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Holistic Care and Biblical Counseling: A Return to our Roots

Author: Category: Biblical Counseling, Blog

The past few years I have become quite excited about the idea of holistic biblical care.  The idea really began to germinate in my heart when a definition of biblical counseling emerged from my dissertation (and reached consensus by top scholars in Christian soul care) that, in part, read as follows:

“The biblical counselor does not ignore physical issues or emotional data, but seeks to integrate them into a holistic understanding of the person and where change needs to take place.” [1] 

As I have been preparing my talk for this year’s conference I have come to the realization that emphasizing holistic care really takes us back to the roots of the modern biblical counseling movement.  While reading through Jay Adams’ The Christian Counselors Manual, I came across the following:

“It is of special importance to counselors to recognize that focus upon ‘the problem’ to the exclusion of or diminished interest in the rest of the counselees life patterns easily can result in counseling failure.”[2]

He then offers a very helpful diagram to illustrate areas he felt were essential to biblical care that included the whole person:

Church                                                                                    Other

Bible Reading

Prayer

Witness

Work                                “THE PROBLEM”                          Finances

School

Physical Health                                                                      Family

Exercise                                                                                  Children

Diet                                                                                         Discipline

Sleep                                                                                      Social Activities

Marriage                                                                                Friends

                                                                                                           

While my ideas on holistic care are a work in progress, and I see the immense value in each of the areas Adams cites, the goal of this year’s ABC holistic track is going to hone in on and develop one of these areas particularly since this is the area where not much has been written from a biblical counseling perspective.  That is the area of brain/physical,/heart/gut health, exercise, diet and sleep, etc.   Unfortunately, while Dr. Adams mentioned this from the beginning, very little focus has been made to build upon the premise of the body’s importance in biblical counseling care.

The body is not an isolated part of our humanity that is separate from our truest selves or uninvolved in the process of spiritual change and sanctification.   In fact, as Allison puts it, “…embodiment is the proper state of existence.”[3]   Allberry notes that without a body we can’t hope to enjoy an authentic life.[4]  For King David, considering God’s handiwork in forming the body was occasion for awe and worship (Ps. 139:13-14). 

So, when Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1), how does this apply to counseling issues like anxiety, depression, trauma, rhythms and rituals of the home, addiction, or anger? 

My team and I will, in part, seek to provide biblical insight on this and other important questions, and will revisit Adams’ idea of habituation—a process he believed was central to biblical change.  “Failure to help counselees overcome the problem of a habituated body that produces sinful responses is, perhaps, the greatest cause of failure in counseling that attempts to be biblical.”[5]  Not only will we revisit this idea, but will develop it further to include more contemporary thoughts on the matter as well as how habituation is related to helping with issues related to suffering such as abuse, anxiety, and depression.    

If you have not yet registered, please go to www.calledtocounsel.com and do so today!  We’ll see you soon.


[1] Jeremy A. Lelek, Biblical Counseling Basics:  Roots, Beliefs, Future (Greensboro, NC, New Growth

   Press, 2018), 44.

[2] Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual (Philipsburg, NJ:  P&R Publishing, 1973), 206. 

[3] Greg R. Allison, Embodied:  Living as Whole People in a Fractured World (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker

   Books, 2021), 32.

[4] Sam Allberry, What God Has to Say About Our Bodies:  How the Gospel is Good News for Our Physical

   Selves (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2021). 

[5] Jay E. Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1979), 62.


Posted on August 9, 2021