Friday, April 15, 2011

Where is Biblical Counseling Headed?

At the Gospel Coalition, I attended a great session on the future of the Biblical Counseling movement. The panel was Steve Viars, David Powlison, Garrett Higbee, and Bob Kelleman.

Testimony by Garrett:

- Came to a crisis in 1992 after a thriving therapy business

- Brought to a Bible-teaching church where he was converted

- Decision point: either continue to rearrange flesh dynamics or do real soul work

- Saw the Word in a new light, saw the Holy Spirit as critical, learned the beauty of truth and grace (John 1:14), saw the power of prayer

- Became convinced of the role of the local church and the body surrounding hurting people

- Wants the church to take back soul care

David Powlison – Growth Trajectory

- Like any healthy movement it is growing and continually needs reformation

- 40 years ago through Jay Adams who articulated large, important truths

o What is counseling about? People in trouble, finding hope, dealing with their sin issues through Christ

o Some things were controversial however it gained acceptance


- Development from behavior toward the interplay of the horizontal and vertical (1 Tim 1:5)

- Largely sin-centric but now focuses on sin and suffering

- Growing understanding of the flexibility in counseling – a movement away from just “admonish the unruly” to include “encourage the weak, help the faint-hearted”

- Growing in understanding the law and the gospel. Formerly biblical counseling was more focused on moral topography often at the neglect of the gospel.

Steve Viars – Numerical Growth

- Biblical Counseling Coalition – renewal of interest and acceptance of biblical counseling

- Relationships and Resources are the main tasks

- Connect people together, provide resources and a portal to link people back to the movement

Bob Kelleman – Director of Biblical Counseling Coalition

- Wants to be like the Gospel Coalition

- Providing resources, links, and connections


1. Do you recommend churches to hire counselors or to develop centers of counseling?

- Viars: encourage you to train your people; he hires as a last resort

- Powlison: Keller took a long view when he was planting Redeemer; focused first on preaching and discipling, and the other would come.

2. What are some resources to train our lay leaders?

- Not just a church with biblical counseling; a church of biblical counseling

- Start with problem/solutions – Instruments in the Redeemer Hands, etc.

3. Does Biblical Counseling negate medical issues?

- GH: No, but every human issue has a spiritual component; every emotional issue has a theological foundation

- Nowhere does God give us an excuse because of the health

- BC will show them the superiority of going the Scriptures for the answers

- DP: Huge question – Imagine 5 concentric circles

i. Soul

ii. Body

iii. Social

iv. Evil One

v. Living God

- The secular culture fails to understand who you really are as a person. Psych 1 will teach you about nature and nurture (think – doughnut). The church has the reverse problem: it values the soul but ignores the other (think – target)

4. Is all sin idolatry or is idolatry a specific sin?

- Idolatry is a theological metaphor for describing a horizontal and a vertical orientation

- People are always functioning on two planes

- Idolatry can become a code-word which is not helpful (“Words are the coinage of fools but they are the markers of wise men.”)

5. What can we do to increase the possibility of opening up?

- Viars: be careful about not over-using the word counseling; use words like discipleship, sanctification.

- “Our church doesn’t have a counseling center; we are a counseling center.”

- Higby: Establish trust, we start by using a life story and the use of advocates who come along-side the person.

6. What is the vision of the Biblical Counseling Movement over the next 20 years?

- Deeper relationships among ministries

- Deeper resources web-based

- Bib Counseling has been more “against” than what they are “for;” we want to change that tone and focus.

- Finding people who have PHD’s in this area.


Matt Brown said...

Would like to have been there for that.

Rod said...

Is there any audio..I would love to hear it...

Mark Vroegop said...

I don't believe that there was an audio recording. Sorry.

Steve Cornell said...

“With positivism behind us, perhaps the major reason since the Modern period for thinking that Christian belief is epistemically substandard has been undermined. The Christian psychologist today is able to give doctrinally orthodox and biblically rich readings of the human desire for God and for its frequent failure to be well developed or conscious.”

(From: Robert Roberts, Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues).