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Looking at the Past and Present of Counseling

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Article 02.25.2010
Source: 9 Marks
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Rachel Strong

The following is an interview with David Powlison

LOOKING AT THE HISTORY OF BIBLICAL COUNSELING

9Marks: Are there significant points of commonality between biblical counseling in the past, such as the Puritan approach, and proper biblical counseling today?

David Powlison: The church forgets things. The church rediscovers things. But when it rediscovers something, it’s different because it’s always in a different socio-cultural-historical moment, and different forces are at work.

Caring for the soul, which we try to do in biblical counseling, is not new. Two of the great pioneers in church history would be Augustine and Gregory the Great. Even secular people will credit Augustine’s Confessions as pioneering the idea that there is an inner life. Augustine did an unsurpassed job of tearing apart the various ways in which people’s desires become disordered.

Gregory wrote the earliest textbook on pastoral care. He pioneered diverse ways of dealing with a fearful person, a brash and impulsive person, an angry person, an overly passive person. He broke out these different struggles and sought to apply explicitly biblical, Christ-centered medicine—full of Christ, full of grace, full of gospel, and full of the hard call of God’s Word to the challenges of life.

The Puritans represent a second era of great riches in the area of pastoral care, and the question is often asked about CCEF’s relationship to the Puritans. People are more familiar with them because we still read them. You think about people like Richard Baxter, whose Christian Directory offers a treatise on everything from melancholy to domestic violence to addictions. Now, the Puritans use a different language set. There are certain ways that their studies are not as nuanced and sophisticated as ours, but there is a tremendous correlation of current wisdom for pastoral care in the cure of souls.

I would say that we have commonalities and discontinuities with the Puritans. In terms of commonalities, we share a way to understand people and their problems as well as a way to address their problems candidly and thoroughly in a God-centered manner. The living God sees our problem, weighs it, and has something to say about it. That commonality is what makes us Christians.

Discontinuities, I think, come in large part because of cultural context. What’s interesting about the current rediscovery of biblical counseling is that it’s the first time the church has had to grapple with doing counseling when there’s a very powerful competitor in the wider culture. Historically, no one did counseling except the church. People were too busy making crops grow and making babies and making war. But the modern world does have time to do it.

The modern psychologies present a tremendously stimulating, informative, and threatening challenge. These psychologies are stimulating because they push us to ask questions that we may not have already considered. They’re informational because they are very observant. They’re threatening because they are a self-conscious alternative to the church and would love to take over the care of souls. They’re willing to do our job for us, letting us be a religious club that does good works while they deal with the deep stuff and the long stuff.

That being said, the church is the place where we should think about what makes people tick and how the human heart can be renewed.

Maybe a brief way to illustrate it would be to point to Jonathan Edwards’ A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. It’s a master work of empirical, thoughtful study on how people respond to God and how their emotions, affections, loves, and experiences can be distorted or greatly ordered. If you look at the courses CCEF has produced in the last couple of decades, you could say that we have been working in this direction. But we have to engage the problems in case studies in a much more fine-grained way. I think that is because of the provocative stimulus that living in a psychologized culture offers to us.

The psychologies are the great challenge to us. And the church can respond to these challenges either by syncretism—a kind of reverse conversion where we let the psychologies call the shots—or by doing something better than the culture. It’s that “doing it better” that’s actually our mission.

LOOKING AT COUNSELING IN CHURCHES TODAY

9M: What most discourages you about the way churches are approaching the field of counseling and discipleship?

DP: Counseling is about what? The cure of souls. How can we understand people and their life circumstances? We do so through the eyes of God as revealed in Scripture. We need to redefine the word “counseling” from the start, because when churches think about counseling these days, their first impulse is not the right impulse. They either mimic what the world does inside itself or they refer people out to the world.

The word “discipleship” is essentially a synonym for counseling. Maybe we could nuance it and say that counseling biblically is a more problem-centered form of discipleship. But that is just playing with words because discipleship means helping people change into the image of Jesus Christ. And that’s what counseling is. That’s what transformation is. That’s what sanctification is.

In our evangelical culture, the word discipleship tends to mean some kind of structured program—learning how to have a quiet time, learning what your gifts are, learning certain facts about the church. All of those are great and certainly a part of discipleship. But the essence of discipleship is that the disciple is becoming like the master, and the master is someone who trusts God and loves people. If we are people who trust ourselves and use people, there is a gap. Discipleship is actually meant to bridge that gap so that people who trust themselves learn to trust God, and people who use other people learn to love other people.

This personal ministry—or inter-personal ministry—isn’t just from the pulpit or even small group. It’s climbing into one another’s lives. Part of CCEF’s mission is to convince local churches of these things and then to help churches take hold of a counseling and discipleship that is really worthy of the name.

LOOKING AT CCEF

9M: Speaking of CCEF, what is CCEF trying to do that’s unique?

DP: For starters, we’ve got one of the world’s best mission statements: Restoring Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church. Let’s think about that first part—restoring Christ to counseling. Christ is not in most of the counseling that’s in our world, because people do not understand the human dilemma. They don’t understand what suffering really means. They don’t understand the forces of enculturation. They don’t understand the nature of sin or the nature of our desires. And they don’t understand that Christ is the one who immediately, intrinsically, relevantly speaks to what people have been dealing with.

Every Bible-believing church on the planet would agree that we ought to preach Christ. But how many people have the idea that we need to counsel Christ? What does that mean? When you preach, you exposit the Scriptures and show how Christ applies. But when you counsel Christ, the process is typically going to be bottom up, not top down. You start by getting to know a person. You love the person. You get to know their world. They know you care. They have reasons to trust you. Once you’ve done this, you have a better idea of how to make the gospel of the one true living God immediately relevant to their lives.

The second part of our mission is restoring counseling to the church. The church ought to be a place where we “go deep” and “hang in long” in one another’s lives. “Deep” and “long” don’t tend to be qualities that are found in the church of Christ. Hence, people are willing to pay money to others who will never lead them to the Savior of the World. But that must change.

CCEF is also unique even within the wider biblical counseling movement in two more ways. One is what I call “R&D”—a research and development purpose. We don’t believe that saying “biblical counseling” means that we have figured it all out. We are a work in progress. We have a core commitment to push, to develop, to build, to tackle a new problem.

Second is an evangelistic purpose. We try to think through how to reach those who disagree with us. How can we reach both the Christian community and a non-Christian community with the relevant counseling oriented message that is christocentric?

CCEF has five full-time faculty members who share a wonderful synergy, in part because you have people who all have a dual expertise—a primary commitment to Bible and theology, coupled with some other expertise. Our director, Dr. Tim Lane, was a pastor for years. He brings a sensitivity to how counseling ministry links to the other aspects of church life.

Dr. Mike Emlet is an M.D. who had a family practice for years. He’s the scientist who brings an awareness of mind-body issues like psychiatric diagnosis and medications.

Dr. Ed Welch has a PhD in neuro-psychology and a burning interest in the nuances of actual counseling moments and how counseling actually happens.

Winston Smith stays very current with the psycho therapeutic world. He has given his life to issues of marriage and family and group dynamics.

My graduate work (besides Bible and theology) was in the history of psychiatry, history of science, and history of medicine.

I am only just speaking of the faculty and not speaking of various members of the much wider counseling staff who have various interests. It’s a very rich environment with a common commitment to biblical counseling.

LOOKING AT POWLISON’S OWN WORK

9M: Can you give us a quick introduction to your two booksSpeaking Truth in Love and Seeing with New Eyes?

DP: The books I’ve written are labors of love. They are very personal.

You will notice that in the title of Speaking Truth in Love there is no “the” in the title. That’s very intentional because biblical truth is not just the truth with a capital “t.” The Bible also gives us what is true with a lower case “t”—truth about what is happening in our lives. The living God gives us truth that is once for all, unchangeable, incarnate, and written, and that is always true and real and candid and direct. Speaking Truth in Love is both. In counseling it’s both. If you’re speaking to someone who is depressed, and you want to speak truth in love, you don’t just proclaim the glories of God. You talk about the experience of depression. You talk about what he or she is going through. You talk about what may be motivational factors. You talk about the one who is the truth and the God who is true in his Word. So counseling is about bringing “big T Truth” and “little t truth” together into conversational, counseling ministry, implying a give and take. You want to deal with the life that’s on the table.

So the book asks how such a counseling ministry or conversational ministry can proceed. The first half of the book is a series of case studies on counseling methodology. The second presents a series of case studies or perspectives on how the church can organize and think about a counseling ministry.

