Having knowledge and understanding about the world we live in is vital if we are to interact well in that world while being a strong and confident voice for the saving message of Christ. As professional Christian counselors, we seek points of connection in the secular world which we can use to direct people to the eternal truth of the Scripture and the glorious character of our Great God. The Apostle Paul describes this mindset in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 concluding with, “I have become all things to all men that I may by all means save some.”
While many famous voices in psychology were unbelievers, it is helpful to know their theories since much of secular education is now based on them. Some of what these founding fathers of psychology proposed lies outside of Scripture, and therefore we reject it. However, some of their observations and assumptions were true because they based through the “grid of truth” the Scriptures give us. These principles we can accept and use in therapy.
The following are the five tenets of the Professional Christian Counseling degree at TMU:
- We believe all TRUTH is God’s TRUTH, whether it first came to public attention through a believer or an unbeliever. We believe the Bible is the final authority for all truth, the standard, filer and criterion by which all knowledge is tested.
- We believe we can separate and use concepts that align with Scripture, even though many of the founding scientists held a non-Christian, secular worldview. B.F. Skinner, for example, was an unbeliever who rightly described operant conditioning (a principle he coined) which basically shows that rewards and punishment exert influence on behavior. Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child…”) agrees as does Psalm 119:67 and Hebrews 12:5-11.
Carl Rogers was a humanist, and we don’t accept his belief that mankind is essentially good, and that right or wrong originates in the individual. Scripture clearly tells us these ideas do not pass through the grid of truth as we are all born sinners. Rogers was also a strong voice for what he called unconditional positive regard for others regardless of status, wealth, or education; this principle does align with Scripture and can be embraced.
- We believe the Nouthetic approach to counseling is one arm of the therapeutic discipline, yet it has limits. Nouthetic counseling promotes the concept that sin is the cause for all problems and the role of the counselor is to use the Bible exclusively to solve problems. The word “nouthetic” means to admonish or confront. At times this approach can prove faulty. There was a woman who was admonished by a nouthetic counselor because she was quick to anger. Her counselor declared her anger to be sin and called her to repent and change. She did, yet the behavior continued. Finally, she saw a Christian psychiatrist who sent her for a MRI scan because he suspected something else was physiologically wrong. The results of the MRI showed a brain tumor pressing on vital areas of the brain which controlled her emotions. When the tumor was removed, the woman’s angry outbursts stopped.
- We believe there are some issues that require in-depth psychotherapy. We know that God can and does do the miraculous, yet in many cases, He uses the expertise of caring, trained therapists to help hurting individuals work through their problems. The example of a well-known pastor comes to mind. For years this godly man struggled with obesity; he had confessed the sin of gluttony to God but never felt he had lasting victory over this stronghold. He began counseling and a breakthrough came when he realized that as a child the only time he felt truly loved was when he was sick or at a holiday when food gave the sense of comfort and good will. This carried over into his adult years and made it difficult tot reject food because in essence, he saw it as rejecting love. This conditioning was unconscious and it took the skill of a trained therapist to reveal it and help him find new associations for food and love.
- Finally, we believe that professional Christian counselors do not impose their worldview on clients, but rather they are trained to expose truth in a caring manner. A good adage for professional Christian counselors is “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” We must remember we cannot make people change their thinking or behavior, yet going back to the analogy of the horse, we can put out “salt blocks” to help people become aware of thirst. Our desire is to be what our Lord calls us to be in Matthew 5:13 – SALT to a needy world, that they may drink from the tank of Living Water.