The Sufficiency of Scripture for Counseling
Men and women were created in the image of God.[i] The image of God consists of true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.[ii] In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had true knowledge. Their minds could understand the mind of God expressed in creation. They walked and talked with God thereby they had true knowledge. While they did not know exhaustively, what they knew, they knew accurately. The law of God, being written on their hearts, instructed them how to use their knowledge in a manner that was congruent with the character of God, they had true righteousness. As the only created beings with these capacities, they were separated from the rest of the creatures, they had “true holiness”. Their fall into sin impacted every aspect of their being. Having sought to “be like God”, that is to determine for themselves what is good and evil, their possession of “true knowledge” and “true righteousness” was marred in every facet, thus they were no longer truly holy. Their fallen condition prevented them from fulfilling their created purpose, expressed in the dominion mandate and so mankind has experienced dis-integration and frustration in every aspect of our being (psychological, emotional, spiritual, mental… whatever labels you choose to use).
Sinful men and women seek to deal with their “dis-integration” through a variety of psychiatric or psychological methods. These methodologies, being based on false presuppositions about anthropology, theology, metaphysic, epistemology, and ethics are in fact suppressions of the truth that end in destruction.[iii]
Question #1 of The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. The central, and most important (e.g. “chief”), goal (end) to which men are to be moving is to glorify God. The glory of God is His heaviness (importance). What is important about God? His character! (Love, mercy, justice, wisdom, etc…) Counseling must seek to restore mankind in their ability to fulfill their created purpose, their “chief” end. Anything less is abject failure.
God being rich in mercy has established the gospel as our source of redemption and healing. In the gospel, God promises: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”[iv] When the law is written on our hearts, we live in congruence with the purposes of God and the character of God. We begin to obey the law, not as a means to earn salvation, but as a result of it. When this happens we experience what it means for “life to go well for us”.[v] When the law is written upon our hearts we begin to demonstrate the character of God to the world. We glorify God by making his character (his glory) manifest. We “work out” or make manifest what God is working in us.[vi]
Writing of the law upon our hearts is a central part of the gospel and lies at the heart of what Paul means when he exhorts the Roman believers to “be transformed by the renewal of their minds”.[vii] This must be the goal of all counseling: the application of the scriptures to the heart and mind of the counselee. To “be transformed by the renewing of their minds”, the law of God must be written on their hearts and minds. Only the law of God written on the counselee’s heart and mind will restore them in the image of God. Only as a restored image bearer can the counselee find the ability to fulfill his/her created purpose. Only then will the counselee glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Only then will they “be whole”!
The best counseling is based on the truth of the scriptures. Only the scriptures will “renew the mind”. Only the scriptures can express the will of God. Thus, the scriptures are not only sufficient, they are central and normative, for all counseling. Thus the gospel must lead. Mere changes in behavior will only amount to moralism or legalism. When counseling, we must seek to be “workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”.[viii] We must be able to accurately diagnose how the Word of God applies to the problems at hand. Then we must speak the Word of God into the life of the counselee so that the Spirit might use it to transform and thus set them free[ix] to enjoy the abundant life that Christ died to provide for them.[x]
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and 2 grand children.
[i] Genesis 1:26-28
[ii] Eph 4:24 and Col 3:10
[iii] Read Romans 1:18-32
[iv] Jeremiah 31:33
[v] Deuteronomy 4:40; 5:16; 5:33; 6:3; 6:18
[vi] Philippians 2:12-13
[vii] Romans 12:2
[viii] 2 Tim 2:15
[ix] John 8:32
[x] John 10:10