Christian counseling (CC) must be Word-centered:
- According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11; ESV)
When we guide another, it must be according to the Word of God:
- And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isaiah 8:19-20)
CC is for naught when we fail to consult the light – God’s Word. It also dishonors God when we reject His counsel in favor of worldly counsel:
- As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God… in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
CC should recognize that all positive growth comes from God through His Word:
- I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
- Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)
As Paul confessed, whatever good comes out of our lives, comes from the Lord:
- But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10; James 1:17)
However, we tend to wrongly put mental illness in its own specialized category where only the “professional” can help. However, according to Scripture, we are all “mentally ill,” living in darkness and self-deceit, as Jesus claimed:
- “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
In short, we all are such a mess that we require the Lord’s radical surgery to remove our blindness (Matthew 7:1-5), the log in our eye. Of what does the log consist? Self-righteousness, entitlement, and arrogance! We therefore have to be humbled in order to be lifted up and made well. Otherwise, we are always right in our own eyes:
- All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. (Proverbs 16:2)
The Apostles thought that all they needed was more faith:
- The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:5-10)
The amount of faith wasn’t the problem. They are already had enough faith to cast a mulberry tree into the sea. Instead, it was their entitlement mentality that was getting in the way. They had been trusting in their own merit instead of the Lord’s. Instead, they had to regard themselves as “unworthy servants,” even after they had done everything that they were supposed to do!
When we regard ourselves as worthy, to some degree we discount our Lord’s gift of worthiness. Instead of placing our trust completely in Him (Psalm 62), we are placing part of our trust in our own worthiness or merit – an offense to the gift-Giver!
In this and in many other ways, secular humanist psychotherapy (SHP) is diametrically opposed to Biblical Counseling. Here is a brief outline of the differences:
1. While SHP understands us as a pathological product of nature and nurture (genetics and environment), Scripture sees a broader, more creative process at work, which includes our own choices, like mainlining heroin. Fundamentally, many of our struggles are self-caused. We reject the light in favor of the darkness (John 3:19-20), bringing upon ourselves all manner of ills (Romans 1:21-32; Proverbs 1:29-32). By rejecting God’s gift of righteousness, we condemn ourselves to pursuing a non-existent alternative righteousness, significance, and self-esteem resulting in self-justification and denial.
2. While SHP is client-centered, the Biblical is God-centered, acknowledging that God is the source of everything good and the ultimate answer to whatever our problem might be (Romans 8:31-32). Meanwhile, SHP claims that the answer is in us, placing an extra burden on us. Meanwhile, CC starts where the sufferer is (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) and later lead them to higher ground away from self.
3. Consequently, while SHP tries to build a self-trust based upon raising self-esteem and behavioral mastery over fears and other conflicts, CC rejects self-trust in favor of trusting in God alone (Psalm 62). Self-trust opposes the Gospel. Jesus instructed His followers that they could do nothing without Him (John 15:4-5; also Jeremiah 17:5-7; 2 Cor. 3:5). Furthermore, those who trust in themselves have fallen from grace (Gal. 5:2-4).
4. While SHP seeks to exalt the client, Scripture counsels humbling ourselves to the truth of our brokenness and need, trusting that God will exalt us (Luke 14:11; 18:14; James 4:10).
5. While SHP is focused on symptomology and, in the short run, feeling better about oneself, Scripture is primarily focused on truth and thinking correctly about ourselves and God (John 8:31-32).
6. Consequently, SHP is about affirming the self, while Scripture is about affirming God and His truth, and secondarily, who we are in Him! SHP focuses on improving the client’s performance and feelings about oneself, while Scripture’s focus is upon honoring God, knowing that He will, in the long run, take care of our needs better than we can (Matthew 6:33).
7. SHP emphasizes self-expression, while Scripture emphasizes self-control and virtue.
8. SHP tends to be non-judgmental and tolerant of just about all forms of expression. Scripture maintains that truth has to guide all of our thinking and behaving. Underlying this distinction, SHP resorts to the disease model. In the same way that we are not responsible for contracting cancer, we are also not responsible for our problematic behaviors. Scripture has a higher view of humankind, and therefore we must take responsibility for our lives.
In One Nation Under Therapy, psychiatrist Sally Satel and ethicist Christina Sommers warn:
· "At the heart of therapism [the no-fault, disease-pathology philosophy of psychotherapy] is the revolutionary idea that psychology can and should take the place of ethics and religion. Recall Abraham Maslow’s elated claim that the new psychologies of self-actualization were offering a “religion surrogate,” that could change the world. He had “come to think of this humanist trend in psychology as a revolution in the truest, oldest sense of the word…new conceptions of ethics and values.” Carl Rogers then looked upon group therapy as a kind of earthly paradise—a “state where all is know and all accepted.” The sixties and seventies were heady times for Maslow and Rogers. They were promoting a visionary realignment of values, away from the Judeo-Christian ethic, in the direction of what they regarded as a science of self-actualization." (217)
9. Because SHP is all about mitigating symptomology, it has little tolerance or understanding for the positive role of suffering. Consequently, it fails to embrace the totality of our experience. Scripture, however, recognizes the need for suffering (2 Cor. 4:7-11), helping us to accept it and to even rejoice in the midst of it (James 1:2-4).
Tragically, the more that the Church has embraced SHP, the more it has denigrated the Gospel. Professor of religion, Philip Jenkins, writes:
· "During the 1970’s and 1980’s, psychological values and assumptions permeated the religious world no less than the secular culture…But an intellectual chasm separates the assumptions of traditional churches from those of mainstream therapy and psychology. The medicalization of wrongdoing sharply circumscribes the areas in which clergy can appropriately exercise their professional jurisdiction, and this loss of acknowledged expertise to therapists and medical authorities at once symbolizes and accelerates a substantial decline in the professional status of priests and ministers." (“Opinion: The Uses of Clerical Scandal,” First Things, 1996, 60.)
Instead, we have everything that we need in Christ:
· For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)
We, therefore, need to understand how complete and equipped we are in Christ. When we go forth with an understanding of Scripture, we are more-than-ready to minister to the broken (2 Timothy 3:16-17):
· [God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:4-5)