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Biblical Counseling: Integrationism vs. Dispensational Approach (Part Two).

In the last article, the term integration in light of Biblical counseling was explored.  It was shown that the word integration was about the worldview, which is how a person perceives the world around them. Furthermore, when a person attempts to reconcile two different worldviews this is what the author had termed “worldview integration.” By contrast, a counselor, working from a dispensational system would not engage in a synthesis of worldviews but would reject all worldviews that were not compatible with a Biblical worldview.

This left two unanswered questions from the last article:  What does an integration of worldviews look like, and what are its implications?

In an article titled, “The Integration of Christianity and Psychology” Psychologist Sara Rainer gives her perspective on how to integrate Christianity with psychology. This author encourages you to read the article in its entirety, which can be found here. At the start of her article, Sara Rainer writes:

Secular psychologists operate on a biopsychosocial model of human development and behavior. This model proposes humans develop and operate according to biological, psychological, and social influences. Accordingly, we are products of our biology and environment, both bearing equal importance.In more recent years, psychologists have begun recognizing that our spirituality impacts our lives, but have yet to say it is imperative for life. While the traditional psychological theories and models that are based upon naturalism are insufficient from a Christian worldview, not all of secular psychology is wrong. Indeed, there are many helpful and positive aspects of psychology to consider, which is why there is a need for integration.

Sara Ranier commented that secular psychologists operate on a biological, psychological (or cognitive), and sociological model (i.e., a biopsychosocial model). She mentioned that these aspects of man the secular psychologist focus on carry equal value. Additionally, she added that these qualities of mankind are not bad, however, they must be considered when counseling, emphasizing the need for an integrative psychology. 

Even though there is a benefit to understanding these aspects of man there is one thing that is missing from her paragraphs. Sara Rainer does not define the term secular. This particular word originated from the 13th century and is defined as “living in the world, and not being a part of a religious order.” As a worldview, the word secular is a term that focuses on the well being of man in this present life, without any regard for the afterlife (since there is a disregard for God’s existence). Sara Rainer admits even though a secular psychologist may find the spiritual aspect of mankind important, to the secular psychologist, or counselor, spirituality is perceived as a coping strategy to assist counselees with the overwhelming problems in a temporal existence. This is the reason why secular psychologists, or counselors, do not primarily focus on the spiritual aspect of man because their worldview does not account for this reality.

In another section of her article Sara Rainer writes that a believer who is counseling should operate on what she referred to as a middle ground:

As a trained secular doctor, I appreciate the biopsychosocial model of human nature. Learning about the complexities of humanity provides me with a better framework for understanding and helping my clients. The intricacies of the human brain, the environmental influences on our personality, and the social and culture impact on our lives remind me that pathology cannot simply be reduced to issues of morality or sin..On the other hand, as a Christian, I acknowledge that all humans are inherently separated from God. This separation causes disorder, sin, and disease of every kind. However, we serve a loving and just God that provides a way out of our depraved state through Jesus Christ. He longs for us to seek Him and His promise of eternity.Due to the love of this God, I also cannot reduce all pathology to a naturalistic model of humanity. I propose that Christian mental health professionals operate on a middle ground, the bio/psycho/social/spiritual model, which considers both our dignity and depravity as humans

There are several things to observe in these above paragraphs. Sara Rainer acknowledged the doctrine of sin. She argued the reason why there are diseases and illnesses was due to the curse of the Fall. She also endorsed that all mankind has a depraved nature and that Jesus Christ is the only hope to be redeemed from this corrupted state. Furthermore, Sara Rainer also admitted that mental illness and pathology cannot be boiled down to just naturalism, which those who hold to a biblical worldview can appreciate. However, within Sara Rainer’s article, there are several concerns to highlight, which are explored below:

  1. Addressing herself as a trained secular doctor: Sara Rainer wrote that she was trained as a “secular doctor.” Even though she mentioned Christ and the forgiveness of sins in her article this is incompatible with the word secular, which she uses to define herself in terms of her training. As previously mentioned above, secularism, due to it’s forsaking God in its worldview, only seeks to find pleasure and purpose in this temporal life, and disregards an afterlife.

  2. There is no “middle ground:” Sara Rainer commented that believers who work in the mental health field should operate on a “middle ground.” When it comes to a secular worldview and the Biblical worldview there is no middle ground. The primary presupposition of the secular worldview (i.e., “there is no God”) is antithetical to the central presupposition of the Biblical worldview (i.e., “in the beginning God…”). There cannot be a middle ground in terms of a secular and biblical worldview.

  3. The bio/psycho/social/spiritual model: The word of God does speak on these aspects of man. However one of the shortcomings of biopsychosocial model is that it places the order of the spiritual quality of man last, not first. This is not consistent with Scripture where God created the man out of the dust of the earth, and it was only when God breathed into man’s nostrils that he became a living being (c.f., Gen. 2:7). In other words, the spirit God gave man animated the body. Therefore there should be a greater importance placed on the immaterial aspect of man, in relation to the material (perhaps the spiritual/bio/psycho/social reality). 

  4. This argument assumes the biblical worldview lacks an aspect of mankind: Sara Rainer, in desiring to seek a middle ground between the two adds the spiritual to the biopsychosocial model. This assumes that believers need to add the spiritual component of man rather than recognizing it is the secular humanist that has removed this aspect of man. The biblical worldview underscores all these qualities of man because this perspective begins with the presupposition that God created mankind with these qualities. It is the secular humanist that borrows from the biblical worldview, not the other way around. 

  5. The spiritual aspect of man in this model deemphasizes the doctrine of sanctification: The bio/psycho/social/spiritual model that Sara Rainer promoted in her article is one that is only concerned with the salvation of man from wrath and eternal damnation from God, which is important. However, there is not an emphasis in this article about the importance of positional and progressive sanctification under the grace of God, and looking forward to the blessed hope of Christ appearing (c.f., Tit. 2:11-14). While there is an emphasis on justification in Christ alone, there is an underemphasis on sanctification in the Holy Spirit (i.e., positional, progressive, and perfect).

This article is an example of worldview integration. Sara Rainer has taken two worldviews and attempted to find centrality between these perspectives, when in fact these positions, at their core, are diametrically opposed to one another. As a result of wanting to be neutral Sara Rainer has unknowingly given much ground to the psychologist who denies that God exists. In addition, it is more justification driven, affirming the gospel of Christ (which is important), but ironically it gives little to no emphasis on the life to come. Furthermore, there is still greater weight placed on the “here and now” only, rather than a “here and now” in terms of positional and progressive sanctification, and future glorification. 

Let us as believers seek to understand the aspects of man from what God has revealed to us within the pages of sacred Scripture. Additionally, let us refuse to  integrate the biblical worldview with perspectives put forth by secular humanists, who begin with an incorrect presupposition that “God is not.” By doing this we glorify our God and His revealed word, and we decrease the risk of adopting beliefs that could be potentially misleading to us and the counselees we look to serve.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. L.S.

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