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Scripture and Counseling Author Q&A, Part 2

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November 12, 2014

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Author Interview Q & A Part 2, with Bob Kellemen

BCC Staff Note: In this Biblical Counseling Coalition author interview Q & A, we connected with Bob Kellemen, our Executive Director. Bob is the General Editor for the new Biblical Counseling Coalition book, Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World. As Bob notes in the interview, Scripture and Counseling was collaboratively written by over twenty leaders in the biblical counseling world. We had so much we wanted to learn about this important new book that we’ve divided our interview with Bob into two parts. In this post—Part 2—you’ll learn what we mean by important terms like “the sufficiency of Scripture,” “the authority of Scripture,” and “the profundity of Scripture.” You can read Part 1 of our interview here.

You can learn more about the book at our BCC Scripture and Counseling page. And you can order a copy of Scripture and Counseling at more than 40% off at our BCC bookstore.

BCC: “What questions about counseling was Scripture and Counseling written to address?” 

BK: “Unfortunately, most counseling done among Christians today is shaped less by biblical wisdom and more by secular psychological theories: who we are, what motivates and influences us, what can facilitate change in our lives. And most counseling among Christians is shaped less by biblical relational practices and more by secular therapies: what helps people change. Many Christian counselors seem to believe that a secular worldview and a secular way of people helping are more relevant than God’s Word. There’s a false assumption that the Bible’s main concern only relates to a small slice of life—the ‘spiritual stuff.’

Scripture and Counseling addresses those concerns by showing us that everything is spiritual and that theology is for all of life. God’s Word is robustly, richly, relationally relevant for how we respond to suffering, for how we understand and handle our emotions, for how we deal with habitual or addictive behaviors, for how we respond to intrusive, unhealthy thoughts, and for how we love others even in the most difficult of relationships.

Scripture and Counseling addresses questions about the role that the Bible ought to play and can play in counseling. Is it necessary—and if so, how? How can it be useful for modern-day problems of living? What exactly does the Bible offer for daily life beyond how to ‘get saved’?”

BCC: “A term used often in discussions about counseling is ‘sufficiency of Scripture.’ Yet, in Scripture and Counseling your co-authors used a number of synonymous terms such as the ‘authority of Scripture,’ the ‘relevance of Scripture,’ the ‘robustness of Scripture,’ and the ‘profundity of Scripture.’ Why were these terms chosen and what do they imply?”

BK: “First, all these words reflect a foundational trust in God’s Word—the same type of trust the apostle Paul communicated to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 when he said, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’

Second, in modern discussions about counseling, ‘sufficiency of Scripture’ became a ‘buzzword’ and so it lost its meaning. At times some misinterpreted sufficiency to mean that because the Bible’s sufficient, we ignore all valid scientific research or medical findings—this is untrue.

Third, that’s why in Scripture and Counseling we wanted to carefully and robustly define ‘sufficiency,’ while at the same time explaining how other terms relate to the counseling process. Here are some succinct summaries that we develop much further in the book:

  • ‘Sufficiency of Scripture’ means Scripture thoroughly equips us with the wisdom we need to become more like Christ in every area of life—our relationships, our mental health, our motivations and actions, and our emotional health.
  • ‘Authority of Scripture’ emphasizes that God is affectionately sovereign in our lives and not only has the sole right to tell us how to live, but has all the wisdom we need for life.
  • ‘Relevance of Scripture’ highlights the practicality of Scripture for guiding us in all our real life issues, daily challenges, and relationships.
  • ‘Robustness of Scripture’ says that Scripture offers us wisdom for living that is vital, rich, deep, and life-giving, rather than shallow or surface.
  • ‘Profundity of Scripture’ communicates that biblical teaching touches the very core of our lives; its teaching does not promote superficial change, but rich heart change.”

BCC: “Though Scripture and Counseling uses terms in addition to the ‘sufficiency of Scripture,’ it does use ‘sufficiency of Scripture.’ How is that term typically used in discussions about the Bible and counseling? How does Scripture and Counseling nuance the word perhaps somewhat differently?”

BK: “In the broader Evangelical counseling arena, ‘sufficiency’ tends to be restricted to topics like salvation and general ethical principles. Or, as I’ve mentioned, at other times it has been misinterpreted to mean that we ignore all valid research and medical findings—which is not what the term means. In Scripture and Counseling, we show how the Bible’s sufficiency extends to how we think about three central areas that every counseling approach must address:

  • How to understand people: the question of who we are;
  • How to diagnose problems: the question of what went wrong; and
  • How to prescribe solutions: the question of how people change.

