Principles of the Biblical Worldview of Psychology, Counseling,
Our definition of
psychology is the study of an individual person’s thoughts,
speech, and behavior relative to himself, his neighbor, and God,
as governed and defined by specific Biblical criteria. I have
tried to use “secular psychology” to denote that which is
practiced apart from the Bible.
is" anyone with whom the person may come in contact, as close as
one’s spouse or more distant as one’s enemies in warfare, to
missions around the world that provide physical help, as
illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
or that evangelize the unreached.
is the preferred term to psychotherapy, which is simply
talking to a person, even though it may be done by a variety of
methods, such as, open-ended questions, history of experiences
and problems, and instructions in what to do. “Psychotherapy”
may be used here to denote the practice of “psychologists,” but
it is still just conversation, as just described.
Groupings of various
principles. Over the years, I have written considerably on
this subject. Rather than collating principles from several
writings into one whole, I have left them intact (with some
minor editing) because they look at these issues from a slightly
different perspective and content. And, they are linked to the
original source for further reading.
Principles That Are New for This Website
This first section of
principles is newly developed for this website. The others
that follow are from previous publications.
1. All men are
(“born-again” or “born from above“) or unregenerate and
therefore have different resources for the direction of their
lives. There are considerable differences between the regenerate
and unregenerate. For example. the unregenerate have no
certainty of moral instruction and may or may not have a helping
spouse, family, or employer. The regenerate have their spouse,
family, church, prayer, Biblical instruction, personal prayer,
the prayers of others, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the
Providence of God.
2. All men, regenerate
or unregenerate, are responsible to obey God’s instructions and
the laws of the state (to the extent that they are consistent
with Biblical law). Where they fail, they are to seek
reconciliation and restitution according to Biblical directions.
3. Any instruction or
principle, whether theoretical or experimental, that is contrary
to Biblical instruction is ethically wrong and dangerous for the
good of the individual.
4. While physical
problems may limit in degree an individual’s responsibility
before God and the state, such difficulties do not remove
entirely the individual’s responsibility before the law of God
or man. Each person is responsible according to his or her
abilities and resources (Luke 12:48)
5. Experimentation in
psychology is legitimate, as long as its premises and construct
are consistent with Biblical morality.
6. “All truth is God’s
truth” is commonly used by psychologists who are Christians to
propose that psychological theory and science have the same
validity as a Biblical understanding of man and his
responsibility to his neighbor. This proposal is erroneous and
"All truth is God's truth."
7. “Mental illness”
should be applied only to those conditions that are almost
certainly due to an organic (biochemical, structural, or
traumatic) abnormality of the brain. See references below.
8. “Normal” thinking,
speech, and behavior is determined by all the commandments and
principles required of man in the Scriptures. “Normal” is what a
person “ought” to do. All the “oughts” that are required of man
are found in the Bible.
9. True guilt occurs
from “any transgression of, or want of conformity unto, the law
of God” (Answer to Question #14 of the
Shorter Catechism of the
Westminster Confession of Faith). Removal of this guilt is
possible only through regeneration and confession of sins to God
primarily, and to each other secondarily (Matthew 5:223-24,
18:15). See Guilt
and Guilt Feelings.
Guilt feelings have to
do with recurring sins and the “feeling” that one is not
forgiven, rather than believing in God’s Word. Guilt feelings
are only of use to lead a person to seek forgiveness from God or
his neighbor, yet are a tremendous problem for the modern
Christian in our feeling oriented culture. See
maturity is possible only through regeneration and obedience to
Biblical instruction. “Peace” with oneself, one’s neighbor, and
most importantly, with God is possible only in the same ways.
11. Emotions (worry,
fear, sadness, anger, happy, etc.) are produced by A) bodily
states (fever, fatigue, exercise, hunger, headache, etc.) and B)
thinking of past, present, or future speech and behavior.
Emotions are always triggered by either A) or B). They do not
develop in isolation from these two causes. Emotions, whether
positive or negative, must be guided by God’s instructions. In
themselves, they can lead to sinful thinking, speech, and
12. Man's greatest fear
is the fear of death (I Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 2:15).
See Glossary "Death."
for Christians in Psychotherapy
the regenerate can receive Biblical counseling because
unbelievers neither have the belief in Scripture nor the Holy
Spirit to enable them to live righteously, what place do
Christians have in the practice of “psychology and
psychotherapy,” as commonly understood in our society?
section comes from my book, Biblical Healing for Modern
Medicine, providing criteria for those Christians who
believe that they are called or should be involved in the
practice of psychology, as commonly understood in our culture.
More about this book and
how to order.
1. Evangelism must be
the highest priority when counseling an unbeliever. Salvation is
what every person needs before he will desire right behavior and
be able to live it.
2. If a counselee
chooses not to accept Christ, then he must be informed that he
has rejected the ultimate answer to his problems and that
anything else is, by comparison, worthless (Philippians 3:7-8).
Counseling may continue if the counselee is still willing, since
the possibility of helping him temporarily may allow the
opportunity for evangelism to be pursued at a later session.
3. Counseling should
never compromise an explicit or clearly implicit Biblical
4. If the counselee is
a Christian and Biblical counseling is available at his church,
counselors must refer him there. Biblically, all counseling for
Christians should have the oversight of the church.
5. A counselor should
have read and essentially agree with Competent to Counsel
and The Christian Counselor’s Manual (see below) because
of its analysis of the place and content of Biblical counseling.
6. A commitment to the
Bible as the inerrant, infallible, and sufficient Word of God is
an absolute requirement for the counselor.
7. The real work of the
Holy Spirit in Biblical counseling must be acknowledged.
