James C. Guy

In his book, Effective Biblical Counseling, Larry Crabb gives four approaches to integrating the Bible and counseling. While I don’t believe that these are the sum total of possibilities, nor do I believe that we should whole-heartedly accept any one theory, I do believe he does a good job of giving some basic, introductory information on Biblical counseling applicable to ministers. I have often heard preachers and other Christians speak out against psychology altogether. But, there is no need to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” It is the anti-biblical and anti-God psychology that must be rejected. Some of the following is from a research paper that I wrote on integration in working on my Master’s Degree. I encourage you to consider the different approaches, and perhaps come up with one of your own. But, whatever your “theory” about integrating psychology and theology, never let what the world thinks replace what God thinks.

Summary of Larry Crabb’s approaches

First, there is the “Separate but Equal” approach (Crabb, 1977). This approach represents those who believe that scripture deals with the spiritual and theological while psychology falls into a different category with medical paradigms. This theory is that people with true psychological problems should turn to professionally trained psychologists for help with them.

Second, there is the “Tossed Salad” approach (Crabb, 1977). This approach advocates taking the biblical areas that are seen as overlapping or in harmony with the field of psychology and vice versa. It takes “bits and pieces” of each field and combines the two, considering the result to be “Christian psychotherapy.” Yet, Crabb believes that the downfall of this theory is that it often fails to filter the components of psychology that are actually contrary to the Bible. This, he says, is due to the fact that psychology is based on beliefs that are opposed to Christianity (Crabb, 1977). Others support this belief as well (e.g. Colson &Pearcey, 1998).

Third, there is what he calls the “Nothing Buttery” approach (Crabb, 1977). In this theory, the psychology is ignored altogether. The belief is that since God can handle all problems, psychology is irrelevant. But, as Crabb notes, the acceptance of psychology does not necessitate a denial of the power of God. The “Nothing Buttery” approach is based on the notion that whatever problems may arise in a person’s psyche are the result of sin (Crabb, 1977). There is total separation between the physical and the spiritual in the belief that physical problems need physical intervention, while mental or psychological problems are spiritual problems and should be dealt with accordingly.

The forth view Crabb (1977) gives is “Spoiling the Egyptians.” He believes that “Tossed Salad” is careless and that “Nothing Buttery” is an overreaction, so he arrives at a sort of compromise where problems are viewed using biblical foundations, and integrating only those components of psychology that are consistent with biblical teaching and principles.

Again, psychology and related counseling does not have to be rejected in order to be in harmony with Biblical principles. The same would be true of other fields such as science, for example. “Science” based on evolutionary principles should obviously be rejected since it is opposed to biblical teaching. However, the entire field of science need not be rejected because some, many, or even most hold a particular anti-biblical orientation. Many in the field of psychology hold theories and practices that are anti-biblical. As Bible believing Christians, we should reject these. But, in order to help people better with various needs, problems, and barriers to serving God as they should, we must also not deny the existence nor validity of psychology altogether.

As ministers, few are trained in psychology or related fields. Many have at least one or two classes in counseling, and perhaps some limited counseling experience. Such hardly qualifies as “counselor” in the professional sense, especially since we are being called on more and more to deal with truly psychological problems as well as spiritual ones. Ministers, and other church leaders should learn to know when a problem is beyond their scope, training, and expertise, and to refer these elsewhere. But, we must also be careful not to refer those who come to us for help with psychological problems to those who will do spiritual harm, regardless of whether or not they may seem to provide the psychological help.

Put another way, if we loose our soul to save our mind, we are still lost!

Colson, C. & Pearcey, N. (1998). The devil in the DNA. Christianity Today, 42, (9), 80.

Crabb, L. J. (1977). Effective biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Guy, James C. Personal Integration of Christianity and Family Counseling. Unpublished paper available from author; P.O. Box 100; Demopolis, AL 36732, (August, 2000).

©Copyright: James C. Guy – All rights reserved.
*Permission granted to reprint for church or ministry use in free material (i.e. church bulletins, classes, sermons, etc.)

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