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Biblical Counseling

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In the field of counselling, the primary considerations that those in the field who are practicing directly or indirectly have something to do with the previously held belief system, or the worldview or philosophy behind the notion of human behaviour. This goes to say that one who ventures into the business of healing and curing emotions and psychological problems must get into a thorough understanding of his/her personal approach to the study of human behaviour.

The counselor seeks to explain human nature, the issue of sin or prbably emphasizing or reducing the Scriptural mandate and God’s verdict (whichever side he/she is on), and which eventually dictates intervention strategies, if any. The basic counselling idea common to or held by most psychologists increases the likelihood that the biblical understanding can be very challenging to get into, much less, practice. It is even bold as to say that counselling in whatever front is basically “religious” in nature because in the end, what is upheld or emphasized by the counselor expresses deep-rooted philosophy or religious beliefs.

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The paper’s assumption then is to provide an impetus that “sells” biblical counselling as superior, efficacious, and more attractive than the psychology models touted today. It tackles the presuppositions of both psychology and biblical counselling and the arguments in each of the specific aspects that are recognizable as valid or invalid. Discussion Counseling in the field of psychology and biblical counselling At best, psychology prefers to integrate counselling from biblical perspective as well as blend these with what is categorized as empirically tested techniques posited by psychologists.

The basic way of doing the “amalgamation” or integration is that the Christian worldview takes precedence over the rest of the approaches. Although many of the concepts and premises of each theory mentioned are sound and at times efficacious, when it clashes with the faith-based theory, the former must give way to the latter. Interpreting a problem that a client suffers for instance, entails that the theoretical viewpoint that a practitioner is convinced with, expressly has better chances of properly understanding the maladjustments that the client had been suffering.

To come up with the balanced worldview (an integration in other words), the balance between the realms mentioned, including the true frame of human individuals and the true nature of God (or theology) are properly considered. Thoroughly accepting the fact that there is no contest between the natural and the spiritual; only that troubles arise when one realm is overemphasized at the expense of another. This thin line or slight tension between the two levels is best expressed in the personhood of Jesus Christ, who was a perfect man as well as God.

If a person starts to equate one self and others with that notion (which is usually happening) and he/she starts to think that he/she is balanced, then this person surely lacks understanding or real self-awareness of the fact that he/she is deeply and seriously out of balance and this is one reason why he/she needs help. Christian counseling admittedly embraces in reality, a basic integration of the biblical precepts on the view of man and psychology’s scientific breakthroughs in addressing the dilemmas that beset human individuals.

Depending on the persuasion of the practitioner, especially whether he or she comes from either the purely theological or “secular” preparation, Christian counseling can either lean to certain degrees of theology or psychology. According to Larry Crabb, “If psychology offers insights which will sharpen our counseling skills and increase our effectiveness, we want to know them. If all problems are at core spiritual matters we don’t want to neglect the critically necessary resources available through the Lord by a wrong emphasis on psychological theory” (Crabb in Anderson et al, 2000).

Dr. Crabb’s position certainly ensures that science in particular, has its place in counseling in as much as theology does. He made sure that all means are addressed as the counselor approaches his profession, especially in the actual conduction of both the diagnostic and therapeutic or intervention phases (Crabb in Anderson et al. , 2000). Trauma inducing and crisis triggering situations have spiraled its occurrence and in its primacy in the US and in many other countries in recent years.

Its broad spectrum ranges from the national disaster category such as that of Hurricane Katrina or the 911 terrorist strikes in New York, Spain and England, to private instances such as a loved one’s attempt at suicide, the murder of a spouse or child, the beginning of mental illness, and the worsening situation of domestic violence (Teller et al, 2006). The acute crisis episode is a consequence of people who experience life-threatening events and feel overwhelmed with difficulty resolving the inner conflicts or anxiety that threaten their lives.

They seek the help of counselors, paramedics and other health workers in crisis intervention centers to tide them over the acute episodes they are encountering. These are defining moments for people and must be adequately addressed else they lead lives with dysfunctional conduct patterns or disorders (Roberts et al, 2006). In the integrated or eclectic approach the goal of the therapy is not just relief to the patient or client. Although an immediate relief is very helpful, this may not always be the case in most illnesses.

The goal as mentioned in the preceding pages is to provide long-term reduction of the symptoms and the occurrence of the disease altogether if possible. The management then is not impossible but neither is this easy. Specifically, the counselee or patient must want to heal or believe that there is going to be curative effects in the process. It presupposes that he/she must learn to trust the therapist in his/her capabilities as well in leading or facilitating the changes or modifications.

It is very much essential that (in the perspective of a cognitive-behaviorist) that the client understands ownership to the deeds and choices in thought patterns he/she made are crucial to the recurring or occurring condition that s/he experiences (Rubinstein et al. , 2007; Corey, 2004). Basic Biblical Counseling Premises: • View of human nature from psychological viewpoint Personality is more than poise, charm, or physical appearance. It includes habits, attitudes, and all the physical, emotional, social, religious and moral aspects that a person possesses.

However, to be more precise, the explicit behavioral styles, perhaps, best captivate an individual’s personality and how he/she is understood. With the different behavioral styles, an overall pattern of various characteristics is seen. Like a “psychograph,” a person’s profile is pulled together and at a glance, the individual can be compared with other people in terms of relative strengths and weaknesses (Corey 2005). Psychologists recognize there is often a fine line between mental health and mental illness. For them, it is important to understand that mental illnesses vary in their severity.

For example, many adolescents suffered from various levels of anxiety or depression. Others have suffered from serious mental disorders with biological origins. Education about the adolescents` mental illness is vital for those with mental health problems as well as for the adolescents` friends and family (Corey 2005). The major force or forces responsible for the origin and development of an individual’s personality is best understood in the different perspectives. In the cognitive approach alone, it understands that an individual at varying times in his life has error-filled thinking patterns.

These patterns may include wishful thinking, unrealistic expectations, constant reliving and living in the past or even beyond the present and into the future, and overgeneralizing. These habits lead to confusion, frustration and eventual constant disappointment. This therapeutic approach stresses or accentuates the rational or logical and positive worldview: a viewpoint that takes into consideration that we are problem-solvers, have options in life and not that we are always left with no choice as many people think.

It also looks into the fact that because we do have options then there are many things that await someone who have had bad choices in the past, and therefore can look positively into the future. Cognitive-Behavioral approach “facilitates a collaborative relationship between the patient and therapist” (Ellis & Beck in Corey, 2004). For the Cognitive Behaviorist viewpoint, issues are dealt directly in a practical way. Here the client is enlightened as to the patterns of his thinking and the errors of these thoughts which bore fruit in his attitudes and behavior.

His/her thoughts and beliefs have connections on his/her behavior and must therefore be “reorganized. ” For instance, the ways that a client looks at an issue of his/her life will direct the path of his reactivity to the issue. When corrected at this level, the behavior follows automatically (Rubinstein et al. , 2007; Corey, 2004). The systems theory portion of the therapy indicates that whatever is occurring or happening is not isolated but is a working part of a bigger context.

In the family systems approach then, no individual person can be understood when removed from his relationships whether in the present or past, and this is specially focused on the family he belongs to (Rubinstein et al. , 2007; Corey, 2004). The Existential approach, as put forward by Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger, Rollo May, and Frankl, believes that the individual’s potential may lie dormant but that it is there waiting to be ushered in time.