The Bible provides us with sufficient, authoritative, relevant, robust, and profound wisdom that addresses all of life’s ultimate questions. The Bible sufficiently provides what we need so that as we face suffering and fight sin we can grow in Christlikeness in every area of life: relationally, rationally, volitionally, and emotionally.”

BCC: “How is biblical counseling, as developed in Scripture and Counseling, different from other models or approaches to counseling that we might find in the Christian/biblical counseling world?”

BK: “There are approaches to counseling in the Christian world that primarily rely upon secular psychological theories of people, problems, and solutions in their development of their counseling theory. In these approaches, the Bible’s teaching about human nature and life becomes something of an ‘add-on’ or ‘addendum’ to the secular thinking, or are blended with the secular worldview. There are other approaches to counseling in the Christian world that may reflect a shallow use of Scripture—the one verse—one problem—one solution view. Here biblical truth is applied, but not within the whole counsel of God.

In Scripture and Counseling, we use the Bible’s teaching about people, problems, and solutions as our foundation rather than as an ‘add-on’ to an otherwise secular model. The Bible shapes the way we think about and do counseling—how we view and use the Bible for counseling. And the Bible shapes the way we apply truth to life—compassionately and comprehensively, with winsome wisdom that relates God’s Word robustly and relationally to life in a broken world.”

BCC: “What role does psychological theory play in the development of a biblical counseling model?”

BK: “The key word in this question is the word ‘theory.’ Secular psychological theories are attempts to explain fundamental aspects of our lives. They are attempts to understand the creature through the creature—through human reasoning. In biblical counseling, we seek to understand the creature through the Creator—through divine revelation. This leads to understanding people, diagnosing problems, and prescribing solutions—biblically.

Because biblical counseling theory-building is really theology-building, secular counseling theories do not play a foundational role in biblical counseling. However, they have historically played a secondary role—a catalytic role—raising questions we might not have considered. We then take those questions back to Scripture for God’s wisdom for living.”

BCC: “What role does scientific/psychological research play in the development of a biblical counseling model?”

BK: “The Bible’s sufficiency for life in a broken world does not mean that it contains every piece of information. Thus, psychological research can be a valid area of study that I would personally see as part of the Creation Mandate to subdue and rule our planet.

Here’s a personal example of how I have used psychological research in submission to God’s revelation. In my book, God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I start by sharing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model of grieving for death and dying. Her research states that when people face death, they typically respond with a pattern that moves through stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and then Acceptance. I took that research and said, ‘Let’s assume that this is a typical pattern of responding to death in a fallen world. What does the Bible teach about a healthy, Christ-centered response to grief?’ I then studied the Bible cover to cover and developed a biblical approach to stages of grief where the Bible helps us to move from Denial to Candor, from Anger to Lament, from Bargaining to Crying out to God, from Depression to finding Comfort in God, and from mere Acceptance to Worshipping God and ministering to others.”

BCC: “You’re the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC). What is the BCC’s mission and how does Scripture and Counseling advance that mission?”

BK: “The Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) was launched in 2011 with the mission of advancing the ministry of the biblical counseling movement through unity and excellence in biblical counseling. We have on our BCC BOD and CB over 60 leading pastors, authors, counselors, and educators in the biblical counseling movement. We have a robust website with daily blogs, weekly book reviews, and over 1,000 free resources related to biblical counseling and Christian living.

The Coalition has always pursued the twin tasks of collaborative relationships and robust resources. Scripture and Counseling brings these two goals together as it provides a robust resource for the Christian community that was collaboratively produced by almost two dozen biblical counseling leaders.”

BCC: “How can people learn more about Scripture and Counseling?”

BK: “At the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s website people can download the Foreword, Preface, and Introduction to Scripture and Counseling. They can also read endorsements, quotes of note, and an author interview Q & A. And at the BCC Store people can purchase a copy of Scripture and Counseling at 40% off. Of course, the book can also be purchased at all online book stores such as Amazon and CBD.”

BCC: “Thank you, Dr. Kellemen, for making the time to help our readers learn more about this important new Biblical Counseling Coalition book, Scripture and Counseling.”

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