National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC)*

Biblical or Psychological?

-  The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) is a fellowship of Christian pastors and laymen who have banded together to promote and develop "counseling that is thoroughly grounded in the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice." The stated purpose of NANC's founding (1975) was "to certify counselors and counseling centers, to build a referral network of trustworthy counselors and institutions, to provide fellowship with others who stand in the mainstream of biblical counseling, and to provide continuing education." Though NANC was founded by anti-psychological integrationist Dr. Jay E. Adams (the widely recognized "father" of the "nouthetic" Biblical counseling movement), and though NANC continues to verbally proclaim an anti-integrationist position, its cross-pollination over the years with the integrationist Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), the neo-evangelical, psychologically-oriented General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), and the psychologized ministries of John MacArthur's Master's Fellowship, have left it slowly sinking in a psychological quagmire. (NANC's 14-member Board of Trustees has only four members affiliated outside these three organizations, and NANC's director, Randy Patten, is the former head of the Indiana GARBC.)

-  We also have a problem with Jay Adams' nouthetic method: nouthetic counseling is a law-oriented confrontational type of approach. In his booklet, Godliness Through Discipline, Adams states: "Liberty comes through law, not apart from it. Godly, commandment-oriented living comes only from Biblical structure and discipline." In Competent to Counsel, Adams says: "Nouthesis presupposes a counseling type of confrontation in which the object is to effect a characterological and behavioral change in the counselee. Nouthetic confrontation, in its Biblical usage, aims at straightening out the individual by changing his patterns of behavior to conform to biblical standards. Personality change in Scripture involves confession, repentance, and the development of biblical patterns" (p. 46). (Emphasis added.) The nouthetic theory of working to change a person's personality by establishing patterns of living from the outside in, is the heart of the problem with counseling in general and specifically with NANC (Miles Stanford, 11/94 paper on Biblical counseling).

-  NANC holds an annual conference each year where "Biblical counseling" aficionados gather to attend plenary and workshop sessions over a 48-hour period; the meetings purport to deal with a wide range of counseling issues. Typical of the agenda and speakers at such conferences was the 1994 NANC Convention held 10/3/94-10/5/94 at NANC headquarters in Lafayette, Indiana. [NANC moved its headquarters to Indianapolis in February of 2002.] It featured five plenary session speakers and 23 workshop speakers. John MacArthur was one plenary session speaker (two messages), as was psychologizer Wayne Mack of the Master's College (formerly of CCEF) and CCEF's director/Adlerean psychologizer John Bettler. Of the 28 speakers on the program, four were from MacArthur's ministries, five from CCEF, and eight from GARBC-affiliated churches. [In addition to the annual conference, NANC's other recurring events include its On-The-Road Training Conferences, One-Day Symposiums, Parenting Conferences, and Couples Conferences.]

The 2002 Convention was held in Rolling Meadows, Illinois; plenary speakers included John MacArthur and the ecumenical Charles Ware. NANC recognized 22 newly certified Biblical counselors, bringing the total to 275 certified counselors, with over 250 persons in the process of certification. At its 2001 Convention, NANC announced that there are now only 16 states that have no NANC-certified counselors. Also in 2001, NANC expanded its Trustee Board by one member -- adding former MacArthur assistant Lance Quinn. The 2003 conference is to be held in Little Rock, AR (at Quinn's church). Scheduled plenary speakers include NANC director Randy Patten and psychological integrationist David Powlison

-  Prior to the 10/88 NANC Convention held in St. Louis (and in prior years as well), NANC sponsored a 10-hour, one-day training seminar teaching pastors and lay counselors the use of the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (TJTA) test. (The TJTA is a psychologically-based personality test that has been proven to have no adequate statistical validity in either measuring personality traits nor in using such results to successfully predict marriage compatibility, occupational fitness, child success in school, etc., etc. (See the Bobgan's book Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing, pp. 131-172, for an excellent analysis of the worthlessness of personality testing.) Prerequisite for the course was a degree in Social Sciences (i.e., sociology or psychology!) or a seminary degree. Worse yet, the TJTA course was taught by Lloyd Jonas, a board member of NANC! This is just one example of NANC declaring one view (anti-psychology/anti-integration) and practicing another (encouraging NANC member use of a psychologically-based personality test). This difference between what NANC says and their true beliefs pervade the organization. [At the 2001 NANC Convention, Jonas was named to the "Academy of NANC," a very prestigious ranking. In NANC's 26 year history, only four people have been named to this position. This position is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves in significantly advancing the cause of Biblical counseling, especially through training others. Lloyd has started and developed seven church-based counseling centers and was one of the founding board members of NANC.]

-  NANC publishes a bimonthly newsletter, The Biblical Counselor (circulation 14,000). Its 7/93 issue carried an article by CCEF's Adlerean director, John Bettler: "Towards a 'Confession of Faith' on the Past." The article, though short, gave enough information to reveal Bettler's integration of Adlerean psychology that it should have invoked a protest immediately after its publication. A call to NANC's Executive Director a few months after the appearance of the article revealed that there was not even one complaint. Therefore, we think it is fair to say that there has been wholesale acceptance of psychological integration, exemplified by Bettler's teachings on the past, among those affiliated with NANC who call themselves Biblical counselors.

