Becoming a biblical counselor is not as simple as just saying we use the Bible in counseling. The Bible must be allowed to permeate every part of our worldview. But there are 10 pillars of a counselor’s worldview that the word of God must clearly inform. These 10 pillars have important implications for the way a counselor will approach and help people solve problems. Here are the 10 pillars of a counselor’s worldview that must be thoroughly biblical to legitimately be called a biblical counselor.
Part of my purpose in putting together this list is not just to say, here are 10 things you should know, but to help you, the reader think through how well these pillars are grounded in the word of God. Can you give a biblical answer to each of these pillars? Many who call themselves biblical counselors unknowingly hold to views that are inconsistent with scripture.
As a culture, we no longer value the written word. Where the written word is not valued, for the most part, neither is deep thought and reflection. The result is, that if we’re honest, many of us simply haven’t thought much about the foundations of our worldview.
1. The nature of God
We can’t assume that we know who God is or what He is like without first understanding what He says about Himself from His Word. Many of those we counsel will have wrong views about God. They will think He is punishing them when He is not, or that He has abandoned them when He hasn’t. Or that He loves unconditionally someone who hates Him. Where and who God is within our problems changes the way we think about them, their seriousness, their solutions and whether we are acting in a helpful or harmful manner. We need to be careful that we allow God to be the authority on Himself and how His nature. God is who He says He is, not who we or those we counsel think He is.
If we get this wrong, almost everything else will be wrong too.God is who He says He is, not who we or those we counsel think He is. Click To Tweet
2. The nature of the world we live in
Do we live in a natural world without the daily intervention of a supernatural being or do we believe that God is and that He continues to interact with mankind within His creation, superintending circumstances and bringing about His will? Perhaps we believe that God is supernaturally influencing everything, down to the decisions and desires we have. Do God’s interactions affect the situation that those we counsel find themselves in? If so how?
Today, many Christians continue to hold to a dualistic idea of the universe (the world is evil and heaven is good), not recognizing that this view of the world stems from Plato, not from scripture. Yes the creation was cursed and it is not what it was created to be, but one day it will be redeemed. We were created to live on earth, not in heaven. This dualistic view permeates our thinking about life, work, culture, and spirituality in profound ways.
3. What Man is
What we consider man to be, reflects the authority we hold to. The world says very different things about mankind than the Bible. Is man three parts or two or one? If people are nothing but biological machines, where does personality fit? On the other hand, are we spiritual creatures? If so, what does that mean? What is the role of biology? Does the spiritual affect the biological? If so how? The answers to these questions produce very different approaches to people and their problems.
More importantly, what we believe constitutes a human being will have a profound influence on how those we counsel think about themselves and their circumstances. Many people think of themselves as victims of conditions that there is no cure for. Generally, these beliefs are based on wrong views of man and are unhelpful to the person who holds them, keeping them enslaved to circumstances, expenses and problems unnecessarily.
What will distinguish the view you and I take is the source of our information, or the authority we select.
4. The problems we face
What is our biggest problem? Is it chemical imbalances? Social injustice? Biological malfunction? Is it the circumstances we face? Are we victims of a world that is hostile to us? Or perhaps our biggest problem is something else. Can we do anything about these problems? Again, the authority we select will determine the “big ticket” problems that humanity faces, along with what is common to man and what is specific to the individual.
A right understanding of problems has the potential to dignify or diminish personhood, and vindicate or invalidate beliefs – whether right or wrong. If we don’t understand the problems people face, we may reinforce the problems people need help with.
5. Ideals, expectations, and morality
You’ve probably heard (or made) statements starting with “Don’t I deserve…?” Questions like this draw on the ideals, and expectations we hold to. Morality, the ideal life, the ideal person, and the expectations we set for ourselves and others often determine the emotional stability of our lives and the responses we have. Many counseling cases are related to wrong beliefs in these areas because when these go wrong, our lives often end in turmoil. “The way of the treacherous is hard” (Prov 13:15). A counselor's worldview needs to be informed by scripture if it is to be effective. Click To Tweet
What’s more fascinating is that we think other people are the problem. However, more likely, we can change, repent and live according to God’s revealed will, and the situation will change radically. Unfortunately, so many people simply assume, or perhaps consume their expectations, beliefs, and morality from the culture around them. Are our expectations, ideals, and morality right? How would you know? We can listen to the world or humble ourselves and let scripture inform us.
6. How do we solve our problems?
Having identified our problems, we can consider how to solve them. Here we can begin to see how the previous issues influence our approach to counseling. If our problems are biological, we will resort to biological agents such as pharmaceuticals to solve problems. Likewise, if people are spiritual, then we will want to consider how a spiritual understanding informs the problem. The question here is, what does scripture say about how to solve our problems?
