016: An Interview with Dr. Howard A. Eyrich

What You'll Discover in this Episode:

Hearing the Critics, Answering the Critics and Taking Up Leadership

On today’s podcast, Dr. Howard A. Eyrich will be joining us to discuss answering the critics and taking up leadership during the biblical counseling movement. Dr. Eyrich is currently a Minster of Counseling at Briarwood Presbyterian Church and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program in Biblical Counseling. In his eBook, Hearing the Critics, Answering the Critics and Taking Up Leadership, he analyzes biblical counseling critics through three lenses: Intramural, Intermodal and Extramural critiques and concludes with 12 non-exhaustive recommendations on how to guide our interaction as a biblical counselor with critics.

During this episode, Pastor Jeff and Dr. Eyrich highlight the importance of laboring renewal and refreshing our biblical theology. This involves keeping theology refreshed in our minds. This is important because everything we say and do is rooted in biblical and systematic theology. Dr. Eyrich will be presenting on this topic during the 2019 International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) Conference on August 1st-3rd, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. You should attend this conference if you are interested in developing your understanding, skill-set, and knowledge of the scripture. The theme this year is HOPE.  Learn more about the IABC Annual Conference here.

  • 12 Recommendations on Guiding Our Interactions With Critics
  • We need to labor at a continual renewal and refreshing of our biblical theology.
  • These critiques call us to disciplined clarity. The broad strokes of our earlier historic approach are insufficient to address the sophisticated criticism of today.
  • Reasoned responses, formulated through a theological framework with effectiveness illustrated by good research, is essential.
  • These criticisms call for refined language carefully chosen to say precisely what we desire to say. We must articulate in perspicuous language.
  • We must read and listen carefully to our critics and we must answer with preciseness. 
  • We must take up the offensive.
  • We must demonstrate in our writing and our counselor training a Christ-like level of compassion.
  • We must do a better job of grasping secular modalities, understanding them and be able to give a credible biblical response to them. 
  • We must encourage a cadre of next generation biblical counselors, who are cross trained, practitioner/academics. 
  • These criticisms must motivate us to regular, thorough, theological, prayerful and devotional investigation of the Scriptures seeking the face of God so that the glory of God is reflected in our persona, our practice and our teaching.
  • Clarity: Are we sure we are assessing the Biblical Counseling person or group accurately, including a comprehensive first-hand understanding of the person or group's writing or ministry practice. 
  • Charity: : Are we willing to and engaging in the ministry of speaking the truth in love?
  • Be sure to click the verses below to read them in their context! Excellent way to study this topic. Enjoy! 


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  • Kia Jackson says:

    What a fantastic interview between Pastor Jeff and Dr. Eyrich! Dr. Eyrich raises a great point regarding being presented with challenges and rejection and that at times we don’t really understand how to respond to them. However, it is important to keep in mind the sovereignty of God while answering critics and criticism in a Godly manner. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on the interview! Share below 🙂

    • jeffchristianson says:

      Hey! Thanks for commenting , Kia. Great to see you here. You are right, it’s often challenging to respond to critics and Dr. E. gives some great insight. By the way, the show notes are epic, thank you for writing them!

      • Jerry Troyer says:

        Hey Pastor Jeff, I have commented on discussion posts of Kia and Autumn but do not see them posted. I logged in through Spotify. But my comments appear as a guest. Please advise. Thank you. Jerry

        • Lester says:

          Hi Jerry,
          All comments are being moderated and doesn’t appear in instant. All comments are posted now and you can see your response to them.

    • Autumn Duncan says:

      I agree that Dr. Eyrich’s points on how to respond to challenges and rejections were valuable as they should be rooted in solid biblical theology.

      I also strongly agree with him that leaders look for leaders. This is so important as we raise the next generation to follow Jesus. The examples of Moses with Joshua and Paul with Timothy were powerful as they are amazing examples of how we should mentor the next generation.

      • Jerry Troyer says:

        Autumn, thank you for relaying Dr. Eyrich’s points of responding to challenges and rejections rooted in solid biblical theology. Look you, I also agree about raising up the next generation of leaders who follow Jesus. His examples were valuable and could relate well to each.

      • Ron Dozler says:

        Yes Autumn, Dr.Eyrich ending discussion on developing leaders was excellent. How we look for leaders and how are we developing them not only in the field we serve but inside the Church. We love to see young adults in their 20’s wanting to serve the Lord, and we give them every resource and opportunity to use their God-given gifts.

