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4 Signs that Your Counseling is at Risk of Embracing Worldly Wisdom 

How do we protect our counseling against worldly influences?

May 16, 2024

My former pastor once told me, “Christians never verbally reject the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. But that inward rejection will always reveal itself when Christians feel the need to add something.”1Credited to Dr. Jeffrey Johnson.  Are you tempted to say to yourself, “Scripture is sufficient… but I’ll get the best result if I add something?” Apologists may be tempted to add philosophy to achieve the best defense. Worship leaders may be tempted to add gimmicks to achieve the best worship service. Likewise, counselors may be tempted to add psychological methods to achieve the best counseling session. The inevitable outcome of thinking that Scripture is not enough to provide the best result is that you will begin to embrace worldly wisdom. As counselors, we must keep watch over our doctrine and guard against worldly wisdom bleeding into our methodology (1 Timothy 4:16). Here are four signs that your counseling is at high risk of opening the door to worldly wisdom in your counseling room. 

Sign #1: You are not asking basic questions 

If counselors are to exercise discernment, we must ask questions (Proverbs 18:15). The pattern that is seen among Christians who embrace worldly wisdom is that they never ask basic questions. Counselors must test the spirits even if they have a white coat and MD after their name (1 John 4:1). For example, when a psychiatrist attempts to label someone with “bipolar disorder,” they should be asking these basic questions: “What tests led you to that conclusion? Blood work? Brain Scans? X-Rays?” Awkward silence will inevitably follow that question. If a counselor is going to be effective in testing the spirits of the latest counseling tool, they must know the right questions to ask. Here are a few places to start investigating.  

First, ask about the historical background of the counseling tool. For instance, when you look at the history of the Enneagram, you will discover that the enneatypes came from automatic writing (a practice of the occult).2

Secondly, ask questions concerning the philosophy of the counseling tool. For instance, the philosophy which drives Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is attachment theory (a humanistic view which says your emotions are byproducts of evolution). Likewise, the philosophy which drives the five love languages is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which teaches that you cannot serve others until your needs are first met).  

Lastly, ask questions about the ultimate goal of the counseling tool. Counseling methods that are saturated in worldly wisdom will always have the wrong goal in mind. For instance, the goal of Alcoholics Anonymous is to merely achieve and maintain sobriety. In contrast, the goal of biblical counseling must always be to produce disciples and to help them conform to Christ’s image on a heart level (Matthew 28:19-20), not merely to modify the counselee’s behavior. 

Sign #2: You use the world’s terminology rather than Scripture’s 

One of the first signs of doctrinal backsliding is that the counselor no longer adheres to biblical terminology. For example, do you use labels such as alcoholism (rather than drunkenness), addiction (rather than enslavement), or narcissism (rather than pride)? One tactic of cults such as Mormonism is to use Christian terminology, but to secretly alter the definitions of those terms. Psychology does the complete opposite. They alter the terminology, yet the definitions of those words remain. Satan realizes that Scripture can’t be authoritative on issues that it doesn’t speak to. Therefore, Satan alters terminology to give the appearance that Scripture does not speak on those matters. Of course, Scripture is sufficient for issues of anger, but what about bipolar disorder? Scripture may be sufficient for pride, but what about narcissism? As we read Scripture, we must guard against becoming anachronistic. This means that we should not expect Scripture to speak the way we do, but rather, we must speak the way Scripture does. 

Sign #3: Your counseling approach is driven by pragmatism 

When “success” becomes what guides our approach to counseling, we are functioning no different from the churches that utilize gimmicks, smoke machines, and dim lights to achieve “success.” The ends never justify the means of counseling. In 2 Chronicles 16:1-6, King Asa resorted to unbiblical means to achieve his goal, and it worked. However, despite the success of Asa’s plan, God was highly displeased with Asa’s reliance on man rather than on Him (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). As counselors, we must accept the fact that we are called to be “faithful counselors,” not necessarily “successful counselors.” There will be times when God is most glorified by us speaking His Word to a counselee and then experiencing rejection, just as Micaiah did (1 Kings 22:13-28). 

Sign #4: Your counseling is divorced from the local church 

God has provided the church to be the tool for counselors to utilize to promote lasting change. The local church is the normative means for providing counselees with the means of equipping through the Word (Ephesians 4:11-12), accountability (Matthew 18:15-20), and mutual edification (Hebrews 10:24-25). When counselors fail to utilize the local church, that is typically a symptom of the counselor’s lack of reliance on God’s Word. 

Furthermore, when counselors are not anchoring their ministry in the local church, they have no means of doctrinal accountability. Even the apostles didn’t operate apart from the local church (Acts 15). A counselor is much more susceptible to the world’s wisdom when they are isolated from the church. It is crucial for a counselor to do ministry under the oversight of their local church, so that if their ministry begins contradicting Scripture, the church can then intervene.  

Stand on the Firm Foundation of Scripture 

The sufficiency of Scripture is Satan’s primary focus of attack in the church today. Satan is aware that the most efficient way to attack the authority of Scripture is to attack its sufficiency with the lie that Scripture is not enough for the problems of life. The most effective way for counselors to guard their doctrine from worldly wisdom is to zealously protect their doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Peter 1:3). As counselors, we must regularly examine ourselves in order to guard against the influences of worldly wisdom. Once we determine that we are being swayed by the wisdom of the world, the solution is to begin studying and meditating on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. If counselors desire to prevent their ministries from burning up on that last day, they must make sure that their counseling ministry is not built with wood, hay, and straw, but on the living and abiding Word of God, which remains forever (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Peter 1:23-25).