Biblical Counseling in Academia

We continue to be excited about the number of schools that are turning from an integrated approach to counseling to a purely biblical stance. Ten years ago one could have counted the number on one hand. Yesterday a friend who is trying to get a biblical counseling program going at the school where he teaches asked me to name the schools that I knew were teaching truly biblical (nouthetic) counseling. I not only had to use both hands but take my shoes off and use most of my toes. I am especially encouraged about the Southern Baptist Schools that are implementing biblical counseling programs, the most recent of these being Southern Seminary in Louisville where our friend Stuart Scott has been hired to direct the program.

Sadly, we are still vastly outnumbered, even among schools that would claim to be conservative, biblical, and even fundamental. I come from GARBC circles where schools like Cornerstone College and Cedarville have become not only a disappointment but an embarrassment that more careful oversight was not exercised. Trusting churches gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to schools that became answerable only to themselves and whose only goal was the prosperity of the institution. Psychology departments were profitable and were stamped with the world’s seal of approval as graduates went out and became licensed by the state.

Take one highly regarded, conservative seminary as an example. In 1973 Dr. Adams gave the annual W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary. He was the first non-dispensational lecturer ever invited to do so. He gave a series of lectures that were later published not only in book form (The Use of the Scriptures in Counseling) but in Dallas’ Theological journal BibSac as well. Adams began with these words:

You must use the Scriptures in Counseling. I do not think that I need to labor this point at Dallas Seminary. I am sure that the reason I was invited to deliver these lectures in the first place was because of our common conviction about this vital imperative. Therefore, since I think that I can safely assume that we are in basic agreement about this . . . I shall quickly move beyond this point. But before I do, perhaps a word or two would be in order. You must have conviction, courage, and a steady determination to use the Scriptures in Counseling (emphasis in original).

While he was warmly received and found widespread agreement on the campus, his words fell on deaf ears among the administration. John Walvoord, then president of the school, was already heavily invested in psychology and later brought family members onto the faculty to teach an integrated approach. For decades now, DTS has carefully taught its students to exegete and preach the Scriptures from the pulpit but to refer and defer to the psychologist in the counseling room. In one classroom a student could hear the Word clearly taught and then walk into a classroom two doors down and be told the answers were not to be found in the pages of Scripture but in the systems of Freud, Skinner, Rogers, Maslow, Adler, et al.

Imagine my curiosity, and even excitement, when I came across the DTS web site recently where they announced the formation of a new academic program and a new department of study—The Department of Biblical Counseling! Had the powers that be at Dallas finally seen their error? Were they now prepared to admit with many other conservative seminaries that they had been wrong and now wanted to do right? Could I now add DTS to my list of schools that were committed to ministering the Word in the counseling room as well as the pulpit? Where did they now stand on the issue of the sufficiency of the Scriptures? Listen to their answer from the DTS website:

Question: How does Dallas Theological Seminary’s Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling Program honor the sufficiency of the Scripture?

M.A./BC Response: Dallas Theological Seminary believes in an integrated model of counseling, which integrates Theology, Spiritual Formation, and Psychology. DTS does not subscribe to the Nouthetic viewpoint. In addition to counseling courses, students are trained in Theology, Bible Exposition, and Pastoral Ministries during the course of their studies at DTS. The M.A./BC Program offers courses that are taught by professors who agree with the DTS doctrinal statement and teach to the mission of the seminary. All courses include devotion, prayer, and a significant degree of biblically relevant counseling expertise, as all the professors on faculty also have worked, or currently work, as private counselors or on church staff as counselors.

Did you get that? In addition to counseling courses, students are trained in Theology, Bible, etc. First the counseling courses, then add some Bible. While I am glad they freely admit what they are doing, it is somewhat confusing to call it Biblical Counseling when it is no such thing.

In many church circles a degree from DTS is almost as good as a union card, commending its holder to the pastorate and pulpit of many Baptist and Bible churches. Pulpit committees should be warned that a degree from DTS now means that the holder has been taught that the Scriptures are insufficient for the important work he would undertake and that supplemental material from the world of pagan psychology will also be required. Beware.

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