The burden of my other book, Seeing with New Eyes, is that God has a point of view on human life. I mean, it sounds like the most obvious thing in the world once you say that, but the counseling world has been almost blind to the fact that God has a point of view on counseling issues. It presents an endeavor that is obviously from outside the church. Even counseling inside, the church is often unhinged from God’s point of view. But God has a point of view. He made the world. He judges it. He evaluates it. He redeems it. He invades it. He challenges it. He destroys it. He has a point of view on whatever happens in human life.

Not only that, God has revealed his point of view. He has told us how he sees things. On the one hand, the heart is deceitful and opaque. On the other hand, he has told us how to evaluate it. You can illustrate this point by considering the most profound psycho dynamic theories—the Freuds, the Jungs, the Adlers, and so forth. At some level, they are exactly right in their descriptions. They can observe the sorts of forces at play in the human heart— the “power drives” or “spirituality instincts” or “sexuality instincts” at play. At the same time, they don’t know how to make sense of these forces. Their theories never get to the most profound depth of the human heart because they never see the religious dynamic taking place beneath all these forces and instincts.

What other ways have we departed from God? How do you find your way back? How has capitalism / profit impacted the way we see healing and health?

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Pastoral Counseling

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Physician heal thyself comes from the Bible. Specifically, it can be found in Luke 4:23 where Jesus quotes a common Jewish phrase of the time, saying, “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself’.” (KJV).

Over the centuries pastoral counseling has been one of the main responsibilities of pastors throughout the church. Jesus provided pastoral counseling to his disciples and to the crowds that followed Him. He talked regularly with those who were physically sick and emotionally hurting. The Apostle Paul also gave pastoral counseling to his young students and preachers such as Timothy and Titus. He also gave pastoral counseling through his letter to Philemon to address the issue of Onesimus returning home. He even gave pastoral counsel to Peter as he attempted to correct the issues facing the church in book of Acts.

Throughout all church history, pastoral counselors have been the foundational and focal point of helping people deal with all sorts of issues and problems. Pastors are frequently the first person church members will seek help from when dealing with grief and death issues, crisis situations, marriage struggles, family issues, health problems, job-related problems, etc.The goals…This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Bibliography

  1. American Association Pastoral Counselors. Retrieved September 15, 2008 from http://www.aapc.org/about.cfm
  2. The Holy Bible, New International Version. (1984). International Bible Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.Google Scholar
  3. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 15 September 2008 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/counselor.
  4. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved September 15, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pastoral.
  5. Porter, N. (Ed.) (1998). Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Version published 1913, by the C. & G. Merriam Co., Springfield, MA. 1996, 1998 by MICRA, Inc. of Plainfield, NJ. Last edit February 3, 1998.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

How to cite

Cite this entry as:Allen D. (2010) Pastoral Counseling. In: Leeming D.A., Madden K., Marlan S. (eds) Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-71802-6_825

Are you religious? Do you have a church, temple….etc. you belong to? How do you obtain a healing from those things that ill people in the seasons of their life of you are or are not religious? What is your religious beliefs?

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Beliefs, History & Model of Care

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Source: CCEF
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Anna Might

Physician heal thyself comes from the Bible. Specifically, it can be found in Luke 4:23 where Jesus quotes a common Jewish phrase of the time, saying, “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself’.” (KJV).

Understanding the roots of medical branches is key to implementing your own health care properly to secure a healing, a cure. When one goes to the doctor, they do so seeking a solution to their health care concerns. What is important to understand about profit and Western medicine is that in the pursuit of profit medical professionals seek to manage and not cure illness leaving patients in a state of perpetual illness, which typically leads to other disease and chronic disease which insurance companies and patients grapple with from rising health care costs to patient deaths. In fact doctors often prescribe medications with murky clinical trails with no true proof of healing or medical solution. In fact health care cost have gotten so out of control that people such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet have taken notice.

Below CCEF reminds us that historically pastors counseled and that God’s promise to us is a healing not a perpetual state of disease. CCEF looks at the rise of mental health and mental illness secular rise in the 1800s, which was born out of Germany. Prior to this advent of modern medicine pastors counseled people regarding the seasons of the human condition such as dealing with job, home and loss of loved ones (all of which many have experienced during COVID 19). Indeed, the CCEF is calling you back to the healing hands of God … (for those who did not go to the church for such counseling historically family comforted and counseled one another).

