Biblical Counseling and Sufficiency of the Bible

counseling image 2I am in the process of evaluating the 95 Theses published by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. The first post is here.  Today, I evaluate theses six through eleven. These statements seem to be key components of biblical counseling.

6. When people experience difficulties as they live in a fallen world, they require wisdom about life to help them face these problems (Prov 19:20).
7. The wisdom to confront life’s difficulties is most often communicated in conversations our culture refers to as counseling.
8. The issues of concern in counseling pertain to problems people face as they relate the difficulties in their life to the faith and practice described in Scripture.

I agree that counseling conversations often relate to common problems with work and family and that clients often want advice about them. I also agree that many problems in living are illustrated in Bible stories. In these situations, Christians could be well served by getting advice from someone who has studied the Bible thoroughly and has a knack for application. However, I don’t believe that all counseling problems involve requests for advice or guidance. Some relate to mental illness in self or others. I will say more about those counseling conversations below.
Furthermore, people today face problems never contemplated by people in the Bible. For instance, advice about what college to attend, what major to take, or what career to pursue, etc. are all specific issues which require specific, individualized conversations. The Bible doesn’t give any specific advice about how to choose a college or academic major.
Although clients may benefit from biblical principles about decision making, a conversation about the specific college and major still requires an individualized focus which could involve various career assessments and information about occupations not mentioned in the Bible.

9. Because counseling problems concern the very same issues that God writes about in his Word, it is essential to have a conversation about the contents of the Bible to solve counseling problems.

I may not understand the meaning of this statement, but on the surface, it seems inadequate and unrealistic. Frequently, counseling problems are similar to those described in the Bible, but often they are much different. We live in a different era and culture. There are daily demands which are radically different than anything reported in the Bible.

10. The subject matter of counseling conversations is the wisdom needed to deal with life’s problems, and so counseling is not a discipline that is fundamentally informed by science, but by the teaching found in God’s Word.

As I demonstrated in my article on school refusal, all conversations don’t require Bible knowledge in order to address the problems people bring to counseling. We could have talked about the Bible in my sessions with the school refusal family, but I can’t see how it would have addressed the main reason they came to see me. On the contrary, we discussed a solution which did not come from my study of the Bible but rather my study of family systems theory. I could have consulted the Bible for days and not come up with that.
Although the case of the boy with school refusal ended well, I now realize he might have had a medical problem which triggered separation anxiety. The problem I wrote about — PANDAS — was discovered by scientists at the NIMN, not theologians in the Bible. There are many other problems which afflict humans in the mind and mood which we have come to understand through science. Counselors, biblical or otherwise, ask for trouble when research is ignored.

11. When the Bible claims to address all the issues concerning life and godliness, it declares itself to be a sufficient and an authoritative resource to address everything essential for counseling conversations (2 Pet 1:3-4).

Actually, these verses don’t say that the Bible addresses “everything essential for counseling interventions.” I think Dr. Lambert and his supporters engage in eisegesis and not exegesis of these verses. Second Peter 1:3-4 reads:

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Through His divine power, we have the Bible (although the New Testament wasn’t fully together at this time), we have the Holy Spirit and the church. These resources provide sufficient moral teaching to let us know what God requires of us. Because of those divine resources, we can have a place in God’s Kingdom. This is Peter’s focus in the chapter.
However, the Bible does not promise to provide the best way to assess and treat medical and mental disorders. I can’t find that promise in 2 Peter or anywhere else. Those disorders are valid subjects of counseling conversations. Often with the involvement of several healthcare professionals, people find relief from these problems.
Peter promises that resources are available to live “a godly life” not a problem-free life. As a matter of experience, I have known many godly people who experience mental and emotional disorders. Godly Christians and non-Christians experience these conditions. Assertions to the contrary are contrary to reality.  I believe biblical counselors who hold to thesis eleven read into 2 Peter something that wasn’t intended.
The authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling is the key tenet of biblical counseling. There are numerous overlapping statements in the 95 Theses. I will pick up my critique of this theme in the next post.
To read all posts in the 95 Theses series, click here.