Monday, January 9, 2012

Biblical Counseling 101

Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Man is only understood when you begin with God
What is man?  In the passage above, we get the first reference in the Bible as to what distinguishes man from the animals by way of the phrase "the image of God".  Thankfully the Lord saw fit to give us a Psalm that expands upon this curious phrase in Genesis - Psalm 8.  It is there that the Holy Spirit through David's pen answers this question in Psalm 8:4 - "What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?"  David's words do not present man as an intelligent animal.  To be made in God's image means that man was created with the original capacity to know and be known by God.    

The difference between people, angels and animals
The one trait that separates human beings from the other cataegories of conscious life - animals and angels, is tied to the phrase: "the image of God".  Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:7 record for us the intention God had in making conscious beings who could not only function and live in this world, but also have a relationship with Him.  I heard one pastor offer this helpful distinction between animals, angels and people:

-Animals are beings with a body and soul but no spirit
-Angels are beings with a spirit and a soul with no physical body
-Humans are beings with a spirit and a soul that for eternity will have a body

What human beings can do what the animals can't  do and what the angels would desire
Human beings have that creative, imaginative part, the spirit, that is not possessed by animals.  As humorous or wierd as it may sound, the reason that you do not see squirrels raising their paws in praise is because they have a soul and a body, but no spirit.  They can interract with their world though a body and they proceed by instinct in their animal soul, however they don't possess the attributes of creativity, self-reflection or concepts of eternity like human beings. 

In like manner the angels have, in their own sense, a spirit and an element by which they can interract with their environment (a soul of sorts).  They are by nature totally immaterial, being described for instance in Psalm 104:4 as "ministering flames of fire".   However with no physical body, they can never have as much in common with Christ - the God man - as do the saints of God, who have body, soul and spirit.  Furthermore, for all eternity all true believers will have glorious resurrected bodies by which they will be able to have closer relationship with God than the angels.  (1John 3:1-3)

Three common understandings of human beings
In the realm of secular and Christian counseling, three viewpoints are espoused in understanding the nature and make-up of human beings. 

View #1: Man is a unit of interracting chemicals, shaped by the physical environment
The most recent view in secular thought is that man is a one-unit being, a physical consciousness.  In trying to diagnose and prescribe solutions with this model, it is assumed that the person is nothing more than the sum of all the electrical and chemical reactions in the brain.  This view's weakness lies in the fact that it makes man the measuring rod of understanding, and completely denies the existence of an all-powerful, all knowing God of the Bible.  Furthermore, this viewpoint assumes that all reality is nothing but physical matter.  Without allowing the possibility for the existence, let alone for the interraction of the God of the Bible with sinful human beings in salvation, this viewpoint cannot be used as a legitimate model for Christian counseling. 

View #2: Man is physical and immaterial, a body and soul
This second view is perhaps the most popular in both secular and Christian circles.  It's merits lie in the fact that it recognizes that man is not just merely a "biological machine".  Man is composed of two "parts" or "realms" - thus this view is sometimes referred to as "dichotomy".  Man has a body, composed of the five senses.  Then in the immaterial part, called the "soul", man has a thinker - the mind; a feeler or the emotions; a place for convictions or the affections; a chooser - the will; an area of right and wrong - the conscience and a place for interraction with God - the heart. 

In secular thought you will hear the term "psycho-somatic" to refer to conditions that are caused by both the mind and the body.  For decades this view has dominated the field.  When I took counseling courses in Bible College and Seminary, this viewpoint was the one we were taught.  Although far superior to the first view, this position does not seem to go far enough in probing the nature of man.  Though far more useful than the first, there is one more model, an older one, that gets closest to effectively addressing the human condition from a biblical standpoint.

View Three: Man is a physical body, an interracting soul and a worshipping spirit
Two passages, Hebrews 4:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 both bear out the full and complete revelation of man: that is is three parts, a "tri-chotomy - body, soul and spirit.  He has a body -the physical part of him that connects with the world through the five senses.  But in this view the soul and another part, the spirit are distinguished.  Like the second view, the soul functions with a mind, emotions, affections and will.  However in the light of scripture we discover that man has a spirit - the capacity to interract and be communicated to by God. 

It is here where we see the uniqueness of human beings, as well as the fundamental understanding that mankind is spiritual at his very root.  But now how has events like the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the garden affected humanity?  Furthermore, how can we begin to use this model to address the issues of life?  More on that tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment