Is Scripture sufficient for Counseling? With one objection answered.

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The phone rang, as I picked it up I wondered who was calling me this late. After the initial greetings he drops that the question he called to ask; “Pastor, do you have some time this week to meet with me?” I respond in the affirmative asking what it was concerning.

He responded, ” I have this uncontrollable habit, I have tried everything and can’t seem to shake it. It’s consuming my life and likely going to end my marriage.”

As a Pastor I get this calls often, it could be anything from broken relationships, to sin habits, to great tragedy. Where do you turn to provide help to others? Many of us claim we believe the Bible is sufficient for all of life, but many do not function as if we do. How easy would it be to call in the “experts”? You could just say, “whoa sounds like a difficult problem, have you called a psychiatrist?” But shouldn’t a people inquire of their God? (Isa 8:19) God’s word offers hope and life, let us take a look at what the Bible says.

Sufficiency

The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive-history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (2 Tim. 3:16–17). sufficiency of Scripture reminds us that nothing is sin that is not forbidden by Scripture either explicitly or by implication. To walk in the law of the Lord is to be “blameless” (Ps. 119:1).

            Sufficiency may be characterized by four categories; Progressive Sufficiency, Completed Sufficiency, Formal Sufficiency, Material Sufficiency. Each of these has an impact on the practice of biblical counseling.

Progressive Sufficiency

Progressive sufficiency, also called general sufficiency means that everything revealed at that time is the amount of information for God’s people is sufficient for the time in which they are. The special revelation of Scripture to Moses was all that was needed for him to live a life that was pleasing to God. For God’s people today there are sixty-six books, a treasure trove to help us learn how to honor God. In biblical counseling, we have an enormous amount of resources in the Scriptures. 

Completed Sufficiency

Completed sufficiency explains that God’s work in redemption has completed the canon. God has been adding to the canon up until the completed work of Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-4). This doctrine of completed sufficiency provides the biblical counselor with trust and thankfulness in the completed nature of Scripture.

Formal Sufficiency

Formal sufficiency expresses that everything needed to interpret Scripture is included in Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture. For a biblical counselor all instruction must be grounded in Scripture.

Material Sufficiency

Material sufficiency explains the idea that everything necessary to live life and honor God is in Scripture. This is encouraging for the biblical counselor since by it we may know that we have all the resources we need. However, some Christian counselors do not affirm sufficiency. 

Objection

“While the Bible provides us with life’s most important and ultimate answers as well as the starting points for knowledge of the human condition, it is not an all-sufficient guide for the discipline of counseling. The Bible is inspired and precious, but it is also a revelation of limited scope, the main concern of which is religious in its presentation of God’s redemptive plan for people and the great doctrines of the faith.” (Jones, Stanton Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (Christian Association for Psychological Studies Partnership).

Response

This statement is a rejection of sufficiency, in particular material sufficiency. Jones rejects the notion that Scripture can be sufficient for counseling because it is limited to doctrines and redemption. However, Jones is wrong. Yes, Scripture contains words more specific to doctrines and redemption. If we examine counseling as one person with trouble or problems seeking assistance from another, this is exactly what the Bible is concerned with. The Bible is about the problem’s humans face and God’s solutions. This does not deny that there are other rich resources outside of Scripture, it means that only Scripture is necessary and has the answers needed to engage with counseling problems in all of life. 

Back to the late night phone call, the Bible is sufficient to deal with problems that concern all of life. I have seen it restore relationships in marriage and families. I have seen it help those with PTSD, anxiety, pornography, the list goes on. I have yet to find a human situation that the Bible does not have something to say, not in a simplistic way, but in a way that is more robust than any secular option.


A question I like to ask is; what is Scripture NOT sufficient for?

What do you think? Do you think there is something that the Bible is not sufficient for?

Published by Matthew.Statler

I joyfully pastor Sierra Vista Baptist Church in Arizona. I'm certified in Biblical Counseling from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). I graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an MDIV with a concentration in Biblical Counseling. I also am an Iraq war veteran. Matthew Statler SFC, US Army(Ret)

One thought on “Is Scripture sufficient for Counseling? With one objection answered.

  1. I am still working on my counseling education and for years thought that psychology, psychotherapy, or some sort of counseling had all the answers.

    Here recently, though, I have become convinced that the Bible is sufficient.

    Really good post, glad I stopped by.

    James

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