Foundations of Christian Counseling: The Greatest Commandment

And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)

Introduction

I’ve said before that I consider myself to be Christian who happens to work as a counselor. Such a claim may appear to deemphasize either my being a counselor or a Christian while highlighting the other. That conclusion would be wrong. Reformed Orthodox Christianity forms my worldview, so it is part of everything I do, including my work as a counselor. If the statement deemphasizes anything, it’s the sacred/secular dichotomy. Individuals live and work within the framework of their worldview whether or not they are aware of it. I don’t think of Christian Counseling as a trade name or a brand. I seek by God’s grace to live out my worldview in everything I pursue.

What Christ called The Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37) provides solid ground for a Christian worldview. I believe it is important for clients to know where I stand and what they might encounter by working with me as their counselor. The worldview by which we live is not something we can set aside at our convenience for a the purpose of expediency.

The Counselor’s Perspective

First of all this Commandment means much more to me than my role as a counselor. It informs the way I should approach all of life in every sphere of engagement. That means spiritually, morally, ethically, and mentally. It pertains to every sphere of life – relationships, work or career, individual pursuits, and setting of priorities. There’s no sacred/secular dichotomy here, no five o’clock world where I clock out on some things and then live another existence. There’s no compartmentalizing of life’s endeavors where my spiritual life is totally divorced from the work I do.

The Commandment calls on the believer to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Biblically, these terms are difficult to define in specific ways. The heart is usually thought of as the seat of understanding, as well as the seat of the emotions and will. The soul pertains to what some call the living powers. We are to offer our lives to God. The mind addresses the intellectual life and powers of an individual. Taken all together, the Commandment adjures us to love God with all our powers and faculties, that is with everything that makes us into who we are individually. After all, God created us, not as a mass collective, but as individuals. Hence, The Greatest Commandment calls on us to love God with all that we are.

All of this means that everything I do must be done with this Commandment in mind, including the work I do as a counselor. Although we all have our good and bad days, my hope and prayer is that what individual clients encounter in my office, me, is the person who lives out this Commandment. Because it informs how I engage all of life, it is a bed rock foundation for my worldview. And it means that I am to engage and treat all my clients the way in which God has engaged and treated me. Anything less is not sufficient.

The Client’s Experience

If The Greatest Commandment provides a foundation for the counselor’s worldview, then what does this mean for clients? Responding to the lawyer Christ added a second commandment that he said was like the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Seeking to test Jesus, the scribes and lawyers ask him: Who is my neighbor? Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). From this parable we are to understand that anyone in need is our neighbor. When clients enter counseling with me, I’m called upon to fulfill this commandment. I am to consider my clients’ needs as important as my own.

This is something that I hope Christian clients, at least to some extent, already understand. A common ground exists between Christian clients and me as their counselor. This is no less true, moreover, for clients who are not believers in Christ. The thing lacking between me and non-Christian clients is that common ground I have with clients who are believers in Christ. I and non-Christian clients may have worldview clashes that play out in values conflicts. This is why it is important that all clients know my worldview before entering counseling with me. Nonetheless, believer or unbeliever, any client who enters my office is my neighbor whose needs I should consider as important as my own.

Conclusion

In his response to the lawyer’s question regarding The Greatest Commandment, Christ concluded: On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. The Greatest Commandment provides a rock solid foundation for a Christian worldview, informing all spheres of life. It is not a foundation merely for work as a counselor, but for all of life itself. A counselor who is a Christian lives and works within the framework of a worldview that he believes to be true – the Truth. As such, I’m to live and work as God has called me to do, and to love my neighbor as myself. Called to understand the agape love of God, I’m called to love my neighbor as God loves me. This I can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit strengthening my inner being. It is not merely a commandment that Christians somehow obey by their own powers and faculties. It calls us to a relationship with the Living God – to know him as Abba Father (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). A Christian’s approach to all of life is a spiritual one. The work of counseling, like any other part of life, is a spiritual endeavor.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/May 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations of Christian Counseling: Client Expectations

Introduction

When clients decide to enter counseling, the task of finding a counselor is a daunting one. When searching websites or online directories, it can feel like a crapshoot. If you make the choice to enter counseling with me, a Licensed Professional Counselor, who practices from a Christian perspective, what might you expect? And as importantly, what are some specifics you should think about when choosing a counselor?

