What is Christian Counseling?

Since there seems to be a considerable amount of confusion over the subject (see the review article in Donn Arms’ blog), I thought I’d take a shot at defining it by describing what Nouthetic Counselors believe and do.

Counseling is not a science; it’s an art. In biblical terms, that means it is a function of divine wisdom. It does not conflict with true science, but reaches beyond science into venues about which the latter has no competence to speak.

In the wisdom literature of Scripture, truth is set forth in life-experiences. In Proverbs, for example, you will find principles pictured in pithy, portable form. In Job, there is high drama through controversy between failed counselors, a counselee, and the divine Counselor. In Ecclesiastes, short sections coupled with briefer portions comprise a book that demonstrates that life is impermanent (the proper translation of the word “vanity” as it is found in the KJV).

So, if you are looking for me to spell out what counseling is, let me say that these biblical books, not to disparage the rest, plainly point to a working definition. In simple terms, Nouthetic counseling is the wise application of biblical truth to persons who have experienced a breakdown of the normal, sanctification process, in order to remove the various causes of the breakdown while, at the same time, endeavoring to help them seize upon the breakdown as an opportunity to achieve greater spiritual growth.

In this descriptive definition three major factors stand out:

  1. Nouthetic counseling is the wise application of biblical truth to persons whose lives dishonor God through the cessation (or slowing) of the progress of sanctification.
  2. Nouthetic counseling functions so as to reinstitute the normal process of Christian sanctification in the counselee.
  3. Nouthetic counseling seeks, in addition, to capitalize upon overcoming hindrances to spiritual growth by using the opportunity to promote greater ongoing growth.

And, it must always be remembered that, at every point, it is through the Holy Spirit Who, in accordance with Philippians 2:13, gives to obedient counselors and counselees both the willingness and the ability to do those things that please God, that all is achieved.

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