Nouthetic Counseling, Reparative Therapy, and The Prosperity Gospel

The last time I wrote about nouthetic counseling, I discussed its foundations in anti-intellectualism. I compared the thought patterns behind the movement to the medieval Catholic Church. Well I can do one better. I didn’t want to pull all the punches in one post. How about showing how the nouthetic counseling is based upon the prosperity gospels? Because If there is one think cranky old white Reformed Evangelicals guys hate, and rightly so, more than Roman Catholicism, it’s the Prosperity Gospel.

Have you ever heard of reparative therapy? It’s for same-sex attracted people who want to become straight. It’s really popular (or at least in the past it was) among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. (If you have ever heard of Exodus International, that’s what that is. There’s probably a reason it’s not around anymore.) Because apparently if they read enough scripture gay guys will start liking women. More faith and you will be straight. More faith and you will not have attraction to the same sex. Rosaria Butterfield calls this the prosperity gospel. Sounds kind of like nouthetic counseling to me. Just replace same-sex attraction with depression.

I am not accusing Jay Adams or other nouthetic counseling proponents of being con men like Creflo Dollar, but their views on depression are eerily similar. If you don’t sin you won’t feel that way. That sounds a lot like prosperity theology. Thabiti Anyabwile said “”[Prosperity theology] takes something like depression and treats it as a failure to prosper, a failure to trust God, a failure to believe God in some way, when it may not be that at all.” Stop sinning and God will make sure you don’t feel like that. With God’s help you won’t be depressed. More faith and you won’t be depressed.

This is incredibly unbiblical. To promise that any suffering will cease this side of heaven due to more faith or less sin is the prosperity gospel whether it is poverty, same sex attraction or depression. God does not promise these afflictions will disappear. This to promise this is unscriptural.

Here is David Murray, my favorite advocate for mental health awareness in the church:

“It’s very easy to be critical of prosperity theology… However sometimes prosperity theology can sneak in by the back door especially in the area if counseling and especially in counseling the depressed, because what’s communicated in the counseling process right up front is ‘oh you’re depressed, what did you do wrong?’ Or ‘if you had only lived more godly you would have been happy.’ It’s subtle, but it’s nothing less than prosperity theology.”

Nothing less than prosperity theology, which we would call heresy in any other context, but somehow it gets a pass here.


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