Should we regard Nouthetic counseling as biblical counseling? And are these two things synonymous, or is there perhaps a certain inherent unreasonableness to the Nouthetic approach which we do well to mark and avoid in the interest of being more faithful to the whole counsel of God?
In so far as I consider these questions in this episode, I want to consider the subject in an introductory way. More can certainly be said, and should be. And more should be known about the school of thought than what I know, and doubtless will be.
But these qualifiers out of the way, I am admittedly not an expert in either psychology or counseling. The extent of my formal training still remains a very good General Psychology course I took from a Dr. Michael Firmin at Cedarville University in 2006.
Though I am very sorry to say Dr. Firmin passed away in 2020, I count myself privileged to say that by virtue of his course, plus my study of the Scriptures, there are some significant presuppositional points with which I differ with the Nouthetic approach – particularly where it certainly seems to see mainstream psychology as being either/or instead of potentially offering any valuable insights which Christians can avail themselves of while we who hold God’s Word to be our only infallible authority.
An important point to remember here is the distinction between Sola Scriptura and Solo Scriptura. The heirlooms of the Protestant Reformation should certainly cause us to look askance at mainstream secular Psychologists and both their assumptions and aims.
Yet equally so, Sola Scriptura does not to my way of reasoning prevent us from availing ourselves of meaningful insights from other fields of study where those achieving such are not in the fold.
We do well on these points to consider carefully the question asked of Christ, whether it was the blind man’s sin or his parents which caused him to be born blind. Similarly, the case study of Job’s three friends is instructive here.
For one to suffer clinical anxiety and depression may be indicative of sin on their part. But if we rush to that conclusion and are stuck on it, I would say we have not studied the Word diligently enough, and should try again.
Yet where some may stubbornly insist that their judgments and categories are inviolable, I would encourage us all to remember that not only counselees, but also counselors, must factor in the fact of their own inborn sinful nature to reckon with in appraising human suffering – with or without a clear medical diagnosis.
Just as we ought not to suppose that all causes are material and physical just because some are, we ought not to assume all causes are spiritual and doctrinal just because some are. And for the same reasons, we ought to caution and admonish uncareful folk in both directions against excessively reductionistic and hasty generalizations.
Category errors can sometimes be malicious among the innately godless, and those hostile to Christianity. But so also can God’s people who are, knowingly or not, taken captive by vain and human philosophy. And where the result is the same regardless source and intention, we must take care to curtail category errors of all kinds and from all places if our chief aim is to love, honor, and obey God, and to serve and minister to one another.
After all, we are commanded to study to show ourselves approved workmen. But to say doing this well will facilitate rightly dividing the word of truth is also to say it is possible to wrongly divide that same word if we do not take care.
Are we all open to reflecting on whether we are as rightly handling truth as we might? God will be the Judge, I trust. But as for my part, I cannot help but point out some hazards here where several are apparent on the front-end, even just in the introduction to the subject.
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