pejorative. As a result, this promotes disdain for the word “Christian” when coupled with the word “counselor.” Additionally, when a person uses the word “Christian” in this manner, the person is changing the meaning of the word “Christian” from its original meaning of “follower of the Anointed One,” to mean, “a type of counseling that should be avoided or rejected.” This is something that the Bible does not teach when the word “Christian” is used. 2) A person creates a false distinction that the Bible does not make concerning the words “Christian” and “Biblical.” This, in effect, creates confusion among people when using these two words against each other. 3) A person when using the word “Christian” in this way are attaching presuppositions that may, or may not, be indicative of these types of counselors. Consequently, this places assumptions in people’s mind about how one counsels just by the descriptor they have. This is also something Scripture does not endorse when the word “Christian” is used.
The question remains: what do we call Christian/ Biblical counselors who embrace a Secular-Humanistic worldview? This is a topic that I will approach at a later time. However, this much is clear: The title“Christian” counselor, or “Christian” counseling, should not be viewed with disdain or disgust. Nor should be it used in opposition to the word “Biblical.” Words have meaning, and we as Biblical counselors (and believers of Christ in general) should be aware of how we are using these words in describing not just our approach to counseling, but other’s approaches as well. Let us as break down the dividing wall between these two terms, and use the terms “Christian” and “Biblical” interchangeably. In doing so we will be consistent with our Biblical worldview.
Until Next Time…
Soli Deo Gloria!