What is Biblical Counseling? (Part 1)

I get that question a lot. It seems like a pretty straight forward question. However, I have found the question to be anything but straightforward.

I oversee the Abundant Life Counseling Center (ALCC), a ministry of Abundant Life Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Our counseling center will facilitate over 7,000 counseling sessions in a year, and oversee countless individuals who seek help through one of our wellness groups.

We would be considered evangelical in the sense we take the Bible seriously (inerrancy), believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God (bodily resurrection), and are intentional about seeing people place their faith in Christ alone for salvation. Of course we would do “biblical counseling”! Wouldn’t we?

At face value, the phrase “biblical counseling” seems pretty easy to understand. Someone asks you a question, and you in turn give them counsel based on the Bible. However, whenever we use the word “biblical” as an adjective we usually have to further explain what we mean.

To be honest, the word “biblical” oftentimes does not make a very good adjective. Does your child go to a biblical school? Do you vote biblically? Do you dress biblically? Do you watch biblical TV shows? It can be a weird way to talk, even in church world.

Webster defines the word biblical as “relating to, or being in accord with the Bible.” From a practical standpoint, one could say that “biblical counsel” is counseling that is in accord with the Bible.

If I were to ask my wife for some counsel, and she either based her counsel on principles found in the Bible or referred to a specific passage when speaking into my situation, I would definitely say she is providing counseling that is “biblical.”

If one makes an appointment to speak with a pastor, who in turn provides insight into one’s condition through the lens of Scripture, well I definitely feel that qualifies as “biblical counseling.”

If one is sharing in community, for instance with a small group at church, and others in the group provide counsel and encouragement from Scripture . . . well that too would be considered “biblical counseling.”

If I am listening to a sermon online, and the speaker is preaching from God’s Word, that too would constitute “biblical counseling.”

At ALCC we see numerous individuals who are experiencing pain, depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, marriage issues, family issues, divorce, grief, discontentment, etc. Oftentimes we are dealing with people who feel stuck, ashamed, and hopeless.

We definitely see the Bible as the supreme authority to deal with all of their issues.

However, asking what is the definition of “biblical counseling” is not the only important question. In fact, it might not even be the best question.

Sometimes a better question can lead to a better understanding. To be as effective as we can be to minister to individuals and families that God directs to our counseling center requires us to ask a different question – a better question.

What approach to counseling best reflects the whole counsel of God?

Now that is a big question!

When dealing with a question like “What is Biblical Counseling?” there can be a tendency to oversimplify, use logical fallacies, or worse yet twist Scripture. I am mindful of all of these whenever I discuss this topic. For the sake of clarity and to best express the approach of ALCC, I organize the approaches to counseling into three different groups.

First, there is the no-Bible approach. Second, there is the solo-Bible approach. Finally, there is the Sola Scriptura approach. While there is always overlap and semantics involved when we use words to define concepts, I feel comfortable these broad categories provide a springboard to answer what I feel is the all-important question:

What approach to counseling best reflects the whole counsel of God?

To be continued…

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