SECULAR VS BIBLICAL COUNSELING PART ONE
At Runnymede School for Boys, we employ only Biblical counseling when working with our students. This is not an accident or something we do lightly. We reject secular psychology and all of its attending practices which, unfortunately, have pervaded our world in the public arena and Christian circles alike. Biblical and secular counseling are directly opposed to each other in a multitude of ways. In this series, we will describe the differences between secular and biblical counseling and illuminate how these two views of man, sin, guilt, illness, and the hope for a truly blessed life contradict each other at every turn.
GOALS OF COUNSELOR AND COUNSELING
The goals of the counselor and the counseling itself are quite different when viewed from a secular view and a biblical view. The secular view is to help their client to function in society and to be able to provide for his own care and to find the resources within the client to meet his own perceived needs. It is to try to find acceptance, approval, and love through people and circumstances, build self-esteem, reduce or eliminate emotional pain, to experience some degree of “recovery” from addictions, compulsions, besetting weaknesses or to be healed of emotional trauma.
The biblical view, however, is to move toward God’s standard of holiness and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Eph. 5:1), to identify his sin and repent of it, to cast his dependency on God and His resources, to view painful situations as being ordained by a loving God as opportunities to be refined and purified. Thus, difficult circumstances are not to be eliminated but are to be faced and dealt with through God’s grace and resources.
APPROACHES USED IN COUNSELING
The approaches used in the secular counseling are in disarray. There are many schools of psychology and some methods are in total disagreement with each other. Worse, there is no central focus on absolute truth in the secular psychological approach. Man develops and defines his own idea of “truth” so there are few absolutes; values are relative, frequently changing and fluctuating. The labeling and confronting of sin is regarded as something that would diminish self-esteem. There is no realization that emotional problems are, in reality, spiritual problems caused by personal sin.
Biblical counseling is founded on the premise that emotional problems are usually spiritual problems and that submission to Christ and His Word is the solution to man’s problems, which are caused by his sin. It is based on the directions, promises and concepts of God, imparted through His Word, the Scriptures. The Bible is a guidebook on how to develop a proper relationship with God and others. The Scriptures are designed by God to bring change in the believer (Peter 1:3,4, John 17:17). The purposes of Scripture are given in Timothy 3:16-17—teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness, and equipping the believer.
COMPARISON OF METHODS
Secular psychology is based on man’s ideas and uses a relative system based on the world’s, client’s and/or the psychologist’s values. It has no recognition of or need to adhere to God’s absolute value system or morals. The counselor often encourages the client to seek his own solutions and is often “non-directive”.
Biblical counseling is based on God’s ideas and an absolute value system, the Scriptures, which never vary as society’s views change. Biblical counseling is highly directive because God Himself is directive and it is also confrontational as Christ and his apostles were confrontational.
QUALIFICATIONS OF THE COUNSELOR
The secular psychologist will have a master’s or doctorate’s degree in psychology or a medical degree in psychiatry. Therefore, a professional relationship between counselor and client follows. There are no requirements for the counselor to possess a godly or moral character and, in fact, the therapist is to be a neutral personality in many cases.
A Biblical counselor has no requirement for higher education in accordance with human standards; Godly wisdom is the primary qualification of the disciple. Every growing believer is in a position to “come along side” a fellow believer who needs encouragement (1Cor 1:26-30). The counselor depends on a reliance upon and a desire to impart God’s truth found in the Scriptures to facilitate change in another (James 1:25), a commitment to role-modeling the truths taught to another (Phil 4:9, 1Cor 4:16), a willingness to confront sin and give concrete steps, which are Scriptural, to encourage change (Gal. 6:1), a willingness to impart one’s life and God’s wisdom in the context of relationship (1Thess. 2:8), to convince and convict the disciple of life-changing truths and to empower change in him, and to view counseling/discipleship as a ministry to God, His Kingdom and His people. The relationship between counselor and counselee is often a close, personal relationship.
CONTEXT FOR COUNSELING
In the secular setting, the primary context for counseling takes place in the professional office and there is rarely a relationship outside of the office. This provides for psychological “therapy”. Sometimes this context offers group therapy and self-help groups to provide an atmosphere for vulnerability and acceptance which encourages the sharing of struggles and frustrations. These groups are often focused on understanding and empathizing with each other’s problems rather than focused on solutions. This atmosphere of sharing can promote venting and self-pity and tend to foster dependent relationships upon “fellow strugglers” for support and guidance. The individual is usually responsible for and accountable to himself. The stated goal is to strive for independence and autonomy although sinful dependency upon the counselor or support group is often unwittingly fostered.
The primary context for counseling in the Christian community is the local church. The elders have the ultimate responsibility of caring for each individual (Heb. 13:17; Pet. 5:1-5). Each member of the Christian community is to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). This context provides the opportunity for intimate discipleship relationships which is much larger than the “50 minute session”. Runnymede School in particular holds to this view in that our students are mentored and discipled by several Godly and wise men in their daily interactions and, although Mr. Brandon is the main counselor, all staff members and more mature students take part in the counseling done at Runnymede.
In Part Two, we will discuss how the secular and Biblical counselors view God, Man, the purpose of man’s existence and his responsibility, and the causes of problems individuals and families face in these modern times.