    • Jerry Troyer says:

      Hi Kia, Thank you for the very beneficial reminder that we must keep in mind the sovereignty of God when answering critics and criticism in a Godly manner. We need to be prepared in advance with answers of potential critics, according to Dr. Eyrich. This is not a time to site back and rest on what we currently know. Rather now is the time to expand our learning base and be ready to respond Biblical theology.

  • Autumn Duncan says:

    Thank you for the interview with Dr. Eyrich, Pastor Jeff! I really enjoyed his perspective on the fact you can not integrate theology and psychology. His point about how psychology isn’t a singular discipline (Feud or behaviorism-Skinner)and it’s not a cohesive whole. This really resonated with me as my undergraduate degree focused on the different theories and how to apply them with working with children. Amazed how God is showing me His way and helping me apply His truths. As a former teacher, my goal was to build the leaders in my class and be the example to my students who attended my church on Christian leadership. Sound theology rooted in the Bible is how we respond to critics is such a powerful statement.

    • I also found what Dr. E said to resonate powerfully. I have several friends who are studying either psychology to be therapists or integration psychology to be counselors in their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Unfortunately, I see them spending their time learning so many theories that they already don’t agree with or will inevitably see contradict Scripture. Having said that, I think this week’s podcast should cause us to have a level of concern for those around us who are studying things we have found to be unneeded or wrong.

    • David Bowman says:

      Autumn, I also enjoyed the interview. The incompatibility between theology and psychology was a great point. Because of the descriptive nature of psychological thought and research, it can seem more “tolerant” or “progressive” to those that apply it. Biblical counseling does not entertain or sample from the world’s belief-buffet and therefore can be deemed archaic or “out of touch”. After all, have the scriptures changed to accommodate the newest diagnoses that psychology have described? Add to this the emphasis on mood-altering medications and you have a culture that would more readily take a pill than yield to God’s sovereign will. Nevertheless, we cannot yield to the whims of man, for their minds have been darkened in their rebellion against God.

    • Esther Ambie-Barango says:

      Thanks Autumn for your great thoughts on this unique Podcast particularly on the issues of integrating theology and psychology.
      According to Dr. Eyrich, Christians today want to integrate. There are two streams of view here; there’s more of the secular psychology that has attracted a lot of people but, why are those been integrated with good Biblical theology and the Scripture to what they feel, to come up with a better product/ a better help/? Also, how do we answer that critic that says; we can take the bolt, blend the best of bolts and come up with a better product. What’s your response? Dr. Eyrich tried to explain that there has to be a better way of using Biblical theology to take hurting people seriously. We can’t literally integrate theology and psychology. Most of the people in psychology were very serious about helping people, they really want to understand people. This again reiterates the fact that we can’t integrate theology and psychology because psychology is not a singular discipline. There are lots of discipline within that discipline. Psychology has Freud on one side and behavioralism and its likes on the other side, in addition to cognitive and perceptual, clinical and developmental psychology, etc. just to confirm that psychology is not a singular discipline. There are lots of disciplines within psychology. Hence, psychologists need to read the people seeking counsel, hear what they say, listen to them and understand them clearly through research. There’s a lot of money to spend on research to get and analyses their behavioral data. However, psychologists don’t offer prescription but only description. For prescription, people seeking counsel need to go to the Scripture. To understand the observational material that they have gathered, they need to go back to the Scripture. They can’t be integrated but that doesn’t mean that we are ignorant of what they are doing because they are studying the same study the theologians are studying (sinful human beings). Psychologists are sinful human beings studying sinful human beings without the knowledge of God. Theologians are sinful human beings, converted, sinners saved by Grace that are studying other sinful human beings, but the theologians are coming out of the context of revelation. Theologians know something about sinful human beings because they can count on God that knows all things. I need to consult the Scriptures to understand behavioral trends as I count on God.

  • Jerry Troyer says:

    Very instructive and inspiring interview with Dr. Eyrich. I found benefit in his statement that we need to labor to continually refresh our biblical theology. We need to pre-empt and prepare answers before presented. We should continue the good work. As secular psychology continues to attract very serious people who faithfully promote man made disciplines, we need to be prepared to respond when we are confronted and challenged. They are thinking more critically of their positions than we are of ours. We need to have answers rooted in biblical theology responses. They need to utilize illustrative material and give “historical accounts” of Scripture. Dr. Eyrich used the example of Joseph and described his life events quite descriptively.

