Nouthetic Counseling and Biblicism

Since Lafayette’s Faith Baptist Church (newly renamed) is home to a large Nouthetic Counseling ministry and training center, a blog by Robin Phillips, Why Nouthetic Counseling Is Unbiblical, caught my eye. From a “conservative” Protestant stance, it challenges Nouthetic Counseling.

The pieces is divided into sections before the conclusion:

  1. The Story of Secular Psychology
  2. Massive Caricature
  3. Nouthetic Counseling and the Problem of Biblicism
  4. Behaviorist Anthropology

I was particularly struck by this critique of Biblicism:

In his article ‘Why shouldn’t Christians use the methods of men like Freud, Rogers, and others?’ Jay Adams argues erroneously that the methods of unbelievers cannot be separated from the worldview of unbelievers. He goes on to point out that

“There are many who will say that their counselling is Christian and biblical, but the test comes in evaluating what they actually do when counseling. The issue is whether or not they incorporate other beliefs and practices or not. Nouthetic Counseling is based entirely upon Scripture.”

As this last sentence suggests, Adams approach is characterized by a highly Biblicist approach.
Christians are called to be Biblical, but they are not called to be Biblicist. This is because being a Biblicist is unbiblical. But what do I mean by these terms? To put it simply, Biblicism is an approach to scripture which emphasizes the Bible’s complete clarity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning and, above all, its direct applicability of the Bible to every department of human life.
The key here is the word ‘direct.’ Ranald Macaulay once explained Biblical authority like this. He was speaking in a cathedral which didn’t have any electric lights but was lit up by shafts of light coming through the windows. The shafts of light came down in spotlights, directly lighting up certain areas but indirectly lighting up the entire building. He then said that  Biblical authority to that [sic]. I think that’s a good analogy. The Bible does not address every area of life, just as the shafts of light did not spotlight every inch of the inside of the cathedral. In order to do that the Bible would have to be not only true, but exhaustive. Instead the Bible spotlights certain areas and through them the light of God’s truth difuses to every other area of life. While there is no department of life that the Bible does not address, it only directly addresses some areas. To be a Biblical thinker means that in every area of life, one will seek to see how the Bible applies either directly or indirectly.
The Biblicist, on the other hand, acts as if every department of life is lit up directly by scripture. This faulty approach to the sufficiency of scripture lies at the heart of the Nouthetic model.

(Bold added, italics in original)

It’s fair to say that the Evangelical schools I attended took a Biblicist approach in this sense. If there was any dissent, it passed me by unnoticed. I’m not sure Phillips’ non-biblicist approach is sound, but I’m convinced both that Christianity is true and Biblicism false. Thus, I’m convinced with Phillips that Nouthetic Counseling isn’t soundly Christian.

The human nous (a term of the Greek Church Fathers that is so deep and rich that I cannot do it justice) assuredly needs healing, and I assume that Jay Adams, the chief proponent (if not founder of Nouthetic Counseling) chose that name for its allusion to ancient and sound Christianity.

From what I know about Nothetic Counseling though, Phillips’ characterization as “behaviorist” is in the right ballpark. It seems to aim not for the healing of the soul but for “cleaning up your act.” In other words, it is, or is frightfully close to, what sociologist Christian Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

For actual healing of the nous, I’m sure you’ll be stunned to learn that I think you should get ye to a (Orthodox) Church and monastery – and as soon as possible, since soul-sickness is a chronic disorder that typically takes a lifetime to cure.

Anyway, I commend the blog to you, and you could do worse that follow Phillips, who’s a Protestant but neither liberal nor Evangelical Biblicist, which is how I used to divide the Protestant world.

About readerjohn

I am a retired lawyer and an Orthodox Christian, living in a collapsing civilization, the modern West. There are things I'll miss when it's gone. There are others I won't. That it is collapsing is partly due to calculated subversion, summarized by the moniker "deathworks." This blog is now dedicated to exposing and warring against those deathwork - without ceasing to spread a little light.
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