In the Fall 1990 issue of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, there was an article titled "Alfred Adler's Influence on the Three Leading Cofounders of Humanistic Psychology." Perhaps someone should write an article titled "Alfred Adler's Influence on Biblical Counseling." Yet, NANC board members Jay Adams and David Powlison (CCEF), as well as others affiliated with NANC, have publicly stated their belief that Bettler's teachings about using the past are Biblical (see Bobgan: Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible, Chas. 5 & 6). NANC, therefore, has obviously joined the rest of the integrationists who call themselves Biblical.

-  The psychological leanings of NANC can also be readily ascertained by examining its Resource List and Catalog; numerous books and tapes from a bevy of neo-evangelical psychologizers fill the pages: Linda Dillow, Ed Wheat, Ed Buckley, Lou Priolo, Lloyd Jonas, John MacArthur, Wayne Mack, Stuart Scott, Ed Welch, David Powlison, John Bettler, Charles Ware, Dorie Van Stone, etc. The teachings of many of NANC's "resources" are not only antithetical to the Bible's, but in some cases, are identical to those emanating from psychology.

One example of many is Lou Priolo, a long-time NANC counselor and head of an Atlanta Biblical counseling center. He has written a psychologically-oriented book titled The Complete Husband (1999); i.e., with regard to the specific talk and interaction between a husband and wife, the instruction/teaching given in The Complete Husband is essentially the same as in James Dobson's What Wives Wished Their Husbands Knew about Women. That is, where the rubber meets the road (desirable, "Biblical" talk and behavior), there is no essential difference between what the two books teach, other than the fact that The Complete Husband actually facilitates/invites the wife to accomplish what Dobson's book says she may have difficulty doing due to the husband's resistance and sin. Dobson's book has building the wife's self-esteem at its goal. Priolo's book tells the husband to do the things that will facilitate what Dobson wants wives to do in order to have their husbands build their wives self-esteem. Most "Biblical Counselors" will agree that it is sinful to behave in ways that  build self-esteem, using Dobson's methods or any similar methods. Therefore, there must be something radically wrong with the teaching in Priolo's book. The same behavior cannot be both sinful and righteous.

-  Two of the many criticisms we have of the so-called Biblical counseling movement is the charging of fees and the separation of counseling from the Biblically ordained ministries of the church. NANC can be criticized on both these counts. Charging fees is totally unbiblical and those Biblical counselors who do so should be taken to task. Any such predators on Christians, who are suffering problems of living and crying out for help, should be put out of business. And, that's what it is! -- A ministry turned business to produce an income for the counselor at the expense and disadvantage of the person being counseled. For how many more years will church leaders hear so-called Biblical counselors close in prayer and ask, "Will you pay by cash, check, or credit card?" before utterly condemning such a 20th century, never-heard-of-before church practice?

There is no justifiable reason to charge for such counsel, and any Biblical counseling ministry that charges a price is unbiblical. Whether one agrees with Biblical counseling or not, it is a ministry. It is designed to minister the Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit by one who knows Christ to one who will receive it. It is unbiblical to require a direct charge for such a ministry. There is no example in Scripture that justifies charging a fee for ministering the Word of God by the grace of God to a brother or sister in Christ. (Someone might protest that a minister is paid a salary, but that is a false analogy. The true analogy would be charging someone a fee to attend church. We hope no one would even think of doing that!)

This "pay-for-service" makes any Biblical counseling grossly unbiblical. A simoniac is "a person who practices simony," and simony is "the buying or selling of sacred or spiritual things." Charging fees for counseling is a prime example of charging for a church ministry. Filthy lucre (1 Pe. 5:2) is the great financial fuel that drives both the psychological and Biblical counseling movements. Without the charging of fees or the hope of receiving payments in the future for those being trained, the Biblical counseling movement would be decimated. If every Biblical counselor stopped directly charging and receiving fees, it would literally cripple the movement as it currently exists.

-  Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, Indiana (a GARBC-affiliated church) is the home of Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries, and until February of 2002, was the home of NANC. The former director of NANC, the late Dr. William Goode, was also senior pastor of Faith Baptist Church. Dr. Bob Smith, the head of Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries, is a member of Faith Baptist Church and a member of the boards of both CCEF and NANC; he also set up the so-called Biblical counseling program at John MacArthur's Master's College. Former NANC Director Goode has said:

"The basic position of NANC is that the ideal in Biblical counseling model is one where troubled people receive counseling from their pastor and or church family. We would not tout Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries or CCEF to be 'the ultimate Church sponsored model.' They are training centers. A church where pastor and people are involved in counseling is the ultimate model" (letter on file).

The dictionary definition of Pharisaic is: "1. of the Pharisees; 2. emphasizing or observing the letter but not the spirit of religious law; 3. pretending to be highly moral and virtuous without actually being so; hypocritical." Does Goode's remark sound Pharisaic?

