Counseling the Heart Through Proper Thinking

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Ever since Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, human thinking has been marred by sin. People distort truth, embellish stories, and abuse others with their words. The absolute truth-telling that exists in the mind of God is unfortunately uncommon in His Creation. In this paper, I will focus specifically on how sin has affected the world’s approach in counseling, and whether that approach can be redeemed through biblical counseling.

“We can show you the way to a happy, fulfilled, self-actualized living.”

This is the world’s approach to counseling. It is focused on the self, control, power, and the potential within rather than a way that honors God.[1] For example, Sigmund Freud believed the problem of the individual was societal because it built a wrong set of values into the individual—causing guilt. Thus, instead of owning up to one’s own mistakes, Freud advised the individual to blame shift his wrongful behavior.

This is counter-intuitive to the Bible. When God confronted Adam about eating from the tree, he said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (Gen. 3:12).” Adam not only blamed the woman, who is part of his environment, but he also blamed God for creating her. Then, when God confronted Eve, she also blamed her environment. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate (Gen. 3:13).” God was looking for both of them to confess their sins and take responsibility. By doing so, God forgives and purifies us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).

Another secular-focused counselor, B.F. Skinner, believed all humans were conditional animals. His treatment plan consisted of rearranging the environmental expectations by reprogramming the person through the use of reward and punishment. By training the person to behave in a manner acceptable to society, he or she would adapt and become fulfilled.

However, this mode of thinking doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. God’s word not only tells us to change our sinful behavior—anger, deceit, sexual deviance, bitterness, etc. He also tells us to replace those ill-behaved mannerisms because God’s word teaches us to conform to the image of Christ, not the image of society.

Carl Rogers, the founder of the humanistic approach to counseling, believed humans are essentially good and have the innate ability to handle their own problems. His treatment plan was to listen to individuals and urge them to look within themselves to discover their own solutions. He encouraged his clients to find their own solutions through self-discovery.

It is true that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and can find solutions through self-reflection and introspection. However, the word of God teaches that we have a wicked and deceitful heart. We are not to lean on our own understanding, but rather let the Lord direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

In conclusion, it is evident there are differences between secular-based thinking and biblical thinking. The world’s approach says man is essentially good, the environment is the main problem, and truth can be found through deep introspection. The Bible says man is essentially sinful, the environment and individual responsibility are the main problems, and truth is found in God (Jn. 14:6), not within our human psyche.

Logically, since both of these worldviews are diametrically opposed, only one of them can be right. In my opinion, I think the biblical perspective is truer because it corresponds more closely to reality. What are your thoughts? Please feel free to comment below.

[1] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, p. 166.

7 comments

    1. Kia, did you just read the same post I did? The author cherry-picked “bad” examples from the history of psychology, some misrepresented, and then drew a false dichotomy between that (“secular-focused psychology,” a non sequitur) and a poorly conceived, proof-texted “biblical approach.” He’s not going to make sense of this for us. This is the intersection of theo-babble and special pleading. It’s where reason goes to die. Get out while you still can!

      1. still, it would be nice if just one would admit honestly that gen 3 itself doesn’t say anything of the kind. vain hope probably, but a man can dream, right? -KIA

      2. Hey Cole, thanks for your comments. By the way, I went to your website and read a couple of your articles. Looks like you have a firm grasp on philosophy, science, theology, and psychology. I also found it interesting to read your co-bloggers testimony from Evangelicalism to Atheism. Ironically, I went through the exact opposite experience. Beginning as a skeptic, I investigated the claims of Theism, and particularly Christianity, and found these world views to be more consistent with reality and more logically coherent than Naturalism.

        Moreover, I enjoyed reading your thought experiment concerning slavery in the Old Testament. A good book I would suggest, if you haven’t read it already, is Paul Copan’s book “Is God a Moral Monster?” It helps answer some contextual questions about the Old Testament in it’s relation to Ancient Near Eastern History. I still have questions myself and would be dishonest if I told you I don’t wrestle with the same issues you brought up. I graduated with my M.Div from Southern Seminary and still haven’t scratched the surface with many of these questions. If you want to have a deeper dialogue, please let me know. I’d be happy to learn more from your perspective.

        In your comment section, you wrote a few things about my article. Let me first mention this article was a surface-level approach to secular based counseling versus biblical counseling. My intention was not to create a mischaracterization of the viewpoints but to paint with a broad brush to encapsulate the main beliefs each secularist had.

