Integration Course

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Core Concepts on Scriptures from McMinn’s Textbook

Prepared by, Dr. Brian Campbell

Should Christian Counselors Use Scriptures in Counseling or Not?


Asking the Right Question: “In what ways should Scripture be used in counseling which clients and under which circumstances?” (p. 119).

Individual Differences:  “… Christian counselors answer this question differently depending on professional, religious, and ideological assumptions…” (p. 119).

Models of Christian Counseling: “… A number of authors have advocated models of Christian counseling that demonstrate commitment to Scripture as well as psychological theory” (p. 120).

Utilization Statistics: “… It appears that directly using Scripture as part of counseling is relatively rare, even among Christian counselors” (p. 121) “… only 3% of interventions described involve the direct use of Scripture” (p. 121).


Pros versus Cons

Bible as a Self-Help Book for Christians: “I think that I can safely say that the Judeo – Christian Bible is a self-help book that is probably enabled more people to make more extensive and intensive personality and behavioral changes than all professional therapists combined” (Albert Ellis, 1993).

Meditating on Scriptures to Help Change Faulty Beliefs: “… Counselors who use cognitive therapy often work with clients to modify faulty core beliefs that have contributed to poor self-awareness and unnecessarily painful emotional experiences. Meditating on Scripture can help Christian clients change these beliefs” (p. 122).

Eight ways Scriptures can Influence Christian Counselors and Psychologists: (Johnson, 1992, as cited in McMinn, 2011)

1.      Experiential: “… providing a rich resource for wisdom and personal majority” (p. 122).

2.      Foundational: “… providing a common starting point for understanding our basic assumptions and beliefs” (p. 122).

3.      Contextual: “… allows us to understand human nature, meaning, and purpose in life” (p. 122).

4.      Axiological: “… giving us standards for what should be” (pp. 122-123).

5.      Anthropological: “… providing us an awareness of the historical narrative of human sin and divine redemption” (p. 123).

6.      Canonical: “… providing an unchanging standard of truth” (p. 123).

7.      Dialogical: “… providing rich resources for discussion and comparison between psychological knowledge and special revelation” (p. 123).

8.      Creative: “… allowing us to consider and explore concepts and ideas that might not be considered from a purely psychological worldview” (p. 123).

Importance of Knowing God First or Scripture First: “God cannot be known apart from Scripture, and Scripture cannot be properly understood without knowing God” (p. 124).  “Just as Scripture helps us know God, God helps us understand Scripture” (p. 124).

Respect for the Bible:  “Scripture is our primary way of knowing God.  It is God’s authoritative revelation to humankind.  We call it special revelation” (p. 125).

We Need Scripture to Understand God: “Scripture, collecting in our minds the otherwise confused notions of deity, dispels the darkness and gives us a clear view of the true God” (Calvin, 1957, as cited in McMinn, 2011).

Importance of Scriptures: “Scripture is the most direct way of knowing God; therefore it deserves our respect” (p. 125).

Scriptures Help us Find Truth: “When we look for truth, we don’t first look inside ourselves or inside our clients; we look to God” (p. 126).

Counselors Task: “… communicating our respect for Scripture without inducing shame or excessive submission in our clients…” (p. 126).

Respect for Scriptures and Humility:  “… while we must respect the authority of Scripture, we should also assume an attitude of humility regarding our interpretation of Scripture” (p. 127).

Limitations to Understanding Scripture: “Although Scripture is special revelation, inspired by God, it is always interpreted by fallible humans (2 Tim. 3:16)” (p. 127) “… knowing God helps us understand Scripture more clearly than before, but we still bump against the limits of humanity” (p. 127). 

Limitations to Understanding Scripture:  “However, when we interpret controversial passages, we are wise to remember the hermeneutic circle and humbly recognize that our human biases and sin will influence and limit our understanding of God and the Bible” (p. 128).

Our Humanness Limits Our Understanding of Scriptures: “Thus, our humanness and the hermeneutic strategies we use in interpreting Scripture limit our capacity to understand truth” (Collins, 1993, as cited in McMinn, 2011).

Counselors: Don’t Avoid Taking a Stance on Scriptures: “With careful hermeneutic strategies, we can minimize the intrusions of our faulty human reasoning and boldly advocate scriptural truth in a postmodern society that often overlooks transcendent truth” (p. 128).

