We always begin with what we know about any subject. Because it has many aberrations, we know that this issue of psychology/biblical counseling is not a two-sided debate. Most of us very likely believe that medical assistance will never be replaced by Bible teaching. Both true medicine and Bible truth have value. As a rule, our readers appear to hold Scripture as the final authority on any matter about which it speaks. We can clearly observe that there are extremes to all positions.

With these things stipulated, we can do away with about half of the arguments surrounding this debate.

Physical medicine has value and is based on science, even though it is an incomplete knowledge, rather than an absolute, which is why our physicians are very likely to say, “We will try this or that”. It is also why almost all medicines come with warning labels – not because we know what they will do in every case, but because of the unknown factors, or “non-knowledge”. Science, after all, does have some rather severe limitations.

We know that the Bible is true and absolute in every way, with no flaws. Following the “prescriptions” of Scripture will always bring the promised results. No warning labels are needed regarding salvation or holiness; they always work. When there are problems, it is because of man’s limitations; God’s Word has none. Any perceived failure of a Bible “prescription” is due to man’s failure to use the “medicine” properly.

The ground between these two factual issues is less than stable. Any part of the physical body can be physically and scientifically studied, including the brain. The problem is that psychology has never been fully proven to be a true or exact science. While there undoubtedly is value in a secular study of the mind, we are often left with more questions than answers.

The study of behavior is an interesting one. It is possible to modify behavior by the use of mind-altering drugs. The resulting changes, however, are external. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to change the inner man. The secular approach may limit or expedite an individual’s activity, but it has no power to change the inner man permanently. For that reason, most people who are put on drugs must continue using them, or their negative behavior is likely to return.

Only God has the power to change the inner man in a permanent way, and every true believer will admit to that power. Could a reason for the high suicide rate among psychiatrists and other counselors possibly have anything to do with the severe limitations of those practices?

On the other hand, a “Christian” approach to counseling has it’s dangers. Some counselors have been accused of “throwing Bible verses” at a problem and, unfortunately, that accusation is sometimes true. Every Bible verse has value, but the worth of a text can be found only by proper biblical interpretation. Use of the Bible in counseling requires a solid understanding of a biblical theology. Each verse must be approached carefully, using the self-revealed hermeneutical rules of Scripture. The use of Scripture in counseling demands the ability to properly see the meaning of the text, its grammar, its context, and the historical setting at the time of its writing.

This practice can be a double-sided sword. Not only is it dangerous to toss Bible verses like bombs at a distraught person, it is also dangerous to attempt to integrate Bible text into counseling when the counselor is unskilled in biblical interpretation. After all, you can’t integrate what you don’t know. Although they may exist, I have yet to meet a psychologist who is also a biblical theologian. On the other hand, the casual or nonchalant using of verses like a magic wand is suspect. There is no difference between the two extremes.

God can use any Bible verse with great effectiveness and in any way He chooses. We are not God, however; and when we use the Scripture in a setting that is clearly not in the text, we hinder its effectiveness.