    • Hannah Somerville says:

      I would agree with this. We as biblical counselors and Christian’s need to be thinking more critically about our answers. It is helpful to know what our critics are presenting and to know in depth what our God has to say about it in his revealed word. I think the trick for us is that we are trying to maintain a systemic approach but also bring the heart of God and the gospel. This may be why we get stumped and blurry. May the Lord help us !

    • David Bowman says:

      Great points Jerry. I agree that the opponents of Biblical counseling, like all opponents of Christianity, will not go away easily. We must rightly divide the scriptures and be comfortable enough to give illustrations from various books and “historical accounts”. We are called to abide in the words of Christ and for them to have their abode in us. This requires a greater commitment from the counselor to feast daily upon the Word and to live in its pages. With the numerous distractions available to us in the modern world, it is necessary that we exercise the fruit of self-control so we can devote ourselves to necessary study if we are to adequately answer those that question our biblical approach.

  • Hannah SOMERVILLE says:

    This was very helpful to me.
    As the podcast said we are “often challenged, but we give gloss answers.”
    I completely agree that this is mostly due to us not staying theologically refreshed.
    These tips given will change our minds and direction in counseling to keep us biblically sound. I particularly gleaned from the advice: “to stay theologically refreshed, so that we are giving accurate counsel rather than adding secular arguments on top of more worldly theories. ”

    ” It is important to have a solid theological understanding so that we can communicate truths in an understandable and illustrious way. ”

    As mentioned, There has to be a way that is theologically consistent but takes hurting people seriously. This hits home for me because this is an area I’d like to grow in: is being objective and biblical but be passionate about caring for people,meeting them where they are.

    • Kia Jackson says:

      Great point, Hannah! What an amazing tip to keep in the back of our minds to remain theologically refreshed.

    • So often those who know the theology surrounding Christ will lack the empathy of Christ. I have seen theologically sound people hurt theologically ignorant people who are looking for answers and help. They give facts without love. However, it is important, as you mentioned, to be objective and biblical but also care with the same compassion of Christ. Counseling should always contain a level of theology instruction but not at the cost caring for people.

      • Hannah Somerville says:

        Wow ! So true. There does need to be empathy and patience for those who are not as theologically brushed up.

        You worded it well: ” counseling should be theologically instructive, but not at the cost of caring for individuals.”

        “Lord help us to have a heart of love and be biblically instructive. ”

        We can give facts with a heart of love and care. ” Both are needed. Thank you Juan.

  • Ron Dozler says:

    I enjoyed Dr.Eyrich direct and passionate voice for Biblical counseling. Dr.Eyrichs point with staying true to solid Biblical truths when we are answering critics but also with the person we are counseling rings true. Speaking truth with love and presenting our message with clarity, and with understanding words that are reasonable for others. Rarely do you hear someone say, “you cannot integrate theology and psychology.” As a Pastor, for a long time, it was good to hear someone validate what I had been saying all along. Dr.Eyrich point about not discounting secular research was also helpful for me to hear because we often time like to discount all worldly ways of doing things, but his point was they might have a description, but we have the prescription in the scriptures. Just great.

  • Tom Zimbelman says:

    This was a great interview. Particularly impactful to me were two critical related points made by Dr. Eyrich.
    First, about 10:10 in the podcast he relates a story of doing summer graduate work and a University, and while completing his final exams had already made the important decision to not return. When asked why, he responded that the program material didn’t fit with his understanding of theology. In other words, Dr. Eyrich compared the teachings with Scripture, and Scripture came out on top in his decision to pursue something else (and better). He concluded there has to be a better way to help hurting people in a way that is theologically sound.
    Second, during the fall he decided to pursue a Ph.D (this part of the interview is at about 10:40) and during the interview for that program, Dr. Eyrich picked-up on an important “tell” from the person conducting the interview. Dr. Eyrich says, “What I hear is a warm Christian gentleman who when he becomes professional steps into a different world and uses what doesn’t match his Christianity.”
    This helps me a lot. I believe these are great examples – to compare people’s teachings with Scripture, and also to watch their behavior when stepping into questionable areas of therapy. This takes discernment, which of course we can all learn through Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guiding.

