Integration – Theological Error or Good Practice?
Author: Michael Snetzer
I consider myself a biblical counselor. Some may disagree after reading this blog…but I am willing to stand corrected and learn. I have for some time opposed integration in counseling, and in a very real sense I still do. However, I have far too often made rash judgments about institutions and persons who’s counseling has been deemed integrated in their approach without looking more deeply into what exactly that means in a particular case. How you define the term integration seems to make all the difference as to whether it is theological error or good practice. <!–break–> If you were to accumulate all the wisdom in heaven and on earth, you could funnel all of it into one of two categories. The first category is the wisdom of God. If it is true, it belongs to God and it is nothing new. In this sense, “all truth is God’s truth”. The wisdom of God might be understood as a way of interpreting all that is seen. There is not a lot of debate over what is seen. The debate surfaces in the interpretation of what is seen. “we look not to things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 CORINTHIANS 4:18 The second catagory is a competing worldview called the wisdom of man/world. This worldview is set up against the knowledge and glory of God. It is a deceitful way of interpreting life. It flows from “satanically controlled culture”. It is the part of the culture that finds itself under the dominion of darkness and enslaved to sin. These two categories are mutually exclusive. The wisdom of God is foolishness to man and the wisdom of man/world is foolishness to God. Any attempt to “sync up” the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world is called syncretism. It is a theological error that can get us way off track. If this is what we are referring to when we use the word integration, then I strongly oppose it. I do not, however, believe that all that is referred to as integration is syncretism. If what we mean by integration is integrating the observations of various disciplines, like science and medicine, and interpreting them through a biblical framework, then I am generally an advocate. It is a way to display how the scriptures play out in our everyday reality. This is what, at times, I have found labeled “integration”. At this point you may say that this is never what you mean by integration. That being said, it does seem to capture at least a portion of what has been presented to me as integration. We must remember that science is not our enemy. It is the study and observation of the physical and natural world. However, observation apart from revelation leads to speculation. When engaging culture, I tend to concede to the observations of science and medicine (not being a doctor or scientist myself) to the point that their interpretations contradict a biblical worldview. At this point, I get the opportunity to engage and redefine biblically what is being interpreted in error with something that we can firmly stand on…the word of God. To take this into the psychological world, we might look at Freud’s ego defense mechanisms and conclude that within each of these stands an observation which is likely correct. However, apart from the guidance of biblical understanding, his faulty interpretations lead to bizarre diagnostic interventions and labels (i.e. the Id). In fact, all interventions in these areas will be misguided unless, by God’s revelation, we realize these ego defense mechanisms are symptomatic of sinful human beings attempting to deal with the reality of their own shame and cope with living in a fallen world independent of God. Any attempt to blend Freud’s errant interpretations into a biblical worldview is syncretism. Only through the word of God might we rightly interpret what is going on under the surface of these observations and rightly apply the gospel as the remedy to all that ails us. “And the light shines in the darkness did not comprehend it” JOHN 1:5 This is why, if psychology is the study of the human soul, I believe the best psychologists will be students of the Bible who are therefore able to interpret human behavior not based in speculation, but in God’s revelation.
Posted on August 3, 2014