The route towards a distinctively Christian approach to counseling is still in its development. Sam Williams points out that Christian counseling has been negatively characterized by four features: 1) Modern 2) Correlationist 3) Pragmatic 4) Fractiousnes/party spirit:
Modern, in that it has granted science (esp. the empirical and secular, logically positivistic version) epistemic and functional parity with theistic revelation. Eric Johnson issued a wake up call in his new book, Foundations for Soul Care (2007) “whether entirely aware of it or not, the Christian psychological community is in the midst of something of an epistemological and soul-care crisis, given the fact that the vast majority of the best psychology literature of the last 125 years has been composed by secularists who do psychology from within a decidedly different disciplinary matrix and edification framework.”
Correlationist, in that secular questions and categories have set the stage and provided the main cues for our recent development and as a result there has been much parroting of secular methodologies (junior versions of their counseling models and psychotherapies) and secular institutions (training programs and licensing/certifying procedures).
Pragmatic, in that our attention to the practical elements in counseling has superseded our theoretical and conceptual development. At the street level in CC there is a good deal of naïve integration-ism (no model or method, except that the practitioner and professor simply does what is right in their own eyes; a kind of epistemic/methodological anarchy); and naïve nouthetic counseling (in that common/creation grace has been at least neglected and at worst denigrated). Caveat: this does not mean that good Christian hearts and real help have been absent in these circles.
Fractiousness/party spirit, in that the counseling wars within the Kingdom were, for a couple of decades anyway, quite distracting and surely polarizing. While there has been some iron sharpening, at this point my perception is that the warriors have become tired of the battle and that we, maybe even more than those who have watched the battle from the sidelines, would be glad if we never heard again the old battle cries: “All Truth Is God’s Truth!” or “Scripture is Sufficient!”
In this article Dr. Williams presents a proposal for moving towards a more biblically faithful approach to teaching a distinctively Christian counseling. Although Dr. Williams is focused more on formal institutions the implications for the church certainly apply here. In an excerpt regarding the church’s role in Christian counseling he writes:
“Christian Psychology refuses to perpetuate the 20th C. myth of American individualism that renders people functionally autistic.
We must conscientiously and intentionally work against this trend (torrent?), realizing that we live in a sub-biblical culture that declares the individual radically autonomous and even sovereign over the community.
Apart from the body of Christ, lasting and meaningful change is short-circuited and Christian maturity is impossible. Christian growth, spiritual formation and flourishing are a community project.
Scripture leaves no doubt that the church is to be our first-family, not second or third in our list of loyalties. Early Christians were aware that a decision to follow Christ meant in addition a decision to make the church the center of their social world, at any cost, even “mother, father, sister, brother.”
So, Christian counselors in training must develop a loyalty to the church and a humble recognition of their own limitations. The biblical plan for change is bigger and broader than the secular model, which sees change either as a personal self-help project or as just you and me meeting in my office for 1-2 hours per week. The full incarnational reality of the body of Christ cannot be experienced in your own home or in a counselor’s office.
One of the edifying functions of the church is to be God’s community mental health center – an edification framework of sorts – an authentic and genuine family in which humility about who we really are and courage in facing life and self and sin and suffering are central virtues.”
Dr. Williams post is an important and needed contribution to the discussion of biblical counseling and how we should move forward towards equipping others. Below is a summary and the learning objectives of his article. Click here to read the rest of the article.
This presentation proposes that our peculiarly Christian mega-narrative subverts the foundational narratives and metaphysical, epistemological, and anthropological presuppositions of the secular psychologies, rather than offering up junior versions of their systems. This presentation will propose three pedagogical/methodological priorities for teaching distinctively Christian counseling.
- Clarify the distinctiveness of Christian counseling and establish its relationship to secular psychology, Christian psychology, and historic orthodox Christianity.
- Understand the importance of pedagogical priorities in the teaching of distinctively Christian counseling and interact with the presenter’s proposal of three pedagogical/methodological priorities.
- Identify some of the most essential distinguishing characteristics of distinctively Christian counseling.