by James Rudy Gray
After World War II, the development of modern psychology took on near seismic proportions. A religion of sorts had come into existence in which rituals, doctrines, and priests were present, though operating under new identities. The ancient practice of the Christian Church, the care of souls, was regarded more and more as something inadequate for the new and growing sea of difficulties and problems that seemed to beset people. In the intervening years, psychology became the discipline that more and more people trusted and the ability of the church to help hurting people with God's truth became more and more lightly regarded.
Today, Christian counselors and pastors face challenging obstacles. We face a culture that has grown to have confidence in unbelieving psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors. At the same time, our society as a whole seems to treat Christian ministers with less and less regard and respect. In our age of information and technology, we find more and more Christian people-helpers struggling with the voice of secular psychology as it challenges or contradicts the principles of divine truth.
We can certainly learn from solid research and scholarly insights about human behavior, personality, distress, and disorders. But the way we care for or treat people should bear the testimony of God's grace and truth. When the Word of God and the voice of modernity conflict, what do we do? G. Campbell Morgan once wrote that it is never the job of the preacher to catch the spirit of the age but to correct it. A Christian counselor has that same responsibility. As pastors and counselors, we must be grounded in the Bible and growing in our understanding of it. We must not yield to a new and even godless vocabulary when we minister to hurting people but share eternal truths from God. Sickness and sin are not synonymous!
Robert Kellemen, director of theology and pastoral counseling for the American Association of Christian Counselors, has written: "Theologically informed Christian counselors diligently dig to uncover the buried treasure of truth found in God's Word." Good Christian counselors, whether they are pastors or professional counselors, must be students of God's Word. We must not simply know the theories and methodologies of secular counseling; we must more importantly know the Word of God. Our clients deserve the truth of God.
We are facing great political pressure as counselors when we deal with issues like homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, immorality, drug and alcohol use, etc. We must have a standard of truth that not only works but is right. Only God's Word fully fills that role. God's Word makes it clear that adultery, lying, homosexuality, etc., are sins. Christians who are called to help others must not try to explain away sin or redefine it, but in a caring and loving manner reveal God's truth as we counsel people. We must meet people where they are and help them move forward in positive and definite spiritual development. Repentance of sin is not reserved for church services or personal devotion only, but is necessary in the course of Christian counseling as well.
Tim Clinton, president of AACC, and George Ohlschloger, attorney and senior editor of Christian Counseling Today, have written: "Every one of us, as therapists, as Christians, as persons of integrity, has to choose whether we are going to yield to God's way/truth/life as He revealed it in the Scriptures, or accommodate ourselves to the Spirit of the age."
We can learn from the secular world of research and study, but that research can never be our authority for ministry. In fact, the information modern psychology offers us should be carefully weighed against the Word of God. When ideas or ideologies conflict, our choice should always be for and not against the clear teaching of God's revealed truth.
James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.