“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
Me and several others from our staff will be speaking the rest of this week at the International Association of Biblical Counselors annual conference in Denver, CO. Conferences like this tend to draw both positive and negative comments. Critics of biblical counseling say that we discount feelings and emotions, that we are all about blasting people with the Bible and are sometimes harsh and lack love and are even condemning of them.
I do not believe that a person who looks to the example of Christ as our Wonderful Counselor and follows His example could be accused of this. Christ was loving, truthful, honest, confrontational, discerning, wise, and a host of other things.
He did not excuse sin, He called people to repentance, and He expected change in the hearts and lives of those who heard the truth. He understood the emotional component of a person, and how emotions can sway their actions. He challenged them not to live by their feelings, but to live in obedience to His commands, and He gave the Christian the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable them to do that.
Jesus ministered to the whole person. He healed their physical ailments and often used their physical ailments to point to their spiritual sickness or their spiritual needs. He ministered to the material man and the immaterial man.
The Bible makes a distinction between the “outer man” and the “inner man,” material and immaterial.
The material man is all that you can touch- flesh, bones, and organs. The outer man is that part of man that is subject to decay. (2 Cor. 4:16). Disease process occurs in the outer man and when a person has a disease it is said they have an organic problem. Organic or biological problems are the domain of the physician who provides medical care.
The immaterial man is everything that you cannot see or touch - It includes your mind, will, emotions, spirit, soul, thoughts, beliefs, desires, feelings, and conscience. The inner man refers to the immaterial or spiritual man that is either dead (Eph. 2:1-3) or alive (Eph. 2:4-10). This is the domain of the biblical counselor who provides soul-care.
Many of the cases I deal with in our counseling center have both a medical and spiritual component. There are times I must work with a physician because some diseases have as a side effect emotional problems and there are times I have to work in cooperation with a counselee’s psychiatrist as the counselee desires to be weaned off psych meds. I will work with nutritionists when a counselee has an eating disorder as well.
I suppose there are some hard-line counselors who are inflexible in their thinking still out there. I am not one of them; so while I do not favor medication as a general rule, I understand that there are times it is unavoidable. I leave that decision to the doctor and patient relationship.
I am not there to discount or deny their medical or psychiatric diagnosis, but I will most certainly help a counselee to see their diagnosis through biblical terminology, and help them understand it from a biblical perspective. The Bible says that whatever is spiritual proceeds from the heart and the heart is the battleground for the mind, will, and emotions.
Biblical counselors believe emotional and behavior problems have either an organic (biological) cause or a spiritual cause. We view man’s emotions, perceptions, cognitive abilities, and behavior as having their origin in biological functions. We also believe that the connection between the biological interacts with the living soul or spirit given to each of us by God.
A person’s spiritual condition will determine what he does with his thoughts, emotions, perceptions and behaviors. We cannot separate the physical actions and attitudes from the spiritual aspects of a person. This is the realm of the Biblical Counselor, and what each of us will present on throughout the conference.
We would appreciate your prayers as we go this week for health, safety, and divine enablement to speak truth to softened hearts.