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Principles of the Biblical Worldview of Psychology, Counseling, and Emotions

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.

"Neighbor 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.

Counseling 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 regenerate (“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 heretical.  See "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

10. Psychological 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 behavior.

12. Man's greatest fear is the fear of death (I Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 2:15).  See Glossary "Death."

Beliefs for Christians in Psychotherapy

If only 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?

This 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 principle.

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”

This section appears from my book, Biblical Healing for Modern Medicine, 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.

1. 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.

2. Fifty percent of the treatment effect is lost two years after the completion of therapy. Longer-term studies have not been done.

3. The more females in the study group, the better the results.

4. Patients did better when their therapists were similar in ethnic group, age, and social and educational status.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Comparisons across professions and schools showed no characteristic differences in the effectiveness of treatment.

8. There is little relationship between length of treatment and degree of effectiveness.

9. There is little evidence that the level of experience of the psychotherapist is related to effectiveness.

10. 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.

11. 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.

Chapter Summary

These principles appeared at the end of my chapter on psychology in Biblical Healing for Modern Medicine.

1. Secular psychological principles have a stranglehold on the Church today.

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 practice.

4. Psychotherapists 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 authenticity.

10. 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

This 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 in eternity.

5. The brain as the organic outworking of the mind can affect thinking and behavior, but this cause must be limited carefully and accurately.

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.

12. Modern 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.

References

All Jay Adams' books may be obtained from Timeless Texts.

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 House, 1973.

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, 1979.

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, 2000.

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, et al. “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.

Szaz, Thomas.  The Myth of Psychotherapy.  Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978.

Vitz, Paul.  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.


 

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