        For instance, Freud did in fact believe the remnants of religion were embedded in our culture. There was no escape from it, even for the unbeliever. For instance, Freud writes in his essay Civilization and Discontents (1939) the following: “Thus we know of two origins of the sense of guilt: one arising from fear of an authority, and the other, later on, arising from fear of the super-ego. The first insists upon a renunciation of instinctual satisfactions; the second, as well as doing this, presses for punishment, since the continuance of the forbidden wishes cannot be concealed from the super-ego.” p. 74

        Freud had a problem with this. The notion of sin was only a false guilt to cause people to conform to societal values. He believed this fear tactic from the religious elite was used to control the people, similar to Marx: “Religion is the opiate for the masses.” Consequently, Freud said, don’t believe what you hear. When the church says you should be in a monogamous relationship, that’s their own value system. Rearrange your values. You create your own value. Don’t allow the superego and civilization to suppress your instinctual nature. The instinctual nature is a good thing. It’s not a sin. Sin is a delusion. Give power to the id, and eventually the id will overcome the superego.

        Next, you said I created a false dichotomy between secular psychology and biblical psychology. When I use the term “psyche” I am referring to the study of the soul. Hence, I am arguing secularists study the soul very differently than biblicists study the soul. Am I saying there are no redemptive qualities in secular-based counseling? No. For instance, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a practical tool used, regardless if one believes in a god or not. It’s been proven empirically that thoughts affect feelings, and feelings affect behavior. This methodological approach can be used in biblical counseling as well.

        I am also a fan of the secular Psychologist Hobart Mowrer, who started treating patients with respect and dignity through group therapy rather than drugging them up and treating them subhuman. He makes a fascinating statement as an unbeliever in his book Sin, the Lesser of Two evils. “For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is, to have the excuse of being sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost… In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of selfhood and identity, and with neurotics, themselves, we find ourselves asking: Who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living mean?”

        Let me give you the non-sequitor, affirming a disjunctive, which I think is what you accused me of doing:

        A is true or B is true. – Secular counseling is true or Biblical counseling is true.
        B is true. – Biblical Counseling is true.
        Therefore, A is not true.* – Therefore, Secular counseling is not true.

        This is not what I did. My point was to point out the mutually exclusive positions within the theories. For instance, Rogers thought man was essentially good. The Bible believes man is essentially bad. Freud thought guilt was false. The Bible says guilt is real. These are two axiomatic principles that are either true or false. I think it fits more in the line of the law of non-contradiction. Both can not be true. Either guilt is real or guilt is not real. They can’t both be true in the same way. Just like a circle can’t be a non-circle. A square by definition can not be a circle. It’s the laws of logic.

        In conclusion, I never created a non-sequitor where my conclusion didn’t follow my premises. I believe that Freud’s view of guilt is wrong because I think true guilt is real. If one could demonstrate to me, through reasoning, Freud has a wrong position, then I would be willing to change my mind. For now, I am asserting: “It is more rational to believe guilt is real than guilt being false.”

        Thanks for reading through this lengthy rebuttal. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Have a great day!

    2. Hey Kia, great question. From a theological perspective, the Bible teaches that sin has fractured all foundations of our being. This includes the will, emotions, and the mind. For instance, Jesus said love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Thus, this presupposes we are to honor God through logic and reason.

      Before Adam and Eve sinned, there was no cognitive awareness of shame, regret, uncertainty, falsity, or mistrust. Everything was in perfect harmony. However, once the fall occurred, Adam and Eve became “aware” of their shame, not just emotionally, but also rationally. They knew (gnosis) their sin and hid from God as the Bible says.

      Let me give you a practical example. When someone has anxiety issues and panic attacks, it not only affects them emotionally but also physiologically. For instance, ulcers in the stomach result as one “thinks” upon fearful circumstances.

      You also have in the brain the amygdala which is responsible for sending a flight or fight response when one is in danger. If one is constantly worried, he or she can use up all the natural mechanisms in the body that secretes endorphins; this can even alter the brain structure. People with post traumatic stress disorder have changes in brain structure.

      My argument is simply the way you think has an enormous effect on your emotions, will, and cognition. When Jesus said “do not worry,” he was not using some nice aphorism for spiritual enlightenment. He was legitimately saying that when we worry in an unhealthy way, it’s sin and we need to evade that. Otherwise, we can suffer biologically. Of course there are times when panic helps us get out of a dangerous situation, but if it’s chronic, we can suffer from that.

      In conclusion, one must first adopt the worldview of theism and the supernatural before believing whether or not the fall happened historically. If one has a closed system of the universe where God doesn’t exist, then these cognitive dysfunctions will be explained via naturalistically. However, your question wasn’t about the existence of God. Therefore, I am assuming you already believe what the Bible says, not as a myth, but an actual event that occurred. If you have doubts about the validity of the Bible, then one must begin with other sets of philosophical questions.

      Thanks again for your reply. If you have any additional questions, I will do my best to answer them. God bless and have a great day!

  1. Maybe it would be helpful if I asked you the question, How do you interpret Genesis 3? Why do you think Adam and Eve’s minds were not changed when they disobeyed God? Thanks.

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