I have heard that you call the Bible a textbook for counseling. How can you say that?

Easily, because that’s exactly what it is. When Jesus said that you can sum up the entire law and the prophets in the two great commandments—love God; love your neighbor—He declared it so. “How is that?” you ask. He did so because He spoke about the two prime elements that are involved in counseling: one’s relationship to God and to his neighbor. The fundamental problem with sinful man is that he loves himself rather than God and neighbor. Counseling, like the Bible, at its most basic level, is concerned with bringing people to love both.

It is with interpersonal relationships that all counselors (pagan and biblical) are concerned. People don’t come to a counselor to discuss the problems they are having with their new computer. No. They come talking about their problems with spouses, with children, with other Christians, and with their friends—their neighbors. And, when they raise questions about life, pain, meaning, and purpose and the like, though they may not realize it, they are talking about problems with God. Every complaint—and men are full of them—in the final analysis is against God. That is because of His plan and providential working of it. So, since what Scripture is all about is helping people to love God and neighbor, and because that is the stuff of which Christian counseling is made, it is right to say that the Bible is the textbook on counseling. Your counseling should fit the textbook, not the other way around. If Scripture is not your primary textbook for counseling, then there is something wrong with your counseling!

Now, as to its being a textbook: of course, it doesn’t resemble modern textbooks. But it is a textbook, nonetheless. It is God’s kind of textbook. Today, for instance, few would claim that the format of the Book of Proverbs from which students were trained for life, is a textbook format. And, by our standards, of course it is not. But by God’s standards it is the ideal textbook for learning the practical wisdom that He calls prudence, knowledge, understanding, and discernment (cf. Proverbs 1:1-7). Indeed, rather than look down our noses at the writing that Solomon and others did, it would be wise for us to learn how to use a textbook with a divine format that differs radically from ours. We might just learn much from learning differently! But we shall have to come down off our high horse to do so.

If the Bible is a textbook for counselors, they would do well to spend the lion’s share of their study devouring its pages. Anyone whose mind is marinated in Scripture will counsel differently from those whose thinking is equally influenced by Adler, Maslow, or Skinner. You soon become like that with which you spend much time. And, incidentally, the Christian has the opportunity to think about his own life in relationship to God and neighbor as he studies God’s Word in order to counsel more effectively. Study of God’s counseling textbook is edifying study. What a boon! That is certainly more than can be said for the study of other counseling textbooks.

How does God’s textbook differ from ours today? I shall mention two ways. God rarely speaks abstractly; He addresses what He has to say directly to the reader. Nor does He deal with matters academically; He deals with them in life situations. For these reasons, study of God’s textbook enables one to learn experientially, practically, as well as academically. He becomes involved with the text and its Author as he studies. Study may bring encouragement, repentance, fear, blessing, hope, challenge, and the like. As Hebrews puts it “God’s Word is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). What a wonderful counseling textbook it is! It counsels the counselor as well as provides counsel for his counselees. Surely, it behooves you to learn it well!

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583

 

         

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