I spent a number of my adolescent years knowing what the Lord was calling me to, but never really knowing how that was going to pan out. Trusting in Him and the plan He had already set into motion, the bombarding of questions from others came without me having a specific, defined answer of, “This is the exact title for the career I am working towards.” This conviction only deepened as I entered into my college years, knowing that He was preparing me both socially and intimately for the field of counseling. However, I was often unsettled because I was becoming more and more aware of how unclear this portrait of my career looked. I knew I wanted to counsel, but I knew it wouldn’t be through the school of psychology. I knew I wanted to counsel, but I knew it wouldn’t be through what I had oftentimes seen labeled as “Christian counseling.” The more I meditated on His Word, the more I wrote and prayed over this very issue, the more sure I was of His counsel and authority over my life and how that would be manifested in my interactions with others. The authority of His Word supercedes all other theories and practices. While I do not necessarily hold some level of disdain for most psychological views of the person, I cannot in the conviction of the Holy Spirit, in the sufficiency of Scripture, support any other practices as being authoritative in aiding broken, sinful souls. The Lord has shown me time and time again the depth and weight and truth of such passages as that found in Hebrews 4:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
My convictions for counseling under the authority of God and His Word have been part of His sovereign plan for my life, and part of His plan has been this season I am in as a student at Southern. My heart swelled when I first heard of the changes being made to the counseling program just months before I was supposed to begin classes at a sister seminary. David Powlison has an article in the Journal of Biblical Counseling which has been adopted by the seminary as affirmations and denials regarding the definition of biblical counseling. Here are a few excerpts from his article:
“We affirm that the Bible is God’s self-revelation in relation to His creatures, and, as such, truly explains people and situations.”
“We affirm that the Bible teaches, invites, warns, commands, sings, and tells the solution for what troubles humankind. In the good news of Jesus Christ, God acts personally. In word and deed, He redeems us from sin and misery through the various operations of His past, present, and future grace. God uses many means of grace, including the face-to-face conversations of wise counseling.”
“We deny that any other solution or therapy actually cures souls, and can change us from unholy to holy, from sinners to righteous, from insanity to sanity, from blindness to sightedness, from self-absorption to faith-working-through-love.”
“We deny that there is any method for instantaneous or complete perfection into the image of Jesus Christ. The change process continues until we see Him face-to-face.”
“We deny that the persons and problems addressed by the activity termed ‘psychotherapy’ fall outside the intended scope of the ministry of Christ in word and deed.”
“We affirm that the Scripture defines and speaks to the gamut of problems in living for all people in all situations.”
“We deny that psychological research, personality theories, and psychotherapies should be viewed as ‘objective science,’ as that term is usually understood. Neither should they be seen as extensions of medicine and medical practice.”
Yes, this truly is a new paradigm, a new way of seeing the field of Christian counseling. Where psychology is quick to answer the question of “what” in diagnoses and prescriptions, biblical counseling goes straight to the heart of the matter—“why?” What is the sin that so easily entangles? Where is this individual’s situation one affected by a true medical issue? When those questions are brought to the table, when the Church counsels from the sufficient Word of God, the root of the problem will be exposed.
We live in a fallen and depraved world, and only by His grace are we truly saved, healed, and persevere in sanctification.