How Error Enters the Biblical Counseling Movement

Twice a month our team gathers to discuss cases, issues, and concerns within our ministry and the larger counseling movement. Our discussion last night warranted a broader audience. We planned to discuss whether aspects of “trauma informed” counseling accurately fit under the theological principle of Common Grace. However, our discussion quickly morphed into how error enters the church and a biblical movement. I realize some readers might want to hear about our stance on “trauma informed” and what it might mean for biblical counseling. That is another post for another day. Today, I want to focus on how error enters a movement.

Error can come from anyone

The NT reminds us that error comes in different forms. For example, it is possible to be wrong without being a false teacher. Peter tells us that those who do not make every effort to add to their saving faith growth in certain character qualities forget their prior salvation (2 Peter 1:5-9). What a horrible description of a Christian. They are saved, but their life is not characterized by gospel truth. Paul warned of this same possibility in 1 Corinthians 3:15. Those who do not work on their character and do not build upon the foundation of Christ will not live in isolation. They are around us. They are parents, children, friends, and fellow church members. They will have opinions about many life issues. Since their life is not characterized by gospel living nor by making every effort to grow, they will be wrong. Since their mind is not filled with Scripture and their heart is not dedicated to living for him, they will not accurately judge truth. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, but their words, attitudes, and actions must be rejected.

It is also possible that believers who are doing well in some areas are nevertheless struggling in others. The writer of Hebrews reminds his audience to stand firm in Christ when they were tempted to crumble. They handled some of the challenges well (Hebrews 10:32-34), but now struggled under the heavy weight of continuing to faithfully follow Jesus. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they were living for the Lord but needed further exhortation (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5). As believers in progressive sanctification, we know that we need to grow until the day Jesus returns or takes us home. Thus, some of what we believe and teach is wrong.

False teachers are also wrong. Peter had a category for them too. They act like they are on the inside (2 Peter 2:1 … “the master who bought them”), but they experience eternal destruction (2 Peter 2:9). False teachers come from the inside (Acts 20:28-30) but are outsiders. Because they act like they are on the inside, they deliver their wicked message in the most palatable way possible. Most NT books address at least one type of false teacher.

Error comes from a lack of glorification, an unwillingness to live faithfully for Jesus, or a wolf seeking to harm God’s people. We know that God will judge appropriately. But I hope we all agree that we don’t want error regardless of its source. We want to live worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1); worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27); and in a way that glorifies God (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Error enters through theological pathways

That brings me to the question of how error enters. If some are wrong due to immaturity, some due to an unwillingness to live for Jesus, and still others because they are wolves, then how do we justify our wrong ideas being right? Surely, we do not announce them as wrong. Sin does not market itself by saying, “Come follow me, I will crush your life, take everything important to you, and leave you a hot mess with no one to mourn your death.” Error does not do that either. To be more specific, how can an incorrect “trauma informed” truth claim be adopted into the biblical counseling model? How are we all deceived?

Ephesians exhorts us to be careful of craftiness in deceitful scheming (4:14). Ephesians 6:11 tells us that putting on the armor of God will allow us to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. If nothing else, it suggests that the best lies will have some truth included. In my years of active involvement in the biblical counseling movement I have seen two justifications.

General Revelation – All truth is God’s truth

The first is general revelation – “all truth is God’s truth.” No one would deny the existence of General Revelation, nor would anyone reject outright the statement “all truth is God’s truth.” These truths, however, can become a shield that hides a truth claim that is not “God’s truth.” Biblical counselors have long argued that general revelation … the “all truth” must be accurately interpreted. Accurate interpretation requires Scripture. Thus, we have often rejected claims and returned to the sufficiency of Scripture because it is required to evaluate the truth claims.

Common Grace

While not a new front per se, it seems that common grace is the new dominant pathway. Who will deny that rain falls on the just and unjust? God has determined to treat his creation, and especially his image bearers, with goodness regardless of our badness. Who denies that? When common grace knocks on the door of our theological system, we open it! However, is it possible that common grace is the new shield to introduce error? Is it possible that common grace is bring less helpful friends hoping for a free pass for them too? To be more specific, are the truth claims suggested by The Body Keeps the Score or other Trauma resources elements of common grace? Or is common grace the Christian label that some have assigned to them to get through the theological gate only to realize that Common Grace is nothing more than a trojan horse?


My purpose in this short article is not to define which truth claims of “trauma informed therapy” are accurate expressions of common grace and which are not (although that would be a helpful article too). My goals are much simpler. I am saying that error enters the body of Christ because error rides on the coat tails of legitimate truth. Therefore, each of us need to be students of the Word. The more understanding we have of Scripture and how to put it together the more accurate we will be in our judgements.

If common grace and general revelation are truly biblical, then we want to understand them and how they might apply to all aspects of our ministries. That is how our movement will grow and become closer to how God wants us to care for souls. However, we also want to ensure that we do not let a wolf, a person struggling with Jesus, or a growing believer speaking too quickly to use truths like common grace, general revelation, or any other to import error into the system.

Photo by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash

Rob Green
Pastor Rob Green oversees Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. A seasoned counselor, Rob also teaches others how to counsel--through FBCM's training conferences and Faith Bible Seminary's MABC program.