Christian Counseling

I presume that if you choose to work with me, then you are most likely seeking a counselor who works from a Christian perspective. My claim to be a Christian counselor, however, does not in-and-of-itself clarify everything clients might want to know. I hold a Reformed Orthodox view of Christianity, so I’m neither Catholic nor Neo-Orthodox in my Christian beliefs. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ. That means from a counseling perspective, I will draw heavily on Biblical principles as we work through any concerns you bring into counseling. I will want to explore your own understanding of your faith and how much of a role it plays in your life. In addition I will want to understand how you size up your personal relationship with God. There are certain premises I hold if counseling from a Christian perspective is to progress as it should.

Some Basic Premises

I believe that every concern and struggle we face as part of the human condition has something to say about our relationship to God. Moreover, our struggles in life can be addressed through our relationship to God. This does not mean that because we encounter problems in life there is ipso facto something wrong with our relationship to God. It does mean that we have to look to God to see what he is trying to tell us while we are in the midst of our struggles. Many times clients simply want problems resolved quickly, that is fixed. From a Christian perspective, everything we face has meaning and a purpose to it. A Christian approach to counseling does not make light or minimize your struggles and pain. It seeks to place such experiences in proper perspective.

We all engage life with a set of beliefs and values. Hence, working with me as a counselor means we will explore what beliefs an values you hold, particularly as they surface in relation to the concerns you bring to counseling. Individuals tend to be more or less aware of the beliefs and values they hold until they encounter difficulties in life. Clarifying one’s foundational beliefs and core values can help one understand why one acts or reacts the way one does when faced with life’s challenges

From a Christian perspective, exploration of one’s core set of beliefs and values must take place in light of one’s faith and relationship with God. I believe the more fully and more deeply we develop our relationship with God, the better perspective we will have on life and how to engage both its blessings and struggles. What I hope that a Christian perspective to counseling provides for people is Biblical knowledge that they can use to face any kind of difficulties and struggles that life throws at them.

Questions Clients Should Ask

How do I know if we will work good together?

This question revolves around the therapeutic relationship and the therapist-client fit. It is a question that all clients should consider. I offer all clients a free consultation for the first session. Although it’s no guarantee, it gives clients an opportunity to know me, see how I work, and a glimpse into how our work together will proceed. Each therapist and client has his or her worldview that will shape the way work proceeds from session to session. As a counselor who works from a Christian perspective, I let my worldview be known upfront. Hence I hope clients seek me out because they want to work with a therapist who holds such a worldview. In the first meeting both I and prospective clients can get a good sense as to how well we might work together. If a particular client decides that working with me is not a good fit for him or her, I can gladly offer referrals for other counselors if the client wants that information.

Are you simply emphasizing Biblical knowledge and theology while making the concerns I bring into counseling of secondary and tertiary importance?

Absolutely not. This is an excellent question and one that clients should ask of all therapists, regardless of their Spiritual or philosophical worldview. Clients’ presenting concerns are always front-and-center to our working together. Clients have the right to know what worldview I hold and how I understand the human condition and the struggles and difficulties human beings encounter in life. I will not set aside my worldview anymore than I would ask clients to set aside theirs.

Are you merely trying to proselytize clients to the Christian faith or to a particular brand of theology?

The square answer to this question is no. As a professional counselor, I’m here to help people work through the life struggles they bring into the counseling office. Because this question surfaces at times is the reason that I put forward my worldview upfront. People should know that in contacting me they are approaching a counselor who is a Christian, and that my worldview does inform and frame the way I work. I’m neither trying to play tricks on people nor am I trying to smuggle my worldview into the backdoor to spring it on anyone. If clients want to understand more about my faith, they are free to ask, and we can have that discussion if clients so wish.

How do you see Christianity as a way to help me with the concerns I bring to counseling?

