In our first session, we talked about really why we think biblical counseling is necessary and that’s because psychology, at least secular psychology, does not have the answers, that secular psychology is built on a worldview which is contrary to the word of God and is not really equipped to help people with the problems of the soul. That doesn’t mean that everything they say is completely worthless, they have observations of human behavior, of human nature, there can be real medical issues for which people need medical treatment or can benefit from medical treatment if those are available, but the view of psychology in not understanding who man is in relation to God and our problems, our greatest problems are spiritual and that there are spiritual cures, if you will, in scripture and particularly the redemption provided in Christ in the gospel. Those being excluded makes psychology ill-equipped to help people with their real problems.
Then the next question comes is, well what about Christians who are psychologists or Christian psychology? There are many, many people who would be, personally, professing to be Christians and yet have studied psychology, practice as family therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and what about them? And there are people who are writing books from these perspectives and kind of how you can combine, in various ways, the insights of scripture and the insights of psychology or trying to divide up and saying, well, yeah, maybe the Bible can help you with these things, but psychology helps with those things. And there have been a few different people who have recognized there’s kind of a spectrum of views and I’m gonna go through the part of the spectrum with which I have some disagreement, first, before I get to what I think is the right view, which is biblical counseling.
And actually these views, there’ve been books where this has been addressed. Many years ago, probably 30 years ago, 25 years ago, Larry Crabb wrote a book where he described different views from simply practicing psychology, to psychology with some Christianity, to lots of biblical perspective, but a little psychology and then, finally, the purely biblical method. There’s also been, in recent years, Eric Johnson has edited five views of Christianity and psychology or psychiatry, psychology I believe, and he has different Christians representing each of the views in the spectrum. Originally it was four views, then he added a fifth view, but in each case, there’s kind of a spectrum from something that’s very, very psychological to something that’s really excluding psychology. I know sometimes in life, the middle seems just the right place to be, I’m not in the middle, I’m over here ’cause I think that’s what the Bible teaches. On the other hand, I want to be gracious. I think there are real believers with whom I disagree on some of these things and some of them well-intentioned, and so I want to interact respectfully with these differences of opinion, but also show why I believe in the sufficiency of scripture to help you with their problems and even, there are some real dangers of trying to integrate Christianity and the Bible, Christianity and psychology.
Radical separation: the pastor and psychologist are professions working in different realms.
Pastors refer cases dealing with emotional problems to qualified counselors
The first perspective, which is on this far side, heavy on psychology, light on Bible, is a perspective of radical separation where, yeah, the Christian pastors or Christians help each other with kind of the basic spiritual problems of life, how do you get saved? How do you prepare for baptism? How do you pray? But that the severe emotional problems in life, you need a qualified professional to help and so it looks at the pastor has this little narrow realm in which he operates and then the psychologist has this realm of helping people with their emotional problems and, as I said, the realm for the pastor is a very narrow one. There are seminaries that would teach pastors that, after you’ve tried to counsel somebody once or twice, if it’s not getting better right away, then you need to refer them to a trained professional who can really help them, because you’ve not really been equipped to do this, ’cause you’ve not been trained in psychology. Even insurance companies who insure churches are very eager to encourage us to refer certain kinds of cases to professionals who can help them. There was a famous court case, over 20 years ago, in which a church was sued because a person who was receiving counseling by the church wound up taking his own life and the family was saying that they should have referred this person to professionals who could’ve really helped him. And thankfully, at that time, the church ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit and one point would be, lots of people who’ve been to psychologists also take their lives. I can’t promise you if you do biblical counseling no one you know will ever commit suicide, but that’s the mentality.