    • Esther Ambie-Barango says:

      Thanks Tom for your thoughts particularly as it concerns the better way to help hurting people in a way that is theologically sound.
      I was also greatly impacted by Dr. Eyrich’s teaching; particularly when he talked about Biblical counselors wanting to answer our critics and wanting to do it in a Godly manner, as we are wanting to love those and win some, as we are declaring that the sufficiency of Scripture is superior to the secular resources that many Christians today want to integrate. He discussed two streams of view here; there’s more of the secular psychology that has attracted a lot of people but, why are those been integrated with good Biblical theology and the Scripture to what they feel, to come up with a better product/ a better help. Also, how do we answer that critic that says; we can take the bolt, blend the best of bolts and come up with a better product. What’s your response? Dr. Eyrich explain that there has to be a better way of using Biblical theology to take hurting people seriously. We can’t literally integrate theology and psychology.

  • Esther Ambie-Barango says:

    Such a great teaching; especially as it relates to raising leaders.
    It’s important to clarify our history education, experience, gifting, calling, walk we’ve had over time, and this leads to the next issue, an encouragement; even in ourselves as the next generation of Biblical counselors, including the younger group that’s coming up today; Dr. Eyrich encourages us to begin to encourage the next generation of Biblical counselors but how would that be and the practice of Biblical counseling combined with the academics of Biblical counseling and walking through that – what’s Dr. Eyrich’s view, his training, his ideas of ministering to people and also being a leader in it and passing the baton to the next generation?
    Dr. Eyrich will do a presentation of 8 characteristics/ components of good leadership, a sequel to this eBook. The first of the presentation will be leaders look for leaders. The first step in the principle will be considered from the first chapter of the book of Daniel although it didn’t come from Daniel but from Nebuchadnezzar, a secular ruler.
    Daniel 1:3-4 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
    King Nebuchadnezzar as a leader sought for leaders, describing the characteristics of the young men to be sought for. Everyone of the described characteristics was what a Christian should possess. Hence, Dr. Eyrich’s first point on leadership is that leaders look for leaders. In order to know whether or not we are talking to leaders; we should look and ask ourselves how we are looking for the leaders, how are we influencing the next generation, what are we doing to encourage the next generation? That’s the mark, an important mark in the Christian world in particular, an important mark of leadership. The same is applicable to Apostle Paul with Timothy and Titus; also, Moses and Joshua and Caleb. Good leaders like Dr. Eyrich, over his life’s span, have always been interested in looking for leaders for training in the next generation. This entails developing ourselves, building up the needed resources (e.g. having a good library, etc.), training and encouraging the younger leaders while we continue to trust God and walk with God, helping the younger generation maximize their potentials even in helping them with their career choices. Basically, the younger leaders have to think through their goals, giftings, abilities, what they can do that can best be sharpened and where they have the least negative impact in their Christian perspective and their most positive impact in their Christian perspective. Good leaders like Dr. Eyrich, are always looking out for the next generation to bring up, to train and develop, mentoring them, letting them watch/ observe/ talk about their observations, counseling them and most of such younger generation end up in ministry.

    • Ron Dozler says:

      Yes Esther, giving these younger believers the opportunities to be a part of and see the work of God, is a role that we who are older in the faith must take a more active role in.
      Like the Titus 2 men and women have a responsibility to instruct and guide the next generation of believers, we need to help walk them through leadership and counseling so that they can become properly equipped.

  • I loved Dr. E’s simple and clear understanding that “Leaders look for leaders.” I have seen the same and wholeheartedly agree. This of course goes beyond just counselors looking for others who are gifted in counseling to be raised up under them. This truth is scriptural for the church as a whole.
    Leaders look for leaders because good leaders are humble. They realize they can not do it all alone and so they need leaders under them. They look for leaders because they are concerned with the state of what or who they lead as well. When you are passionate about something you will be drawn to those who are passionate as well which will be demonstrated in commitment, hard work and enthusiasm; all three of which are characteristics of leadership.

    • Rebecca Harden says:

      I loved that comment he gave about leaders looking for leaders too. I feel like God has sparked a fire in me that is a desire to seek discipleship, but also to learn what healthy, biblical discipling looks like because that is what we are called to do as Christians. The Bible tells us to learn His truth and then to share and teach that truth to others so the cycle can basically repeat itself. And it is so good to be able to recognize we need this because as you said we can not do the work alone, that is why we are a body.

  • David Bowman says:

    Interview with Dr. Howard A. Eyrich. Criticism levied at Biblical counseling must be answered with thorough, biblical responses that are steeped in biblical theology. After all, “biblical counseling is theological”, I love this response and challenge for solid reasoning from the Scriptures. Dr. Eyrich has really challenged me to flesh-out my theological reasoning and illustrations. Sometimes I am tempted to use the natural to illustrate the spiritual and this may be palatable to the mind of men, but I fear it does not change people.

