The purpose of this article is to start a conversation about what exactly I mean by the phrase, Professional Clinical Counseling From A Christian Worldview. I think there may be some misconceptions about what this means, especially as it concerns the christian worldview.
First Things First
Lets define terms. By professional I simply mean that the service rendered by the individual is engaged in an activity related to their profession on the basis of having met the necessary qualifications according to that profession. By clinical I mean engaging in said professional services with actual individuals (i.e. clients or patients) and not in a theoretical or laboratory sense. By counseling I mean the specific provision of guidance, direction, advice, concerning personal, psychological, spiritual, behavioral or other problems or concerns related to life and living. By christian worldview I mean the lens through which one views the world: processes, synthesizes, analyzes, explains, and acts rests principally on that which comports with or aligns most accurately to how God would view the matter related to a counseling problem or concern. Another way to think about this would be to ask not so much what does this professional think; rather, what does God think?
What does God think?
There are many in the field of professional counseling and therapies who are not necessarily inclined to wonder what God thinks about a given situation. On one hand, this isn’t something that necessarily stands out as a problem per se. The reason for this is because in the context of the christian worldview, the christian worldview understands that God operates in the world whether we are aware of it or not. Accordingly, it follows that God can use anyone to bring out the better aim or good end in and of the course of the counseling process whether we are aware of it or not. Some of the more apparent examples of this involves cases of obvious abuse or neglect with respect to children. My professional experience in foster care has helped me appreciate and understand this notion much greater. When we encounter a situation where there is a suspected case of abuse or neglect (and lets just say for the most obvious cases of this), the view that seeks to preserve safety of that child doesn’t necessarily have to derive from someone who has consciously begun with this presupposition: What does God think about this abuse? Why? Because in the context of the christian worldview, we would also understand that God has made certain things plain to humanity such as whether abuse or neglect is inherently wrong much less in need of an immediate intervention. In the christian worldview, it would be understood that God has already acted by making it plain to the helper that such intervention is necessary. As well, it would be understood that such intervention can be motivated by genuine care and concern, genuine compassion and mercy, and fueled by a genuine desire for a good form of justice to be had. In the christian worldview, God operates in this world in real and tangible ways, whether we are aware of it or not, and He can and does use all sorts people to bring things about in a way that is good and, as the christian worldview would also see it, in a way that glorifies himself.
Then What Difference Does it Make?
In the christian worldview the difference become apparent in many ways but I will highlight just three for right now. Hopefully, this will help us understand why it makes a difference.
In the christian worldview, the counselor operating from a Christian worldview is motivated by a love of the person as the counselor loves themselves. The greatest commandment that God gave was to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (in this case our client). In the Christian worldview, it is understood that our client is our neighbor. In the helping profession such as professional counseling, we are living and breathing in highly organized and systematic forms of loving our neighbor. But in the christian worldview, the love with which we love, we understand, comes from God. In the christian worldview there is an understanding that because God personally loved us, we therefore personally love our neighbor with the love God extends to us. In other words, we love because God loves; God loves because He is love. Some might ask: Is this to say that in order to love with the love of God we have to know the love of God for us personally? The short is yes and no, and I will address that in another article.
In the christian worldview, concurrent to (and even preceding) the counselor’s operation in the world as a counselor, there is an understanding that God also operates, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Because of this reality of God operating in a world whether we are aware of it or not, we are prompted to even deeper awareness, which goes something like this:
(A) God is fully aware of every single possible detail of all the suffering and pain going in the world: now, in the past, and what will happen in the future. This is an outcome of what the christian worldview would have us understand as God’s omniscience: he is fully knowing.
(B) God is fully present in the world, sustaining everything by the power of his word. This is known an omnipresence: He is everywhere.
(C) God is in full control of everything that takes places. There is nothing that will ever take place that happened outside of his control or will to act upon. He permits everything, controls everything and through his sovereignty, rules over everything: nature, humanity, our problems, our suffering and pain; the good and the bad. This is formally known in the christian worldview as omnipotence: He controls everything.
In the christian worldview the anthropological understanding of humanity reveres courses typical of Darwinian ideology. To say another way, the Christian worldview understands that we are created beings, and not “evolved” beings. The Christian worldview understands that God created the universe and everything in it down to the smallest and most minute object we can imagine. Unlike Darwinian ideology, the Christian worldview understands that because God created everything, it therefore stands that the only way something came from nothing was because of what God did by his creative work in the realm of what we understand as space and time. Moreover, the Christian worldview understands that with respect to humanity in particular, we are created in God’s image. It is this feature of our existence that not only separates us from the rest of creation in the unique sense, but becomes a major turning point in how we justify and understand both the necessity of beginning with God as well as the interventions and intercessions that we, humanity, seek to employ in response to the problems of living.
The backdrop toward justifying intervention in response to the problems of living
The Christian worldview provides us with a comprehensive backdrop that helps us justify our intervention in response to the problem of living. It does this in many ways, but I will highlight three of them for now:
One – Image Bearers
As image bearers of God, we are automatically imbued with innate dignity and worth, value and esteem such that even to the point of death does God extend himself so as to have us grasp this point. The Christian worldview helps us see why it matters that we intervene in response to problems of living as God himself intervenes both generally and specifically. In a broad sense, as we intervene, we reflect His intervention.
Two – Why suffering exists
The Christian worldview helps us see why intervention is necessary in the first place. In the Christian worldview, there is a thorough and comprehensive understanding as to why problems exists — why does suffering exists; why is there pain, difficulty, hardship. As one other example, the Christian worldview provides a very rational and historically rooted understanding as to why it is that people die. Maybe you as a reader of this article aren’t aware, but there was a time when death was not inevitable, and that living forever was the expected order. However, we know death is real. The presence of death in our world ought to grieve us, yet why is it the case that people eventually die? Not even science understands this. No scientific textbook provides even mildly helpful understanding that can help explain why people die. The counselor operating from a Christian worldview knows exactly why (See my article on Introduction to the Problems of Living).
Three – Future Promise
The counselor operating from a Christian worldview understands that this is not the end of the story. Even though people die, it is also true that for those living their lives according to a Christian worldview, will only die to be with God. Moreover, there is a time in the future when God will make all things new, and restore the order of the world whereby all suffering and pain will cease forever. In this new world, professional counselor’s will not have jobs (but that will be a good thing).
The professional clinical counselor operating from a Christian worldview ought be understood as operating in a highly organized and thoroughly systematic understanding of the world. The Christian worldview maintains not only an understanding of human problems writ large, but it offers sustainable solutions that are wholly true and valid in response to all our problems of living.