The dark side of Christian counselling
Dr E. S. Williams
Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing;
155 pages; £6.95; ISBN: 978-1-870855-65-5
This book re-opens a debate on Christian counselling first raised by Jay Adams in his Competent to counsel published in 1970.
According to Dr Williams the church has failed to heed the earlier warning concerning the use of unbiblical counselling methods and an alarm needs to be sounded again. The industry of Christian counselling has continued to grow and is readily adopted by many evangelical churches.
Popular Christian counselling is an integration of biblical teaching with elements of secular psychology and is therefore a recipe for false doctrine. The gospel is undermined and the life of the church threatened. The psychoanalyst takes his place alongside the pastor supposedly to deal with deeper human needs that cannot be reached by a regular biblical ministry.
Dr Williams looks first at the foundations of the Christian counselling movement and its development in the UK. In doing this he makes particular reference to the writings of James Dobson and the ministry of Selwyn Hughes (Crusade for World Revival). He then examines the thinking of leaders in secular psychology – Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis.
These chapters are followed by analysis of the teaching of Lawrence Crabb, one of the most influential writers of Christian counselling books. In a final section the author gives a critique of ‘self-esteem’ which forms a central part of Christian psychotherapy.
This is a live issue. Pastors are under pressure from congregations conditioned by a culture of counselling and have become hesitant in applying biblical principles. Dr Williams writes clearly and makes a strong statement to those who are involved in Christian ministry.
Any detailed assessment of this book must take into account that there is a companion volume yet to be published. This second book will deal with doctrinal issues raised by the counselling movement.