    “You cannot integrate theology and psychology”. This is due to the multiplicity of disciplines within psychological thought and research.

    “Leaders are always looking for leaders”. I can do much better at this. I am often too consumed with my own progress, or lack thereof, to look for ways to encourage or mentor others.

  • Victoria Satana says:

    What I took away from the podcast was that the best way to face critics is to simply present who we are, know who they are, and try to answer them before they even speak with responses that are rooted in biblical theology. I also believe that we should not be defensive. I usually tell anyone who questions my beliefs that I am not asking them to believe what I believe but if they want, I can tell them why I believe what I believe. At first I would react the way he discussed in the podcast by becoming overwhelmed, resorting to speaking “Christianese”, or just changing the subject. But now as I have studied the bible more in-depth I have become more comfortable with speaking truth and giving answers that are biblical.
    I was also impacted by how they spoke about looking for leaders in the next generation. this impacted me because I am a teacher in a Christian school and this is my goal everyday in my classroom. I have the future of Christianity in my classroom and my hope is to teach them that they will need to choose to follow Christ and no one can do it for them. I try to give them the truth in a way they can understand it and see it as truth.

    • Rebecca Harden says:

      I agree, it is so important to just, first off, know who you are and what you believe. That is what the Bible tells us to do, to have an answer and a reason for what we believe. You also said that it is good to know who the person we are talking to is and what stand they take, which I have learned recently in taking a world religion class that it is so much more important to know this than I understood. I have always been overwhelmed when asked certain things, but God has put me in some situations recently where I was able to just speak His truth, whether the person wanted to believe it or not. The awesome thing is that the Holy Spirit will do the work, we just need to speak truth.

  • Kristie says:

    This podcast was so helpful. Dr. Eyrich is so knowledgable and counter culture. It is so important to stay in God’s Word and to continually be refreshed and renewed in our Biblical theology. When we do that we will see that psychology and theology cannot be integrated. We can go to psychology for their research and description but not for prescription. Only in God’s word do we find the answers for peoples problems. All problems stem from man’s sin and in order to make things right and to bring resolution to their problems we must address the sin and point them to Jesus. In His word we find all that we need to instruct people and to give them hope. It is so easy even as a Christian to think that the word is not sufficient and to think that somehow worldly psychology gives better answers. The truth is only the Bible is able to transform a life. We need to be confident as we stand upon God’s word and share it as the answer to life’s troubles.

  • Rebecca Harden says:

    Most people that I explain biblical counseling to are a little unsure of it, so it makes complete sense that we would want to know biblical theology in order to explain biblical counseling and do it any justice. It is important to be rooted in the Word so that we can properly defend and use it. It was really awesome to hear Dr. Howard show how he got into biblical counseling, and it was cool to see that from the beginning of his journey he knew there needed to be something different going on than psychological counseling. I like that he said he figured there had to be another form of counseling that took people’s problems more seriously, because I agree that so often we try to cover up and make excuses for things instead of getting to the root of these heart problems. I also really appreciate his point about leaders always needing to be looking for leaders. Discipleship and mentorship are so important in churches, and I think it is something that is lacking in many.

  • Tim Hoelle says:

    There is a lot of content in the podcast and in the 12 Recommendations on Guiding Our Interactions With Critics, so I’ll just select a couple. I find many of the recommendations to be in harmony with steps we can and should take in practicing apologetics. I do agree we live in a day when it seems to be more than acceptable for Christians to take a very passive approach when defending biblical concepts and theology. Many of us are hesitant to speak the truth for a variety of reasons, none of them Biblical.

    I enjoyed the session and appreciate Dr E’s comments and I noted two in particular. One, describing what is delivered (and not) via secular counseling; a place where “they can go for description, but not prescription”. Secular methods can attempt to explain what the issues are but will always fall short of a true healing solution apart from Christ. The other comment is we’re “sinful human beings studying sinful human beings”. Whether secular or biblical, man would do well to remember that we’re inadequate to bring anything of value to the equation on our own.

    Pastor Jeff you also said a word that resonates with me, and that is to present Christ in a “winsome” way. There’s no reason for us to engage is heated debates with unkind attitudes, gestures and/or comments. What the Lord offers is indeed attractive and appealing, and we need to remember to abide in Him and allow His Spirit to do the work.

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