[This post is part of the Change series]
When starting on a new idea, especially when the idea is still germinating in somewhat abstract form, it’s hard to find a good point to make first. Maybe the idea is not all that abstract but what I want to dive into in this series involves a synthesis of several books I’ve been reading and some that I’ve been reading more than once since I was working through my undergraduate degree in psychology. Couple the thoughts in those with several years of studies in Bible school and now graduate level work in theology and you’ve got a good picture of what’s going on inside my head. Actually probably not really, but close enough, right?
Spring-boarding from that, a hot topic so to speak at least here at Dallas Seminary is the process of integrating psychology and theology, especially as that has bearing on your model of Biblical counseling. Of course, how Biblical your counseling is depends on how you define counseling, and I suppose as well what you conceive involves being Biblical. In case, given the preponderance of need for counseling from a truly Christian perspective and the looming question of what to do with secular theories of man and change there is a bit of a dilemma for anyone wanting to think Christianly about the topic.
Speaking of hot topics, change seems to be quite the buzz-word these days, albeit in a political sense, but nevertheless I am not sure there are many of use who could think of something in our lives that we would not like to see changed whether regarding our circumstances, our behaviors, our thought processes, our self-concepts, or even our walk with God (i.e. our faith). How you think about change is highly influenced by what you think about man, God, and whether the Bible or the body of psychological knowledge is more helpful in addressing the issues.
In light of that, it is easy to see how change and counseling dove-tail nicely into one another, however both are still very vague terms that beg for clarification. Now that we are hitting a bit closer to the point, here are a few questions that might have been raised so far
- What does it mean to counsel someone, or more broadly, what is counseling?
- What is change and how and when does it occur?
- Are there significant psychological insights into the nature of change?
- Are there significant psychological insights into the nature of man?
- Is there are distinction between the psychological and the spiritual?
- At what point is it necessary to seek “professional” help for guidance in the change process?
There are probably more that could be added, but these will lay the groundwork for the nature of this discussion. I could go ahead and offer an answer to each of these and then unpack each in the successive series, or I could just deal with them as they come. Interestingly enough, the way one answers the first two questions will have significant bearing on the answers to the other three. As a teaser, just to pique interest, the answer to the fifth question is “no.” I’ll leave that for you to ponder and try to attack if you’d like from either a theological or psychological angle. The overall point though with the questions is to frame the discussion of the change process, which in all honesty, if we are believers, is just another way of dealing with the topic of sanctification.
In closing this introduction, these essays that will emerge over the coming weeks and maybe months are for anybody who:
- Has ever wanted to understand the change process more
- Has ever been interested in pursuing counseling vocationally
- Has ever felt unable to articulate a Christian response to the secular psychological theories of personality and counseling
- Has ever wanted to change any set of behaviors or thought processes and keeps hitting dead-end after dead-end
- Has ever felt at a loss to grow more Christ-like
- Has ever had a close friend or family member struggle to change and work through their “issues” (i.e. relational problems, addictions, etc)
- Has ever felt the Bible inadequate to address most of the problems people experience, especially in the realm of the psychiatric
- Has ever thought that calling anyone’s problem simply the result of sin is a cop out
- Has ever thought there was something more to the nature of man and the nature of change than has been traditionally articulated
Hopefully somebody resonates with at least one or two of those, I personally can resonate with all of them on some level, hence my endeavor to research my questions and find answers and synthesize the data for others to gain insights from. So really, not much of what I will say is entirely original, I just started with most of the above questions and then diligently went from there. I got close to 40 credit hours studying psychology, but most of the insights I gained came from several key books by authors had gone even farther down the path I was on, only to come up short and find the answers they had been looking for all along were only to be found in Christ. But then again, I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll start where any discussion of change and counseling should start…with the gospel.