Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
CCN-601 Topic 1 Overview
What the Bible Has to Do With Life
When you think of the Bible, what do you think? What images, associations, and
emotions come to mind?
If you were asked to describe the Bible in one or two sentences, what would you say?
Perhaps a starting point is to say that it is a book, or more accurately a collection of 66
books, each with its own characters and themes, that flow into one main story. In saying
this, you are acknowledging that the Bible is literature, in one way like any other book—
material written for a particular purpose. Literarily, it is comprised of a variety of
different types of literature or genres: history, law, wisdom, poetry, letters, and
In some ways, the Bible is just like any other book, but in other ways, it is very different.
According to Christian tradition, and the Bible itself, it is divinely inspired
communication originating with God but penned by human authors, approximately 40
of them writing in three different languages over the course of about 1,500 years. This is
what makes the Bible unlike any other book and the reason it is called the Holy Bible or
Sacred Scripture. People call it “Holy” because they believe there was one supernatural
author who assured that each of the authors and books were aimed at accomplishing
the same purpose, that it was and is true in all that it affirms and teaches, and that its
content is more important than that which is found in any other book in world history. Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
So, what is the Bible about? There are a lot of good answers to that question. According
to Bartholomew and Goheen (2004), “biblical Christianity claims that the Bible alone
tells the true story of our world” (p. 20). Like most stories, the Bible proceeds from a
beginning (the first two chapters of Genesis), to a middle wherein a conflict develops
that needs to be solved, and tension builds as the key characters take their places (the
rest of the Old Testament). And then after a very long wait (the intertestamental
period), the hero of the story arrives and saves the day, bringing a shocking and yet
wonderful solution that was not exactly what everybody expected (the Gospels). The
story proceeds by telling about the implementation of that solution (the New Testament
letters) and then, to the end of the story wherein the good guys win and the bad guys
lose (Revelation). God and love and goodness win, and he and his team live happily ever
after. Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
A worldview is a person’s internalized framework for seeing, interpreting, judging, and
comprehending life and reality. It is a conceptual paradigm composed of basic beliefs or
presuppositions that are absorbed from family and culture and religion, and is much
Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
more automatic and subconscious than conscious. Your worldview is the big picture or
map that directs and guides your explanations for and responses to life. It is an
interpretive system by which individuals explain and make sense of life. It functions like
a map, orienting and guiding individuals toward answers to the major questions of life,
including understanding of people and why they do and think and feel the way they do.
Every counselor has a basic perspective on what life is about. Counseling theories arise
out of the theorist’s particular worldview, entailed within which is their view about
people and problems and solutions. What is a human being? Are people merely physical
things, or are they more than that? Is spiritual stuff real, or just a figment of your
imagination that makes you feel or function better? Is the American dream the real
purpose of life?
According to Albert Wolters (2005), a worldview is “the comprehensive framework of
one’s basic beliefs about things…. Your worldview functions as a guide to your life. A
worldview, even when it is half unconscious and unarticulated, functions like a compass
or a roadmap” (pp. 2, 5). Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
Contemplate the following statement by J. D. Hunter (2010):
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that this “worldview” is so deeply
embedded in our consciousness, in the habits of our lives, and in our social
practices that to question one’s worldview is to question “reality” itself.
Sometimes we are self-conscious of and articulate about our worldview, but for
most of us, the frameworks of meaning by which we navigate life exist
“prereflectively,” prior to conscious awareness. That is, our understanding of the
world is so taken-for-granted that it seems utterly obvious. It bears repeating
that it is not just our view of what is right or wrong or true or false but our
understanding of time, space, identity – the very essence of reality as we
experience it. (p. 33)
As a counselor, you will counsel out of some theory that is related to some worldview
that provides the basis for how you understand what is wrong with people and how you
should go about helping them. A particular worldview grounds a counseling theory,
which then directs counseling practice.
The counseling theories that you are learning provide explanations for human behavior,
thought, and emotion. They organize your knowledge about the person and guide what
you observe and ignore, and how you interpret, explain, and predict how people work.
