At the first glance of this title, this may seem to be a no-brainer, however, supposed biblical counseling of even the popular authors of nouthetic counseling such as Jay Adams ("Competent to Counsel") deal very little with doctrine. (In all fairness, Adams does have a book entitled "A Theology of Christian Counseling", but his other works speak little of doctrine.) Although there are some things of value that can be gleaned from these books, where the problem lies is in that these books go on the presumption that those who are counseled have or did have the proper view of God and sidestep doctrinal matters. This is understandable when it is more or less of a generic kind of counseling in that it must appeal to all denominations. We have stated many times that how one counsels reflects their beliefs and a wrong belief results in an improper method of counseling and this is why we are very careful of who are selected to counsel with OAIM.
What do we consider Sound Doctrine? "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9) There are only two views within Christianity and we stand on either one or the other; there is no middle ground. One is a works based Gospel in all the various forms that causes confusion and division, or the Gospel taught of Christ and affirmed by the apostles that salvation is a gift of God and by faith we are saved by the grace of God and not of works of our righteousness. (Romans 10:3) Salvation comes through believing the finished works of Christ upon the cross is sufficient (John 19:30 & Hebrews 10:12) and that His righteousness had been imputed towards us. (Romans 4:22-24) It is about this Gospel that the reformers of the sixteenth century first stated, "Christ alone" plus nothing else. This statement by the reformers was the reaffirmation of what the apostles knew to be true and was the common salvation that was given unto the saints that we are to exhort others to contend for. (Jude 3)
All of this spells "Eternal Security" (Heb 9:12) for the believer and we believe that much of what is at the root of depression and suicide is what is common to the rest of the world, hopelessness and despair. If this is common with a world that is without hope, then why should a Christian suffer with the same hopelessness and despair? Does this not sound like the result of perhaps a wrong view of who God is and a wrong view of what the Gospel (good news) of Christ is all about? The "good news" is turned into "bad news" when grace is mingled with works. Jesus came to save the sinner, not to bring condemnation. (John 3:15-17) Jesus came to bring freedom from the works of the laws, not to add to the laws and make it more impossible to obtain salvation by our works of righteousness and that is what mingling grace with works does create. The good news was the good news to the apostles that set them free and it is still the same good news that sets the captives free today.
Works based salvation causes all kinds of anxiety and fears and hopelessness that many times also causes many physical problems. Doctors are becoming more aware of the connection between stress and physical illness and there are few things more stressful than for a Christian being fearful of loss of salvation. Many Christians struggle with trying to gain or to maintain their salvation through their works of righteousness and this causes all kinds of despair because, one can never be sure if they are sinless enough to be accepted of God or of being assured if their works of righteousness has made the muster of being good enough for salvation.
PROPER DOCTRINE is the only thing that is the answer for many struggles that face Christians today and this is not taught in much of "Christian Counseling" that operates more on the level of Psychology than it does on true Biblical Counseling.
I have had a few who I had counseled with that stated, "I wish I could believe in eternal security because it sure sounds wonderful, but I just can't take the chance that it is wrong." I truly don't believe they understand how boastful and prideful that statement is. What is being said is, I can not believe that the sacrifice of Jesus was complete and sufficient and that Jesus paid only a partial payment that I must now complete with my own works of righteousness. They have chosen to continue on in despair and hopelessness in their own self-righteousness rather than humble themselves and acknowledge that they are lost in their sins and NEED God's eternal grace and HAVE to have a SAVIOR. (2 Tim 1:7-10)
This is not the case in all who suffer with depression from false teachings, some are genuinely frightened to believe any other way without being aware that it is a works based salvation that is built upon pride but are genuinely trying to please God and believe this is what is required of them. Either way, the end result is a life time of struggles and fears that Jesus came to set the captives free from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15) and proper sound doctrine is the answer.
Now that we covered Christians who have been born again but had been caught up in false doctrine, let us move to another area where Sound Doctrine is of the utmost importance in Christian counseling.
The study of false doctrine is very much recommended for one who is a Christian counselor so one can spot false teachings to enable them to help the person who may believe what they had been taught is correct yet who are lost and are in need of being born again. We recommend such sites as: Let Us Reason, The Watchman Expositor, Christian Research Institute. A study of this is not for the purpose of debate and to win an argument but is to become knowledgeable so as to know how best to approach and help to enable lost souls to come into salvation. This is also another area that "Christian counseling" lacks, because it is geared more towards helping the Christian with their struggles and is not intended to be for evangelizing but OAM is concerned for both the saved and the lost.
I will give an example of the benefit of being knowledgeable of other beliefs, most notably of the pseudo-Christian beliefs, which are the most dangerous and deceptive because it mingles truth with falsehood and gives the appearance of Christianity.
A young lady comes to us who is suffering from bouts of severe depression and suicidal thoughts and states that she used to be a Christian, but found it not to be fulfilling and is now a Wiccan. She states that Wicca also does not fulfill her heart's longing but that it was better than Christianity. The first response would be to ask her why she had abandoned Christianity and if she knew Jesus. She answers affirming everything you may say to her but keeps rejecting what is being said by stating, "I heard all of that and I already know what you are saying and I don't want any more of that lie." What may have been overlooked was when she stated that she was a Pentecostal and the counselor assuming she was a member of an AOG church or of some other Pentecostal church body that may be sound in many regards.
Without further questioning, one may miss what was behind her rejection of what she had thought was historical fundamental Christianity. But upon asking her if she was a "Oneness" Pentecostal, then it becomes clear that she had been taught another Jesus, another gospel and another spirit than the one taught by the apostles. (2Cor 11:4) She had not rejected Christianity; she rejected what she had thought was Christianity and this is the perfect opportunity to present the gospel (good news) to her. But, before one can do that, it has to be pointed out as to why what she was taught was not Christianity. Oneness Pentecostals are taught that there is only "One God" this is why they call themselves "Oneness Pentecostal. What they mean by that is the denial of the triune God, three persons who are the One True God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. What they believe is that the Father became the Son who became the Holy Spirit. In other words, the One God who manifested himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit but who are not three distinct persons co-existing from eternity to eternity.
This may seem rather insignificant, but the fact is, this is not who God is, so they cannot know who Jesus is nor can they understand the plan of salvation. Among other things, they teach salvation by works and without speaking in tongues, one is not saved. Before this person can be helped with her suicidal thoughts and bouts of depression, the first step is bringing her into the knowledge of salvation by grace and not of works through the finished works of Jesus on the cross.
Of course, the first thing one needs to have is a good solid understanding of the word of God and how to apply the truth of God's word to her heart. SOUND DOCTRINE IS IMPORTANT, and is a must for proper biblical counseling.
Brothers and sisters, get into the word. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim 3:16-17) "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1:9) "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15)
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