That question calls for entire blog post, essay, or even a book length discussion in-and-of-itself. I believe in my core that the struggles we face in life unfold in God’s providential control over our lives. The problems we encounter, the pains we experience, and the difficulties that come our way can all be worked through by developing our relationship with God in a manner that helps us know him more fully and more deeply. Rather than discounting our concerns, a Christian perspective not only views an individual’s problems and pain as real, but it also provides a way to put our lives before God into proper perspective. I make no bones about it, a Christian perspective to counseling is a Spiritual approach.

What about clients who are not Christian?

I work with clients who hold various worldviews. Again they should know where I’m coming from as a Christian, but our work together will take on a more secular tone given that I want to try to meet them where they are in their life journey. If clients who are not Christians want to discuss my faith and beliefs, then as previously stated, I’ll most definitely have that conversation with them, as well as offering them referrals to others with whom they can explore the Christian faith.

I’m a Christian, but what if I don’t agree with your theology?

No two individuals agree on everything. As in any counseling approach, we will discuss in the process of therapy any therapeutic impasses or ruptures that occur while we’re working together. I highly encourage clients to be open about what they like and do not like about our sessions together. Disagreements are not only welcomed, but highly encouraged because such work is part and parcel of the counseling process.

Conclusion

This short blog barely scratches the surface of not only what counseling entails, but also in particular what a Christian perspective to counseling will entail. Along that thematic line, I have future plans to author some blogs that are titled Foundations to Christian Counseling, each blog with a different subtitle that focuses on a theme described in the subtitle. For example, this specific blog addresses client expectations. I hope through this series of articles to more fully explicate what a Christian approach to counseling involves.

John V. Jones, Jr, Ph.D., LPC-S/April 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations For Christian Counseling: Providence

Introduction

This month I’m returning to some counseling themes on Contemplations. After all, to address the world of professional counseling is why I established this blog in the first place. In particular I want to discuss counseling from a Christian perspective. I have written about that perspective before here, here, and here. Some time has passed since I published those blogs, and I have come to realize how experiences that life throws at us shape our understanding of and our relationship with God.

The providence of God is something that must be trusted. No finite and fallible human being can fully comprehend it, figure it out, or explicate it. When human beings even try to do so, they cross a barrier that is not theirs to cross. Providence is an attribute of God in which we rest rather than know fully. It hopefully leads us to more prayer with God. Knowing that God is in control of all things helps us develop perseverance as we face the aftermath of certain experiences. And it helps us develop that thing called patience, an attribute that seemingly always alludes our grasp. It is meant to bring us peace, not total comprehension.

An experience that life threw at me occurred on October 9th, 2020. I got up that Friday morning and came to realize that sometime during the night while sleeping I had experienced a cerebellum stroke. My life took a different turn at that point. (I have written some about that experience here.) My stroke cast me on God’s mercy. And it definitely has had an impact upon my faith. And I still have a long way to go in facing what my life will be like in the future.

Providence and Prayer

At first glance providence and prayer appear diametrically opposed to one another. If God is providential over all that will occur, then why pray for particular outcomes in our lives? Such tensions are replete throughout Scripture. On the one hand, God’s eternal existence cannot be contained by space and time. On the other hand, the space-time continuum is where human beings live out their daily existence. Throughout Scripture we are exhorted to pray and meditate on God’s word. Both prayer and reading Scripture are pathways to knowing God. Prayer in particular is personal communication with God. God knows we are needy, and he exhorts us to place our needs before his throne of grace. The providence of God is that in which I rest; prayer allows me to develop a personal relationship with a providential God. As much as anything else in our lives, God is providential over our prayers. Moreover, our prayers are answered by God. In other words, God hears and responds to our prayers. Rather than a contradiction, God’s providence is an open invitation to constant communication with God.

