Is Christian Counseling Synonymous with Biblical Counseling

Many times Christian Counseling is understood in the more generic sense of the word, namely, counseling with a biblical emphasis.  Yet, the range and extreme in which how Christian Counseling integrates modern psychology is very broad within different schools.  Hence in regards to using the words Christian Counseling and Biblical Counseling it would be naive to use them as inter-changeable words.  This is because many Biblical Counselors who are only pastors may have a very differently distinct approach than a Christian Counselor with a professional license.  Hence within the broad range of Christian Counseling, Biblical Counseling may appear the same but within a certain approach it is not.  They do differ.  But we must also concisely define Christian Counseling.

Is one defining Christian Counseling as an Integrative Approach? Or is one seeing Christian Counseling as a general term and overall umbrella of different approaches including Biblical Counseling as a particular approach.  It is sometimes up to whomever is writing the text or providing the lecture.  So Biblical Counseling can be a type of Christian Counseling, or a different approach than Christian Counseling when Christian Counseling is seen as only a particular module and not a collective name.

Biblical Counseling;  Benefits and Disadvantages?

There slight differences in Biblical Counseling and Christian Counseling that are important to note


Biblical Counseling understands the  Christian faith as a psychology itself (Johnson, E. Ed. 2010, p. 245). It further, according to David Powlison, sees Christian Ministry as a psychotherapy (Johnson, E, Ed., p. 245). Biblical Counseling hence looks to find within Scripture and ultimately within Jesus Christ, various ways to help people with mental or moral issues and identify the root cause as sin. This approach emphasizes the root cause of sin in mental life.  Hence, in reviewing a person’s issues, absolute Biblical Counseling identifies the root vice as a source for the pathology.  Whether pride, lust or any other vice, Biblical Counseling looks to eradicate the vice to help the person transform from sinful life and find grace and life in Christ. It looks to pastorally guide souls and cure these souls from sin via Jesus Christ (Johnson, E, Ed. 2010, p. 245).

As Christians, we all concur that God is source of all truth and wisdom. He is the author of Scripture and also the author of our mental processes.  Hence Powlison and many Biblical Counselors equate psychology and faith on equal grounds.  Any secular views of psychology that are not within Scripture or friendly to a Christian view are automatically dismissed.  This bias against secular views is sometimes a good thing in rejecting immoral behavior but it can also become overtly suspicious of modern findings.  For instance, secular psychology is rapidly legitimizing gender idealogy which is contrary to the Bible and Christian faith.  Secular psychology has in many cases justified and accepted immoral concepts to Christians as normal and natural, but Christians have rightfully dismissed them.  Does this mean secular psychology and its methodologies should be completely dismissed?  What about understand the “why” of moral actions within the human mind?.  While secular psychology’s conclusion of immoral acts as morally acceptable is overreaching,  psychology provides proven methodologies to understand the mental impulse for a particular action.  It is not always actual sin or choice but something deeper at a mental, biological and physiological level.  Biblical Counseling in many cases holds to only the nature of the moral action and not the new discoveries of the why of the moral action that are beyond the constructs of moral theology and conscience.

Ultimately Original Sin is the cause of all pathology, but do doctors look to moral theology to cure the body of pathology which ultimately finds it origin in the sin of Adam?  One’s own actual sins play a key role in mental pathology and in many cases can be a root cause, but sometimes mental illness exists independent of vice existing within the person.  Many times Powlison muddles the water between brain and soul.  Pathologies within the brain are not pathologies of the soul, albeit, the brain plays a key role in feeding epistemological knowledge about one’s surroundings and internal feelings.  The soul, as fused with the body, in humanity’s temporal form, is dependent upon the brain but the pathologies of the brain while affecting the soul are not always sin of the soul.

Hence Biblical Counseling, in its extreme pastoral sense, becomes more of a sermon on faith, tied together with human experience that can become separated from proven psychological methods.  It mistakenly hopes to utilize Scripture as a all purpose book when Scripture, while full of wisdom, is not meant for every aspect of human existence. Its primary goal is salvation and not necessarily biological or mental processes.

Powlison opens his chapter with the comment of St Augustine ” I believe so that you may understand” (Johnson, E, Ed., p 246).   This theological statement within philosophy and theology for  belief of God, if in turn, is used to promote a psychology remains stuck within a premodern concept of science. When dealing with mental pathology, even when utilizing a Christian frame work, one must study the mind and brain with an empirical understanding.  Psychology is not metaphysics but the study of observable things.  So while God is the author of both, God has also given humanity different tools to study different sciences.

Biblical Counseling is an Approach within Christian Counseling

Hence biblical counseling is a type of Christian Counseling but not a monopolized ideal of it.  Christian Counseling within the Integrated Approach utilizes modern science.  It starts with the ideal that sin causes all evil in this world and finds Scripture and the Christian faith as its foundation.  It takes from Scripture a sampled amount of wisdom but also utilizes the scientific method to help identify pathologies that are beyond the soul and vice but within the brain and body.  This is a balance that does not denounce Christ as the ultimate counselor or looks to Scripture to identify certain moral and mental questions, but it understands the scope of Scripture as a spiritual text not the DSM-5.

More modernist approaches may put Scripture second hand within the psychology and take an extremely opposite approach that forces Christian values and morals to adhere and adjust to new findings, but the Integrated Approach carefully balances science and faith not at the expense of the other.  The Levels of Explanation Approach to psychology puts Scripture at the expense of modern findings, while absolute Biblical Counseling Approach challenges and fears secular findings.  God is the source of truth.  If Scripture contradicts science, either Scripture is misinterpreted, or the science is simply bad.  God is the source of truth.  The case of Galileo should remind all of the necessity of a balance and understanding where metaphysics and faith ends and empirical study starts.

