About a decade before Jay Adams began his quest to make the Bible the foundation and guide for all counseling, Christian people who were trained in non-Christian psychology began to see that the church was lacking in the proper care of souls. Churches were either not teaching the Word of God because they were liberal, were teaching a different Gospel because they believed that eschatology trumped living in the world we have been given (dispensationalists), or because they simply taught theology and assumed that people would be able to apply it in their lives (fundamentalists and Reformed conservatives). These Christian psychologists were believers in the Gospel of Jesus, but lived their lives in a compartmental way. They believed the Gospel, but thought that they had discovered truth about human behavior in their professional disciplines. It did not bother them that Freud, Jung, Rogers, Skinner, Adler, and the rest were actually not only not Christians, but were active non-Christians. In other words, most, if not all of the seminal thinkers in psychology, were actively repressing the Gospel. They came to their psychological conclusions in orderto fight against and provide an alternative to the Gospel.
These Christian psychologists took the principles of non-Christian psychology, baptized them with Biblical terminology, then brought these principles into the church as if they had found truth. Consequently, over time they have led the way to a psychologized church. We call this kind of ministry Christian Counseling or Integrationist Counseling because it is done by Christians, but using non-Christian psychology—the world’s psychology.
Problems with Psychology
Psychology is not a science, it is applied philosophy – a kind of religion. Even in the field itself, it is called a “soft science,” which is really a euphemism for “not a science” at all. Here are a number of reasons I say this. First, a scientific theory is testable or falsifiable. This means that if a psychologist says your problem is that the serotonin (or dopamine) in your brain is low, it must be testable or verifiable. But we can’t measure serotonin (or dopamine) in the brain until the patient is dead.
Second, science always considers alternate explanations and if something else can account for an observation, they won’t take a stand on what they think is going on. Psychology assumes virtually everything they diagnose. All they have to go on is reported symptoms and from that description they make authoritative explanations and diagnoses. For example, if your child gets bored easily, becomes listless, can’t concentrate, and regularly acts out, he is more than likely to be diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But there could be a number of other reasons your child behaves this way.
Third, based on their assumptions about humanity and life generally, psychologists make authoritative predictions about what to expect in the future. Science “test ideas with evidence.” Wikipedia says,
The chief characteristic which distinguishes the scientific method from other methods of acquiring knowledge is that scientists seek to let realityspeak for itself, supporting a theory when a theory’s predictions are confirmed and challenging a theory when its predictions prove false. Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methods of obtaining knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses via predictions which can be derived from them. These steps must be repeatable to guard against mistake or confusion in any particular experimenter.Theoriesthat encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. Theories, in turn, may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.
Psychology works hard at using the scientific method, but because people are not things, the experiments are far from repeatable. And thus most scientists believe psychology is at best a soft science. An example of this lack of solidity shows itself when the psychiatrist prescribes medication based on self-reported symptoms rather than on medically tested results. They assume the symptoms they are dealing with reveal medical issues, because of their philosophy of life and training, without any proof that the symptoms are actually related to medical conditions. In addition, they have no idea how, or even ifthe medication will affect the counselee.
Someone might point to the “accepted” medical field and say that they often don’t know what they are doing when they prescribe medicine. I agree, but when you go to the doctor and he prescribes a medication it usually based some kind of objective research he has done on your body— a blood test, x-rays, MRI, skin prick, or some other testable and repeatable procedure. You can usually go from one doctor to another, receive the same tests and see the same results.
Finally, scientists cooperate with one another to make sure they are all on the same page with regard to what they think are the most accurate explanations of observable occurrences. Of course, this can be very political as shown in recent global warming, homosexual sinfulness, and evolution/creation craziness. In most occasions, however, when a scientist makes a great discovery, all the scientists in the world shift their work to be in accord with the new discovery. In psychology, when someone claims to make a new discovery nothing in the field changes. This is for at least three reasons: First, the discoveries in psychology are untestable and un-repeatable, They are loose theories and not real discoveries at all. They are simply the psychologists’ best guess. Second, there is nothing governing psychology. There are over 300 different distinctive theories of psychotherapy in the world today. Third, when a psychological idea or theory is proven to be wrong, there is no oversight to remove that incorrect assumption or theory. For example, in the 50’s, Walter Freeman invented the frontal lobotomy. It was shown to be a terrible way to treat people. Not only was there no way to stop it, but electric shock treatment took its place and electric shock is still practiced today. (In fact, I read the other day that the frontal lobotomy is becoming popular again. It is based on the idea that if we can control the brain, we can control behavior.)