Thus, your counseling theory and practice arise out of some very basic beliefs about
reality and life and people. Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
Consider the following questions:
1. What is a human person? Are humans just physical things, or are they spiritual beings also? If they are both, how do body and soul relate to one another?
2. What are we here for: self-actualization or something greater?
3. What on earth is wrong with people? Why do they kill one another and themselves?
Overview: What the Bible Has to Do With Life
Why is there so much abuse, disorder, and unhappiness?
4. How do you fix this mess, or your mess?
Many counselors are naïve about both their personal worldview and the worldview of
the counseling theories they employ. The job of this course is to make sure that is not
true of you.
So, if the Bible tells the true story of the world, the Bible functions as the primary source
for developing a Christian worldview, a Christian psychology, and a Christian perspective
on counseling. Therefore, if your counseling is going to be Christian, you will have to
become more conscious of your worldview and let the Bible provide the primary cues
for your worldview and your psychology. “Psychology” in this paragraph, mean the basic
beliefs about what a person is, what the purpose of life is, why people do what they do,
and what is most essentially wrong with them.
The Bible and Counseling
What would be a proper relationship between the Bible and actual counseling
practices? A variety of answers can be found among contemporary Christian counseling
For some, the Bible’s primary function is that it provides an infallible or trustworthy set
of essential truths or control beliefs that serve as a grid to filter error out of their
counseling theory and practice. These control beliefs enable the counselor to screen out
that which is contradictory to God’s Word, to filter the ungodly toxins out of a secular
counseling concept or technique.
For example, the Christian counselor’s control beliefs would include the biblical doctrine
of original sin that would screen out Carl Rogers’s (1961) contention that people are
basically good, but would allow into their system Rogers’s contention that counselors
should be accepting and warm and exhibit positive regard toward their counselees (of
course, versions of this insight can be found in Scripture and a thousand other places,
many preceding Rogers).
Many Christian counselors would agree that Scripture should play this arbitrating,
judging, filtering role in counseling, much like an official in sports does, blowing the
whistle when the players violate the standards and rules of the game. So, many
Christian counselors believe the Bible should function as a protective screen, filtering
secular error out of concepts and methods.
Some Christian counselors go further and assert that the Bible can be more than a
referee or filter. They assert that the Bible provides essential truths that counselors
must incorporate in order to properly understand and care for their counselees. The
Bible functions as a foundation providing general concepts such as the nature of
persons, the purpose of life, moral standards, and guidelines and attitudes for
relationships. Their counseling model rests broadly upon this conceptual foundation
even though the details for the counseling model are provided by the social sciences,
common sense, and personal experience.
But some would say this is not enough, not sufficiently Christian. John Piper’s (2001)
comment reflects this concern:
Bible-saturated counseling does not treat the Word of God as an assumed
foundation which never gets mentioned or discussed or quoted. “Foundations”
are in the basement holding up the house, but they seldom get talked about, and
they are usually not attractive. That is not an adequate metaphor for the role of
Scripture in counseling. The Bible has power and is the very truth and word of
God…. It has a power to rearrange the mental world and waken the conscience
and create hope. (para. 8)
Another perspective is that Scripture functions like a counseling manual or textbook in
which individuals find a divine encyclopedia of human problems and God’s solutions.
Solutions are then sought in Scripture as if it were a recipe book, explicating steps or
principles for the cure. From this perspective, the only legitimate problems are those
explicitly referred to in Scripture. As a result, problems like anorexia or bipolar disorder
are viewed as invalid secular fabrications because they cannot be found explicitly in the
Biblical counselor and pastor, Paul Tripp, warns against viewing the role of Scripture in
this way. “There are many issues the Bible doesn’t address in a topical fashion. The Bible
has nothing explicit to say, for example, about schizophrenia, ADD, teenagers, family
television viewing, or sexual techniques for married couples” (Tripp, 2002, p. 26). He
further avers that,
The Bible is not a topical index, a dictionary, or an encyclopedia. The Bible is a
storybook. It is God’s story, the story of his character, his creation, his
redemption of this fallen world, and his sovereign plan for the ages. (Tripp, 1997,
Finally, Tripp (2004) concludes, “the Bible was given so that the God of the plot would
be the God of your heart, and you would live with a deep and personal commitment to
the success of his story” (pp. 172-173). David Powlison (2007) concurs, noting,
“Scripture is not a textbook on ethics or theology of preaching or counseling. It is the
sourcebook” (p. 2).
