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For many religious families, such a development might have been a relief.

But Walter and Maria were Roman Catholic, and Kenneth no longer was.

It is so popular, and so widespread, that in 2005 the Southern Baptist Convention’s theological seminaries—the pastoral schools of the largest Protestant denomination in the country—announced a “wholesale change of emphasis” in favor of biblical counseling over an earlier “pastoral care” model that had drawn in part on the behavioral sciences.

But biblical counseling also faces serious difficulties, ones as great as those faced by Grace Community Church over 30 years ago.

It has been confronted with mounting external criticisms and widening internal divisions, and the result, among its practitioners, is a looming crisis of principle.

How Christians address this crisis will shape the mental health choices of millions of Americans.

Kenneth ended up spending six days at Mac Arthur’s house.

In 2012, when Adam Lanza slaughtered a school full of children in Connecticut, Fox News host and onetime GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor himself, slipped into biblical counseling territory when he laid blame for the killings in part on a society in which we “stop saying things are sinful and we call them disorders.” And when Southern Baptist research organization Life Way Research conducted a survey of evangelical Christians in 2013, 48 percent of self-identified evangelical, born-again, or fundamentalist Christians said they believe that conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be treated with prayer alone.

Anyone interested in learning more about it firsthand, as I was, can attend meetings like the annual conference of the American Academy of Biblical Counselors.

This year, it was held in April at the Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center, a long, flat complex of buildings—including the Edgemont Bible Church and Berean Christian School—off a suburban miracle mile in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

Developed in the 1960s, biblical counseling rejects conventional approaches to mental health and holds that the Bible is sufficient as a guide to treatment.

Many of its adherents think of it as a strict but hopeful alternative to what they view as the permissive and guilt-absolving premises of psychology.

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