7 Sufficiency of Scripture Interactions
There has been some solid interaction in the comment sections on my last two posts:
I thought it would be instructive to post those comments as one blog.
Bob, you have a pretty compelling argument here. Which bothers me because I tend to be from the integrationist camp that has a passion for what Biblical Counselors are doing.
I have to ask this question: doesn’t Paul use human wisdom in Romans when he says “even your own poets say ‘in Him we live and move and have our being” ? It seems to me that Paul wasn’t against all uses of human philosophies and that Paul integrated human philosophy in the book of Romans.
Do you think a Christian counselor could argue something like, “Paul wasn’t against integration, he was against integration that lead people astray”?
I do think Nouthetic counselors have made a very strong case for their position, I just remain unconvinced that the Nouthetic position is a position that all Christian counselors must take.
My Response to Jason’s Comment
Jason, I really appreciate your engagement and the spirit of your comment. First, this post is part of a much broader development I am working on for a new book. In that broader piece, I do address issues like those you bring up.
Specifically, regarding Paul’s comment in Acts where he quotes from a poet, I would not at all call that integrating human philosophy. In fact, I believe he is doing the opposite. Paul is well read—as we should be. He makes a point of connection with them from what one of their poets has written. But then he clearly says, almost as Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you.” Paul takes the god that they are worshipping and the human reason that they are following and says, “Let me show you the true God revealed only through Divine revelation.” That’s not integration—that’s biblical counsel!
Paul was against integrating human reason with the wisdom of Christ. Related to modern Christian/biblical counseling, I believe this means not “integrating” the world’s views of people, problems, and solutions with what the Word teaches about people, problems, and solutions.
I’m certainly not saying that all Christian counselors must take my position. I am saying, as I indicated in the post, that all Christians who counsel must at least examine passages like Colossians 2 and build their approach to people-helping upon that foundation.
Eric Johnson’s First Comment
Hi Bob, Thanks for your ruminations! I think that at the heart of your critique you are exactly right. Ancient “therapeutic philosophies” (Nussbaum’s insight) were at core “antithetical” competitors with the therapy provided to the world by Jesus and spread by the Apostle Paul. I note that you use the modifier “modern” in your application of Paul’s teaching to today. You rightly imply that it is not the science of psychology in the abstract that is the antithetical competitor, but “modern psychology,” the secularized version that has dominated Western thinking about psychology for over 100 years. However, what was missing in your above remarks is the corollary theological insight regarding creation grace (common grace), which is also taught in Scripture, but was not a dominant concern of Paul’s given his apostolic mission in the first decades after Christ’s ascension. Cornelius Van Til considered the antithesis (Paul’s emphasis and the emphasis in your remarks) and common grace to be “limiting concepts,” each necessary to limit the extremism of taking one pole too far by ignoring the other pole. In the context of the current debates, it might be helpful if Christians at least mention both poles of the pair. Otherwise, we might come across as anti-science fundamentalists (to which I know you are vehemently opposed!), since modern psychology has discovered an amazing array of truths about human beings not mentioned in the Bible, or as naive syncretists who uncritically incorporate modern therapeutic philosophies into Christian counseling, which you (and Paul by analogy) are wisely warning us against. I am confident you believe that Christians ought to be a people who are the most thankful for good science, because it glorifies God—although not as thankful as we ought to be for the grace that flows from redemption.
My Response to Eric’s First Comment (Note: Eric is a good friend)
Thanks for engaging the post, Eric. And you are right in your assumptions about my overall view. Of course, no one blog post with a 1000-ish words can address everything. This material is very rough draft form of 1/6th of 1 chapter in a new book I am working on. The next chapter in the book does spend time on common grace and legitimate scientific research. In that second chapter (of 14), I make the distinction between theory building/prescriptive therapy on the one hand, and legitimate scientific research on the other hand.
By the way, I think that common grace is less the theological category for what you are highlighting than is the theological category of the “creation mandate” or “cultural mandate” from Genesis 1:26-28. That’s where I go to build a biblical approach to legitimate science. Paul certainly was aware of common grace, but it did not stop him from strong warnings against blending of unregenerate theory-building/therapy with regenerate/special revelation understandings of people, problems, and solutions. Paul taught that the noetic effect of sin so impacted the theory-building of the unregenerate mind that he wanted nothing to do with “spoiling the Egyptians.” On the other hand, the creation mandate can be used biblically to build a case for legitimate research psychology/descriptive research.
I guess my two “push backs” on your comments would be:
1. From the Christian psychology world, why aren’t there more articles, chapters, and blog posts like mine that simply exegete the text and make a clear statement against blending/integrating of secular theory/therapy and regenerate theory/therapy? As I say in this post, and as I know you know, I rarely spend much time in “anti-this” or “anti-that.” But it could help the Christian psychology world if they would spend a little time in stating biblically what they are against—where do you draw the lines? Are there any lines?
2. From the Christian psychology world, why aren’t there more articles, chapters, blog posts, and books that are building a biblical understanding of people, problems, and solutions? I am not saying there aren’t any, but I am saying I don’t think there are enough of those works coming out of the Christian psychology world.
Eric’s Response to My Response (That’s what good friends do!)
Thanks for replying. I really like the focus on the creation mandate! The only qualification I might make there is, without an equally strong emphasis on creation grace (my preferred term for common grace), the creation mandate can turn into our activity, and solely a function of law, whereas the concept of creation grace reminds us every good and perfect gift is from above, including our creation mandate activity. (I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.)
And thanks for the push-back. I know you’ve read my Foundations for Soul Care, so you know where I stand on those issues. But Christian psychology certainly needs more books and articles working from Scripture and explaining how to assimilate truth from secular psychology without accommodating to the secularism. I’m finishing up a theology for counseling that should be out next year that hopefully will be a partial answer to your questions (and hopefully will build on the fine book you recently helped to put out, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling).
My Response to Eric’s Second Response
Eric, I like your term “Creation Grace.” I subsume the same concepts into the more common term “creation mandate.”
In your second reply, you stated, “But Christian psychology certainly needs more books and articles working from Scripture and explaining how to assimilate truth from secular psychology without accommodating to the secularism.”
This is where I think it would be helpful if you carefully defined what you mean by your terms. There are a lot of vital words: “assimilate,” “truth,” “secular psychology,” “accommodating,” and “secularism.”
Perhaps most important, what do you mean by “truth from secular psychology.” Is that “descriptive research,” or is it “scientific research” (and how would those two terms be defined)?
Or, it is a “secular psychology” understanding of people, problems, and solutions—theory building and therapy? If it is those later categories, then this is where I believe Paul would say from Colossians 2, “Beware.”
I think that’s that “gist” of my two posts and the core issue that must be clarified.
We both value valid scientific research/valid descriptive research.
But the question is, what value, if any, does the Scripture give to secular theory-building and therapy for understanding people, problems, and solutions?
I’d be interested to hear your interactions.
Mark Shaw’s Comment
Bob, I find this blog post refreshing! Thanks for the biblical teaching and connection you give us to better see what Paul wrote about a few years ago is still relevant today. I agree with your assertions here and I believe the source of truth is the key difference (man’s ideas or God’s Word).
I appreciate your boldness in this stance and know that while you will not be accepted by those who oppose these ideas (and are really opposing God), God is pleased. And that’s all that really matters (2 Cor. 5:9). Keep glorifying Him, Mark
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This is a very important discussion—and it has been very civil—which models Christlike speaking truth in love. What comment/interaction/question would you add? This truly is an invitation to “join the conversation.”
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