It recognizes that man is able to achieve great heights and that these are just waiting to be tapped not only by him/herself but that also when helped by a practitioner who is persuaded of this notion. It examines such major issues as free will and the challenges of exercising this free will, the issue of mortality, loneliness and in general, the meaning of life. That Cognitive-Behavioral, Existential, humanistic & Family Systems eclectic approach primarily involves the incorporation of distinct concepts within a single framework. • Human Suffering I. Origin of Suffering

Suffering is one of the symptoms of this life’s abnormality. If not for the revelation found in the Bible, there would be no other option but to accept the state of affairs in life as it is. This means that since suffering has been a part of the history of humanity, it has to be accepted as part and parcel of a normal life. However, looking at it in a biblical perspective, although suffering is part of the human existence in this world, the fact of the matter is: it has not always been a part of life. It came into the picture only after the fall of the first couple – Adam and Eve.

The Bible is clear about this, as stated in Romans 5:12 and in many other passages found in the Holy Writ. This biblical truth is important, foundational, and essential in dealing with many questions regarding suffering – and in particular, as philanthropists and charitable organizations endeavor to alleviate suffering on the children of Africa. Presently, the bleak outlook being presented pertaining to African children today are presented in two potentially devastating outcomes which might happen as results of the already destructive current crisis. The first one is the prospect (according to researchers) of death by the millions.

An organization which aims to help the suffering children of Africa has estimated that by the year 2025, an estimated number of people as enormous as 85 million may die because HIV/AIDS crisis (Blake, 2006). Second is, the inevitable outcome which will take place as the direct result of the first – children being orphaned because of the projected genocidal death toll at 2025. The same organization calculated that on that same year, 55 million children might have been orphans already. Nations and governments and charitable organizations have been mobilized ever since to help these human disasters and all of the possible ramifications.

Although, evil as it manifests in many forms in life has been here already for centuries, and perhaps, as early as recorded histories could recall, the current crisis of AIDS in African continent is the most recent form of lashing. It has to be noted, lest the focus gets sidetracked to different issues which are at best symptoms of the real disease, that all of the troubles that have been pestering the existence of man on this planet are just necessary effects of sin and rebellion against God.

It is to be noted though that it is never the intention of this paper to aggravate the sufferings of African people by putting the blame on them or by making them feel worse than what they are now. As was stated early on, at the heart of this thesis is the objective to help by elucidating on the true predicament of man’s existence by pointing out that which is biblical, or the biblical diagnosis on things. It really helps and better prepares the sick person to face his/her true condition by first properly diagnosing the illness.

It doesn’t help if the mind continues to be in a state of uncertainty and fear because it is sure of something which could be fatal. Also, it will not help keeping the real problem under the sheets, all along hoping that it will just leave by itself, because it will not. And so, the Bible is crucially significant in addressing the issue of evil and suffering. 1. ) Death Came As A Result Of Sin. Nothing threatens the prospect of a good life than the possibility of an imminent death.

A positive vista of life – happy family, burgeoning business, and flourishing career – is easily clouded by fear when suddenly something final as death comes into the scene. Death is seen as the ultimate because it can put a period on the otherwise happy and full of promise subsistence. One theologian explained the statement of Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12 in a way that points to sin as the real culprit why there are pain, sickness, and weakness in man’s physical body. He said, in effect that, had it not been for Adam’s sin there would be no sickness in the world in the first place.

Remember that death is the maturity of weakness and sickness in the body. All illnesses lead to eventual death. What the Bible is telling us about sickness, weakness, and any form of suffering endured in the body – whether mental or physical suffering – result inevitably to physical death. And the reality of death in this life was occasioned by the original sin of the first couple, Adam and Eve. Succeeding, generations after the first couple of humans, inherited sin as well as its product – death (Duffield and Van Cleave, 1987). It is also important to note that sin not only occasioned death, but it is its necessary outcome.

The unanimous observation of many students of the Bible based on the narrative accounts as well as how it is described in certain passages of biblical books is that death is spiritual as also it is physical. The first time it hits humans, the first and immediate effect was spiritual in that it did not resulted in the first couple’s physical death. This spiritual death is actually more devastating than physical death because it altered everything within the human frame that it has set into motion a strong pull towards wrong directions.

