John MacArthur

Book Notes

Introduction to Biblical Counseling

This 1994 book from Word Publishing* proclaims in large letters on the book's jacket to be "An Alternative to Secular Psychology." It is also deemed a "groundbreaking book." These days anything written by John MacArthur seems to automatically come with high recommendations, and this book is no different. However, we can find nothing in it to recommend. Some of our major concerns are detailed below:

-  The inside flap of the book jacket says that:

"John MacArthur's passion for the Scriptures and his experience in biblical counseling have been combined with the vision and expertise of Wayne Mack and other members of the Master's College Faculty to produce this definitive statement on biblical counseling. ... Pooling their years of biblical counseling practice and the insights gained from years of biblical study and from teaching hundreds of students to utilize such skills, the authors of this practical book provide a thorough look at this unique field of Christian ministry."

John MacArthur has written five chapters in the book, two of which were adapted from previous books. However, the material is actually compiled and edited by Wayne Mack. Mack is currently the Chairman of the Biblical Counseling Department and Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master's College, having come from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) in 1993 to take over the program begun two years earlier. But one only need look at Mack's "Resource List of Helpful Books and Tapes for Marriage and Family Counseling/Teaching" printed in the "Counselor/Teacher's Guide" of his book Preparing for Marriage God's Way to understand the extent of this man's psychological bent. (Mack recommends books and tapes by Adlerean psychologizer John Bettler, Freudian/Adlerean/Maslowian psychologizer Larry Crabb, four-temperaments gurus Tim and Beverly LaHaye, right-brain/left-brain psychologizer Gary Smalley, Christian "sexologists" Ed and Gay Wheat, and psychologizer Gordon MacDonald.)

-  Mack has written seven chapters in Introduction to Biblical Counseling, comprising an entire section of the book (Part III: "The Process of Biblical Counseling"). These chapters by Mack represent the very kind of psychologizing to which the Bobgans would be opposed (see Bobgan: Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible, EastGate Publishing, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110). One of these chapters, "Implementing Biblical Instruction" (pp. 284-297), is typical of Mack's psychological interpretation of Scripture. It also is typical of Mack's methodology of attempting to change external conditions and practices rather than dealing with the source of sin as a means of handling outward circumstances and behavior (pp. 284, 286). Mack even instructs counselees to develop a detailed 11-step advance plan to help them resist temptation (p. 291), and then when the counselee fails, Mack gives him eleven more steps prepared for his recovery! (p. 292).

-  Chapter 20 of the book presents a listing of "Resources for Biblical Counseling." The list was developed for the book by CCEF's David Powlison. (See Against Biblical Counseling for more information on Powlison's psychological integrationist position.) Much of what is on this list is inoffensive, but it does include Ed Bulkley's Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology, most of Wayne Mack's books, and even MacArthur's highly psychologically-oriented audio cassette series The Fulfilled Family.

-  Also of interest is Chapter 21, "Frequently Asked Questions About Biblical Counseling." The chapter lists 21 questions with answers by various Master's Fellowship staff and faculty and by other contributors to the book. CCEF's Powlison answers four of the questions and Grace Church's Lance Quinn three others. Among other questionable philosophies, neither of these men sees anything wrong with sending counselees to psychologists or psychiatrists (pp. 372, 382).

-  Space does not permit a more thorough review of this book. Suffice it to say that recent efforts by MacArthur and company to paint The Master's Fellowship ministries in anti-psychology hues have been successful only to the undiscerning eye. And this latest MacArthur/Mack effort to develop an "Alternative to Psychological Counseling" comes with the same pitfalls and psychological model underpinnings described by the Bobgans in Against Biblical Counseling. MacArthur/Mack have come out for a model borrowed from secular psychology, dressed it up in Biblical terminology, and now try to claim this is what the apostle Paul always meant when he penned Romans 15:14, Galatians 6:2, and Ephesians 4:12.

* The Fundamental Evangelistic Association describes Word Publishing as "a fountainhead of theological pollution and is boosting ecumenical apostasy" (7/8/78). Word is owned by the American Broadcasting Company, the producers of some of the most vile and immoral TV programs (i.e., 1993-94's NYPD Blue). Other major MacArthur' works published by Word include Our Sufficiency in Christ and The Vanishing Conscience.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 11/94