The topic of counseling always proves to bring up a lot of different opinions and ideas. When one adds the word Biblical as an adjective, the debate can get rather lively.
The Whole Counsel of God
In my previous blog, I discussed how sometimes asking a better question can result in a better answer. Rather than ask, “What is Biblical Counseling?” I prefer to ask, “What approach to counseling best reflects the whole counsel of God?”
To organize my thoughts, I have divided the approaches into three general categories: The no-Bible approach, the Solo-Bible approach, and the Sola Scriptura approach. I fully recognize that these categories are reductionist in nature with overlap and semantics. However, this provides me a comfortable springboard from which to launch into what I hope to be a profitable discussion.
I will begin with the No-Bible approach.
The “No-Bible” Approach to Counseling
There are a lot of great counselors who do not use the Bible in their approach, and they help a lot of people. I am very thankful for them. Are you surprised to find that statement in a Christian Worldview Blog?
Let me begin by saying I am not unaware that a great deal of counseling, psychology, and psychotherapy are born out of a secular–humanistic worldview. The view that psychology began with the ancient Greeks is generally held by most experts.
If you ever took a psych class in school, you probably learned psychology is a relatively new field of study compared to other scientific disciplines. Furthermore, its initial development is as recent as the 1870s in Europe with Wilhelm Wundt and in North America with the writings of William James.
I would also agree that a secular worldview has influenced a lot of psychological presuppositions and approaches.
One would be hard-pressed to find a Theology of Hamartiology (the study of sin) or a call to repentance in most non-religious counseling programs. Treating poor decisions as a disease can further discredit psychology when compared with how Scripture discusses the free will of man. A psychology that is directly in opposition to God’s worldview is not valuable and even possibly harmful.
However, I believe there is a way in which psychology and the Bible intersect, and it is in that intersection we will eventually find the whole counsel of God.
“Psychology that is directly in opposition to God’s worldview is not valuable and even possibly harmful.”
The intersection of psychology and the Bible
Properly understood, psychology is the study of the psyche or, perhaps better stated, the study of the soul (λογία ψυχή), and the study of the soul has been going on for as long as humans have been around. Furthermore, the study of the soul is something in which God is very interested.
This means that the idea that psychology, as a study of the human mind and emotions, began in the last 200 years is not accurate. Humans are relational, and there is an intrinsic need to make relationships work. This need exceeds the idea merely to survive to issues of self-consciousness and self-awareness regarding how we are included and belong in community.
When we begin with a biblical view of community, we find there have always been those who observe and help others, and that help transcends culture, circumstances, and time. The reality is the science of helping relationships, which includes one’s relationship with oneself, has a tradition lasting millennia.
Based on observation, human beings have learned over time there are evidenced-based methods that really help people in their personal relationships. With time and testing, these observations are formed into “best practices” – the idea that certain practices yield the best results with most people. So how do these “best practices” line up with the Bible?
“The study of the soul is something in which God is very interested.”
The reality is the Lordship of Christ over all existence, as revealed in the Bible, determines what is true about practices toward all of reality and toward academic subject matter in particular. There are truths and reality Scripture does not directly address. This is consistent with what Scripture says about itself. Solomon argues that observation does bring about knowledge. This type of understanding is often referred to as general or natural revelation. It is knowledge about God and his work gained through observation, nature, reasoning, etc.
This means that oftentimes a counselor, although not using the Bible directly, can be helping people by either unknowingly sharing what the Bible teaches directly or by imparting truth that falls under the category of general or natural revelation. This is why many people who go to a counselor that does not use the Bible still experience excellent results.
But is this type of counseling the most effective and does it reveal the whole counsel of God? Even when the counselor gets it right, I find it still falls far short of what is God’s best-practice.