Is Modern Psychology Contrary To Biblical Counseling?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Is modern day psychology contrary to biblical teaching and biblical counseling?

Psychology

Have you heard the term “Modern Psychology?” If you have, you’re not alone. Today’s psychology is much different than that which was practiced only a few decades ago. The chief goal of modern psychology is to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles through research by using human standards. This is done with the idea of benefiting the health and well-being of everyone, but is that possible? Modern Psychology consists of at least these three things: The scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context; the mental characteristics or attitude of a person or group of people; and the mental and emotional factors governing a certain situation or activity. There are however, several different categories of psychology, like Biological Psychology, Behavioral Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Cross-Cultural Psychology, Psychodynamic Psychology, and even Evolutionary Psychology, which the latter tries to explain how evolution could explain specific psychological processes that take place in the evolution of mankind. The problem with all of these specific categories is that not one of them address the spiritual needs of the person or persons, and anything that’s not attached to biblical counseling is only more of the same human philosophy of self-improvement by human means. In the end, it all comes to nothing. I am not speaking about biblical counseling or psychology that leans toward Scripture, but a detached-from-God psychology that doesn’t even have God in the picture. Without God, all human efforts will end in futility.

Counsel of Friends

The Bible speaks a lot about counseling, some of it is good but some is decidedly bad, like where the Psalmist wrote, ”Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1). If you get counsel of the wicked, you’ll get ungodly counsel, but primarily, it is “the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7), and “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). Human-oriented counseling will only last for a time, but God’s counsel stands forever because it is based upon the truth of God’s Word so the psalmist knew of God, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm73:24). I am not saying counseling is not good. It can help very much. Many marriages have been saved by marriage counseling, but it must be based upon the objective truth of God’s Word and not the subjective truth of modern psychology. Solomon knew that “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov 11:14), since “Plans are established by counsel” (Prov 20:18a). Before people make major life-changing decisions, it’s always wise to share your plans with others because “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (Prov 21:30), so if you are counseling with a Christian, and particularly someone who has received biblical training, you are more likely to receive godly counsel than that which comes from man. Biblical counselors don’t usually “shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), but if it’s not counsel with a godly perspective, then it will come to nothing in the end.

God’s Counsel

Maybe you’ve had biblical counseling before. Maybe it was for a marriage or relationship or even counsel in making a decision, but unless it stands on the Word of God, it is on sinking sand because any counsel without referencing Scripture is ultimately only putting a band-aide on a cancer. Isaiah the Prophet wrote, “let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it” (Isaiah 5:19)! Our counsel can be good or bad but God declares, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10b). Ancient Israel rejected the counsel of God through the prophets God sent, like Jeremiah, who wrote “they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (Jer 7:24), so he asks, “Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished” (Jer 49:7)? It appears it did…and today, it’s not much different. We reject the counsel of God found in the Scriptures and take up our own beliefs, and often, it’s contrary to what God’s Word says.

Biblical Counseling

If a counselor doesn’t base his or her counseling upon the foundation of the Word of God, then you’ve got unbiblical counseling and counseling that comes to naught, but if there is counsel based upon the Word of God, it’s as truthful as it gets. A couple who had been living together for over 14 years sought counsel over something that they had been going through. It was a difficult circumstance but the reason this couple was going through so many troubles is because they were seeking to please God and even seeking godly counsel, but they refused to repent of their living in sexual immorality. After telling them what the Bible says about having sex outside of marriage and that they needed to repent of that and live in separate homes until they got married, they accused me of being narrow-minded and still stuck in the first century, but it wasn’t the century I was stuck in; it was the sure foundation of the Word of God. I told them what the Bible says about their lifestyle but they justified what they were doing because of financial reasons. I finally gave up on them because they were rejecting godly counsel and leaning on what they read about modern psychology, but it wasn’t my counsel they were rejecting. It was God’s counsel from His Word. I have always wondered what happened to them.

Conclusion

Of course, we all need counsel, but it needs to be godly counsel and based upon the Word of God, or it’s only human opinion, and you can’t hang your hat on human opinion, because it varies with the times, but with Scripture, we have an unchanging standard upon which we can base our life and know that it doesn’t change with the times. God’s Word will be just as true in a million years as it will be tomorrow, and for me, that’s comforting. No counsel of God will ever do anyone any harm, but to reject biblical counseling is to reject God and His Word, and we know from experience that this will not end well, since “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov 14:12).

Learn more here: What is Biblical Counseling?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason April 5, 2017 at 11:15 am

Jack, thanks. For me, this is hitting close to home. I’m reaching the end of a terrible divorce. In the process, I found out that my son was not mine. I’ve raised him for 15 years. My future ex wife has moved his biological father into the picture within a day or so of making me move out of the house (meaning she was in touch with him and had been planning everything). I’ve been in the process of losing everything I own. I have a daughter with this woman, and my daughter lives with me every other week. Of course, about a year ago when this all began I started going to a psychologist. He helped me for a while, but it was just to take the edge off of my emotions while my life was crashing down all around me. Somehow, in this process, I remembered what Jesus said about following his instructions and building on the solid foundation. I find that as I sit in those sessions, I hear the Word within me more and more, and I seem to work it into our discussions. I don’t really think I need to go to my counselor anymore, and will soon seek to find a pastor or someone to counsel me using the Word of God. Let me give one example of how I know from my own experience that what you wrote is true: I have a girl friend (yes, I know–that is about to change) that I started seeing when I moved out (that part is a long story). Anyway, my counselor has been telling me lately not to break up with her–I’ve felt compelled to do so, and have changed my behavior radically toward her (and she can tell and it’s really upsetting her). I’ve described to him how she reacted when I told her that I wanted to go back to church–she went crazy and basically was angry because she didn’t see why she wasn’t enough for me–she insisted that we are smart people who do not need ‘myths’ to comfort us. He said, “well, she’s been a big support for you…” but from within me, I heard the Word about dark and light not being able to mix, and having no other gods…I’ve mentioned to the counselor that I’m trying to rebuild my life on a solid foundation, and I’ve talked about my renewed faith, but I think people like him think it’s just “healthy,” like taking vitamins or exercise. It’s supposed to be a part of a healthy lifestyle. They have a checklist: good diet, check; exercise, check; spiritual involvement, check…That church stuff, if they tolerate it at all, is at best something that is only there to provide comfort so we can sleep at night and never change anything about our lives. Anyway, this has gone on too long (sorry). I’m feeling compelled to witness to my counselor, to explain to him what Jesus has done for me, how I’m thankful that my life has collapsed, because it was a life built on a foundation of sand, and how the Spirit is making tangible changes to me (things about me are changing without my needing to make a crazy effort to reform, and it’s because I’m not the one doing it). I thank God that my life of comfortable lies has collapsed so that I may have a chance to live a life of truth through Christ. Thank you, brother, for this article.

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Jack Wellman April 5, 2017 at 11:28 am

Thank you too Jason for the encouragement and no, it wasn’t too long. All your comments were important. When you wrote, “I thank God that my life of comfortable lies has collapsed so that I may have a chance to live a life of truth” that is just about as awesome a statement as I’ve read outside of the Bible. Spot on brother.

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