The Sufficiency of Scripture is being attacked on multiple fronts – Sufficiency of Scripture in Counseling is especially attacked. The mental health arena is bombarded with claims that Scripture is not sufficient for counseling. Many people scoff at the idea of talking to a trained pastor about their issues of depression and anxiety. They want “a professional.” So let’s take a look at this issue. Is Scripture sufficient for counseling?
Christian Psychology and Sufficiency of Scripture
Many Christian psychologists will affirm that the Bible is authoritative, inerrant, and inspired. Their state licensing frequently requires that they not proclaim Christ as the one and only way to heaven, or that Scripture is completely sufficient for properly dealing with all areas of life. They most often do not believe that the Bible is enough.
Eric Johnson is a Christian psychologist who adamantly claims that the Bible is not sufficient for counseling. He is quick to say that the Bible is sufficient for the study of doctrine and for salvation – but not about serious counseling topics. In his book, Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal, Eric says that the biblical counseling movement constitutes an “egregious misunderstanding of … the form of the Bible.” Eric Johnson claims that the basis for the doctrine of Sufficiency of Scripture only has to do with the debates between the Catholics and the men who stood against them during the Reformation.
Eric claims that Protestants only believed in “salvific doctrinal sufficiency” – meaning it was sufficient only for the categories of salvation and other great matters of doctrinal importance, and that the great Reformers themselves did not mean for this doctrine to constitute sufficiency of scripture for all areas pertaining to life.
The Bible itself proclaims its sufficiency – Eric Johnson is just wrong on this issue. This doctrine wasn’t a new fad around the time of the Reformation, nor do we see anywhere historically that it was only implied for issues concerning salvation. Even the Bible itself boldly proclaims its sufficiency for all types of issues we will face in life. We can know that the Bible does indeed offer wisdom that can be applied to every kind of problem, and that every problem can be taken to the Cross so that we can bring God glory in midst of our problems.
Biblical Response to Sufficiency in Scripture
One of the names given to Christ is Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6.) He is who we should turn to for counsel. And His Word is where we can glean His counsel.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.” Psalm 19:7-9
- This passage shows just how sufficient Scripture is for counseling. The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The word perfect here in Hebrew can be translated “whole” or “complete” or “sufficient;” the idea that this is so comprehensive that it can completely cover all aspects of the issue at hand. Scripture can restore the soul – scripture can transform a person.
- This passage also says the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. John Macarthur says that “The Hebrew word translated ‘simple’ comes from an expression meaning ‘an open door.’ It invokes the image of a naive person who doesn’t know to shut his mind to false or impure teaching.” So when such a man submits to scripture, it can make him wise. It changes his simple mind and helps him to learn discernment.
- The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. Scripture shows us the right way to live. Life is full of chaos and it can be hard knowing which way to go – but Scripture can show us the right path. A lack of direction and a lack of purpose is depressing – but confidence and joy can be found in knowing answers to some of life biggest questions.
- David goes on to say The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. We can confidently proclaim that Scripture is not confusing or mystifying – sure there are things that are hard to fully comprehend, but as a whole, it isn’t a puzzle. God’s Word is a lamp in dark places. It is clear. This stands in contrast to the moral darkness – where men stumble and are unable to clearly see truth. God’s Word reveals truth, giving us discernment.
- The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. Scripture is perfect. Any alteration would soil or muddy the clarity. The Word is just as relevant to our lives now as it was to the lives of the people who lived during the time it was being written. Scripture is God-breathed, so it is without sin, error, or corruption. Because it God-breathed, written by the very Omniscient God Himself, it is eternal. Scripture always has been sufficient and always will be.
- The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. The Bible is the standard by which God will judge every person. John MacArthur says that “Because scripture is true, it is righteous altogether. The implication of that phrase is that its truthfulness produces a comprehensive righteousness in those who accept it.” There is no need for additional revelations. There is no need for insights from renown intellectuals.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
What does this mean? Does this mean that by studying the scripture I will not have to study an electrician's manual to be able to fix the wiring problem in my house? Absolutely not. This means that we don’t need any more special revelation. The Bible itself is the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.
Other knowledge can serve the Bible but must stand in submission to it. For example, the word “ant” in Scripture (Prov 6:6, Prov 30:25) is given without a definition of what an ant is. The Bible is relying on extra-biblical knowledge to supply that. But the Bible is sufficient to prevent us from warping what this passage is about.
