SBC Rejects Psychology

In recent weeks I've been writing about the relationship between faith and science, largely in relation to the upcoming observance of Evolution Sunday (February 12). I've been doing this in large part out of concern for the consequences of a rejection or marginalization of science in the Christian community if we embrace either Intelligent Design or Scientific Creationism. Issues like the environment and stem-cell research have been effected, but now it's psychology and pastoral counseling.

In an article by David Winfrey published in the most recent but not yet posted online Christian Century we learn that Southern Baptist Seminary, is revamping its counseling program and replacing psychology and pastoral counseling with "Biblical Counseling." Biblical Counseling, my psychology professor said back years ago is neither biblical nor counseling -- and is the brainchild of Jay Adams. Ironically the field of "pastoral counseling" was born at Southern Baptist Seminary, as Wayne Oates sought to integrate theology and psychology. Now Oates's home base has effectively repudiated him and his important work.

Already in place at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, this simplistic method of counseling, akin to Bill Gothard's "Basic Youth Conflicts" rejects the diagnostic tools of psychology and puts in its place a proof texting method that focuses on rules, regulations, and reminders that one is a sinner. Such rejections of sound science not only promise failure, but can be extremely dangerous. Loren Townsend of neighboring Louisville Presbyterian Seminary offers clear evidence of this with a story of a woman suffering from spousal abuse who was advised by her "biblical" counselor to stick out and submit. She ended up suffering from psychosis.

What is clear from this article is that not only is Fundamentalism taking over the SBC, but this takeover is going back to the dark ages. What is also clear is that not only are they blind to the benefits of science -- including psychology and psychiatry, but they are also blind the their own interpretative schema of Scripture. To say that Scripture is sufficient to treat all of our dysfunctions is to not recognize that God gives us brains to learn and grow and apply all the knowledge possible to benefit our lives. If biblical psychology is sufficient then surely biblical medicine and even biblical forms of transportation (to really get silly) are sufficient. My prayer is that the church members within the SBC will see the light and reject this backwards move. Remember, Jay Adams is no Wayne Oates!


kwenk said…
Ouch. I knew a couple who went to "Christian counselling", and were basically told the same thing as that woman. They finally got a divorce, but not after he, at least, was totally turned off about the church and religion in general. I didn't realize how far apart the American Baptists & the Southern Baptists really are. The whole concept is scary.
Anonymous said…
I am a Professor of Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and also a clinical psychologist (licensed as such for 10 years in Louisiana.)
I simply want to note that your simplistic caricature does not do justice to SEBTS, biblical counseling, nor does it comform to Christian principles of charity and communication.

I would offer the following amendments to your simplification:

1)Within biblical counseling there are a spectrum of views re the relationship between special and common grace, or special and general revelation. That we beleive the Scriptures are sufficient does not mean that we cannot find truth in and learn from other sources.

2)Biblical counseling that deserves the name "Christian" is shot through and through with the gospel of God, the grace and mercy that come to us in and thru Jesus Christ. We do to be honest with people about the havoc that sin may be wreaking in their lives and relationships, but know that for every look we take at sin we must take 10 looks at the grace of God.

3)Biblical counseling is not at all restricted to or defined by Jay Adams, whose thinking was surely seminal but even by his own admission not final. Even the journal (Journal of Biblical Counseling, formerly the Journal of Pastoral Practice) that he founded has recently criticized some of his work.

4)Biblical counseling has not arrived, we have much to learn, and we would surely benefit from informed and fairminded critique. Of this we are much in need.
Lucille said…
Hi, I'm new to the world of blogging but I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Please feel free to read my post on the same topic at
Anonymous said…
Thanks for your comments. As a former fundamentalist, I have seen the damage - and even death - that comes with the belief that the Bible can address all our dysfunctions, and that it is somehow spiritual virtuous to reject anything outside the Christian camp. I have worked for the past 18 years in the substance abuse and mental health fields and have seen the benefit people receive when science and research are applied to the lives of hurting people. If you look at the backgrounds of the folks promoting all this "biblical" approachs, you will find people who have not lived in the real world. They are promoting, as all fundys do, a supposed idealogy that has the answers to everything. Sorry, life is not so simple. As an Episcopal priest once said to me in my fundy days, and I was pontificating about the need to only use the Bible as the only source of helping people. He kindly said, "Well, I see it like this: all truth is God's truth." I was stunned. It started me thinking that I cannot limit God's desire to help up as being only locked up in the pages of a 2-3,ooo year old book! The good Lord gave us brains that he meant for us to keep on using. Rev. Larry

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