Can Secular Psychology and Biblical Counseling Find Common Ground?

Common grace is the blessing God bestows upon every created being, both the saved and the unsaved. Examples of common grace include the beauty of nature, intellectual discovery, moral accountability, relationship building, and physical health.[1] In this paper, I will explain whether secular Psychologists use common grace to properly diagnose the human condition or oppose the biblical counseling worldview through their own humanistic methodology.

God gives common grace to the intellectual world, but not when it contradicts the true nature of reality. For instance, Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory asserts man is not responsible for his sin, but the Bible makes it clear “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).” Furthermore, Carl Rogers, the founder of Person-Centered Therapy, makes a similar contradiction—man is essentially good and needs no outside help.[2] This viewpoint contradicts the Psalmist, who declares our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth (Ps. 121:1; 124:8). Hence, it’s impossible to reconcile these divergent views.

Does this therefore mean all non-Christian guidance is valueless? Not at all. The help of a secular medical doctor is crucial in Christian counseling. In Dr. Mack’s book, he states: “Viral infections, hepatitis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism are all associated with depression. It may be relieved or eliminated simply by the correct diagnosis and treatment of a medical problem from a Physician.”[3] In addition, there are some secular principles that may help illustrate or strengthen a biblical principle. For instance, the Cognitive Behavior Therapy has a diagram which depicts how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors all influence each other without mentioning God. This principle can still be taken from CBT and applied into a God-focused worldview.

Therefore, the methodology of biblical counseling should not be syncretized into a Rogerian, Freudian, or Skinnerian approach. This will only lead to a confusing, eclectic viewpoint.[4] Instead, a non-Christian principle should be scrutinized first by its philosophical, theological, and biblical foundation before determining whether it should be implemented into Christian counseling.

In conclusion, common grace helps find common ground in Psychology. The moral and intellectual realm are still recognizable by both believers and non-believers, since everyone is created in the image of God. Furthermore, all humans have a conscience that bears witness to what is right and wrong (Rom. 2:15). The question then becomes: “Who is honestly using their mental faculties to find this truth?” If one is not willing to accept self-evident truth—such as man’s proclivity towards sinful behavior, the responsibility of the individual to turn from what is wrong rather than blame shifting, true guilt as a result of sin, and treatment found in God rather than some inner potential, then it’s impossible to reconcile the two. It’s my hope both sides will take a critical view regarding their own position and attempt to find some common ground without compromising their position.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: MI: Intervarsity Press, 1994 (658-660).

[2] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, p.8.

[3] Wayne Mack, Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005).

[4][4] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, p.92.

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