Under whose auspices should counseling be done?

It follows that if those who do counseling as a life calling are the elders of the church, and they are ordained to their office by the church, Christians ought to do counseling under the auspices of the church. Christians ought not to do counseling under other auspices since there is no rightful authority to do so. However, there are many who have arrogated to themselves the "right" to counsel apart from the church. It is precisely from this biblically lawless situation that much of the confusion about counseling among Christians stems.

Several factors contribute to this confusion. A counselor who counsels outside of church auspices needs to adhere to no doctrinal standard other than his own. Hence, what is taught and done under the rubric "Christian" counseling, in some cases, may be no more Christian than Mohammedan teachings and practices are. And it is certain that much is taught and done that, thoroughly examined, would pass muster in relatively few biblically-oriented denominations.*

The situation is lawless because there is no one to whom the counselor must answer but himself or some self-appointed board. He is operating autonomously without biblical authority. Authority comes from God. But free-lancers by-pass God's authority vested in the officers of the church in favor of their own assumed authority. According to the proper biblical understanding of office, however, this situation is unacceptable: "Now a person doesn't take this honor upon himself, but, on the contrary, he is called by God just as Aaron was" (Hebrews 5:4). That is how God thinks and speaks about appointment to office. Because many do not recognize counseling as a function of the church they fail to see that it is a task of the officers of the church.

To many-both those who practice counseling as a life calling without ordination by the church, and those who allow it-taking upon oneself the right to counsel is acceptable. But when God's ways are set aside, nothing but confusion and trouble comes upon the church. The entire Old Testament record verifies this statement. Surely, anyone who knows anything about the counseling situation in the church today cannot help but echo an "Amen." What is true of the world has become true of the church: there is no consensus about how counseling should be done. Instead, we find nothing but a proliferation of views. Christians offer no universally accepted counseling approach over against the world's 250-odd systems. Rather, by eclectic borrowing, they have brought every outside belief and practice into the church. To the consternation of those who care, these Christians have turned counseling into a worldly enterprise.

But doesn't Christ offer something unique? Has the antithesis between Jerusalem and Athens been erased? Must we add to the Bible in order to make it effective-to "enhance" it? Surely, there is something wrong with such thinking. The Scriptures offer help from God that is antithetical to that of the world. God's thought transcends man's (Isaiah 55:8, 9). Christian counseling offers certainty; based on God's written promises, it offers true solutions to man's problems, it gives unerring guidance and direction and it takes into account the consequences of Adam's sin. It stands utterly opposed to every faulty solution to human sin and misery. All of this sets Christian counseling apart. How can those, who having turned to Christ for the solution to their greatest problem -- salvation -- now turn to the world for solutions to lesser ones? Don't the words of Paul to the Galatians apply when he wrote, "Having begun by the Spirit are you now going to be completed by the flesh?" (Galatians 3: 3). Consider this carefully. For more about authority, see my forthcoming book, The Place of Authority in Christ's Church.

* The trouble is that many churches take no responsibility for what their members do or teach, so long as they are not explicitly operating under the aegis of the church. This failure has contributed significantly to the chaos in counseling that is found in Christianity today.

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

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Simpsonville, SC 29681

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