Powlison lists Six Crucial Issues in Contemporary Biblical Counseling. Choose the issue which you believe to be most urgent/significant and tell why you chose it. Also, explain why you devalued the other 5 in favor of this issue. Be sure to state your rationale clearly, using Scripture, citations from the text, or other appropriate scholarly sources. Finally, since there are correlations, reflect your understanding of Appendix 4 in the rationale for this response.

Of the six issues in contemporary biblical counseling identified by Powlison (2010), the integration of human motivation is the most significant (pp. 241-246). Jay Adams (1970) asserts that the purpose of nouthetic counseling is “to correct sinful behavior patterns by personal confrontation and repentance” (p. 49). However, behavior change does not necessarily correspond to a transformed life. For example, a client may use will-power to do something kind, but with selfish motivations. In this instance, behavior may change, but the client’s inner life is dis-integrated. Also, a client could simply comply with the authoritarian mandate of the counselor. Again, the client’s behavior may change, but sin-management undermines the Gospel (Willard, 1997, pp. 41–42). Alternatively, Powlison (2010) asserts that when an individual understands grace, “the necessary behavioral changes will make sense from the inside” (p. 246).

The other five issues are devalued because they in some way hinge on human motivation. First, Powlison (2010) identifies the issue of clarifying the relationship between responsibility and suffering (pp. 246-249).  However, if the client’s inner life is responsible for behavior change, then the fear of blameshifting to external circumstances resolves (Powlison, 2010, p. 249). Second, the risk of confrontation is mitigated if the counselor focuses on the client’s identity as a child declared righteous (Rom 3:22) and loved by God (Rom 8:39-39), rather than criticizing behavior, which risks defensiveness (Powlison, 2010, pp. 249-252). Third, the issue of contextualization to new audiences is curtailed when human motivation is addressed because it undermines the accusation that biblical counseling lacks “even the rudiments of inner life and motivation” (Powlison, 2010, pp. 253-254). Next, the distinctive relationship between biblical counseling and secular psychology is clarified when identity formation is prominent because secular psychology has no real solution to individuation other than leaning on the sinful self (Powlison, 2010, pp. 255-258). Finally, the “same old” distinctives associated with biblical counseling, such as a critique of secularism and a biblical alternative to counseling, are actually highlighted when the issue of human motivation is appropriately settled (Powlison, 2010, pp. 241-243).

Powlison (2010) further supports the importance of the inner life of human motivation in appendix 4 by stating, “We will love anything, except God, unless our madness is checked by grace” (p. 290). Powlison (2010) explains that if sin is punished, counseling becomes moralistic, if excused, then relativistic (pp. 291-292). However, when a counselor brings grace to sin, which provides the psychological air necessary for the client to face sin, the client can recognize their inner completeness in Christ (Col 3:3) through faith that renders sin impotent. In sum, grace, not the law, leads to obedience (Gal 3:3).


Adams, J. E. (1970). Competent to counsel (pp. 45–49). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Powlison, D. (2010). The Biblical counseling movement: History and context. Greensboro, NC: New Growth.

Willard, D. (1997). The divine conspiracy: Rediscovering our hidden life in God. New York: HarperOne.