Monday, March 30, 2015

Confessional Counseling

I had given some thought to making a series of blog entries where I would take a chapter or two at a time from the Baptist Confession (1689) and connect it to counseling.  Perhaps this could come in the future, but I'll focus here on a more succinct goal.  My goal in the previous posts has been simply to make the case for counselors to give appropriate consideration to the informative use of Confessions (and I think the 1689 is a great one!) in their counseling work.  Bent more towards non-pastor counselors than pastor-counselors, I have sought to make the case that theology matters in counseling and that confessions help in that endeavor.  Of course, we pastors benefit from considering the confessional nature (or lack thereof) of our counsel, but often times, in my experience of "living in both worlds", it is the non-pastor counselors who are sitting in a Christian counseling center somewhere, who give less than needed consideration to their own systematic theological understanding.  Certainly there are chapters or sections in the Baptist Confession that are not directly related to a counseling concern at hand.  Congregational polity, for example,  most usually will not come into play as the issue of bereavement is being discussed.  Mode of baptism will not likely arise as a discussion on depression is occurring.  But many other chapters will be directly related to the theological backdrop the counselor uses during those session.  All of us, counselors and non-counselors alike, should consider the benefit of confessions.  But, by way of rounding this series up, a few practical thoughts/questions to consider:

*Do we know theology as people who give counsel?   Can we hear human problems, psychological or otherwise, and interpret them through the pages of Scripture and through the systems of theology found on those pages of Scripture?

*Do Pastors who make referrals to any of you who are counselors outside of the auspices of a local church know what your theological "bent" is?

*Would there be value in your own study of the Confession as it relates to using it in small bites to those who are hurting?  (I think so.)

*If you don't already have a Christian Counseling "bent" (Biblical Counseling (AABC or CCEF), Christian Psychology (Eric Johnson), Integration (AACC), or Levels of Explanation), might a systematic study of Scripture utilizing a confession help you to determine how you view the ministry of counseling in general? Or, perhaps it may help you change or refine it.

*If you are not accountable to a local church body for the counseling you give, then questions regarding the theology you share most likely will not come your way regularly.  If so, when a problem is theological, what is your theology?  Confessions help.  I know that counselors often focus on the work of the psychological, and learn helping skills, the DSM/psychopathology, and theories of counseling.  But I would argue that many if not all of these things are rooted in theology (for example LBCF 6.2-3 and its implications).

*In addition to the study, reading, and personal affirmation of a confession, regular reflection on how systematic theology informs counseling is very beneficial.  Might a confession be a good way to go about it in 2015?

The closing statement of the Baptist Confession (1689) reads: "We the MINISTERS, and MESSENGERS of, and concerned for upwards of, one hundred BAPTIZED CHURCHES, in England and Wales (denying Arminianism), being met together in London, from the third of the seventh month to the eleventh of the same, 1689, to consider of some things that might be for the glory of God, and the good of these congregations, have thought meet (for the satisfaction of all other Christians that differ from us in the point of Baptism) to recommend to their perusal the confession of our faith, which confession we own, as containing the doctrine of our faith and practice, and do desire that the members of our churches respectively do furnish themselves therewith."

Living in a day where theology was all over the air that was breathed, confessing truths about God, His Word, His Work and World was so important.  And so they wrote.   Is it any less important to us  some 300+ years later?  Hurting people need to be heard, cared for genuinely, and assisted as they seek to understand suffering, ailments, traumas and dysfunctions in this broken world which through Christ is being redeemed.  I don't suggest reading them a Confession, but I do wholeheartedly recommend knowing theology well, and wielding it well in the loving care of people.  God's revelation of Himself in His Scriptures is not just for Christians who are on mountaintops, but for Christians who are in valleys are well...confessional care and counsel is a helpful enterprise as it provides curbs for us on the road.