First, it separated man from God. It is the reason why man cannot respond to the things of God. As a dead body has no capacity for any responses to its surrounding whatsoever because it is dead, so is a man who is physically alive but is spiritually dead. A person who is spiritually dead does not and cannot respond to God and the things of God. As one preacher said when told by a cynic among his audience that he doesn’t feel the burden of sin in his life like what the preacher was trying to convey in his message.

To that, the preacher wisely answered, “As a dead couldn’t feel a ton of garbage when placed on that body, so is the burden of sin to a spiritually dead person. ” That’s why when Apostle Paul elaborated to the Romans the depravity of man, he zoomed in to the fact that at present, because humanity has chosen to abandon God – and the proof of it has affected all aspects of the human existence – God also had to leave humanity alone in its decision to leave the reality of God out of its thoughts and actions. The whole scenario is sobering especially when the Biblical perspective on this is considered.

It’s very easy and normal to leave God out of the picture, and it’s actually what people want essentially as it is looked at face value. Man has effectively abandoned God and has erased any traces of Him from the very start – from the birth of a baby in a home where belief in God is optional at best, and as that baby developed into childhood, and as that child was reared in school (if opportunities for schooling was ever available, primary to college education), and eventually released to live life independently as an adult in a society whose culture ever since was godless.

And the cycle goes on and on like a permanent process. Now, again, as pointed out early in this paper, all of these not so promising state of affairs can be tracked down back to Eden where life turned into a sudden shift (McArthur, 2008). Where there is spiritual death, the prospect of life is anything but imperfect and flawed everywhere. The original order of things has been altered, and it’s not human species alone that has been terribly affected by the Fall; the whole creation has been “groaning” ever since (Rom. 8:22). 2.

) Man’s Separation From God Precipitated Suffering. The first manifestations of humanity’s misery were quickly evident right after Adam and Eve violated God’s word to them. They, right then and there, realized their nakedness which before was not a cause of shame for them. What previously for them was just normal, and did not pose a problem, now they have trouble keeping it the way it was. They must cover their nakedness, and they must hide and keep themselves at a distance – where they feel somehow hidden – from God (Gen. 3:7-9).

The fact that society disregards the reality of God in its system highlights the reality of spiritual separation. The cause for many of the troubles that history has witnessed since time immemorial was man’s broken relationship with its Creator. It has been the reason from the start, and it still is until now. God spoke through Prophet Isaiah, that it was man’s sin which has actually separated man from God (Isa. 59:2). Left alone, man naturally would not choose God, much less, His righteous ways as revealed by Him in the Bible.

Contrary to what have been suggested by many considered pundits of humanities, and sadly, by many church denominations through what has been now known as the “seeker-sensitive” approach in church’s services, man is not naturally inclined to seek God and the things of the Spirit of God. And so, under this cursed condition, it is not supposed to surprise anybody who have searched and found in the Holy Scriptures that the world is in its current troubled state. There’s actually spiritual anarchy where every one is a rule unto himself. Every one does what he/she deems good in his/her perception of things.

If it feels good, then probably, it is good. This is how man is running his life, and it translates into the overall landscape of society. Man sets the trend. What had been considered “wicked” of the past generation, if it is now palatable to the senses, and hence, has been slowly swallowed and embraced as “acceptable” by the media and the general public, it becomes legal and normatively harmless. Therefore, in Paul’s words, God in turn has abandoned man in his choice of abandoning the knowledge of his Creator. This is, to a large degree, the reason for many troubles and sufferings that nations and people have been seeing.

