The word nouthetic is Greek for "admonish" and is found in Romans 15:14 as the phrase "instruct one another": "I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another."
One way of seeing this phrase is as the way a friend would speak truth, sometimes hard truth, to another. Christians used this method to help, counsel, and correct one another for centuries before modern counseling grew out of secular psychology about 100 years ago.
As secular thinkers applied what they learned to counseling and moved away from biblical instruction, they created secular therapies and counseling methods. Reason, science, and the wisdom of the age ruled this effort. In the 1960s, some pastors, led by Dr. Jay Adams, identified the danger of Christians (and others) trusting in ungodly wisdom in counseling and began to develop (or return) to biblical counseling in pastoral ministry.
Nouthetic counseling is Bible-based, Christ-centered, and church-oriented locally. Practitioners believe the Bible is God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and provides what is needed in all situations (2 Peter 1:3–4).
Nouthetic counseling does not focus on the problem, but focuses on biblical solutions and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:28–29). Christians and Nouthetic counselors agree to seek the truths of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), the power of His Word, and the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9–11; Galatians 5:16). Nouthetic counselors, when working with non-Christians, first aim to present the gospel in an effective way.
A growing number of Christian colleges and seminaries teach nouthetic counseling to future pastors and others. Many correctly identify the dangers of weaving biblical and worldly wisdom together in professional or pastoral counseling (Colossians 2:8).
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