Providence & Perseverance

The dictionary provides us with varied nuances of definition for the word perseverance. The following comes from dictionary.com: to persist in anything undertaken; to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty and discouragement; to continue steadfastly. All three of these definitions relate well to the Christian faith, but I particularly like the second one. The early church faced constant persecution and believers encountered daily challenges to their faith. In more than one epistle the Apostle Paul exhorted the church to persist in the cause of Christ in the face of what appeared to be overwhelming odds. Paul viewed even his several imprisonments as God working out his providential plan for the church. Because of God’s providence, Paul did not falter in his apostolic duties, and he did not want believers to become discouraged among the churches to which he ministered. Throughout Scripture we read how various individuals viewed what appeared as tragic circumstances as falling under God’s providence. Joseph in the Book of Genesis is a prime example. If we take a close hard look at the political landscape today and its response to the church, we can easily recognize that the culture in which we live is still at odds to the cause of Christ. Knowing that God is in control of everything allows us to persevere in a fallen world that is not friendly to the message of Christ. So yes, we as believers in Christ are to continue steadfastly and maintain our purpose in building up the church. I realize that this steadfastness is easier said than done. To take captive every sphere of life to the cause of Christ requires that we strongly trust in a providential God who will grant us the strength to persevere toward our purpose in Christ.

Providence & Patience

Providence and patience appear to be the most logically connected attributes one can imagine. Yet many people will claim that as a personal character trait, patience is on the bottom of their list. Galatians 5, however, lists patience as a fruit of the Spirit. I have to admit that across my seventy-three years on this earth, patience is a fruit that I haven’t cultivated very well. The importance of harvesting this fruit of the Spirit is seen in the fact that impatience is actually a lack of trust in God’s providence over our lives. Having been hit by a cerebellum stroke, being wheelchair bound, and facing other challenges like testing positive for COVID are experiences that have taught me the importance of patience even though I haven’t cultivated it the way that I would like. Going back to prayer, patience is something for which I pray while at the same time acting as though I really don’t want it. When connected with providence, however, patience is simply letting God be God in our lives. It is our being still and letting God be God. Patience entails our waiting on God and letting him work out the details of our lives. It involves our learning how God does in fact work in our lives. All of this is so much easier said than done that to simply say to someone be patient is so much shallow nonsense. For one to have the patience to abide in God’s providence, one must cultivate his or her relationship with God. Because I believe that patience is one of the most difficult fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives, I think it is one of the most important to develop. I have come to expect that we will continue to face daily challenges and difficulties in this life that throw us back onto trusting God’s providence in our lives. This will be true even post stroke and other major challenges that life throws at us. Providence calls us to enter God’s rest, to be still and quiet, and to wait on God’s working in our lives. Patience as a fruit of the Spirit requires true wisdom as discussed in the Book of Proverbs that comes with a deep relationship with God.

Providence & Peace

Jesus Christ is our peace. This was announced on the night of his birth. In Christ God has been propitiated and his wrath turned away from us because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to those who believe in him. Through Christ, we have been brought near to God. We are no longer enemies of God, but we have been reconciled to him. We are justified before God by our faith in Christ. And we are redeemed through the work of Christ on the cross and by the power of his resurrection. Therefore, those of us who were once at enmity with God now through Christ are at peace with God. God’s plan of salvation is the ultimate example of God’s providential concern for humankind on the earth. But he is also providential in our sanctification, our day-to-day lives with all its blessings, struggles, and hardships that we undergo. If God is providential over our lives, we can enter his rest and find peace in the truth that he is working out our sanctification and spiritual growth through all we encounter in life. Our peace is grounded in God’s unchanging character – his grace, mercy, and lovingkindness. For example, on my part, I have to trust his providential working regarding my stroke. I may come to understand that to a larger or smaller degree, or perhaps not much at all. If the latter, I must trust that whether or not I understand the why of my stroke, that it falls within God’s providence and his loving concern. Demanding that God answer all our questions about the difficulties that befall us will only disturb our peace. For our peace comes by resting in his providence.