A Faith System
As I hope you are noticing, psychology is a faith system. There is no proof for any psychological theories at all. Everything is guesswork, based on self-reported symptoms by the counselees. Diagnoses are based on the particular psychologist’s personal preference. Some aspects faith systems have in common are: special private language, a particular understanding about mankind, about life, and about the divine. They have faithful followers, a particular system of worship, they give glory to their particular gods, they are an enemy of opposing gods and systems, and they interpret life through the lens of the system. It is a kind of modern day Baal. Psychology is one of the gods of the world around us. It is a non-Christian system which worships a foreign god; one that is not Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, when the people of God flirted with the pagan culture around them, they were judged for it. In Exodus 32, when Moses was late coming down from the mountain, the people got antsy and created a golden calf. They called it Yahweh and bowed down and worshipped it. Christians who participate in psychology are participating in Baal worship. Because our churches have bought into the lie of psychology, they are suffering the judgment of God. This false worship is one of the reasons our churches, and therefore, our country is in such a mess.
As a quick caveat, I believe the church is way behind in her ability to do a good job working with people. Therefore, in some cases, I might send a counselee to a psychiatrist to help stabilize them with the use of medicine. (Psychologists cannot administer medications and they are not medically trained. Psychiatrists are trained in medicine before they are trained in the area of “mental illness.”) I do this with trepidation because I believe psychiatrists don’t really know what they are doing. But in some cases what they are doing badly, we are unable to do at all. This is as much a statement about the medical industry as it is a statement about the church.
Famous and Early Christian Integrationist Psychologists
Gary Collins, greatly influenced by Paul Tournier a Swiss Christian psychologist, taught at TEDS from 1969 into the 80’s. Wrote The Rebuilding ofPsychology: An Integration of Psychology and Christianity.
Bruce Narramore, nephew of Clyde Narramore, started Rosemead School of Psychology, a graduate program for BIOLA University in La Mirada, CA, 1970.
In 1973 John Carterjoined Narramore at Rosemead and became one of the most systematic critics of Jay Adams approach.
1973 began The Journal of Psychology and Theology – a journal that was to serve as “a forum for the integration and application of psychological and biblical information.”
1982 began a second journal striving to integrate psychology and the Bible, The Journal of Psychology and Christianity.
James Dobsonjoined the ranks of well-known Christians who did psychology when in the early 70’s he published Dare to Discipline.
Larry Crabbjoined in, also in the 70’s.
Frank Minirth and Paul Meierwere asked to join the faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1975 and their books began to take off in the Christian world.
Biblical counseling strives to use the Bible as the primary source of truth for all of life, including helping people with their problems in living. The major goal of Biblical counseling is to help people to mature in Christ (Col. 1:28) through having a real and vibrant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This means that rather than beginning with the person and their personal history as the source of their problems (or some other psychological starting point) we start with the understanding that people are created in the image of God and are responsible to live according to their created significance. We understand that all of our thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors come from our heart (Lk. 6:43-45) and therefore, if we want to change our behavior, we need new hearts. We also assume that we get new hearts as we draw near to God and begin to live by faith in Jesus as Lord. With this as our underlying understanding of human beings, Biblical Counselors work with people to come to Christ through confession of sin and repentance where needed, and to help them recognize their need to trust Christ in every situation of their lives.
We understand that physical problems, and familial problems exist, but that they are no excuse for sin. Yes, these things influence temptation, including changing the intensity of the temptation, but Biblical Counselors seek to name the behavior for what it is – what the Bible calls it. Along with this identification, Biblical Counselors then strive to solve relational problems in the manner the Bible prescribes. People are encouraged to identify themselves as Christians rather than the various syndromes, addictions, disorders, and diseases thrown about by the non-Christian world. In addition, because we strive to present every man mature to Christ, we counsel non-Christians in the same way we counsel Christians. Non-Christians have no power to obey the commands of God. They cannotobey the commands. But, we know that not being able to obey brings people to Christ, and obedience brings freedom.
The Basis for Biblical Counseling
Everything is related to religion, or faith, and so all people everywhere live according to the desires of the gods they serve. Usually, this involves power and fear. The powerful rule the fearful. When Moses came to ancient Egypt, he presented a much different God. Moses served a God who cared about a particular people, who would have a personal and close relationship with them based on worship, blessing, love, grace and mercy. This new God revealed himself to his people as a God who was all powerful, just, and holy. He also made provision for his people, so that even though they were not just and holy, he made it possible for them to come into his presence. The God the Jews served was a God who wanted to love instead of dominate. But the Jews rejected God’s advances and killed God’s prophets and spokesmen. When God sent his son to try to woo them back for the final time, they killed him too and thus God rejected them and turned to a people who were not his people—the rest of humanity.