This course contends that Holy Scripture is the sourcebook for Christian counseling and
that it does in fact provide the true story of the world and the people that inhabit it.
Therefore, we will assert that Scripture should play a comprehensive role, a normative
role, and a transformative role in a counseling model that merits the name of Christ the
The scope of the Bible is universal. It provides a worldview, a comprehensive
perspective of the cosmos and its inhabitants. Individuals use God’s Word to interpret
God’s world and the persons within it that he created in his image and likeness. This is
not to claim that the Bible is exhaustive or explicit in addressing all things in detail or
that it answers all questions that might be asked. It is to say that it interprets cosmic and
human history and each individual life in such a way that their true meaning and
purpose is revealed.
Thus, Scripture provides a perspective on people, problems, change, and counsel that
answers the most important questions about the source of problems: how individuals
can change and flourish, and what authentic, careful and compassionate help looks like.
It gives a meta-narrative through which individual narratives find their meaning and
purpose. You must know God’s story before you can begin to make sense of the stories
of others that you aim to counsel. That is what this course is about.
The Bible is the norming norm, a basic guideline for understanding people, problems,
and how to help them change. It provides answers to the big questions in life. Who is
God and what is he like? How are God and people related to one another? What is the
nature of humanity? What is and how does one achieve the good life? What is wrong
with the world, that person, or me? How can we change? What is the nature of wise,
effective love? Scripture provides general and sometimes specific answers to these
Therefore, primacy and finality are granted to the Bible. It is given the first word and the
last word. Theologians characterize Scripture with words like divinely inspired, infallible,
inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient. This means that Christian counseling distinguishes
the Word of God from any other words. Therefore, it begins with the question, “What
does the Bible have to say about…?” Of course, this assumes that counselors are
biblically literate and also that they accurately interpret and properly apply Scripture to
the matters of counseling. Biblical literacy is therefore essential to full-orbed Christian
Scripture is divine communication that aims to transform people, inside and out.
Because it is supernatural and divine, it has a creative and effective power that cannot
be ascribed to any other word or text. To say that it is transformative is to say that it not
only explains life, it changes lives. It is creative and restorative. It is holy script—a blend
of the Spirit and text—that has a unique capacity to open eyes and turn on the lights in
lives darkened by whatever. It can be more than a referee or filter that controls error
and protects from secular, atheistic impurities that may infect one’s counseling model. It
is capable of functioning as a well of relevant truth, brimming with living water from
which counselors themselves drink and then under the Spirit’s direction pass on to those
One way to understand Christian counseling in the professional world is that it is like
being a missionary in a foreign land. One must be honest, wise, and respectful of others
to do this in a way that is honorable and professional and yet still Christian.
Bartholomew, C.G., & Goheen, M.W. (2004). The drama of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI:
Hunter, J. D. (2010). To change the world: The irony, tragedy, and possibility of
Christianity in the late modern world. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Piper, J. (2001). Toward a definition of the essence of biblical counseling. Retrieved from
Powlison, D. (2007). The practical theology of counseling. Journal of Biblical Counseling.
Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston, MA: Mariner Books.
Tripp, P. (1997). Age of opportunity. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R.
Tripp, P. (2002). Instruments in the redeemer’s hands. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R.
Tripp, P. (2004). Lost in the middle. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press.
Wolters, A.M. (2005). Creation regained: Biblical basics for a reformational worldview.
Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
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