by Dr. John Street
As those who have been charged to faithfully “shepherd the flock of God that is among you”(1 Peter5:2), pastors frequently find themselves shepherding people who are facing severe problems; some brought on by sinful choices they have made in life, or perhaps by difficult people or circumstances. The seriousness and complexity of these problems is often overwhelming, and the shepherd may give way to the temptation to refer these counseling issues to so-called experts-Christian psychologists whose training is largely based in ungodly theories of anthropology and behavior. However, if we truly believe that our sovereign and good God has equipped us with an inerrant Word, then such a course of action amounts to nothing less than a denial of the sufficiency of that inerrant Word.
For the man of God engaged in pastoral ministry, the Word of God is the operative domain from which the pastor-counselor derives his functional and final authority, being accepted as the determinative authority in anthropology. Because it contains no errors whatsoever, Scripture consequently serves as the only reliable resource for the Christian counselor's diagnostic terminology and remedy. The Word of God possesses the exclusive theological framework from which soul-problems can be properly interpreted and resolved. It truly is "a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path' (Psalm 1 19:105).Moreover, it claims exclusive authority in defining the significance of and purpose for the life of man. When placed in juxtaposition with the counsel of man, the comprehensive superiority of the Word over and above the various psychologies of modern man is unmistakable.
We must recognize that the whole of the inner man (i.e., soul/spirit) comes under the dominion of the spiritual, where the Bible reigns not only as the sufficient source for addressing soul-problems, but also as the supreme source. However, when psychology encroaches upon biblical territory by claiming jurisdictional authority in the counseling arena of what man "ought" to do, it is usurping God's domain. Only the divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God has authority to do that.
The doctrine of Scripture's inerrancy is integral to the exercise of true biblical counseling, for if a pastor doubts Scripture's inerrancy, then his confidence in this God-given resource will begin to erode as he seeks to minister to the hurting, struggling, and wayward sheep in his flock. By what authority could such a doubting man "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (2 Timothy 4:2)? Surely not in his own wisdom, since "whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool" (Proverbs 28:26), nor can he hope to trust in the faulty wisdom of his fellow man, particularly that of ungodly psychologies.
The pastoral counseling office, just as much as the pulpit, is the battlefield in which we “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Either we trust the inerrant Word of God to be sufficient to minister to those who come to us for counsel or we do not. There is no viable middle ground.
Dr. John Street is an Elder at Grace Community Church, Chairman of the Biblical Counseling Department at The Master’s College, President of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors