Southern Seminary Good News/Bad News

Martin Bobgan


The Good News is that Southern Seminary is in the planning stages of dismantling its psychologically-oriented counseling program. Southern Seminary (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the first of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries to take this bold step away from integrating the wisdom of men with the Scriptures in terms of how Christians are to live and to deal with problems of living.

We had previously expressed our concern over Southern Seminary’s insufficiency of Scripture counseling program that has been in place for a number of years (Psychoheresy Awareness Letter Vol. 9, No. 1). Therefore, we were thankful to read the Good News that Southern Seminary officials recently announced that they are abandoning the current integration program and "instituting a wholesale change" from one that "prepares therapists for state licensure" to one "built upon the view that Scripture is sufficient to answer comprehensively the deepest needs of the human heart." That is indeed Good News! The fact that Southern Seminary is dumping its insufficiency of Scripture program is a bold, daring and, most of all, solidly biblical move. The president, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., and the faculty deserve praise for what they have done.

Now for the Bad News. Southern Seminary is replacing the current integration model with a biblical counseling model, of which we have been critical since leaving the biblical counseling movement (BCM) and writing our book Against "Biblical Counseling": For The Bible (ABC). How do we know the counseling program will be the same as what we have criticized in the past? We know by virtue of the fact that the main professor hired to head and implement this new direction is Stuart Scott. We have Scott’s manual on biblical counseling that he has been using at the Master’s College. Scott is a quintessential biblical counselor and the manual he uses is a stereotypical example of others in the BCM. The model to which he subscribes is obviously the one he will use at Southern Seminary.

Like those used by most biblical counselors who claim to be biblical, Scott’s model is not supported by Scripture. While Scripture is used, the model of the counseling process cannot be found in the Bible. Scott has a problem-centered counseling approach, which we contrast with a Christ-centered approach in our book Christ-Centered Ministry versus Problem-Centered Counseling (CCM).

Like most biblical counselors, Scott primarily teaches an approach predicated on the idea that, through speaking and listening, the counselor can discern and reveal the idols of the counselee’s heart and then guide the person into change. Through the use of a great deal of introspection and help from the counselor, the counselee will supposedly be able to discern what God wants him to change on the inside, so that there will be change in behavior. This approach is the standard for problem-centered counselors like Scott. Scott attempts to do what only the Holy Spirit can do, which is to discover the hidden motives or idols of the heart (Training in Biblical Counseling Level I, pp. 31ff; also see CCM, pp. 67 ff). An examination of Scott’s manual will confirm that his approach is one that emphasizes the idea that external behavior is evidence of idols of the heart and of inner heart change. Analyzing the heart through a biblicized form of insight, gleaned through focusing on the person and his problems and guessing at what is behind external behavior, is the sine qua non of his brand of biblical counseling.

A good example of Scott’s problem-centered behavioral counseling approach is seen in a talk he gave at a meeting of biblical counselors. In it Scott spoke about pride. Regarding pride, Scott asked his audience that if anyone saw pride in him to "bring it to my attention." Scott said, "If it even looks like it, bring it to my attention." Note the emphasis on outward appearances and the confidence that Scott has in the erroneous idea that what is seen on the outside will reveal his pride. However, pride is usually an unseen matter of the heart, which may or may not be accompanied by prideful words or behavior.

While Scott includes some excellent general teachings about the sufficiency of Scripture, the pre-eminence of Christ, salvation, and sanctification in his manual, the Bible does not support his methodology of counseling. Scott is a dedicated practitioner of the problem-centered biblical counseling approach. A cursory look at his manual and particularly his "Personal Improvement Project" section will reveal how problem-centered he is and how much importance he places on extensive, other-directed, subjective self-evaluation and introspection.

To get a better view of some differences we have with Scott, read the article "Stuart Scott and Grace Community Church" available at www.psychoheresy-aware.org/scottgee.html. Reading the article on our web site will indicate some of the problems with Scott’s problem-centered approach and why such an approach will fail to meet Southern Seminary’s goal to develop a program "built upon the view that Scripture is sufficient to answer comprehensively the deepest needs of the human heart."

Those at Southern Seminary who are interested in the facts should read this current article, the article on our web site mentioned above, ABC, and CCM to understand what is wrong with Stuart Scott’s problem-centered, counselor-and-manual dependent model and what we propose instead of it.

In addition, I ask the following questions of Scott, which should be of interest to those at Southern Seminary:

1. Do you condemn the unbiblical practice of charging fees for biblical counseling in which you previously indulged, and have you taught your past and current students how unbiblical this practice is?

2. Do you condemn the unbiblical, separated-from-the-church, community counseling centers, in which many biblical counselors (a number of whom you recommend) are involved?

3. Do you condemn the unbiblical practice of many biblical counselors who join integrationist or out-rightly psychological organizations, such as the American Association of Christian Counselors and the American Psychological Association?

4. Do you still endorse the problem-centered approach that is in the manual out of which you have taught?

What Southern Seminary will have with Stuart Scott is what we describe in our writings as the usual unbiblical problem-centered approach. As they admit, Southern Seminary was in error with their psychologically-oriented pastoral counseling program; they continue in error with the incoming BCM program headed by Scott. Both are programs that arise out of an insufficiency of Scripture position.

 
From PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, May-June, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2005.

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