There is much contention between those who work as secular counselors and those who work as biblical counselors. However, what is the area both secular counselor and biblical counselors recognize and use? In addition, what is the fundamental reason for the contention between secular counselors and biblical Counselors? Before these questions are answered there are two terms that must be defined: natural (or general) revelation, and special revelation.
Natural revelation is the doctrine that God has revealed Himself, in creation. Matt Slick, gives a more detailed explanation described below:
[Natural] revelation is the knowledge of God, as well as the knowledge of right and wrong, that can be obtained through nature. This general revelation of God’s existence and basic morality is known by everyone.
Carm.org. Retrieved from: https://carm.org/questions/about-bible/what-general-and-special-revelation.
When it comes to natural revelation there are three areas that are specifically distinguished:
Nature: God reveals Himself generally through His work all over creation (Rom. 1:18-20).
Conscience: God is also revealed through the fact that all creation knows there is a difference between right from wrong, since man has been created with a conscience (Rom. 2:14-16).
Providence: God also reveals Himself through the work of His providence. God is in control of all things, and provides for His creation (Isa. 45:7; Deut. 32:39; Matt. 6:26).
The area where secular counselors and biblical counselors agree is in natural revelation. When a secular counselor works with a married couple on how to communicate better, and uses counseling exercises to assist the couple with this goal, the secular counselor, whether they are aware of it or not, is using exercises that originate from natural revelation. When a biblical counselor uses counseling exercises to assist people in working through their feelings of distress, they are using tools that highlight natural revelation. When a secular counselor, or a biblical counselor, teaches on how the human brain works in relation to emotions and behavior, both are instructing from natural revelation. When a secular counselor, or a Biblical counselor, looks at human behavior and how it impacts interactions in relationships they are observing the natural revelation of God. Where the secular counselor, and the biblical counselor strongly disagree is in the source of where the natural revelation originates. The secular counselor works from a philosophy that is antithetical to a biblical worldview. Therefore the conclusions they both come to concerning the origin of human beings, and their respective behaviors, will be in conflict with one another.
James Kalat, a professor of Psychology in North Carolina State University wrote this about the origin of human beings:
Every gene is subject to evolution by natural selection. Evolution is a change over generations in the frequencies of various genes in the population…we must distinguish two questions about evolution: How did species evolve, and how do species evolve? To ask how species did evolve is to ask what evolved from what, basing our answers in inferences from fossils and comparisons of living species. For example, biologists find that humans are more similar to chimpanzees than to other species. These similarities point to the probability of a common ancestor from which both humans and chimpanzees inherited most of their genes. Similarly, humans and chimpanzees together have some striking resemblances to monkeys and presumably shared a common ancestor with monkeys in the remoter past.
Biological Psychology. 8th edition. Thomson Wadsworth. 2003. Emphasis mine.
Dr. Kalat would have no trouble agreeing that humans are complex creatures by plain or scientific observation (natural revelation). The issue Dr. Kalat has is the in the conclusions he makes concerning the origin of human beings, which derives from an evolutionary perspective. The biblical counselor would assert that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and the creatures God created bring forth after their own kind (Gen. 1:21, 24-25). The reason the Biblical counselors come to these conclusions is they observe natural revelation from special revelation. A website defines special revelation in this manner:
Special revelation refers to the more specific truths that can be known about God through the supernatural.
Got Questions.org. Retrieved from: https://www.gotquestions.org/general-special-revelation.html.
God has chosen to reveal Himself is His word (2 Tim. 3:16), which was supernaturally given to man to know (2 Pet. 1:19-20). Therefore there are the two revelations a biblical counselor stands on (natural and special revelation). By contrast, the two revelations the secular counselor stands on is natural revelation and speculative revelation due to their corrupted nature (Rom. 1:18-23; Rom. 8:6-8; 1 Cor. 2:14). While the secular counselor may employ techniques for the counselee to be a good member of society (moralism), touch some aspect of the “divine spark” in the counselee (spiritualism), work with the counselee to be “one” with the essence of the universe (pantheism/mysticism), or to have the counselee tap into their “innate goodness” to solve their problems (humanism), the biblical counselor employs techniques so a counselee, through guidance, reflects the glory of God, and does good works for their neighbor (Eph. 2:8-10; 1 Cor. 10:31). The distinct difference is not the techniques the secular counselor and biblical counselor uses, but the philosophical rationale behind why each person employs them.
Take for example breathing techniques. A secular counselor and biblical counselor may use the same breathing techniques to assist their counselees with anger. As a result of using these techniques the counselee decreases their anger (natural revelation). The secular counselor could conclude, based on their worldview, the counselee tapped into their “innate goodness” to change their attitude (speculative revelation). However, the biblical counselor, employing the same technique, recognizes this is a tool God has given (natural revelation), which is used to assist the counselee in their progressive sanctification (special revelation). The biblical counselor is convinced this activity will assist in managing their anger in a way that glorifies God, and serves their neighbor.
When it comes to natural revelation both the secular counselor and the biblical counselor employ techniques and tools from this area. However, while the secular counselor uses speculative revelation as the worldview they endorse in light of these techniques, the biblical counselor understands the importance of special revelation, knowing the tools that are used in counseling are given by God to assist in the progressive sanctification of a person.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria