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Counselor: Extrabiblical Knowledge Is Good, But Not Enough — An Excerpt from "Scripture and Counseling"

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9780310516835Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey want to make one thing clear straight away in their new book, Scripture and Counseling:

“The Bible does not tell you everything you need to know for your seventy- or eighty-year journey in this world.”

Now, hear them out. Because while they believe it’s true counselors rely “extensively on sources of knowledge outside what is revealed in Scripture,” they say it’s not enough.

In the excerpt below they argue we need Scripture. It is the only source which is sufficient to form a comprehensive psychology, and in these three important ways:

1. Scripture is sufficient to teach something;

2. Scripture is sufficient to do something;

3. Scripture is sufficient to see something.

If you are in any sort of counseling vocation, do yourself and your people a favor: Read this excerpt and engage their book to better understand how to use Scripture in the counseling process.

Scripture is Sufficient, But What to Do?

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: The Bible does not tell you everything you need to know for your seventy- or eighty-year journey in this world. Extrabiblical knowledge is necessary to function as a human being. You learn how to read facial expressions, to understand cause and effect, and to predict the likelihood of future events without the Bible. You establish basic cognitive categories, acquire complex linguistic systems, and condition yourself to like certain things for breakfast before you read your first word of Scripture. In short, I’ve dedicated this opening paragraph to the task of pointing out the obvious: You rely extensively on sources of knowledge outside what is revealed in Scripture.

This reliance is a good thing because God designed you that way. But extrabiblical knowledge is not sufficient for you to know who you are or why you do what you do. God designed you to need Him to tell you about His world so that you can understand your own observations of it. Scripture is both necessary and sufficient for giving you a framework for understanding every aspect of your life, all eighty years of it.

Functions of Sufficiency

When we say Scripture is sufficient for understanding human life, what exactly are we saying it’s sufficient for? We can answer this in three complementary ways, each answer focusing on different functions that Scripture is sufficient to accomplish. All three answers deserve our full attention, but we will focus on the last one as the most pertinent to our present concern of how Scripture is sufficient to form a comprehensive psychology.

1. Scripture is sufficient to teach something — that is, everything necessary for doctrine and salvation. This function often gets first attention in various systematic theologies.1 The formal principle of the Reformation, sola scriptura, championed that Scripture alone is the source and standard of the Christian faith. No official church doctrine or external interpretation is necessary to know God. Scripture interprets itself and needs no outside voice to make its message understood.

Furthermore, the material aspect of Scripture is sufficient to reveal the entirety of what people need to know about God, themselves, salvation, and everything that pertains to theChris tian faith. This function of sufficiency aligns with the Bible’s own testimony about itself (2 Tim. 3:15 – 17; 2 Peter 1:3 – 4). The point here is that Scripture needs nothing else to teach everything necessary for right belief about God and salvation.

2. Scripture is sufficient to do something — that is, everything necessary for people to receive/know God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the concerns of the Reformation era have given way to more modern, and eventually postmodern, concerns, the very possibility of meaning being conveyed through language has itself been undermined. Evangelical scholars have defended their ground on the sufficiency of Scripture by pointing out that God’s words are not mere empty containers of potential meaning, but performative actions. In other words, when God speaks in the Bible, He does something. And His words are the sufficient means through which the Holy Spirit’s actions take place.

This function of sufficiency also aligns with the Bible’s own testimony about itself (Isa. 55:10 – 11; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). British pastor-theologian Timothy Ward states it succinctly for us:

Because of the ways in which God has chosen to relate himself to
Scripture, Scripture is sufficient as the means by which God continues
to present himself to us such that we can know him, repeating
through Scripture the covenant promise he has brought to fulfillment
in Jesus Christ.

This view of the Bible’s sufficiency to do something is really nothing new, even if the theory has been applied in more complex ways to the nature of language. About the performative action of God through Scripture, John Owen said a long time ago, “Scripture is sufficient unto the end for which it was designed — that is, sufficient to generate, cherish, increase, and preserve faith, and love, and reverence, with holy obedience in them, in such a way and manner as will assuredly bring them unto the end of all supernatural revelation in the enjoyment of God.” The point here is that Scripture needs nothing else to accomplish the redemption, transformation, and completion of humanity through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Scripture is sufficient to see something — that is, all of creation from a God-ordained perspective. As the first two points establish, Scripture is sufficient to teach us all we need to know God and to do all that is necessary to unite us to Him through the gospel. This third point is a necessary consequence of the first two: We also see things differently. Scripture is the sufficient means by which we understand extrabiblical information in its ultimate sense. God has given us everything we need to form a God-oriented (and therefore an exclusively true) perspective of everything we study.

Scripture and Counseling: God's Word for Life in a Broken World

Edited by Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey

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