Taylor quotes Powlison on what “systematic biblical counseling” should look like. It must provide four things, all drawn from the Scriptures:
1) a penetrating and comprehensive analysis of the human condition,
2) an effective solution, equally penetrating and comprehensive,
3) a wise pastoral methodology that helps us deal with the variety of persons and problems appropriately, and
4) a standpoint from which to discern unbiblical elements in other systems of counseling.
In his article on What Distinguishes Biblical Counseling from Other Methods, Powlison offers four questions that will enable us "to fairly and accurately test any of the mixed multitude of counseling approaches":
First, how is God portrayed? Is the God revealed in Scripture central to how we are to understand and address the sins and sufferings of the human condition? Is He central in how to understand the good, the potentialities, and the blessings which counseling aims to bring to pass? In particular, what role and significance are given to Jesus Christ? Defective counseling models never get Christ right. They either completely ignore, wildly distort, or subtly misrepresent Him with whom we have to do. But the Searcher of all hearts, the one before whom every knee must bow, the only Savior of sinners and Refuge for sufferers insists on getting His due. Biblical wisdom considers all human phenomena with this God in view.
Second, how is human nature interpreted? What view of human motivation defines the essential “Why do you do what you do?” In particular, are human beings understood as actively, incessantly God-relational? No counseling model whose genes contain secular DNA ever gets motivation theory straight. Is it clear that every heart (at every moment, in every circumstance) either serves lies and lusts of the flesh or loves the Lord God? Is it clear how every action, reaction, thought, and emotion reveals these God-relational motives? If you don’t get the heart right, you won’t get the goals of counseling right; you can’t understand what a human being ought to become; you can’t rightly define success. Defective counseling models always get the heart wrong. They theorize and assert counterfeit interpretations of what makes us tick. For example, unmet needs, conflicting instincts, conditioned drives, genetic wiring, biochemistry, failure of will-power, bad habits, corrigible ignorance… none of these get at what’s really going on. Biblical wisdom considers all human phenomena while keeping in view, “Who are you now loving, trusting, serving, and fearing?”
Third, how are circumstances weighed? Is the stage on which we live – what surrounds us, comes at us, influences us – given decisive and deterministic final say? Or is it rightly seen as God-arranged context, not cause? Furthermore, is any one strand of our total circumstance singled out for particular emphasis, as if it offers a unique explanatory key? Past, present, or future? Social experience, physical body, or demonic agent? Defective counseling models never get the world we live in right. Most approaches give a deterministic weight to one piece of our overall life situation. For example, “You have an eating disorder because your needs for love and self-esteem were not met by your parents” is equivalent to “You are in slavery to food obsessions because a demon of addiction has gained a stronghold” is equivalent to “You suffer from an eating disorder because you have a genetically-wired obsessive-compulsive disorder.” It may be true that your parents were unloving; Satan does prowl; and you might have been born with certain tendencies, not others. But none of these is decisive. Biblical wisdom considers every part of our circumstances significant, but it gives final cause to the heart.
Fourth, how are the goals and activities of counseling conceived? Is it the cure of souls, the restoration of sinful humanity to the image of Christ by the grace of Christ? Is it comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable? Is it the transformation of our sins and the consolation of our sorrows? Is counseling essentially pastoral? Defective counseling models always get counseling wrong. The counselor acts as archeologist who explores your past and your interior to give insight; as mechanic who alters what’s not working satisfactorily in your cognitions or behaviors; as coach who formulates a game plan for successful living and cheers you on; as friend who accepts you just as you are; as parent who meets your psychological need for love; as philosopher who offers a believable interpretation of life without any God; as doctor who prescribes medicine to make you feel better; and so forth. Biblical wisdom considers counseling to be a ministry of the saving power of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. Valid insights, alterations, encouragements, and so on arise within that relationship.