If a resource is authoritative, does that make it all you need? According to the 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling, the Bible is both authoritative and sufficient for all counseling conversations. In this post, I challenge that claim.
This is the third in a series of posts which examines the 95 Theses from my perspective as a psychology professor and mental health counselor. For prior posts in the series on the first eleven theses, click here. Today, I examine statements eleven through fourteen.
What Does the Bible Claim?
11. When the Bible claims to address all the issues concerning life and godliness, it declares itself to be a sufficient and an authoritative resource to address everything essential for counseling conversations (2 Pet 1:3-4).
I covered this thesis in the last post but I want to say something else about it. There I pointed out that living a “godly life” doesn’t mean the absence of emotional disturbances. A godly life is certainly possible for the person who believes God’s promises, but this by itself doesn’t prevent mental illness. The Bible does instruct us in moral teaching but is not a medical or psychological text. We need knowledge not contained in the Bible to provide the best care for many human problems.
Here again are the verses which form the basis for the statement:
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
One must read into these verses to say that “the Bible claims to address all the issues concerning life and godliness.” One could assume that the Bible is an aspect of his divine power, but the verse doesn’t limit God’s divine power to the Bible. I think Biblical counselors make a claim for the Bible that it doesn’t make for itself.
Authoritative Doesn’t Mean Sufficient
12. Christians must not separate the authority of Scripture for counseling from the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling because, if Scripture is to be a relevant authority, then it must be sufficient for the struggles people face as they live life in a fallen world (2 Pet 1:3-21).
13. The authority and sufficiency of Scripture for counseling means that counselors must counsel out of the conviction that the theological content of Scripture defines and directs the conversational content of counseling.
Sufficiency does not necessarily follow from authority. One may see the Bible as authoritative when it speaks but not believe it speaks about everything. There can be no doubt that the Bible doesn’t speak about everything. The Bible does say some things about medical issues (e.g., Timothy was told to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake, 1 Tim. 5:23), but doesn’t describe brain surgery procedures or how to do a heart catheterization. Taking some wine instead of tainted water might be good advice, but it isn’t sufficient for most of our other medical questions.
Does Jesus Solve Every Problem?
14. The Bible teaches that the person and work of Jesus Christ provide God’s sufficient power to solve every problem of humanity so, according to Scripture, he is the ultimate subject of every counseling conversation (Col 2:2-3).
Surely, Dr. Lambert and the Biblical counselors don’t mean that Jesus actually solves “every problem of humanity.” A quick look around wherever you are will demonstrate that Jesus hasn’t solved every human problem. One can argue that Jesus has the power to solve them all but decides not to do it, but you can’t argue that all problems are solved.
Since all problems aren’t in fact solved, what happens in those counseling conversations where Jesus didn’t solve the problem? Do client and counselor keep talking about the power of Jesus in a theoretical sense? I can’t imagine how it would be helpful to keep telling a chronically depressed person that Jesus has the power to solve every human problem, just not yours.
By analogy, one would not say Jesus is the subject of every medical visit. Most evangelicals believe Jesus could heal any illness, but that He doesn’t often do so. Because we believe Jesus provides sufficient power to solve every medical problem, is it necessary for a Christian physician to make Jesus the subject of every medical conversation? Of course not, if I have a medical need, I want extra-biblical medical knowledge brought to bear on my problem along with prayer.
SERIES: Evaluation of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ 95 Theses
I am evaluating a proposal by Heath Lambert, the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, for an authentically Christian approach to counseling. Lambert listed 95 theses on the ACBC website which he believes defines an appropriate Christian method. I disagree with most of the points and am writing this series to offer another perspective. To read all posts in this series, click here. To read a similar series on Biblical counseling v. Christian psychology, click here.