How does Nouthetic counseling differ from other forms of Christian Counseling?

Much counseling purports to be Christian. However, most of the counseling that is done by Christians is a mixture of unbelieving counseling systems which have been "sanitized" to sound Christian. I am not saying that everyone who uses pagan counseling systems eclectically does so in bad faith, but it is perfectly clear that even among the best, the Bible is "brought in" after the theory and the practice have been adopted in order to somehow make what is done "Christian." Worse still, in other cases the Bible is interspersed to make it appear Christian. Even those who honestly think that sprinkling a few Bible verses throughout somehow sanctifies the counseling, in many cases must have an uneasy conscience about the procedure. In some situations, nevertheless, there may be those who simply know so little of the Bible, how to interpret and apply it, that they sincerely believe this process legitimizes the name "Christian Counseling."

Truly Christian counseling (Nouthetic Counseling, or that which is in line with Nouthetic Counseling, but does not use the name) is Bible based from start to finish. See the answer to the previous question for more details. What makes the difference, fundamentally, is whether or not a system is grounded on the promise that the Bible has all the answers for life and godliness. The Bible teaches this in such passages as 2 Peter 1:3 where the promises of God are said to provide just such help. And, in addition, in 2 Timothy 3:17, from three distinct perspectives, Paul says the Scriptures are sufficient for every task an elder is called to do. What makes the difference between those systems that call themselves Christian and truly are, then, is whether it includes extraneous materials as well. Christian counseling, to warrant the name, must assert (and in actual practice demonstrate) the sufficiency of the Scriptures for counseling.

There are many who will say that their counseling 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. Other systems, claiming to be, are not. When you get right down to examining what people do in counseling it is quite evident that their claims are false. That is how it differs from other counseling systems that claim to be Christian. It warrants the claim to the name "Christian" and to the name "Biblical."

Some who purport to do "biblical" counseling only use the Bible to support what, upon examination, proves to be a non-Christian system. A good example of this is the temperament school, revived by O. Hallesby and others. They took this idea over form the Greek physician-philosophers who believed that the body was regulated by the proportions of four humors (or fluids that had to do with temperament) which one possessed. The modern "Christian" proponents of this system conveniently leave out the fluid basis for the system, still propagate the four temperament theory, and add biblical verses or stories about the personalities of various biblical characters whom they use to illustrate their viewpoint.

In doing this, the Bible becomes an illustration book from which the temperament people take materials to "back" their beliefs. Because they use much Bible-wrongly interpreted and used for purposes for which it was never intended-what they have to say may impress the unwary as being quite Christian. The fact is, however, there is nothing fundamentally Christian or biblical about the temperament theory at all. Indeed, to call it such is deception of the rawest sort. Christians need to become far more discerning, and not accept whatever claims to be Christian as such. Unless the system is biblical from start to finish, it isn't Christian.

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583




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