A mental-health commission has reported finding that of those persons with problems who seek help outside the immediate family, 42 per cent turn to clergymen. A pastor, then, unless he is entirely inept and doesn’t belong in the ministry at all, will find himself counseling, whether he is trained in it or not.

How does pastoral counseling differ from other forms? First, it begins with the sovereign God as revealed in Scripture, not with men. Perhaps this can best be understood when pastoral counseling is seen in contrast to secular psychotherapy or counseling. The many secular theories fall roughly into two general emphases: biological or environmental determinism and humanistic indeterminism.

Biological or environmental determinism, represented by, among others, the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud and the stimulus-response theory of John Collard and Neal Miller, views man as a product of inherited determinants or environmental influences. Man is an irrational, conditioned or determined animal. Often he is seen as evil or at least as a tabula rasa, a clean slate, upon which life writes its experiences. In either case he is not guilty, because he is not responsible. This school generally takes a pessimistic view of man.

Humanistic indeterminism, seen in the client-centered counseling of Carl Rogers, depicts man as a responsible being capable of self-enhancement or self-actualization. This school of thought is generally quite optimistic: given the proper psychological climate, man can become what he chooses.

The Christian view, starting with the sovereign God, takes these two contrasting views and unites them in hope.

God’s sovereignty, in contrast to the hopelessness and irresponsibility of psychological determinism, guarantees ...

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