Scripture Alone. God’s Word is the only infallible rule of faith for believers. We have to have a source of wisdom to turn to, an authority in which we submit to. God’s Word is theopneustos, or God-breathed. No other rule can supersede Scripture. There is no other method for hearing God’s voice today.
Truth is not subjective – truth is just truth. I don’t have my own truth, and you don’t have your own truth. That is a ridiculous and detrimental lie propagated by the devil. 2+2 has to equal four. It does not equal penguins.
Scripture has to be our ultimate authority in every aspect of our life, because Scripture rests in the authority of God Himself. There is no higher authority. If I rely on outside sources as a higher authority than Scripture, then I am relying on the sufficiency of man. But Scripture clearly teaches that man, in his unregenerate state, is at enmity against God and that the heart of man is untrustworthy. Why would I want to trust a wholly wicked and untrustworthy source of authority?
The sufficiency ofScripture dictates that the Bible contains all that we need to know what we need to believe, and how we are to live before God. This doctrine says that Scripture is sufficient for knowledge of God and that all theological affirmations must be consistent with Scripture. For example, Roman Catholics teach that Mary was conceived without original sin but this is not found anywhere in scripture. Catholics do not adhere to Sola Scriptura, and believe that the Scripture needs to be supplemented by the teachings and traditions of the church.
Scripture is sufficient also for Christian practice. The Bible teaches adequate principals which can be applied to every type of situation in which a person may find himself. This is how we develop a Biblical worldview. Scripture is also sufficient for principals applied to church organization and public worship. We know how to worship God based on how He has commanded, with singing praises, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Galatians 1:8
Sufficiency in Counseling
The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is the very core of biblical counseling. It is the entire foundation of this counseling movement. It separates Biblical Counseling from secular psychology, Christian psychology, and various other integration counseling methods. While a few of the other methods may indeed believe in the centrality of Christ in the Christians life, Biblical Counseling holds that Scripture sufficiently is able to show how Christ is relevant to every issue in life.
The goal of Biblical Counseling is to direct the counselee to Christ. We have to bring them to the Cross at every counseling encounter. It is by educating the counselee on how to have a solid biblical worldview, how to deal with sin, and how to deal with suffering rightly that we help them with their issues. We have to be completely focused on the text of scripture in order to direct the counselees to the Cross.
There are occasionally legitimate medical issues in which need to be addressed – after all, we are body, mind, and soul all joined together. All aspects of ourselves work in relation to one another. Our body is not entirely separate from our mind. And the state of our soul has a direct implication on the state of our mind. We all know too well how easy it is to slip into sins of self-centeredness and anger when we don’t feel well. But the immediate reaction to any mental health issue should not be “hey doc, you got a pill for that?”
Larry Crabb said that the Bible is sufficient “because it provides either direct information or authoritative categories for answering all questions about how life should be lived on this earth and about how it can be lived according to an effective pattern. Whenever the Bible is not explicit about a given concern, biblical categories provide a framework for thinking through an adequate response to that concern.”
To claim that Scripture is sufficient for counseling does not imply that there is not any truth claimed by psychology. God in His common grace has allowed men to discover truths now and then. At its core, the difference here is a theological one – namely, concerning the noetic effects of sin. Psychology disagrees with the Bible in this area very adamantly.
Heath Lambert said “Counseling conversations are focused on the goal of sharing wisdom with people about how to respond to the challenges of living life when problems abound. The Bible is a sufficient source of wisdom to inform these conversations such that the resources of secular psychology are completely unnecessary to those who wish to accomplish counseling success. This does not mean that secular psychologists never say anything true or helpful. It means that their findings are not necessary for counseling faithfulness, and that, when their findings oppose the Christian worldview, they are often at odds with counseling faithfulness. This also does not mean that biblical counselors reject medical science since many problems that human beings face are physical in nature, and so fall outside the bounds of the subject matter of Scripture and the competency of biblical counselors.”
We can see in the book, Counseling the Hard Cases compiled by Heath Lambert, that there are chapters on bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, panic disorder, dissociative identity disorder, etc. The Bible is shown to be sufficient for helping the clients in each of those chapters.
Biblical Counseling does not seek to correct any medical issues at hand. For example, many clients with depression and anxiety tend to be very low in their B vitamins, or may even have a genetic mutation that causes B vitamins to not be properly methylated in the body. Biblical counseling can help address the issue and can help correct a lot of the presenting symptoms through the power of Christ, while the client is seeking physical healing. Both sides of the issue need to be addressed.