8. A Christian who
plans to enter a counseling career should have thorough, formal,
theological education rather than secular training. Counseling
should then be done only under the authority of a church --
preferably as a pastor or an elder.
Experimental Results of “Psychotherapy”
section appears from my book, Biblical Healing for Modern
page 72, where I cite several hundred studies reviewed by
Morris Parloff. Essentially, it is a summary of the so-called
“efficacy” of secular psychology.
No clinically significant differences among the 78 varieties
of psychotherapy were found. That is, any one was as good as
another, even though each theory and practice was different
from the others.
Fifty percent of the treatment effect is lost two years
after the completion of therapy. Longer-term studies have
not been done.
The more females in the study group, the better the results.
Patients did better when their therapists were similar in
ethnic group, age, and social and educational status.
Patients who were chosen or who volunteered showed greater
effects than those selected at random. This method is a
violation of the scientific process itself.
Objective criteria, work adjustment, school adjustment,
personality traits, and physiological reactions were less
demonstrable of therapeutic effects than subjective
criteria, global adjustment, self-esteem, personal
development and experiences of fear and anxiety.
Comparisons across professions and schools showed no
characteristic differences in the effectiveness of
There is little relationship between length of treatment and
degree of effectiveness.
There is little evidence that the level of experience of the
psychotherapist is related to effectiveness.
A careful analysis of nearly 500 outcome research studies
still does not provide data adequate to answer the question
of what kinds of therapy are most useful for what kinds of
patients and problems.
Placebo effects account for about half the effects which
were obtained by "recognized" therapies. That is, patients
improved regardless of what was done or not done.
appeared at the end of my chapter on psychology in
Healing for Modern Medicine.
psychological principles have a stranglehold on the Church
2. Gray areas of
understanding between thinking and behavior do exist, but
are few compared to the extensive knowledge and domain
claimed by psychotherapists.
3. Every area of
thinking and behavior has been brought under the "big
umbrella" of "mental illness” by secular theory and
are the priests and moralists of modern culture.
5. Christians who
are psychotherapists give greater credence to secular
theories and practices than to the Word of God.
6. These Christians
have a superficial understanding of basic Christian
doctrines at best. Thus, they teach serious error at best
and heresy at worst.
7. These Christians
claim to have the power that only the Holy Spirit has --
"searching the heart" and discerning the "thoughts and
intentions of the heart."
8. These Christians
claim that "all truth is God's truth," without proof of
their philosophical claim.
9. As experimental
science, psychotherapy fails by any scientific standard of
Christians should first seek counseling from their pastor
and then others in leadership in their own church. Beyond
the church, the ones most likely to give Biblical counsel
should be sought.
Biblical Worldview in Confrontation with Secular Psychology
following were developed specifically for this website.
1. The Bible is a
textbook on psychology.
2. The Bible is the
starting point and final authority of psychology.
3. The Bible
(because of God’s knowledge of man) is more accurate and
thorough in its description of the psychology of man than
any other source.
4. The claim of
psychologists who are Christians that “all truth is God’s
truth,” doubtfully understands the concept of truth, and
their application of such “truth” can have dangerous
consequences for believers and unbelievers in this life and
5. The brain as the
organic outworking of the mind can affect thinking and
behavior, but this cause must be limited carefully and
6. The psychology
in theory and practice of individuals is supernaturally and
practically different for the believer and unbeliever.
7. The Bible never excuses sin.
It must always be confessed and sought forgiveness for. In recognition of
personal factors, mercy may require degrees of forbearance,
but reconciliation with God, and both reconciliation and
restitution with man must be directed.
8. Every man has
true (Biblical) guilt both in Adam and in his own sins.
9. Feelings can be
controlled by thoughts that are diligently and practically
pursued (instructions included herein).
10. Guilt feelings
are severely distorted and not biblically managed by many
psychologists who are Christians.
11. Application of
humanistic principles and practice of psychology that are
contrary to Scripture cause severe harm to its recipients.
psychologists may have some helpful techniques and knowledge
to enhance Biblical counseling.
13. Jay Adams and
nouthetic counselors have the most Biblical and practical
worldview of any approach to counseling or "psychotherapy."
14. When needed,
counsel should first be sought from one’s pastor or other
church leader, then the most mature Christian inside or
outside the church. If medication or hospitalization is
necessary, such counselor, in the order named, must continue
to be involved.
All Jay Adams' books
may be obtained from
Adams, Jay E.
All Truth Is God's Truth. Stanley, North
Carolina: Timeless Texts, 2003.
Adams, Jay E.
Christian Counselor’s Manual. Grand Rapids: Baker Book
Adams, Jay E.
Competent to Counsel. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing Company, 1970.
Adams, Jay E. More
Than Redemption: A Theology of Christian Counseling.
Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company,
Bobgans, Martin and
Deidre. See their website
http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/ for their books,
articles, and newsletters.
Johnson, Eric L and
Stanton L. Jones. Psychology and Christianity: Four
Views. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press,
Payne, Franklin E.
Biblical Healing for Modern Medicine. Augusta, GA: Covenant
Books, 1993. Available from Covenant Books for $10.00 postpaid
at P. O. Box 14488, Augusta, GA 30919.
Scipione, George C,
“The Christian Worldview of Counseling
and Psychology.” With this link, scroll down to The 17 COR Worldview Documents, where you will
find the one on psychology and counseling.
The Myth of Psychotherapy. Garden City, New York:
Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978.
Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
Welch, Edward T.
Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave. Phillipsburg, NJ:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2001.
Welch, Edward T.
Blame It on the Brain? Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and
Reformed Publishing, 1998.
Welch, Edward T.
Counselor’s Guide to the Brain and Its Disorders. Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.