A news report on my show Friday informed us that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (led capably by fellow CrossWalk "blogger," and personal hero, Albert Mohler) is among those fine institutions encouraging students who graduate from the Seminary to then serve through the church and related institutions. What's more, students are urged to be skeptical about any psychological analysis that ignores human sin and its effects, and to first seek wisdom from the Bible. I praise God for this position.
So often those who are called to serve through the church, and are equipped with what the church needs the most, are then compelled to take that gifting, and those talents, into private practice. Often there, the world’s notions and frame of reference concerning psychology tend to creep in. Soon, you’re helping your client understand that he's a good person, who simply did something wrong--totally out of character--caused by some external force like an addiction, or a bad scene in childhood.
We recently saw a little taste of this on the "Dr. Phil" show. Celebrity-chaser Pat O'Brien guested on the pop psychologist’s afternoon show. You’re familiar with the drill by now: Pat confesses the drunk, drugged, and dirty details of his recent debacle, caught on a telephone answering machine. Dr. Phil gets to ask the famous question--"What were you thinkin’?" O’Brien confesses that he's sorry, that "it just wasn't me." Eventually--after the appropriate public flogging--the TV therapist proclaims him to be a good father, reminds him that, "to whom much is given, much is expected," and sends Pat on his way. Granted, Dr. McGraw was pretty tough on O'Brien, the "Insider." But we all know that it takes more than a mere mea culpa to change a man.
With a sinless view of bad behavior becoming more pervasive--even in the church today--there's little wonder people are becoming confused. Born-again believers, who apprehend the notion they have been saved from the eternal consequences of their sins, often forget the most important Truth: that they have been covered by a foreign grace, and even then, only positionally. Through Christ, the ultimate penalty for the sin, not the nature itself, has been separated from the sinner; any so-called "healing" that does not recognize the temporal cause and consequences of that offense is no healing at all.
Counselors who work within the framework of a church, and who are bound by Biblical principles, work hand-in-hand with clergy, teaching and preaching truth about the ongoing battle with sin. Such messages, of course, rarely inspire a short-term up-tick in attendance, tithes and offerings. But such bold faithfulness to the clear instruction of Scripture, I believe, will inspire God’s sustained blessings on the work of that church. Indeed, as believers we are not of this world, but must temporarily reside within it. And this world desperately needs what our God, His Word, and His redeemed body has to offer.
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