Beliefs
Source: CCEF (Christian Counseling Educational Foundation)

We are Protestant. We affirm the unique authority of Scripture, and subscribe to the historic creeds of the early church and Reformation (i.e., Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Westminster Confession of Faith, London Baptist Confession, Heidelberg Catechism). And though we are grounded in the Protestant reformed tradition, we are also ecumenical and seek to minister to and with Christians from a range of theological perspectives.

We seek to apply these core commitments of historic orthodoxy in ways that are humble and winsome.

  • Because God teaches us to see the world the way he sees it, and to see all things as they exist in relationship to him, we are committed to the complete trustworthiness and primacy of the Scriptures.
  • Because the working of God in human life unfolds historically, we are committed to the narrative perspective provided by redemptive-historical theology, the story line that frames our understanding of systematic theology, practical theology, and church history.
  • Because God’s saving work in Christ Jesus creates a people for his own possession, we are committed to serve the visible church.
  • Because there is one Body and one Spirit, we are committed to serve Christians of many different denominational associations.
  • Because God’s ways and words are relevant across time, in all places, and to all peoples, we are committed to cultural sensitivity. Because the church is called to move towards the world redemptively, rather than existing in defensive or hostile isolation, we are committed to cultural engagement.

Brief History of Pastoral Care

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) was founded in 1968 and stands in a long tradition of pastoral care that dates back to the 1st century church and the New Testament. Through the centuries there have been high points and low points in the church’s understanding and practice of good pastoral care. High points include the early church fathers, the Reformation, the Puritans and Jonathan Edwards. In principle, for the first 1900 years of the church’s existence, the Scriptures formed the basis for diagnosing both psychological-spiritual maladies and interpersonal problems. And Scripture offered a consistent basis for addressing people’s problems by rooting our lives in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So, in many ways, CCEF’s ministry is not new, because its theology expresses this heritage of a God-centered understanding of people and a Christ-centered understanding of how God redeems people. But CCEF is doing something new in terms of its application of these time-tested truths to modern problems.

Whether or not the church was doing a good job of pastoral care, for the first 1900 years all Christians agreed that Scripture was the basis for restoring human lives. But a fundamental shift came with the advent of the modern secular psychologies, pioneered by Sigmund Freud in the late 1800’s. In a short amount of time, historic biblical categories of creation, fall and redemption were replaced by secular categories of mental health and mental illness.

The main effect of that shift meant that secular psychological thinking excised the personal God from the world he made. In the new theories and psychotherapeutic practices, there was no mention of sin, of God, of the necessity of a Savior, or the promise of eternal life. The solution to our “personal and interpersonal problems” lay within us and counseling involved drawing it out.

Though these were secular theories, they greatly impacted the church. From the turn of the 20th century, a shift took place in pastoral care instruction in seminaries. While many seminaries continued to make the Scriptures primary in the preaching of God’s word, they no longer made the Scriptures primary in pastoral care and counseling. This vacuum was filled by a host of alternatives that tended to minimize, change or overshadow the redemptive message of the Scriptures.

Responding to this trend, David Powlison writes in his book Speaking Truth in Love: Counsel in Community :

But as we look more closely at life, it becomes clearer and clearer that Scripture is about counseling: diagnostic categories, causal explanations of behavior and emotion, interpretation of external sufferings and influences, definitions of workable solutions, character of the counselor, goals for the counseling process…These are all matters to which God speaks directly, specifically, and frequently. He calls us to listen attentively, to think hard and well, and to develop our practical theology of conversational ministry.

The Advent of CCEF and Biblical Counseling

In response to these trends in the church and pastoral training, a “biblical counseling” movement emerged in the late 1960’s. The initial spokesman for this approach to pastoral care and counseling was Jay Adams. In 1968, Jay Adams and John Bettler started the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation just outside of Philadelphia. For the past four decades, CCEF has been growing and contributing to the biblical counseling movement as that movement has grown in both influence and maturity. For a more detailed history of the biblical counseling movement, see The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context by David Powlison.