If the Bible is true – and it is this paper’s contention that it is the true truth – then the unrestrained freedom and lifestyles which seem to describe the earth’s populace for a long period of time now, is actually a judgment of God. A preacher once answered those who cast all the blame on God in the wake of 911 tragedy in these words: “We have done all we could, and effectively, we got God out of our schools and government institutions, and now we are asking where He is in all of these? ” The application of Scripture to human dilemma and the like

The portion of Scripture where Jesus "You have heard that it was said to those of old,” making it appear that his statements seem to abrogate the laws in the Old Testament replacing them with his “new more authoritative” teachings is a misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Jesus’ true intentions. Jesus was actually bringing back the true message of the Old Testament Law which was made vague by mere traditions of men and their own hazy and humanistic understanding. The Lord was pointing out to His audience the glosses that were made on Mosaic laws which made the ancient commands with minimal effectivity or worse, no efficacy.

Jesus’ example and the Pharisees’ are insights that can be gleaned with emphasis on the application of principles of the Scriptures. A Christian easily becomes a legalist when his/her understanding of the Scriptures, like the Pharisees, is not based on the Scriptures’ intended application. There is only the possibility of communicating the proper boundaries within the set limits of the Scriptures when a Christian has grasped its clear and full implications (Clarke, 2001, Power Bible CD).

In the New Testament especially in the celebrated Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus usually referred to Himself as the authority. His declarations were not prefaced with “Thus says the Lord. ” To His disciples, He says “You have heard that it was said to those of old. . . but I say to you. . . .” This clearly points to the authority on Jesus. This does not mean though that Jesus was subverting the authority of God, for He Himself was God in the flesh (Jn. 1:1-3,14); He was the second Person of the Trinity manifested in the flesh.

One of the things that He was pointing out among others was the fact that the Pharisees of His day were in grave error following the traditions of their elders, and in this particular case, in their interpretation of many scriptures. Hence, He said, “You have heard it was said. . . but now I say to you. . . .” The apostles after Him followed suit. In all of their letters they derived authority from the words of Jesus. Their letters, to put it simply, were just elaborations of Christ’s teachings (Riggs, 2nd Ed. ) Conclusion

Embracing a more Biblical approach, becoming less philosophical and laden with such themes as the absoluteness of God’s sovereignty, the world’s being under God’s righteous judgment, God’s initiative in revealing Himself and His redemptive plan in Jesus Christ, are the essential “tools” that a Biblical counselor must possess in order to present the true condition of men and persuade him/her to change. The following characteristics then must be inculcated in a Biblical counselor 1. ) Lofty View of Holy Scriptures.

This is to uphold the conviction of the reformers about the Word of God and endeavor to clarify any theological subjects in the light of the revelation that is in the Bible. Like many effective pastors or counselors, the Bible alone is authoritative for life in general. It is the rule of faith for Christians, like a solid and strong immovable post in a pier where the anchor of the ship is fastened securely. The Word of God is the object of the Christians’ faith. It’s not of course a matter of God versus His Word. The entire Holy Scriptures derived its authority from God.

But since it was God who spoke them, Scriptures therefore are without question normative and authoritative. The Scriptures are the touchstone on which all so-called traditions, existential experiences, and reasonings must be tested. When any of these are found contrary to God’s revealed will in the Scriptures, they can be discarded without any scruple for the true church of Christ. According to Barth (McCormack, 1995), to interpret and apply the Bible properly, one must observe certain basic rules. And one of the basics is that the interpreter must subject himself/herself to the authority of the Bible.

What is the central theme of the passage? What is its subject matter? The reader then has to subordinate his thoughts and his personal convictions to the revelation that God has provided for us in His Word – the Bible. In fact, the ultimate goal of the counselor is to develop and establish the “counselee” for a dependence on God’s word. The reader’s humble subjection of self to the wisdom of the Scriptures was his exercise of freedom. The result of this continual subordination is transformation. The interpreter is being transformed in the process of grasping what God has revealed.

2. ) Dynamic Application of Biblical Truths. To be reverent and true to Biblical revelation, one needs not to confine himself to the lingo of the ancient cultures through which the Biblical narratives and the actual words of the prophets were written. The reader and interpreter can speak the ideas conveyed through ancient cultures in contemporary ways. It’s not insubordination to teach the Bible thus. In fact, it’s the whole point of hermeneutics – to bridge the wide cultural gap. To be unimaginative in one’s handling of the Scriptures is tantamount to parroting mere words.

