Biblical Counseling: Integration vs. The Dispensational Approach (Part One).
In the last series, we discussed the distinctions between a Reformed (Covenant) approach and a dispensational approach to Biblical counseling. It was observed while the Reformed approach uses Scripture and the Reformed tradition, a dispensational approach uses Scripture alone relying on a consistent literal-grammatical historical (and even cultural) hermeneutic to solve problems with counselees. As a result of these two approaches, both would result in different ways of how to assist people in counseling.
There are some in Biblical counseling who are convinced that the integration of psychology with a Biblical worldview should be pursued and encouraged. However, there are Biblical counselors, within the Reformed tradition, who do not believe psychology is not only unnecessary, but unbiblical, and should be avoided. Jay Adams, the founder of nouthetic counseling comments below:
Integrationist counseling seeks to combine the insights of psychology with those of the Bible. From my perspective, such counseling, though it purports to be biblical, is not, no matter how well intentioned the one who does it may be. The danger is that believers who are the subjects of such counsel think that they are being counseled to do God’s will, when they are not.http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/competent-counsel-interview-jay-adams/
When it comes to the issue of integration of psychology within Biblical counseling there are people on both sides of the spectrum of this particular topic. Furthermore, there are many other counselors who believe that psychology in the study of Biblical counseling does have merit, although some fail to tell us what these specific merits are. In light of this subject, one question from the writer’s observation should be asked, and answered: what is exactly being integrated into Biblical counseling? This writer submits several reasons below:
The meaning of words matter: The etymology of the word psychology is “the study of the soul” or “the study of the mind.” It comes from two Greek words psuche meaning “soul, or mind” and logos meaning “the study of.” In other words, psychology is simply a discipline, or a field of study, which a person observes plainly. Just like biology is the study of all types of life, and astronomy is a study of the heavenly bodies and phenomena found seen in the physical universe (i.e., sun, moon, stars, planets, orbits, etc.) psychology is no different than these other fields people engage.
Adjectives matter: When the name of a discipline, or field of study, has an adjective this describes how one approaches or perceives this particular field of study. For example, the term secular philosophy tells you not only the field of study being investigated but the worldview that is used to examine this discipline. The word secular describes to a person how he/she is going to approach the discipline of philosophy. A person with a secular worldview will approach this discipline without any regard for God and His truth.
So examining the points above what are we talking about when we speak of integration? This author is convinced when one is speaking of integration in Biblical counseling they are primarily addressing the worldview of the counselor.
Our worldview is the way we perceive the world around us. If a secular counselor believed, according to their worldview, counselees are only made up of hormones and neurotransmitters (i.e., the material aspect of mankind), neglecting the reality of an immaterial spirit, then their approach, and goals, to resolving the counselee’s problem will originate from this perspective. By contrast, if the Biblical counselor, holding to a biblical worldview affirms the reality of both the immaterial (i.e., spirit) and the material aspects of man, then the biblical counselor’s goals and approach will be very different than a secular counselor. The biblical and secular counselors may even use some of the same techniques for their counselees, but the ideology of why these techniques are used will be different. This is what Gary Barnes highlights when he comments below:
“Some argue that the Bible and psychology are competing truth systems, that their sources of knowledge are different, and that their resulting understandings cannot be compatible. They conclude that an integration of psychology and theology is not only unnecessary, it is, more importantly, impossible.”Cary Barnes (2006). Can Biblical Counseling and Psychological Counseling Somehow Fit Together? Retieved from https://voice.dts.edu/article/can-biblical-counseling-and-psychological-counseling-somehow-fit-together-c-gary-barnes
How do counselors, working from a dispensational system address this issue of integration in biblical counseling? The dispensational counselor, holding to a consistent historical-grammatical approach to Scripture, which is their ultimate source of authority, will refuse to combine any other worldview with the biblical worldview (this is what the author will call worldview integration). In fact, the dispensational counselor will be quick to point out, and reject, any other worldview that runs counter to Scripture because these competing worldviews ultimately do not support the sine qua non of the glory of God.
This is why Paul warned the saints in Colossae not to be robbed through the philosophy, vain conceit, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8). All of these things Paul mentioned in this verse have everything to do with how one perceives the world around them. A person who integrates, or attempts to harmonize, a false worldview into the biblical worldview would be like placing excrement in their cake batter and mixing it before one bakes a cake. Just like they have spoiled their cake batter, they have spoiled their worldview.
It appears there must be some caution in how biblical counselors use the word integration. Integration in Biblical counseling has to do with a counselor’s worldview. The trouble begins when one attempts to harmonize an opposing worldview to make it compatible with the biblical worldview (i.e., worldview integration). The dispensational counselor will reject any worldview that is not compatible with their source of authority (i.e., the Bible) using a consistent literal-grammatical historical method because they understand this conflicting worldview would not give glory to God.
However, this leads us to another two other questions: What does worldview integration look like and what are its implications? These will be the questions this author will answer in next article.
Until Next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!