I am a biblical counselor.

I love biblical counseling.

I teach biblical counseling at two seminaries.

I recommend biblical counseling blogs, books, and resources (95% of my class reading lists are by biblical counseling authors and 95% of the counseling blogs I recommend are biblical counseling blogs).

I want to see biblical counseling practiced in every local church and taught in every seminary.

I’ve seen biblical counseling transform multitudes of lives.

I have the highest hopes for the future of biblical counseling.

I detest everything that undermines the Bible’s proper role in counseling.

So why do I, from time to time, critique biblical counseling?

I do so out of a desire for accuracy, clarity, and consistency in its statements about the sufficiency of Scripture.

That’s not just an academic point. The lack of this in some quarters has damaged biblical counseling: its practice, its reputation, its effectiveness, its appeal, and its wider adoption. This is tragic and not only prevents needy people accessing what the best biblical counseling can offer, but has also damaged people in the hands of some practitioners.

Whenever I offer my critiques, the two most common responses I get from biblical counselors (apart from welcome private messages of agreement and support from other biblical counselors) is:

1. This is personal. You’re motivated by personal animosity.

2. This is ridiculous. You know we don’t believe that. How can you possibly think that? Here’s evidence of what we really believe.

There’s nothing I can do about the first one apart from keep a clear conscience before God and refuse to allow such false accusations prevent me from critiquing when it’s needed.

As for the second, I’ve been challenged in recent days to provide evidence for what I am critiquing. I’ve been surprised at this because the same critique has been made of biblical counseling since its inception by many others. I don’t think we’re all stupid or malicious.

No one is saying that biblical counselors don’t ever state the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture accurately and clearly. Many examples of that can be provided. But there have been and are still too many examples of unchecked influential statements that contradict or confuse what is said elsewhere.

When we feel we are being widely misunderstood, at some point we have to ask if perhaps we are contributing to the misunderstanding. The verbal fix is so easy that I can’t understand why it’s so resisted.

I’d much rather that the defenses come down and the courageous step up to admit: “We have a problem. How can we fix this? How can we make sure that it’s impossible to misunderstand us?”

But, in the absence of that, I have reluctantly agreed to provide the evidence on my blog in the coming weeks. I hope this will be viewed in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6.

In the interim, here’s a link to some previous articles I’ve written on the subject.

Meanwhile, I continue to long and pray for the ongoing re-formation of biblical counseling in this one vital area of how it states its position on the sufficiency of Scripture. Accuracy, clarity, and consistency here will, in the long run, draw many more to and into biblical counseling, which is what we all want.

  • Bob Kellemen

    David, I think this is an important paragraph in your post:

    “No one is saying that biblical counselors don’t ever state the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture accurately and clearly. Many examples of that can be provided….”

    As a friend, I would ask that you consider including examples of those positive presentations where you see BCers clearly articulating a robust understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture. Otherwise, if your readers only read your negative examples where you don’t think the BC world has been clear, it may lead to the very misunderstanding you are concerned about. In other words, you could inadvertently perpetuate a one-sided view that BCers lack a robust understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture for the personal ministry of the Word.

    Here are just a few places where the BC world has articulated our view of the sufficiency of Scripture. The BCC books: Scripture and Counseling, Biblical Counseling and the Church, and Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling. Also, the BCC’s Confessional Statement (written by over 3 dozen BCC leaders as a clear summary statement of 12 core BC convictions). Also, yesterday, I posted in response to your 2012 TGC re-post, seeking to advance a dialogue that clarifies the primary concern that BCers have about this issue: Biblical Preaching and Biblical Counseling: What Makes Them “Biblical”?: http://bit.ly/BibleCn2017 Many (100s) more documents, books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations could be cited that would help your readers see the robust approach that biblical counseling takes to the sufficiency of Scripture for pastoral counseling.

    Blessings, my friend.

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  • Marco Barone

    Rev Murray, thank you for engaging in this. As you, I firmly believe in a properly defined doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, I have nothing personal against anybody, and I have benefited from many books published by “biblical counselling.” However, there are things that need to be addressed, and I think you are doing that well. Although this is not the norm, I have the impression sometimes that some “biblical counselors” believe to be biblical merely because they claim so, or because they are in an environment that promotes the claim, with o need for evidence or discussion. So, thank you for your blog posts, I find them enlightening and encouraging.