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Jesus Christ and Counseling

Truth in Love 138

It is of vital importance for Jesus to take center stage in our counseling.

Jan 23, 2018

Heath Lambert: We are honored this week on the podcast to have as our special guest Dr. Paige Patterson, the president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which is an ACBC Certified Training Center with counseling. Dr. Patterson, it’s an honor that you’re here. And I want to ask you because you have transitioned three programs to be biblical counseling programs including the current institution you serve as president, Southwestern. Why are you so committed to biblical counseling?

Dr. Paige Patterson: Thank you, Dr. Lambert, for the opportunity to be with you today, first of all, and thank you for the superb work that you are doing and may God bless you and all of your staff in every effort. The reason I’m so committed to it is that I made a commitment years ago to the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word and it’s a matter of consistency to me if I do really believe that God’s Word speaks without error and that it is infallible and will not lead us into failure, then I have no other alternative except to apply that to every aspect of our school. When I won Southwestern Seminary, we had an integrated, so-called integrated, program and like all the integrated programs it was primarily psychology with a religious veneer, and I noted that very carefully. I had a series of meetings together with my Provost Dr. Blaising. I called them “Educate the President” meetings and we brought all of our counselors together and gave them a period of approximately four years in which to convince me or even provide any evidence whatever at all that there was something more that was needed for counseling than God’s Word. They never brought me the first indication of it. And so, at the end of that I did the only thing that I felt was consistent and we abolished the integrated counseling program and we established what the church is able to do which is to point people to God and to His Word.

Heath Lambert: Praise the Lord. One of my main concerns with approaches to counseling that Christians embrace that are not biblical counseling, so, biblical counseling is one counseling approach that Christians embrace, other Christians embrace other counseling approaches as well, and one of my main concerns with those other approaches is every one of them in one way or another agree not to speak of Jesus in counseling. Sometimes it’s an ethical commitment that it’s wrong not to speak of Jesus in counseling. Sometimes Jesus is something we could get to later maybe if things go well. Sometimes it’s a commitment that, hey, if they give us permission, we’ll talk about Jesus. I have given a lot of criticism to other approaches because of that. What’s wrong with that?

Dr. Paige Patterson: Well, I don’t think anything’s wrong with it. I think you’re exactly right in what you’re attempting to do there. You know, a study of Jesus and His encounters with the various humans that he encountered is most remarkable. He was not always successful. That’s the first thing a lot of people don’t realize. Jesus was not successful whenever a person refused to do what He said. There was a rich young ruler who came to Him. Jesus said, “Sell everything you have, give it away. Come take up your cross and follow me.” And the young man went away sorrowfully because he had another god. He had a deeper commitment. So, when Jesus was not successful, it was because people didn’t do what He suggested. On the other hand, every single, solitary time in God’s Word, when people ask Jesus and then responded to what He said and did what He said, every time they went away better, they went away blessed, they went away healed, they went away with joy. And so, for counselors, particularly, claiming to be Christian, not to speak the word of Jesus, not to allude to Him at all, is an exercise in futility and is tragic.

Heath Lambert: Yes. I want to ask you a question that you are in a unique position to be able to answer. You’ve transitioned institutions from counseling models that were not grounded on the authority of God’s Word, not founded on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and a real commitment to speak about Him in every conversation even if that conversation is labeled a counseling conversation, you’ve done that a number of times, and even just as you described here in your most recent transition, you’ve dealt with people who love the Lord Jesus, but will not change their counseling commitment. What is the obstacle for our brothers and sisters in Christ, they love the Lord Jesus, they’ve been saved by the Lord Jesus, they personally believe the Bible, but they don’t have the commitment to speak of the Bible or to speak of Christ, what is the obstacle that you have seen?

Dr. Paige Patterson: I think there are two…

Heath Lambert: Okay.

Dr. Paige Patterson: …there may be more, but I think there are at least two. One of them I learned from Francis Schaeffer. Fran Schaeffer had a big influence in my life when I was a very young man and, as you know, he spoke of the house with two levels and faith was a leap into the upper story, a blind leap into the upper story for most Christians, and so, they would live a portion of their life up in the upper story which was faith but then they would come back down to reality which was ostensibly the scientific world. But the problem is that much of what goes under the name of science is nothing but philosophy. And Fran pointed out the fact that when you live on those two levels you live a bifurcated existence and so only half of your life is really Christian, the other half is lived the way of the world and I think that’s part of the problem that we face.

I think there’s also a second problem and that is built off of that first one and that is that we have bought the world’s counsel on so many things. I have my students right now in a class that I’m teaching in the fine arts, which many people find very difficult to believe that I’m teaching fine arts, they say, “Well, for Patterson, fine arts is how to field dress a deer.” I have a lot of fun in this class because it’s a side of me that they don’t know, and I have them doing an exercise right now where every student does a report each week on some rock star that killed himself and either by overdose or by violence. Last night, we lost another one.

And so, the truth of the matter is that people want to believe in the “scientific world”, “I want to do what’s scientifically right.” And we have sold the soft sciences, sociology and psychology, to the general public as being scientific in the same sense that biology and chemistry is a solid science. No, they’re not, they simply are not, but the whole world has believed it. And one of the shocks that the world will have when the Lord returns is to discover how many of the things that they just knew for sure were scientifically true that had no basis in science at all. So, I think we’re facing a similar problem right now.