I’ve been told a number of times now that if I really want to promote a more biblical, historical, and confessional understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture that I have to prove my bona fides by critiquing secular models of psychology. So, at the risk of writing the least-read blog posts in history, in the coming weeks I plan to analyze the delights of Freudianism, behaviorism, Rogerian therapy, existential therapy, gestalt therapy, and so on. If anyone reads the whole series, let me know, and I’ll send you a voucher for the therapy of your choice. My students usually sleep through my lectures on this subject. Sometimes, I do too. Regular readers and normal people, don’t worry, I’ll only be doing this once a week.

Armed to the Teeth
Before we look at these secular systems, I want to explain my approach to this exercise. I’m assuming that no one is approaching any of these systems of counseling uncritically and unarmed. There is much in them that is hostile to the Christian faith and, therefore, if we enter this arena, we must do so armed with the Word of God and never put it down.

Search and Destroy
So, armed with full confidence in the Word of God and a critical mind towards secular thought, we want to do two things. First of all, we want to search and destroy. We want to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). Anything contrary to God’s Word must be grounded and pounded with the hammer of God’s Word. Although that’s where many people stop, we must then move on to phase two.

Find and Construct
We want to find and construct. We want to search through the rubble and find any truth that has survived. We shine the light of God’s Word into the wreckage and ask, is there anything in there worth salvaging? Is there anything that would help us understand God’s Word better? Is there anything that would correct our understanding of Scripture? Can we find anything that would supplement our understanding of Scripture while remaining consistent with Scripture (see the inclusion of the wisdom of Amenemope in Proverbs 22-24)? Anything that would help us understand people better and counsel people better? Anything that we could run through the filter of Scripture in order to bring us closer to God’s perfectly comprehensive knowledge of people?

Five Critical Areas
The five areas that we will be examining in each secular system are the five most critical areas in any counseling system:

  • Philosophy: What are the system’s basic philosophical presuppositions about truth, reality, etc?
  • Personality: What is the system’s theory of human personality, identity, motivation, etc?
  • Problem: What is wrong with people and the world and how did it come about?
  • Purpose: What is the ideal that we are aiming at? What does wellness or wholeness look like?
  • Prescription: How are we going to get from problem to purpose? What is the method of change?
  • Ethan&Rachel Allison

    Fall asleep? No way! I am very much looking forward to this series…

  • AK Lone Dingo

    Like the Allison crew…looking forward to this!

  • Dave Hughes

    *grabs popcorn*

    aaaand I’ll be checking in daily.

    Seriously though, this is an intersection (theology and theoretical orientation) that I spent A LOT of time in. When I was doing my undergraduate work at Liberty online, I had to write papers (which of course required theological integration both throughout the paper and in a separate section) on where I landed in terms of my own theory of personality and theory of counseling/therapy.

    It served me very well when I went on to pursue a clinical mental health degree in grad school not only in that I had thought through these things theologically, but also in that many of my peers in general hadn’t really thought through a coherent theory of change that was consistent with their worldview. Sadly, many grad students (and clinicians!) simply grab for whatever is most popular or empirical validated.

    Some theoretical orientations, such as David Buss’s evolutionary theory of therapy, can be discounted out of hand for the Christian. Others should be worked through with a bit more nuance and attention to detail. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the postmodern theories as well but you probably don’t have an endless supply of time. Thank you for taking the time to write this though, I’m very excited to hear your thoughts!

  • Dave Hughes

    Also, I apologize in advance for the word vomit that is sure to ensue in your comment section Dr. Murray. I don’t often get the chance to hear a Biblical counseling perspective on theology and theoretical orientation.

  • Dorothy Tuitman Nilles

    Very excited about this!

  • Jake

    I’m a 19-year-old Christian who absolutely loves psyche and has done a substantial amount reading on the subject and the various schools of thought. I am very interested in your critiques. From what I have seen, many Christians will throw out decades of careful research and data analysis along with the theories that do go against scripture. I’m genuinely curious as to how you plan to go through the difficult task of parsing through the two.

  • Pingback: NUGGETS | Counseling One Another

  • Pingback: Read This! 11.09.17 - Borrowed Light

  • Mike Strating

    I too am greatly interested in this topic, but am having trouble finding the rest of the articles in this series. Have they been posted yet and, if so, does anyone know where I can find them?

  • David Murray

    I’ve been surprised at the interest being expressed in this forthcoming study. I’m working on a couple of writing projects right now, but once I’ve made some headway there I’ll return to this and begin posting. Sorry to keep you all waiting.

    • Mike Strating

      Thanks! As a Christian in a graduate program in clinical psychology, the level of interest in this topic does not surprise me. I think that this is a critical area of discussion for all Christian counselors/therapists to be engaged in as we strive to further develop and strengthen distinctively Christian models and methods of soul care, giving glory to God as we care for the spiritual and social-emotional well-being of His flock. I’m looking forward to reading your perspectives and insights when you are able to continue this series, Lord willing.