The Sufficiency of the Scriptures in Counseling
The Scriptures are the only steady diet for believers to grow in the knowledge of the Lord. Not only that, but because we live in a broken world, God gave us the Bible to be the light to our paths and a lamp to our feet. Someone said, if this world is like a jungle, the Word of God is like a map. Following the Word of God will take us safely to our destination.
One of the doctrines that every born-again Christian needs to embrace wholeheartedly is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith states that “Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give knowledge of God, and His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing.”1
As far as the Scriptures are concerned, every born-again evangelical Christian has to embrace three essential doctrines. 1) The Doctrine of Inspiration of the Scriptures2. 2) The Doctrine of Inerrancy of the Scriptures3. 3) The Doctrine of the Sufficiency of the Scriptures. While the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy explain the fact that God is the author of the Bible4, the Sufficiency of the scriptures explains the fact that the scriptures are sufficient for every believer’s growth, sustenance and happiness5. In other words, the Scriptures guide the believers in all facets of life6.
Biblical Counselling is a ministry that comes under the category of Christian discipleship. If preaching is to be carried out by the elders, discipleship can be carried out by all believers in the church. Whether one is a pastor or a church member, it is only through the word of God, believers are convicted, encouraged, comforted and strengthened. There is no other substitute for believers to learn from and to be encouraged by. There is no other mechanism for believers to be transformed.
All this is to say that the Word of God is indeed sufficient for a Christian to grow in the Lord and also tackle various issues that come within his heart and without. The Word of God is comprehensive to deal with various issues in life7.
Biblical View of Medicinal Value.
Having said that, the Word of God itself gives us the freedom to pursue the benefits of human knowledge8. Since God is the source of all knowledge, Christians have the liberty to enjoy the benefits that human civilization offers (as long as they are wholesome). For example, there is nothing wrong with the current generation of Christians using Apple phones, cars, air-conditioning systems, or advanced cancer treatments. The Bible is not against human happiness9. The usage of Apple phones becomes unethical when it is stolen or the employees are subjected to torture to produce the phone. The Bible is not against technology per se. For ethical purposes, who uses it and why it is used are to be considered.
Although the Bible itself is not against medicine, the usage of psychiatric medicine becomes questionable depending on the situation. Oftentimes, medical research is based upon atheistic and evolutionary presuppositions10. As Christians, we disagree with their presuppositions but do not necessarily have to deny the usefulness of the end product. A Christian can make use of medicine in order to overcome pain11.
As far as I observe, there are two reasons why people require counselling.
1. People who suffer or struggle or lead sinful lifestyles because of sin in their lives ( Let me call this ‘Case A’).
2. People who suffer or struggle or lead sinful lifestyles because of bodily health issues ( Let me this ‘Case B’).
As far as ‘Case A’ is concerned, it is a sin issue. This is where Biblical Counselling becomes a valuable tool, both to diagnose and also to cure. For example, a person struggling with pornography is in sin. The person watching pornography may not only feel guilty about his sin, but also may struggle to communicate with people of the opposite sex in their day-to-day life. In this case, if the counselee acknowledges his sin and repents of his sin, there is hope to overcome this particular sin and lead a joyful Christian life as opposed to a guilty and miserable life.
In certain circumstances, a person may also sin or lead a sinful lifestyle because there is an inherent bodily issue (Case B). For example, if a calm person suddenly becomes angry in unusual ways, there may be a good chance that he is suffering from some form of mental illness. I am not saying that he has an excuse to sin but there is a difference between sinning intentionally and sinning under the influence of mental illness. After taking medication, if this person’s behaviour has changed, surely there was a clear connection between his behaviour before taking medicine and after taking medicine. In other words, the medicine helped him not to be angry. This is not to condone any sinful action a person commits but to say that a clear-cut connection between sin and a person’s behaviour may not be always interrelated. In a case like this, upon consulting his elders and pastors, a Christian has the liberty to explore options that medical services can provide.
Looking at it from another angle, as far as Case B is concerned, if a person says he struggles with anger problems because he is a bipolar patient, his words cannot be taken at face value. Only upon a thorough investigation (both biblical and medicinal) can a consular infer whether the counselee’s claim is genuine.
The conclusion is, at any given point in time, the usage of the Word of God cannot be relegated to the corner. Instead, it has to be the centre of the Biblical Counselling process. And, at the same time, because the Bible itself is not against technology or scientific development, without compromising biblical principles, a Christian should be given the opportunity to explore the option to alleviate pain and suffering.
May the Lord give us grace, compassion and wisdom to deal with the struggling sheep in the church. Amen!
- Joel R. Beeke et al., The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014), 2027.
- 2 Timothy 3:16.
- Psalm 12:6; 19:7, Proverbs 30:5.
- 2 Peter 1:21.
- 2 Tim 3:16-17.
- Psalm 119: 16.
- Psalm 119:33-40.
- Genesis 4:19-22, Acts 7:22, Acts 16:24
- Ezekiel 18:23.
- Read ‘Descriptions and Prescriptions’ by Michael Emlet.
- 1 Timothy 5:23.