Dr. John MacArthur, Jr. and Biblical Counseling

Once upon a time The Master’s College had a Behavioral Studies program. Additionally, students and members of the faculty were strongly influenced by psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb. The Behavioral Studies program and Crabb’s influence are gone. Instead, The Master’s College has a Biblical Counseling program developed by Dr. Bob Smith, who is on the Boards of CCEF and NANC (See article: "Biblical Counseling: Simoniacs and Pharisaics?"). Dr. Wayne Mack, formerly on staff at CCEF, currently leads the program. Mack counseled with CCEF for years and like others there has a compromised biblical stand. Mack has done some good things, but like the others at CCEF his practice and teachings bear all the earmarks of the psychological way. And, he is a part of the charging fees and unbiblically separated, counseling ministry mentality of CCEF and NANC.

A recently published book by Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., and Dr. Wayne Mack is Introduction to Biblical Counseling. The back cover proclaims that the book presents "an alternative to secular psychology"—certainly a bad beginning to a well-intended book. In advertising this book, The Master’s Current, a publication of The Master’s College, refers to it as "An Alternative to Secular Psychology." Since when is the Bible an "alternative to secular psychology"? This book has some excellent chapters. However, eliminating Part III, written by Mack, would dramatically improve the quality of the book.

Although Mack has some good material in his section, it reeks of the psychological way. In his chapter "Developing a Helping Relationship with Counselees," Mack has a section on "How to Show Respect to a Counselee."

The following is from that section:

  • "The acronym S-O-L-V-E-R is a useful device for remembering several nonverbal ways to show respect for a counselee:

    S———squared shoulders. Face counselees in a way that indicates you are alert and giving them all your attention.

    O———open stance. Relax your arms, hands, and shoulders as if to say, "I am here to receive whatever you want to communicate. You have access to me."

    L———lean forward slightly. This shows interest in what the person is saying to you.

    V———vocal quality. Maintain a volume and intensity in your speech that is neither abrasive nor hard to hear. Always let your voice reflect tenderness and compassion rather than anger and irritation.

    E———eye contact. Look at people, especially when they are speaking. Do not stare at them so that they are uncomfortable, but show your interest in what they are saying by giving them your rapt attention.

    R———relational posture. Coordinate all your body, head, and facial movements in a way that is most conducive to the comfort of the counselee. Your posture should not be still and robotic, but neither should it be so totally relaxed that the person thinks you are about to go to sleep."1

  • We have explained to many people how God has blessed us with the wise counsel of a friend in the faith. Our children have been present when we have sought his counsel. Our daughter, after hearing the S-O-L-V-E-R device, observed "You know [our friend] absorbs what you say; he doesn’t fake listen!"

    This contrived, artificial, superficial, fake listening, posing, and posturing technology came directly from psychotherapy. The fake facading is a detriment to truthful, honest, biblical relationships. How does S-O-L-V-E-R line up with what Paul refers to as "unfeigned love"? Paul sets forth evidence of his call to ministry by describing the manner in which he ministered:

  • By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. . . (2 Corinthians 6:6,7).
  • What a contrast to S-O-L-V-E-R! Why should Christians import techniques from psychology when through the indwelling Holy Spirit, they can minister "by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left"?

    And, where did Mack get the idea for S-O-L-V-E-R? In a footnote, he indicates its source. Mack adapted it from Dr. Gerard Egan’s acronym S-O-L-E-R. Who is Dr. Gerard Egan? He is a professor of psychology. One of his best-known books during the encounter era of the 60s and 70s is Encounter: Group Processes for Interpersonal Growth. Although that book on encounter is not the book from which Mack quotes, a reading of Mack’s section will demonstrate the psychological influence of Egan and other psychologists on Mack’s syncretistic melding (recycling?) of secular psychology and Christianity.

    The Fall 1994 issue of The Journal of Biblical Counseling, published by CCEF, includes this very chapter from Introduction to Biblical Counseling. Obviously, understandably, and not surprisingly, David Powlison, editor of the journal, liked this chapter by Mack.

    The Master’s College catalog describes its biblical counseling program as "a program that leads to a degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Counseling, as well as, fulfills the academic requirements for membership in the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC)."2 Mack is a Board member of NANC, so this seems like a natural connection. But, as we have indicated elsewhere in this newsletter, we recommend against both NANC and CCEF. With the umbilical connection to NANC and CCEF through Mack, we have a three-fold cord (NANC, CCEF, and the Biblical Counseling program at The Master’s College) that will not be easily broken.

    Dr. Larry Crabb is no longer at The Master’s College, partly because concerned faculty and students became aware of his integrationist teachings, but mostly because MacArthur realized how unbiblical Crabb truly is. We hope The Master’s College faculty will realize that there is no need for a Biblical Counseling specialty at The Master’s College and speak out against it. We hope that students will not enroll in such a program, no matter how highly promoted it is. And, most of all, we hope that MacArthur will realize how unbiblical it is and call a halt to it. This program does not deserve the support of biblically-minded believers.

    1Wayne Mack in Introduction to Biblical Counseling. Dallas: Word, 1994, p. 181.

    2The Master’s Current, Spring, 1994, p. 3.


    PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110

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