Conclusion

When we face hardships in life, we all want them resolved as quickly as possible. Christian clients enter counseling with the same hopes as anyone facing difficult challenges in life. Although not a popular position, I believe the focus for Christian counseling should be engaging clients to develop their relationship with God. This is not, however, at the expense of also focusing on the concerns that clients bring into the counseling room. This is a both-and process, not an either-or decision. As individuals develop their relationship to God, knowing God on a deep level becomes the foundation for future life challenges that clients will face. The desire for a quick fix of life’s problems tends to draw us away from resting in God’s providence. The desire for immediate relief clashes with our need to be patient. Moreover, it robs us of our peace because when quick fixes don’t work, we easily become embittered, angry, and frustrated. Impatience tends to interfere with our prayer life because we begin to think what’s the use; prayer isn’t helping. An overwhelming desire for a quick resolution of life’s challenges also interferes with our ability to persevere. This is not to say that some personal concerns do not lend themselves to shorter resolution than others. But major life challenges tend not to be of the kind that can be quickly resolved. Resting in God’s providence means signing on for the long haul, if not now then sometime in the future. Even though we can’t totally comprehend it, having some insight into God’s providence produces wisdom, which will provide a firm foundation for facing life’s challenges and working through them in a productive manner.

John V. Jones, Jr. Ph.D., LPC-S/ March 14th, 2021

GENERAL ESSAY

I

Ideas Shape Our Lives

Introduction

If we truly desire the liberty to shape our lives as we see fit, then we need to take stock of the ideas we clam to hold. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but many see our culture today as living the logical conclusion of The Closing of the American Mind. Not only are people unaware of the core ideas they hold, but they also do not even care or believe that ideas carry weighty consequences for their lives. We all hold ideas about living whether or not we are aware of them. Moreover, aware or not, we act on the ideas we hold.

Last month’s blog linked to an article from the Mises Institute authored by Jeff Diest. I’m going to tap the wellspring of knowledge from that think tank once again, linking readers to an interview that Deist does with Tom Woods on the importance of reading books. Obviously, the interview is not merely about reading, but it’s about challenging people to think about what they read so as to clarify the ideas they have about living out their lives. Consequently, Deist and Woods discuss deep reading as opposed to mere pleasure reading. The links below take readers to the Podcast interview and a couple of short bios for Jeff Deist and Tom Woods.

The Case for Reading Books: Jeff Deist & Tom Woods (Mises Institute)

If individuals desire to clarify their ideas, then thought-provoking reading is a must. Deist and Woods make the case for what they call heavy lifting in reading. Below are links to the podcast discussion with Deist and Woods, followed by links that provide short bios for the two discussants.

Podcast Jeff Deis-Tom Woods Interview

Jeff Deist Bio

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Bio

Conclusion

There are several key takeaways from this podcast. First, mindless reactionary activism will not form a pathway to reclaiming individual liberty for our society. Neither will simply showing up for national elections on election day. Second, if we want to reestablish individual liberty as a core value for our existence, then we need to think about and clarify the ideas we claim to hold. Such clarification can take shape through what Deist and Woods discuss as heavy lifting reading. Hence they make the case for reading books that will shape how we engage life, particularly for those of us who claim to value individual liberty.The ideas we clarify for ourselves become the foundation for actions we take rather than thoughtlessly reacting to events around us. Individual liberty must stand on solid ideas.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/February 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER [AOP]

The Power of Ideas [AOP]

Ideas have consequences. Today we are engulfed in a culture of activism that possesses no foundation of thought or reason. So I thought I would kick off 2021 by providing a link from the Mises Institute, featuring an article by Jeff Deist, Welcome to Post-Persuasion-America. On Christmas and New Year’s days I published two short blogs about changes taking place on Contemplations. I thought Jeff’s article would be an excellent one to jumpstart 2021. The link to the article is below followed by a second link that provides a short bio of Jeff Deist.

Welcome to Post-Persuasion-America by Jeff Deist

About Jeff Deist

Conclusion

One far reaching takeaway from Jeff’s article for me is the vision he has for the Mises Institute whereby a few stalwarts are influenced by the Institute’s ideas, and those few begin to influence others within their own spheres. Albert jay Nock called them the remnant. There’s no save the world message here by populating Washington DC with the right people. Localism is key to reestablishing individual liberty one locale at a time. I encourage readers of this blog to visit, read, subscribe to, and support the Mises Institute.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/January 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER [AOP]

What Lies Ahead?

Introduction

The Christmas blog article delineated some future changes that will occur for Contemplations. I decided that a New Years publication should provide some finer detail as to what those changes will look like on this Website. Then January 14th will kick off a new era for Contemplations. Basically this blog will comprise three thematic emphases: 1) General Essays; 2) Analysis of Power (AOP); and 3) Book Reviews. I will delineate each of these below to some extent.

