In the last 40 years counseling has developed into a significant course of study for seminaries and colleges in their curriculum and advertisement. It is not that there was no counseling before this, but that it was not isolated from other disciplines of pastoral theology as a course of study.
Many churches have incorporated special pastoral positions for trained clergy and lay persons. They feel that this would enable their staff to more fully meet the needs of their flocks. Many evangelical churches have hired licensed psychiatrists and psychologists as a special part of their church ministry.
Parallel to this trend is the controversial polemic about integration.
Can the Christian counselor utilize secular theories and methods as a significant part of their methodology, knowing that they have their origin in secular philosophy?
Can he or she blend them into a Christian philosophy of counseling?
A philosophy that honors God and is also consistent with the Scripture?
There has also been the emergence of Christian counseling groups that reject all counseling theories based in part or in whole upon secular ideas. The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, the International Association of Biblical Counselors and others have emerged to challenge integrationists by holding to the principle found in II Peter 1:3, that God Has given us all things necessary for life and godliness. PhD’s Eric Johnson and Stanton Jones have a valuable book written in the Mid 90’S entitled
”Psychology @ Christianity (Four Views)” It’s contributors are Gary R. Collins, David G. Myers, David Powlison and Robert C. Roberts. Three of these men take an integrationists position while David Powlison takes the position that Scripture is sufficient by itself. Its format is very practical as each man states and supports his view and then a response is given by the other three. An updated version is due out in the spring 2010 and it adds a fifth position. As you can see the subject of integration has far reaching implications and generates a lot of energy.
Let’s step back and look at the bigger picture using a series of questions.
1-Did God create human beings so they would need counseling? Yes, He did. Genesis reveals a righteous and perfect Adam coming from the hand of God but still in need of information (counsel). He needed counsel about what work to do. He needed instruction how to manage the world of creatures and plants. Also how to develop a proper relationship with his beautiful helpmate. He needed to be told about the two trees in the garden. When Adam chose to disobey he fell into spiritual death and blindness and that required further and greater counseling. You might say that the Bible is a continuous record of God counseling human beings on what to do and what not to do. Humans need cou9nsel from God
2-Is mankind capable, apart from the grace of God, to properly and adequately define personal problems and set forth a true solution?
Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 1 and 2 teach, along with many other passages, that mankind resists the most basic kind of counsel from the message of creation and also from the inner revelation of God’s nature itself. The image of God in humans suffered a severe blow to mans’ development in every area of thought. However he is still capable of great achievements in art, science, literature, social order etc. The greatest damage was done in the realm of his spirituality. The New Testament uses devastating terms when it performs a spiritual autopsy on the human heart. We are termed deaf, blind, darkened, without understanding, without hope, idolaters, stiff necked, children of wrath, walking according to the course of this world and dead in trespasses and sins. The most positive and broadminded bible interpreter would have to conclude that man is not capable of coming up with the slightest possibility of a spiritual solution for his situation.
3-Can we use or learn from anything that secular thinkers, writers and therapists have espoused? Yes and No. Yes, we can learn secondary concepts when we discuss principles of decorum, communication, courtesy, length of sessions and many other ideas that have their origin in the common grace o f God (common sense and logic), but No, when we would attempt to borrow from their concept of man’s inhibitions, self actualization, his hierarchy of needs, his cognitive potential and his search for significance. It is quite revealing when we realize that these theorists rarely integrate the theories of other therapists into their practice. However the Christian church sometimes blindly follows the secular leaders away from the inspired truth of God into the maze of misguided theory. This never helps man or solves the root of his problem. A person with a serious problem that requires counseling must have the indwelling Holy Spirit received in salvation, accompanied by the proper application of appropriate Scripture. Once that is clearly established the counselor must sensitively and patiently direct them to apply Scripture to the root of the problem. The goal of all counseling is to fulfill the two great commands. The first, to Love God fully and consistently and the second, to love our neighbor the way we want to be loved. The most glaring departure of Biblical counseling is to say that “no one can love God or their neighbor until they first learn to love themselves”. The Bible knows no such principle; in fact the love of self is a major part of many counselees root problems.
4-Should counselors counsel free lance or within the ministry of a gospel preaching church? Counseling should be offered within the ministry of a church because discipleship, prayer support, church discipline and use of our spiritual gifts often play a vital part in the change and growth of many counselees.
5-Where can a Christian get training that enables them to counsel according to the Scripture exclusively? Go online and contact the following ministries. Nanc.org. or Faith Baptist Church, Lafayette, Indiana or Fellowship Bible Church, Sewell, New Jersey, or Berean Community Church, Milford, Delaware
The title of this article asked how important is counseling to the Christian church?
It is important because it is what God intended as a ministry of His Word to needy souls. It is not to be mixed with the theories of unsaved men and it is not to be done outside the local church. It is the private application of inspired truth in a confidential and personal way. Preaching is public counseling and counseling is private preaching. Jesus counseled all the time.
Respectfully Rev. John McConaughy B Th, Masters of Divinity.