Contemplative Approach to Scripture--Meditating on Scripture: “Whereas the study of Scripture centers on exegesis, the meditation of Scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage. The written word becomes a living word addressed to you” (Foster, 1998, as cited in McMinn, 2011, p. 129).

Meditating on Scriptures: “Meditating on Scripture is a way to place our frail, ailing selves in the presence of God’s healing warmth” (p. 129).

Importance of Meditating on Scriptures: “Scripture provides rich material to fill her thoughts and direct our paths” (p. 129).

Limitations of Meditation: Some forms of meditation are certainly questionable. “…Scripture provides important theological boundaries for spiritual meditation” (p. 130).

Importance of Scriptures in Spiritual Formation: “Scripture is an essential tool for spiritual formation. It provides both resources for spiritual contemplation and boundaries to keep us from slipping away from truth” (p. 130).

Counseling Strategies That Derive Directly from Scripture:  “… Some cognitive therapists teach clients to use Scripture references to counter faulty dysfunctional thoughts, just as Paul taught Christians in Philippi to think about things that are honorable, pure, pleasing, and commendable” (p. 131).

Counseling Strategies That Are Generally Supported by Implication in Scripture: “For example, using religious imagery as a technique for depressed clients is consistent with Scripture, though not specifically taught or commanded in Scripture” (p. 131).

Counseling Strategies That Are Not Taught in the Bible but that Are Not Inconsistent with Scripture:  For example, “using progressive muscle relaxation to control anxiety symptoms is neither advocated nor prohibited in Scripture” (p. 131).

Some Counseling Techniques Are Inconsistent with Scripture: “For example, the counselor who advocates adultery as a treatment for midlife depression is contradicting a principle of Scripture” (p. 131).  “Clearly, Christian counselors need to avoid interventions that fall into the fourth category – those that are incompatible with Scriptures” (p. 131).

Importance of Refraining from Certain Counseling Practices: We should “abstain from certain counseling strategies that contradict Scripture and hold fast to those that are compatible with Scripture” (p. 132).

Scriptures May Help Individuals Develop an Accurate Sense of Self: Scriptures may help individuals correct faulty assumptions regarding themselves (McMinn, 2011, p. 133).

Scriptures May Help Confront Sin: Sometimes Scriptures can be used to rebuke sin, but be careful. Using Scripture to rebuke sin may damage the counseling relationship (p. 134).

Confronting Sin with Scriptures:  In many instances, confrontation “should be done only after a safe counseling relationship has been established” (p. 135).

Memorizing Scriptures: Memorizing Scriptures may help develop an accurate sense of self (p. 135).

Scriptures Used to Help Develop a Healthy Sense of Need: If a person is already broken and overwhelmed, it may be “unnecessary and probably damaging, to use Scripture to confront…” (P. 135).

  Scriptures can Help Establish a Healing Relationship—or Not! “Sometimes using Scripture in counseling helps establish a close working alliance, and at other times it distracts from a healthy therapeutic relationship” (p. 136).

What Happens if Scriptures Are Used Unwisely? “If counselors use Scripture unwisely, they may violate clients’ expectations about counseling and slow down the rapport-building process” (p. 136).

Using Scriptures Can Feel like Lecturing to the Client: “… when the sessions start feeling like lectures or lessons, clients will often distance themselves from the counseling process” (p. 136). Counselors may “end up talking when they should be listening” (p. 136).

Scriptures May Over-intellectualize the Counseling Process:  “Effective counseling usually reaches deep into a person’s emotional state and requires more than an intellectual look at life” (p. 137).

Scriptures May Make the Counselor Appear Arrogant:  “Overconfidence Phenomenon”: “Thus, counselors who use Scripture explicitly are vulnerable to appearing and being arrogant in the biblical interpretations. Arrogance hurts report!” (p. 137).

Overreliance Phenomenon: “Finally, we may rely excessively on Scripture when we could be usingother counseling strategies” (p. 137). “If we rely too heavily on Scripture, we may miss other valid treatment options” (p. 137).

Importance of Counselor –Client Relationship: “The vitality of Scripture in counseling is limited by the quality of the counseling relationship” (p. 138). “By fostering a healthy Christian-counseling relationship, with or without the explicit use of Scripture, we provide clients with a glimpse of God’s grace” (p. 138).