There has to be fresh application if there will be change. Lack of imagination is sometimes proof of not being influenced or shaped by the ideas read. Readers have to engage and interact mentally with the passages of the Bible so that a fruitful meditation would express itself in lively and engaging discourse. 3. ) Christocentric (Christ-Centered). Jesus Christ is the primary theme of the whole Scriptures. It has been mentioned above that to Barth’s high view of the Bible, it was necessary for the interpreter to subordinate him/herself to particular text’s subject.

And since, Jesus Christ is the central theme of the Bible, it is necessary to interpret Biblical passages in the light of His person. Jesus Christ is the unifying subject in all of the books of the Bible. But looking at Luke 24:27-45, and realizing that it was Jesus Himself who first advocated this methodology, it thus comes as a necessity to find the Christ in every passage of Biblical books; or at the least, sense a foreshadowing (in the Old Testament) of His coming redemptive sacrifice. Jesus alone can give unity among scriptural texts. 4. ) Passage-Based Interpretation.

Karl Barth (McCormack, 1995) believes that although interpreters often bring with them their presuppositions as they approach the text, the mistake of using the Biblical text as vehicle to transmit one’s belief, can be avoided through the interpreter’s direct encounter with the objective truth as found in the biblical passage. The real meaning or intention of the author of the text is objectively separated from the interpreter. And so, to properly apply exegetical work on the passage, a serious examination of historical background, and serious study of the text’s linguistic composition must be considered thoroughly.

5. ) Bound By True Church’s Essential and Classic Teachings. Like Apostle Paul, a counselor then must also believe that s/he is just a recipient of essential Christian teachings (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It would be sinful for him/her to doubt nor innovate on established biblical truths. Reference: Atkinson, R. L. , R. C. Atkinson, E. E Smith, D. J. Bem, and S. Nolen-Hoeksema (2000). Introduction to Psychology. 13th Ed. New York: Harcourt College Publishers. Clarke, Adam (2001). Commentary to Matthew. Power Bible CD. Corey, Gerald (2004).

Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Thomson Learning, USA. Corey, Gerald (200). The Art of Integrative Counseling. Article 29: “Designing an Integrative Approach to Counseling Practice” Retrieved February 20, 2009 in < http://counselingoutfitters. com/vistas/vistas04/29. pdf> Crabb, Larry (2000). Found in Anderson et al resource. Christ-centered therapy. http://books. google. com/books? id=Rn- f2zL01ZwC&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=effective+biblical+counseling+by+larry+crabb +critique&source=web&ots=WFVYLIqP1n&sig=MqIhqE_XfGzIQODAKV5iMPjqz14# PPA19,M1

Davison, Gerald C. and John M. Neale (2001). Abnormal Psychology. Eighth ed. John & Wiley Sons, Inc. Ellis, Albert (2001. Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational E)motive Behavior Therapy. Prometheus Books Kaplan, HI, BJ Saddock and JA Grebb (1994). Kaplan and Saddock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences clinical psychiatry. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins. MacArthur, John (2008). Abandoned By God. Date Accessed: February 19, 2009. http://www. gty. org/Resources/Transcripts/45-14 McCormack, Bruce L. (1995).

Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology. Published by Oxford University Press Inc. , New York. Pokrifka-Joe, Todd (2002). Appropriating Karl Barth's Theological Use of Scripture in Contemporary Theology. Proposed Doctoral Thesis in Theology at the University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK. Date Accessed: February 17, 2009 at http://www. luthersem. edu/ctrf/Papers/2001_Pokrifka-Joe. htm Riggs, Ralph. The Life of Christ. 2nd ed. Scripture Quotations from New King James Bible (The Holy Bible, New King James Version. 1982). Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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