For more information on the Levels of Explanation Approach, please review the previous blog entitled Christian Counseling and Psychology. In that blog we look at Levels of Explanation, Integration and Biblical Counseling in psychology and how they differ.

Biblical Counseling and Other More Conservative Approaches

Christian Counseling has different approaches, some more conservative than others

Integrative Approach is obviously the middle ground and most utilized approach.  Many Christian Counselors who are licensed and posses psychology degrees but remain a fervent faith apply this approach, while pastors and those within theology and metaphysics employ the Only Biblical Approach with suspicion to many secular views.  Still other schools of thought exist that veer right from the Integrated Approach and remain polar opposite from the secular schools that look to separate the bible from psychology totally.

Christian Psychology is one such approach that takes the Integrative Approach more Christian based and looks to determine an entire psychology founded within the Christian tradition.  If psychology is termed “the science that studies the behavior and mental process of persons” then Christian Psychology would add as understood within the norm “Christian texts and traditions of interpretation” (Johnson, E. Ed. p. 87).  Christian Psychology attempts to collect beyond just merely Scripture, but the entirety of Christian philosophy and teaching to orientate a more Christian experience in the psychological process.  Like Biblical Counseling, it dismisses immorality but it is far more open to other scientific findings with less bias.  It, however, differs from the Integrated Approach in that takes more from the Christian tradition.   It less integrated and sometimes will prioritize Christian views over secular at a more extreme level.  Like the Integrated Approach, Christian Psychology will utilize CBT, Psychodynamic theories, or Humanistic approaches, but it will; not only incorporate but interpret at a more Christian level.  It can also emphasize mental pathology, like Biblical Counseling, as more a source of sin.   Hence many who are found within this approach, like Biblical Counseling, are pastors or those of metaphysical background than those within a purely psychological background.

Finally, the Transformationalist Approach, considers psychology and counseling to be a complete spiritual transformation in life.   Holding to very strong biblical roots, it finds all starting points in Christ and dismisses modern secular theories but instead turns to the person him/herself. It looks to classical science of not adhering to the empirical and universal method of observation but allowing the object itself to determine methodology.  It respects at a higher level phenomenon. This leaves it disagreement with Biblical Counseling and its acceptance of modern methods of associated with science.  Phenomenology plays a key role.  This is something that is important because not all experiences should be held to the modern empirical method.  Since modern science and the extreme philosophy of many logical positivists, empiricism became a religion and the only way to explore the natural world.  Yet human experience is far more wide ranging and different ways to investigate existence sometimes are not a good fit with the empirical methodology.  Yet, it is the Transformational Approach’s complete dismissal of secular modern methods that places it in some ways more extreme in regards to bias to secular science than even the Biblical Approach.   But, like the Biblical Approach, it still sees mental pathology as a source of sin and looks to find healing through transformation via Christ.

What is Shared and Not Shared in all the Christian Counseling Views

All views recognize God as the source of all knowledge and truth.  All views understand humanity’s fallen nature.  All views understand the importance of Scripture as a starting point for all counseling.  Finally, all views share in a common love to bring all to Christ.  However, the limit, degree, and dismissal of secular and modern psychology differ between these views.  The Levels of Explanation Approach is probably the most extreme version that separates both Christian belief and psychology but finds mutual respect as both believer and psychologist while the Biblical, Christian Psychology and Transformative Approach all to differing degrees tip the scale into a more spiritual experience over psychological, while the Integrative approach balances both faith and science to compliment one another.

So is Biblical Counseling the same as Christian Counseling.  If used in the generic, it may seem to be an inter-changeable word, but it remains a far more spiritual experience than within the family of Christian Counseling than other forms that utilize more modern methods incorporated with secular science.


Ultimately Christ is the source of all counseling. Please review AIHCP’S Christian Counseling Certification


In my view, faith and science are both from God as the source of all truth.  We live in a fallen world and Original sin and Actual sin all play prominent roles in bad lives, but there is also a mental and biological process separate from the metaphysical.  True, they can interact, but not all pathology is rooted in vice.  The brain is not the soul.  Not every counseling session is about restoration to Christ but sometimes is about helping someone with a purely mental issue.  Scripture and the Christian tradition is a starting point, but I do not see Scripture as a biology or science book but a spiritual book.  Does it contain vital wisdom for other sources? Absolutely.  That is core idea of Christian Counseling itself.  But it must be utilized within an Integrated Approach to properly balance spiritual healing when needed versus mental healing.

Always, Christ is the ultimate Counselor, but there are other tools within the sciences beyond Scripture when dealing with nature and humanity that are critical.  Would I merely limit them to the empirical method?  No.  I would also say experience is open to other ways of measuring experience via Phenomenology or Philosophy or other metaphysical studies when appropriate.

Please also remember to review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification Program.  The program is biblically based and possesses both Biblical and Integrative Approaches understanding the value of different approaches for different situations.  The program is also online and independent study and open to both counselors and pastoral ministers.


Johnson, E. Ed. “Psychology and Christianity: Five Views”. IVP Academic (2010)

Additional Resources

Murray, D. (2012). “How Biblical is Biblical Counseling?”. The Gospel Coalition.  Access here

Myers, L. “CHRISTIAN COUNSELING VS BIBLICAL COUNSELING: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?”. Cornerstone Christian Counseling.  Access here

“Christian Counseling”. Psychology Today.  Access here

“Christian Counseling” Wikipedia.  Access here