NANC would say, "We're not 'the ultimate church sponsored model,' but it's okay because we 'are training centers.'" But, can't any "Biblical counseling" center separated from the church be a training center and thereby justify its existence? Both NANC and CCEF approve of charging fees for counseling. Maybe the fees are also justified by virtue of being a "training center."

Whether one is dying in the hospital or "dying" from the sins and heartaches of life, there is absolutely no Biblical reason to charge for ministering to one another in the Body of Christ. Goode would not have dared directly charge the members of his church for worship services or for private pastoral consultation or for hospital visitation. He wouldn't have dared even suggest or hint at "cash, check, or credit card" for ministry in his church. Nor would he have dared attempt to justify charging for worship services and pastoral care by making his church a "training center." Then why dare charge for ministry given at Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries? Why does NANC not only approve but encourage such practices?

Because NANC participates in and supports the extracting of money and the degrading of the Biblically ordained ministries of the church, we recommend against the organization. We think it has drifted too far for too long to be salvageable. The principles and practices of NANC weaken the position of the church, the role of pastors, the role of church leaders, and even the ability of lay people to minister to one another. The church of Jesus Christ is clearly worse off because of the seriousness of these practices. (Adapted from "Biblical Counseling: Simoniacs and Pharisaics," PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, January-February 1995, pp. 1,3.) [It is reported that as of 1/1/95, Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries no longer charges counselees for counseling. Nevertheless, NANC maintains its close affiliation with CCEF (has members on CCEF's board and vice versa), which reaps over $500,000 annually in counseling fees and continues to derive over 50% of its income from counseling fees. Therefore, for whatever reason FBCM stopped charging counseling fees, it is not so opposed to the practice as to separate from an organization that literally survives on it.]

NANC claims to be "on the leading edge of holding up the Word of God as not only inerrant, but also sufficient." Underneath this statement are a number of serious issues and questions, all having Biblical implications. None have been discussed at NANC annual meetings, and probably will never be discussed at NANC. Below are seven issues as examples of what NANC is unwilling to discuss publicly: 

A case can easily be made by some that the above practices are not Biblically supported. Others would say just the opposite. These are issues that should be confronted and discussed by any organization that claims to be "on the leading edge of holding up the Word of God as not only inerrant but also sufficient." All of the above are prolifically practiced throughout the Biblical counseling movement, but have not been addressed at NANC conferences. Those who differ with the status quo will not be given a chance in NANC's leadership; neither will they be permitted to conduct workshops on these issues. We wonder if such individuals dare even suggest such workshops. It is our impression that NANC functions on the basis of cronyism. Those who rise to leadership are those who will keep an unwritten commitment to supporting current leadership and not rocking the boat. Not rocking the boat includes a willingness to avoid controversial issues, never challenge what leadership says, and just follow the good ole boy practices of secular organizations. (Source: "NANC & the APA," Sep-Oct '98, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter.)

-  It is as though Biblical counseling has become a life raft in the sea of psychobabble, psychotechniques, and psychoheresy. And the life raft crowd is working hard at making their craft appealing to those who are floating along on the flotsam of psychology. Nevertheless, the Biblical counseling life raft continues to be tossed to and fro in that sea of psychoheresy. Thus, believers should get out of the sea and stand on the solid rock. Believers do not need either what the world offers or NANC's facsimile thereof.

A church does not need to have a "counseling ministry" or a "counselor training program" for believers to minister to one another according to Scripture. After all, what did believers do for almost 2,000 years before the Biblical counseling movement and NANC's promotion of it? They ministered to one another through encouragement, admonition, discernment, comfort, counsel, compassion, prayer, and discipleship. This happened among believers from the inception of the church, because God's people believed and acted according to the Word of God by the very life of Christ living in and through them by the Holy Spirit. Those who wish to remain faithful to Scripture and the sufficiency of Christ should depart from "Biblical counseling" and NANC and simply minister to one another in the mercy and grace of God without the title of "Biblical counselor." After all, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God are our true counselors.

-  In conclusion, for the reasons stated in this report (and in our reports on CCEF, MacArthur, and GARBC), we believe that those at NANC have compromised the clear message of Scripture and have sold their birthright for some psychological pottage. What was meant for NANC to be a solution to the influx of psychology into Christianity has drifted into a compromise with it. What was meant to be a return to Biblically-based pastoral care and mutual ministry slid back into a reflection of the very problem it was meant to solve. We need more, not less, separation from secular psychology and all those who have attempted to integrate it. NANC has done nothing more than taken Biblical principles and molded them into a twentieth-century format to provide a replacement/alternative for psychological counseling. This has encouraged and facilitated a therapeutic mentality and given credence to a technology of change. Instead, Christians should be encouraged to minister to one another through the Word of God, the guidance and enabling of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible-based ministries of the local church (Bobgan: Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible, pp. 117-118 & 168-191).

*For a good overview of what is wrong with the Biblical counseling movement in general, see Martin and Deidre Bobgan's book Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible, EastGate Publishers, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110. Some of the information in this report has been adapted and/or excerpted from this source. This report should be read in conjunction with BDM's report on CCEF; BDM reports on John MacArthur and GARBC will also give background information concerning the people and organizations closely affiliated with NANC.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 2/2003