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New Horizons

January, 2010: Counseling and Secular Psychology

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Counseling and Secular Psychology

Does secular psychology have any valid role in Christian counseling? Can the Christian possibly learn anything from the secular psychologist? These questions are hotly debated in Christian circles today, and Christians have taken sides.

On the one side are those who claim that since psychology is a discipline that seeks to explain the problems of man apart from God, it should not be utilized within the Christian counseling community. They stress that there has been an antithesis, an antagonism, between belief and unbelief since the Fall. Because unbelievers reject God's Word, they argue, a secularized psychology can make no proper contribution to our knowledge of man. The Bible, according to this view, is the sole and sufficient authority for the Christian counselor in his quest to understand those he counsels. Read more

Counseling with John Calvin

Counseling, like preaching, requires the counselor to illustrate points and make them clear. To do so, the counselor draws on personal experience and reading, and develops a repertoire of illustrations and quotes. I recently added John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion to my list. The germ of Calvin's insights follows.

Calvin's Concern: the Heart

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The Gospel Makes a Difference

Your phone rings late at night. The voice on the other end starts off with "I know it's late, but I need your help." The crisis your friend is experiencing might be one of a thousand things, but her circumstances are painful and she is reaching out to you for help. Can you help her? Do you have anything to offer her?

The Christian Counseling Educational Foundation teaches, in several of its publications, a very helpful paradigm. CCEF reminds us that we live in the middle of our circumstances. Sometimes they are pleasant, but because we live in a warped world that awaits redemption, often our circumstances are difficult. Frequently they are painful. When our circumstances are painful, we often find ourselves in crisis. In these difficult times, we might respond with fear, anger, or some other negative response. Read more

The Therapy of the Word

Over the last decade, one of the growth industries within the church has been that of counseling. Various models of counseling are on offer out there in the theological marketplace, some obviously laced through with secular psychology, others more self-consciously based upon biblical principles. I have neither the time nor space nor interest to offer critiques and assessments of the material content of these various approaches; what interests me at this point is the phenomenon of such counseling.

The origins of biblical counseling arguably lie in the seventeenth century, when Catholic and Protestant theologians produced books of cases of conscience, that is, books which took specific moral questions ("Should I gamble?" "Is it legitimate to be in business with a non-Christian partner?" "Can I lend money at interest?" etc.) and provided biblically grounded answers to them. In other words, they took general biblical principles and tried to apply them to specific situations. Read more

Celebrity Shepherds

Dear James,

I am usually fearful of what I will learn about my alma mater in the wake of Spiritual Emphasis Week each semester. You didn't let my anxieties down. The enthusiasm you expressed for the speaker this year is understandable. Pastor Henry Strong is obviously a very skillful communicator, and his ability to write many and timely books is impressive (though I admit to not having read one). I am also glad that he spent so much time with students in Witherspoon Lounge when he visited Rutherford College recently. I have long wished that professors at Rutherford would interact with students outside the classroom and office in relaxed settings. Read more

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