General Essays

The General Essays on Contemplations will take the form they always have taken, exploring various ideas, general information, critical inquiries, and responses to events socially and culturally. Because I inaugurated this blog to address the world of professional counseling, I will continue to focus on that work as long as I’m involved with it. Presently I’m approaching retirement mode as a counselor, so I don’t know how long I’ll be professionally involved in that field. Unlike the other two modalities, General Essays will not have a common theme or content from article to article. The articles will focus on what I think is timely and on what happens to pique my interests in the moment.

Analysis of Power (AOP)

Analysis of Power (AOP) will contain articles that most definitely take on a common theme. The content for AOP stems from my conviction that the major challenge to a free society today is the onslaught of Statism. These articles will entail a critical inquiry into the State and its abuse of power. Power is the enemy of true liberty. Hence articles related to this theme will also explore how we can counter the rise of the State. I will discuss ideas such as nullification, Convention of States (COS), and Austrian Economics. I will also discuss Biblical principles applied to our understanding of government. I believe that if we are to defeat Statism, the church has to lead the way in that fight.

Book Reviews

The Book Reviews modality is self-explanatory. I will utilize this modality to write reviews of books that I think are important, both from the past and in the present. Aligned with AOP, I will review books from the Austrian Economic camp, libertarian authors, as well as authors who are stanch anti-Statists.

Conclusion

Progressivism and political correctness with its woke culture have permeated institutions of education, politics, economics, and religion with a set of values that can only be characterized as collectivist, if embraced, will lead to the loss of individual liberty. This Website will highlight authors and thinkers that provide contrasting sets of values, if embraced, will lead to the restoration of individual liberty and the application of Biblical principles to all areas of life.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/January 1st, 2021

GENERAL ESSAY

A Time to Change

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . .(Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Introduction

Those who follow this blog know that for the past seven years I have published an article on the 14th of each month without missing a beat. Perhaps there was one or so published on the 15th. Whether or not quality is characteristic of this blog is for readers to decide, but consistency most definitely has defined my efforts put into this Website. Yet the 14th of October, November, and December passed without a peep from Contemplations. So what happened? Quite frankly a stroke happened. I got up on a Friday morning, October 9th, totally lacking the ability to stand or walk. Subsequently after calling 911, I was admitted to two hospitals and a rehab clinic, consuming the next 43 days of my life.

Additionally, those who follow this blog know that I’m fairly straightforward about my Christian faith. Part of this article will focus on how my faith informs my working through the challenges presented by my stroke. The epigraph from Ecclesiastes at the head of this blog is personally fitting because this is definitely a time to heal for me.

This blog, however, will address a broader form of healing than just a personal one. As a nation we need healing culturally and socially throughout all our institutions. I believe some of our institutions have outlived their usefulness all together. So another focus of this article will be on the change of emphasis that Contemplations will undergo in the future. A time to change is not directly expressed in Ecclesiastes 3, but it is implicit there if not explicit.

Healing Is Restoration

Having suffered a stroke I now know first hand what it means to live with a broken body. I lack the abilities to walk, swallow so as to take in solid food, and to see well. When I think of my prayers for healing, they are basically prayers for restoration. I pray that my body is restored to the capabilities that it possessed previous to the stroke. Faith is a multilayered thing. I hold fast to the hope that God will fully heal my body while simultaneously understanding there are no guarantees. There is at least one guarantee however. God will answer my prayers but in his own time and in his own way. Faith calls me to hold fast to God’s grace, his new mercies everyday, and his abundant lovingkindness. In doing so faith also calls me to wait for God’s timing. We are confronted with such tensions all through Scripture. We usually don’t get the full impact of them until they confront our lives in a real way.

There are nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. One of them is patience. Although the Spirit provides these fruits for us, I know for certain that I was born lacking any patience whatsoever. And I have developed very little of it over the seventy-two years I’ve lived on this planet. My recovery from this stroke most assuredly entails an incremental process. Although I would welcome God’s blessing of exponential quantum leaps in the extent of my healing, it appears that I’m in this struggle for the long haul. That fact very well could mean that this is God’s way of helping me develop patience, not only in terms of healing, but also across vast areas of my life so that patience truly becomes a fruit of the Spirit I possess.

