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Reclaiming Psychology for the Church

By Julie Ganschow

Several of the staff from our counseling center recently spoke at a Biblical Counseling Conference in Sarasota, Florida. The focus of the conference was on living a life of faith in the face of the problems we face today. Each speaker presented on how it is possible to face adversity with trust in our faithful God.

What we and the other speakers believe is that the Scriptures and ministry of the Holy Spirit are enough for solving the common to man (1 Cor. 10:13) problems of life.  Rather than using man’s methods and worldly wisdom we believe that changes in the thoughts, beliefs and desires of the heart are what bring about changes in one’s life.

We do this in the process that is commonly called biblical counseling or intensive discipleship. It is very important that you understand that biblical counseling is really discipleship; getting involved in the lives of others in a people-helping manner.

The goal of our Biblical Counseling is heart change for life change. We believe that God’s Word contains all we need for life and godliness. We have seen and experienced the reality that when the Word of God is applied to the heart of man we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and internal changes result in life changes!

Biblical counseling is committed to the position that Scripture provides the only authoritative guide for what we are to believe and how we are to live (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We do not base our counsel on man’s wisdom, opinions, experience, or concepts of behavior, but we seek to bring the full range of biblical truth to focus on the counselee’s need. 

Our focus in an intensive discipleship relationship is the importance of change at the heart level. Understanding the need for heart change for life change is at the core of everything you will learn in counseling with one of us or in our training classes. The foundational and fundamental presupposition is that the Bible is true and our only source for God’s truth.

When most people speak of the heart, they link it almost exclusively to our emotional component. A phrase like, “speak from the heart” means to say something about how you feel. A phrase like, “follow your heart” means follow your feelings. We live in a culture that is dominated by emotions or feelings.

When the heart is not being referred to as the physical organ that pumps your blood, it usually means “feelings.” “Feelings” have become the dominion of the secular therapeutic world. People go to counseling because they “feel bad” or “feel sad” or “feel depressed.” They seek a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist because their emotions are out of balance, and their moods are destabilized.

For a time in the history of the church it was easier to send problem people off to the doctor to discuss their problems then it was to really put the time and effort into discipleship and assisting them learn to deal with life and problems biblically.

The basis for this was the understanding that the Dictionary defines psychology as, “The science of the human soul; specifically, the systematic or scientific knowledge of the powers and functions of the human soul, so far as they are known by consciousness; a treatise on the human soul.”[i]

For many years the church stood silently by, as secular theories were woven in with Scripture and called Christian Counseling or Christian Psychology. The result of this was that medical professionals hijacked the right to address the needs of the human soul away from the church. Or is it that we gave up?

What has happened is the church bought into the medical model and as a result, anti-God, pro-sin individuals are now in the multi-billion dollar business of deciding what sin in many cases is now sickness. The emphasis of psychology migrated from soul-care and became humanistic and anti-God(If you have never heard that before, or do not agree, I ask you to consider the fact that Freud and all the other major players in framing psychology were anti-God and evolutionists.  They were secular humanists).

Proponents of secular psychology want us to believe we do not need God and that we have the power within ourselves to change. Psychology’s premise is that man is a higher evolved form of animal. If this is the case, than man does not have a soul or a spirit and thus a secular approach is the only possible method for helping him appeal to the basic drives he possesses. If he is an animal than there is no God-consciousness, and no possibility to redeem his soul because it is not necessary—he has no soul.

The Christian psychologist believes and promotes the scientific beliefs of their secular counterparts. They will often use the same terminology, and are usually licensed professionals who are approved by insurance companies to bill for their services.  In some cases, maybe most cases, the Christian psychologist will follow the teachings of the disease or medical model in counseling their clients, but will also integrate Scripture where appropriate to give the client hope and to minister to their feelings and emotions. They believe that the Bible has something to offer their client, but is not sufficient to address the mental illness or medical diagnosis of that client.

There is a new wave of Christian psychologists who accept the science of what is proven medically but tend to reject the medical model for treatment of what is called mental illness. They prefer instead to help the counselee to see their spiritual problem and their medical illness from a biblical perspective.

They believe in many cases that there are biological or genetic links to some of the maladies that since Jay Adam’s brought nouthetic counseling back into the church have been discounted as sin, or sinful responses to the problems of life.

This group of Christian counselors strongly believes the church and biblical counseling must re-claim the word psychology for the church. They believe it is our word and we have a right to use it. Personally, I don’t care about the use of the word; I care about the condition of the heart of the people I minister to.  Our counseling center believes that words like “transformed” and “forgiveness” and “redemption” are more important in our lives. We do not discount the legitimate medical issues that people face, but we are not physicians in charge of caring for the medical needs of the body. Instead, we are soul physicians who are charged with addressing how all aspects of a person, including their medical issues, affect the immaterial part of them. This immaterial part is what the Bible calls the soul, or the heart.

So in biblical counseling we are much more concerned with how a counselee responds to life’s challenges. We know that God is not impressed with our worldly or human wisdom about people and their problems; contrary to humanistic thinking we believe that God is actively involved in the lives of His creation.

We know from Scripture that God has an entirely different opinion of us than our secular counseling counterparts.  We know from Scripture that many of the problems people face every day are specifically mentioned in the Bible, and that many other problems are inferred throughout the text.   His Word reveals to us why it is pure foolishness to look to man for the solutions to the spiritual problems we face.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Critics of biblical counseling say that we discount feelings and emotions, that we are all about blasting people with the Bible and are sometimes harsh and lack love and even condemning of them. I do not believe that a person who looks to the example of Christ as our Wonderful Counselor and follows His example could be accused of this.

Christ was loving, truthful, honest, confrontational, discerning, wise, and a host of other things. He did not excuse sin; He called people to repentance, and He expected change in the hearts and lives of those who heard the truth. He understood the emotional component of a person and how emotions can sway their actions. He challenged them not to live by their feelings, but to live in obedience to His commands. And He gave the Christian the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable them to do that.

 

[i] psychology. Dictionary.com. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/psychology (accessed: June 13, 2008).

 

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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