The way we approach solving life problems reveals whether our authority is sufficient or not. Some Christian counselors start to lean on multiple authorities at this point. They will consider psychological labels and diagnoses as authoritative descriptions of problems, but then use examples from the Bible in the service of that authority. Some function like psychological methodologies are authoritative while affirming the Bible to be authoritative, or even while affirming that man’s biggest problem is sin. When this happens there is a disconnect between what the counselor says and what the counselor is doing.
Counseling from a biblical worldview means we will allow the Bible to maintain its authority even at the problem-solving level. This doesn’t mean we don’t draw on some of the findings of psychology nor that we ignore biology. Both these fields have important contributions to make. The issue is whether we give these other fields absolute authority or whether we integrate them within a biblical worldview.
7. Destiny and Hope
How do you give someone who has problems hope? This is a crucial question that must addressed by the authority we choose for our counseling. From a secular perspective, our hope is peace or the absence of problems. But what if we are counseling someone elderly? What realistic hope can we offer them? Can we legitimately offer someone with ADD hope that they will be delivered? Or are they doomed to live with it? We cannot give people empty platitudes.
The biblical worldview provides reasons for hope and change at every stage of life and it doesn’t offer the simplistic hope of an easy life or quick and easy solutions. Life in a sinful world isn’t like that. It is foolish to take a psychological approach to problems and attach the Bible Click To Tweet
How we face death is dependent on what we believe about death. Death forces us to ask the question of whether life is worth living. If death is the end (as naturalism posits), then what can we really achieve with our life? Why behave in any particular manner? After all, if we’re here today and tomorrow our life is gone like vapor in the wind, who will remember? Sure there might be some personal satisfaction, but so what? In 50 years nobody will remember or care that you or I were satisfied with our lives. In 100 years, nobody will care what books we might have written, or awards we might have received, or how much money we earned.
But if death is simply the end of a phase, and there is something significant on the other side, then life has significant implications for the future beyond the veil. How we consider death strongly influences our life and our counseling, and those we counsel.
In the same way, does suffering have any significance? Is it better to escape suffering or should suffering be endured? Does it help us or hinder us? Can we even suggest suffering is always helpful or always a hindrance? Some people regard suffering as an inherent, perhaps inexplicable and ultimately meaningless evil. Is this true? How does this help people who are suffering?
The Bible views suffering in a nuanced manner that prevents us from making blanket statements. There are times when suffering is good and it should be embraced. There are other times when it is gratuitous and should be escaped. How do we identify which of these those we counsel are facing? What do we say to them? We need a nuanced worldview to counsel those who are suffering.
10. The word of God
In one sense it doesn’t matter where in the list the word of God comes. Our view of the word of God is directly related to Our view of God Himself. If our view of God is deficient, so too our understanding of His word will be. How we view God is the first item in this list, so it seems appropriate to end on a similar note.
It should be obvious from the list above that it is foolish to take a psychological approach to problems and attach the Bible. A counselor’s worldview needs to be informed by scripture if it is to be effective. Our secular culture has abandoned the idea of an integrated worldview. It will pick and choose different elements and try and fit them together. It doesn’t fit. The Bible is a single, integrated worldview that has explanatory power in each of these areas. Therefore, we must regard the Bible as authoritative and sufficient, and without error, if we want to be effective. This doesn’t mean we neglect the contributions of science, but a biblical framework gives us a way to discern the value of these contributions and how we should integrate them into the lives of those we counsel.
Is your worldview comprehensive?
How we answer these issues will be determined for us by what we regard as authoritative. The trap is to claim one thing (e.g. the Bible) as authoritative while yet holding to another authority (e.g. Science or culture) as authoritative in certain areas. Our fleshly pride tends to select our authorities based on what it prefers. It will exalt our desires over God’s stated will.
We must be deliberate and humble when we choose a worldview. We should select a worldview with the explanatory power at least as broad as the areas outlined above. Our confidence in an authority is likely to precede our knowledge, which is why humility is so important. If we don’t understand all our selected authority says on these issues, we need to focus on the hard work of growing our understanding of how that authority explains these different areas. It is dangerous for us and those we counsel when we think we know what the Bible says, but we really don’t.It is dangerous for us and those we counsel when we think we know what the Bible says, but we really don't. Click To Tweet
Where the Bible fits
A comprehensive worldview is where biblical counseling shines. The Bible is a divine book authored by the Creator of the universe, who also created man to live in it. He is the author of life and knows how we work and what we need. He’s explained it to us comprehensively in His Word. The question for Christians should not be whether God’s word is authoritative – that should be a given. Nor is it whether God intended His word to be sufficient. If God felt it was important enough to reveal Himself in His word, we should also assume He communicated what we need to know.
The real question for Christians is whether we know the word of God well enough to confidently explain how it speaks to all the issues listed above. If not, we need to become better students of it so that we can become effective counselors under it. If God has spoken we don’t have the luxury of picking alternative authorities. We need to know the His Word well enough to be able to stand upon it.
How do you strengthen your worldview? Leave a comment below.