The Independent Fundamental Baptist church is famous for their support of the Nouthetic Counseling movement and their rejection of psychology. They teach that psychology is sinful because it has roots in secular humanism and the only way to heal mental health issues is to use the Word of God for counseling.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nouthetic counseling here is a brief overview:
Nouthetic counseling is just a fancy way of saying Biblical Counseling or in other words, the use of ONLY the Bible for counseling. Proponents of Nouthetic counseling claim it is a Christ centered, “directive” way of counseling, as opposed to most secular “non-directive” counseling methodology. It uses the authority of God to be confrontational and discerning. Nouthetic counseling includes the following: discerning sin or wrong doings in the counselee; admonishing; confronting with the Word of God; motivating for change; providing direction from the Scripture; teaching the word of God; leading the counselee to confession, repentance, reconciliation and restoration; supporting and encouraging the counselee in his walk with God.
The flagship scripture of the Nouthetic counseling movement is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reprofe, correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (KJV). They teach that these two verses show that the Bible can be used for “instructing” and “correcting” all issues in life including mental health issues. They believe this because they teach that mental heath issues are the result of sin and that one only needs to purge the sin in one’s life through the use of scripture. They teach that if you pray hard enough, read scripture more, and have enough faith that there is no issues that can’t be corrected. They teach that serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction are the result of sin and that they are in fact sin themselves. They take scripture out of context and use such verses as “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish (or “competent to counsel” as interpreted by Jay Adams) one another.” Romans 15:14.
There are many other verses that are taken out of context and misinterpreted to support their belief such as Acts 20:31 and 1 Corinthians 4:14. The 2 Timothy 3:16-17 passage, for example, really has nothing to do with mental health. The purpose of Paul writing that letter to Timothy was to remind him that the Bible is our guide for life and the filter by which we are to test things to see if they are true or not. It shows us how to live for Christ and what we need to do to live holy lives. The danger comes when scripture is applied to an area of life that it wasn’t intended to apply to. Just as when someone is physically sick they seek a doctor, when someone is mentally ill they seek a mental health practitioner.
We believe that Nouthetic counseling is not only ineffective but also VERY dangerous because of it’s high potential for spiritual abuse and it’s misinterpretation of scripture. We have identified several flaws of the Nouthetic counseling movement:
Major flaws in the Nouthetic Counseling movement:
- Narrow understanding of the Word of God – Rally Cry: “The sufficiency of Scripture” – More Bible Centered than God Centered. It elevates the Bible as a 4th member of the Trinity
- Exclusive order focus on sin, instruction and obedience. We are all in agreement that sin is a psychopathology of the soul so sin is important, however, other pathology is not sin. Sin may send a person to hell, depression will not.
- Instruction and Obedience – “Here is what the Bible teaches, go out and do likewise” – The goal is conformity to the law. It’s very Authoritarian which is a cognitive dysfunction.
- Focuses on external not internal – The focus is on changing the outward behaviors in order to change the inward. This is backwards from what the Bible teaches.
- There is no doctrine of common grace. In fact there is no focus on grace at all. The focus is on changing self so that you are in better standing before God and so that God will love you more. This is also backwards from what the scripture teaches.
- It’s anti-science or at least anti-psychology
- It’s not practical – “Be more Spiritual!” – What does that mean?
- It’s unreasonable – “We are right and everyone else is wrong” mentality. Closed mind, unwilling to acknowledge other areas where the Lord is obviously working (i.e., a counselor’s office).
- It’s judgmental – They teach that the counselor’s role is to convict of sin. Leaves no room to allow the Holy Spirit to work and convict.
- It’s extremist – Inflexible, no room to make mistakes, no room for God’s grace.
Probably the most important reason why Nouthetic counseling is ineffective and dangerous is that it is ultimately disrespectful to the Creator of the brain, human body, and human development to ignore or downplay the biological, physical, and emotional by insisting that Christian counseling only works within the Spiritual realm. There is more to a person than just the spiritual components.
The problem here is that the Nouthetic way of thinking forces a believer to acknowledge that they aren’t spiritual enough because they are having these mental health issues. The blame goes to their lack of enough faith or trust in God’s deliverance. This type of spiritual abuse eventually leads to cynicism because the person is mustering up all the faith/trust they have and living just shy of perfection yet they still have depression, anxiety or whatever mental health issue. This can lead to a crisis of faith where the person begins to question their salvation. The leaders of this movement will even state outright that perhaps the person who struggles with mental health issues, despite their best efforts with faith, trust, increased spirituality (reading the bible and praying) really isn’t saved to begin with or else they wouldn’t have these problems.
This article is for educational, promotional and informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical or mental health advice, guidance or care. Emergency services are not available via this website. If you are having a crisis or emergency please call 911 or go to your local emergency care facility.