CCEF’s early history was largely prophetic and therefore polemic. The church was challenged to rethink its beliefs about why people struggle and how to help them when they do. CCEF called pastors and seminaries back to the primacy of Scripture as the basis for thoughtful and effective pastoral care and counseling. From the beginning, there was always a concern to define what could legitimately be learned from modern psychology, but Scripture provided the orienting “generalizations”: a God-centered view of people and problems and solutions. What was at stake was which source would be primary.

As CCEF entered the 1980’s and 90’s, it was apparent that the second and third generation of leaders benefited from the strengths of their predecessors as well as learned from their weaknesses. They moved CCEF in a direction of increased sensitivity to human suffering, to the dynamics of motivation, to the centrality of the gospel in the daily life of the believer, the importance of the body of Christ and to a more articulate engagement with secular culture.

As CCEF enters the 21st century, it continues this positive trajectory with a commitment to work out the implications of biblical counseling in many areas of counseling methodology. CCEF continues to emphasize the centrality of the body of Christ as the primary context for care and counseling while recognizing the legitimate place of broader resources within the body of Christ. The relationship between biblical counselors and fellow evangelicals involved in professional, clinical counseling continues to be worked out in the pursuit of cordial relationships in which differences can be constructively discussed. Biblical counseling offers a distinctively Christian understanding of people, problems, influences, suffering, motives, and change processes. These beliefs are continuing to be developed and applied at CCEF.

Model of Care

CCEF’s distinctives regarding counseling grow out of our theological convictions. The points listed below express some of the counseling implications of our theological convictions.

  • We are Christ-centered. Therefore, we point people to a person, Christ, and not a program. He is wisdom from God, the inexpressible gift who delivers us from our sins and sufferings. He is the faith-nourishing foundation in whom the call to obedience finds its inner principle and power. People need the Savior, not a system of self-salvation.
  • We believe in God’s common grace to all humanity, and therefore we can learn from those who do not espouse a Christian or even a theistic worldview. For example, while the fundamental worldview of secular psychology runs counter to Christianity, there are descriptive riches to be found in the writings and teachings of those who have gained case wisdom through their research and care. These materials can enrich our care of those in need and can be useful to us as we continue to develop our biblically-based counseling method.
  • We are aware that human behavior is inextricably tied to deeper motivational drives. Therefore, we emphasize the primacy of the heart, because all human acts arise from a worship core, either disordered or rightly ordered.
  • We believe that we best image the triune God as we live and grow in community. Therefore, we embed personal change within God’s community—the church, with all its rich resources of corporate and interpersonal means of grace.
  • We believe the Scriptures are rich in their understanding of who we are as human beings. Therefore, we use Scripture with a full commitment to its authority and sufficiency, convinced that from beginning to end, it reveals Christ and his powerful redeeming grace addressing the needs and struggles of the human condition.
  • We believe that human beings are both spiritual and physical beings. Therefore, we recognize that people are physically-embodied by God’s design. A variety of bodily influences impact moral response. We take the whole person seriously, granting that there are ambiguities at the interface of soul and body. We seek to remain sensitive to physiological factors, as the context within which God calls a person to faith and obedience.
  • We believe that people are socially-embedded by God’s design. Therefore, we recognize that a variety of socio-cultural influences and sufferings influence moral response. We take the person’s whole context seriously, granting that there are ambiguities at the interface between an individual and their environment. We seek to remain sensitive to social factors, as the context within which God calls a person to faith and obedience.
  • We believe that the incarnation of Jesus is not just the basis for care but also the model for how care is to be administered. Therefore, we seek to enter into a person’s story, listening well, expressing thoughtful love. Such incarnational patience recognizes that a particular season of intentional counseling plays one part within a life-long process of Christian growth.
  • We believe that Jesus is our faithful Redeemer who enables us to persevere in the midst of our problems. Therefore, we understand that change is often slow and hard. Jesus promises no instant panacea. He abides in us as we abide in him. He gives grace to walk a long obedience in the same direction, learning wisdom.
  • We believe that we at CCEF have not “arrived.” We have not fully and clearly expressed all that the Bible has to say about counseling ministry. Therefore, because Jesus tarries and we are not yet what we shall be, we humbly admit that we struggle to consistently apply all that we say we believe. We want to learn and grow in wisdom. We who counsel and teach counseling live in process, just like those we counsel and teach.

Were you aware of this history? How do you deal with the seasons of the human condition? How do you reconcile medical profit with your health care outcomes? What would you like to see happen?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.