Christianity is about this Son who came to bring salvation (a living, lasting, vibrant, and personal relationship with God) to mankind. One of the many misunderstandings of our age is that Christianity is about being saved and going to heaven when you die. It is that, but in many ways, not that at all. Christianity is about living in the presence of God; living in a friendly, worshipful, meaningful, winsome, and delightful way with the Creator of the universe. This relationship begins by surrendering our perceived freedom—this freedom is actually rebellion—to God in the name of Jesus. And this relationship continues and grows as we walk and run with him through the rest of our lives.
The need for Biblical Counseling comes into play when people forget that they are in relationship with God and let the cares of life turn them from worship to sin. The cares of life; other sinful people, circumstances of nature, problems with our bodies, etc. come from God as testings. Are truly relying on him for our joy and peace, or will we turn aside to indulge ourselves in the worship of other gods when life gets tough? Looking at in another way, these things come to us as temptations that try to get us to leave the comfort and security of the presence of God. Leaving is sin, staying is worship.
The Basis for Biblical Counseling, then, comes from the fact that everything in life is based on faith and worship. Who are people worshipping, serving, bowing down to, afraid of, trying to impress, etc.? If it isn’t God and his Son Jesus Christ, it is sin. Biblical counseling helps sort these things out and point people back to serving, rejoicing in, and loving Jesus the Savior.
History of Modern Biblical Counseling
As we mentioned in the last hour, for the first 1800 years of church history, pastors were the only people who worked to help people with their problems in living. Outside the church people did what they wanted to do based on what served them best at the time. In the 1800’s psychology and psychiatry split off from the rest of science as a branch all its own. With the rise of empiricism, materialism, existentialism, communism, all the isms out there, psychology has flourished and grown until it almost completely dominates our cultural landscape. It is difficult, even for godly Christians not to talk in psychological language at the drop of a hat. For instance, how would you describe a young lady who thinks she is fat so she stops eating for long periods of time? If you answered that she has an eating disorder, or that she may be anorexic, you have just answered in psychological terms. If you say someone who drinks alcohol all the time, to the point of destroying their family and job, is an alcoholic, you have been psychologized.
In the 1960’s a professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA, named Jay Adams realized that in the class he was teaching at WTS he was supposed to teach a section on counseling. He realized that the philosophy behind what he was teaching was not Biblical and in a course on making all of life consistently Biblical, this wasn’t going to work. So he began looking for something else. In 1965, Adams met a psychologist, O. Hobart Mowrer, who, instead of blaming people’s problems on their background, other people, and mental illness, challenged people to deal with their moral failings. Adams was enthralled with this kind of thinking because it was at least close to the Biblical model. For six weeks Adams travelled with Mowrer learning all about his psychological theories and practices. Mowrer was not a Christian, but he was a moral man and could read people. His system was good in the sense that he called people to confession and repentance, but fell short in that when you repent, you need to turn to something and Mowrer had nothing for people to turn to. The Gospel provided that something—it provided God.
By 1970 Adams’ theology of counseling had come together in what he called “Nouthetic” counseling. Nouthetic represents the Greek word translated, admonish, confront, encourage, warn, instruct, etc. It was essentially using the Bible to help people identify what in their life was causing them pain, strife, struggles, etc. Not only does it help them identify their sin, but it also helps them to confess it as sin, and discover directions and ways to turn from their sinful behavior to godly behavior—repentance. Adams went on to publish 100’s of books, articles, and booklets. Out of his ministry sprang CCEF, NANC, IBCD, Biblical Counseling programs at the Master’s College, and many more.
In the ranks of Biblical Counseling the following are some of the big guns:
Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel
John Bettler, Started CCEF with Jay Adams
George Scipione in the 70’s he said he was a Jay Adams clone. Started CCEF West and NANC.
Steve Viars, Senior Pastor of Faith Church, Lafayette, IN.
Ed Welch, Blame it on the Brain
David Powlison, Seeing with New Eyes
Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
Wayne Mack, Biblical Counseling
Jim Newhieser, The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship
Dale Johnson, ACBC (formerly NANC)
Christian Counselor’s Manual, Jay Adams
Soul Physicians, Bob Kelleman
History of Pastoral Care in America, Brooks Holifield
The Biblical Counseling Movement, David Powlison
The Biblical Counseling Movement Since Adams, Heath Lambert