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Is The Bible The Basis Of Your Counseling? 10 Questions To Consider

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When I entered the counseling field fifteen years ago I confidently referred to myself as a Christian counselor.  My genuine intent moving into this field was that I would strive to ensure that my counsel would always reflect genuine biblical teaching.  While I had never taken a seminary course covering the use of Scripture in counseling I was fairly well versed in the Christian counseling literature of the day.  With such knowledge at hand I felt well prepared to begin my journey as a Christian counselor.    

My confidence in being able to extend biblical soul care was quickly shaken, however, when the director of the counseling center where I was fulfilling my internship handed me a book entitled, A Theology of Christian Counseling.[1]  It was required reading.  As I thumbed through the chapters an enormous disconnect began to form within me.  For the first time in my life I was reading a counseling book that was talking about concepts such as justification and sanctification and their critical nature in forming a genuinely biblical model of care.  It was this book that first exposed me to the fact that there was a massive gap in my theology and my psychology.  Since that time I have been on a continual journey seeking to refine my understanding of the Bible and its practical application in my work as a counselor. 

Since I am a fallen and fallible person I must engage in the ongoing process of assessing my functional practices.  Sure, I say I’m biblical, but is that the case?  Are my concepts and methods truly rooted in biblical teaching or am I a Christian/biblical counselor in name only?  The answer lies in my epistemology (i.e., the basis of my understanding, the ground of my knowledge).  I have learned that my epistemological allegiances will always determine how I conceptualize people and their problems.  My epistemology also sets the stage for my understanding of cure.  Here are a few questions I typically consider that assist me along the way.  Maybe you will also find them helpful.

1.     When working with individuals with complex issues cited by psychiatry such as OCD, Bi-Polar, or ADHD, what determines my view of such a person’s fundamental nature and struggle?  Is my first consideration that which is asserted by the latest research and theory or by what the Bible claims about human nature? 

2.     Is my model of counseling dominated by theoretical assumptions or theological truth?  Who has more to offer as it regards psychology, human motivation, and the process of change:  theorists such as Rogers, Ellis, or Madones, the scientific researcher, the current self-help guru or Jesus?  To whom do I functionally turn when seeking to fundamentally understand people?

3.     Do I possess a rich theology of human motivation derived from the Bible?  Am I able to effectively articulate it others?

4.     Do I possess a rich theology of human change derived from the Bible?

5.     Do I possess a rich theology of human nature derived from the Bible?

6.     If there were no extra-biblical data offered in psychology (i.e., theory and research) regarding relational, emotional, and mental problems, have I developed a system of theology that would effectively address these issues?  Would I be able to offer more than a verse and a prayer? 

7.     As a counselor am I more competent in applying theoretical methods informed by secular models than I am the truths of the Bible as they apply to mental, emotional, and relational problems?

8.     When seeking to become a better counselor which of these excites me most:  growing in my wisdom of Scripture as it applies to the practical struggles of the human experience or reading the latest psychology or self-help book?

9.     Which is more reliable in diagnosing human dysfunction:  the Bible or the DSM-5?  Which of these do I rely on most to understand and conceptualize those I serve?

10.  How much training am I receiving to equip me in richly applying the Bible to the myriad of psychological issues present within my culture?

While there are many other questions I typically consider these keep me honest.  We have hundreds of voices speaking into our hearts about our psychology—Who are we?  Why do we behave in certain ways?  How do we change?  It may, at times, be tempting to get distracted by the “latest and greatest”.  Continually assessing our practices and our concepts while asking the Lord to keep our counsel as aligned with His Word as possible are tasks with which we must never grow weary.    

[1] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1979),

Posted on March 16, 2015