Subscribe now

The Dark Side of Christian Counselling

By E. S. Williams
June 2010 | Review by Roger March


It is amazing how rapidly the Christian counselling movement has spread through churches in the UK, teaching that hurts and depressions once considered part of normal life are illnesses to be treated. It implies that for 1900 years the Bible has been insufficient for the woes of God's people, or for their sanctification, but that now we have the 'insights' of anti-Christian psychologists to make good the deficit. This book challenges these claims, giving the most clear-cut and interesting overview of the counselling movement and of the giants of secular psychology who are pillars of its 'faith'.

  • Publisher: Wakeman & Belmont House Publishing
  • ISBN: 978-1870855655
  • Pages: 155
  • Price: £6.95
Buy this book »

Book Review

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.

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Why Should I Trust the Bible?

We should trust the Bible, says Timothy Paul Jones, because it is ‘grounded in the words of a man who died and rose again’ (p.111). Jones’s basic presupposition is this: ‘If we live in a world where it is possible…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Who Am I? Human Identity and the Gospel in a Confusing World
Thomas Fretwell

In today’s secular society, religion is often regarded as without rational or scientific basis, and therefore irrelevant to life in the modern world and all areas of public engagement. If that is our social context, then it is no wonder…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Pastor’s Life: Practical Wisdom from the Puritans
Matthew D Haste & Shane W Parker

This book highlights ‘some of the many lessons that today’s pastors can learn from the Puritans’ (p.151). As such it is aimed at pastors, but the lessons are really for anyone who is a Christian leader. The opening chapter provides…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church
Stephen J Nichols

What a breath of fresh air this book is! Stephen Nichols has given us 40 vignettes from church history that are brief enough to be digested over a bowl of cereal. The book doesn’t aim to be a beginner’s guide…