Patience involves not only wading through incremental steps of healing, but it also entails waiting on God’s timing. To respond to God’s call to be still and know that I am God at least requires patience if not all the other eight fruits of the Spirit and tons of Spiritual maturity. This is my time under the sun to see if I can face the challenges of compromised health concerns, which I’ve never had to face in my life until now. One thing is for certain. Whether or not I feel it at times or doubt it, Emmanuel – God with us – will be with me every step of the way.

The one lesson I’ve learned at this point that I can pass on to people is this. Do not take your good health for granted. It can be gone in the bat of an eye. Embrace your blessing of good health, and don’t squander your time, which is a blessing as well given to us by God.

Cultural and Social Restoration

Contemplations blog will undergo major changes. Although libertarian, I used to really keep my political beliefs in some back corner, rarely discussing them publicly and particularly not using this blog as a conduit for my political take on things. Well that’s about to change. I no longer believe such an approach is feasible. Culturally and socially this country is in turmoil, politically, economically, and morally. Our institutions have failed us. There is a heavy duty renovation needed throughout our society. Moreover, it’s the church and believers in Christ that need to lead the way to that renovation. We need to apply Biblical principles to all areas of life, from education to our workplace, and from our personal ethics to our engagement with political matters.

Having stated my position, let me say what this blog will not engage. I will not be writing anything to urge people to back certain candidates nor align with any particular political party. Our political institutions as they exist are miserable failures. Economically the country is sinking into an abyss as future generations are strapped with a twenty-three trillion dollar debt. The need for political action can no longer be about voting for the right people whom we naively believe will make the world right for us. Politicians will not accomplish such a feat because they simply don’t have the know-how to do so. On the one hand we must engage politically while on the other hand having as a goal to rid our lives of political interventionism. We must learn how to live free of the State. Given our present condition reclaiming our fundamental liberties will require a lot of relearning and new learning of ideas. Future blogs will explore many of those ideas that can help us counter the Statism in which we are ensconced.

Conclusion

Progressivism and political-correctness have taken over our educational institutions, our political institutions, and social media. It is a time for change. Political quietism is no longer feasible because it has led to the surrender of our personal liberties to collectivized power comprising people who believe it’s their place to design life for everyone else. Their modus operandi is other people’s money and a government printing press that continues to inflate our currency while plunging the country deeper into debt. For those of us who want to counter this progressive onslaught our political engagement must not be about getting the right people in office. We must take back our communities and defeat the rise of Statism that defines the day. I believe we can accomplish this feat only by choosing to apply Biblical principles to all areas of our lives.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D, LPC-S/December 25th, 2020

General Essay

.

A Life of Reading: A Christian Perspective

Introduction

My pastor today made a point about how Christians should surround themselves with good books. I couldn’t agree more. Since my early twenties back in my college days, I have developed somewhat the good habit of reading. I say somewhat because one, I could read much more than I do. Two, I’ve fallen on the bad habit at times of reading works that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time pursuing.

This is the fourth of a series of articles in which I explore working as a counselor who holds a Christian worldview. In the first two articles I explored what a Christian worldview entails. In the third article, I discussed my preference for working with Christian clients although I work with clients who hold a variety of worldviews.

I end this series addressing a life of reading, and why I think it is important for Christians to be avid and good readers. With that in mind, I also offer a list of books I’ve read, mostly written by Christians that I think other believers might find useful in developing their thoughts about how we engage this world and what it throws at us everyday. Anytime we discuss reading various authors, it is important to note that our first attention must aim at reading God’s Word, the Scriptures, everyday. The Bible becomes our standard to which we measure and compare anything else we read and study.

Christians as Avid Readers and Thinkers

Why? Why should Christians become energetic readers and thinkers? Do not the Scriptures warn us not to succumb to the philosophies of the world? Did not the Apostle Paul claim that knowledge puffs up? Does not the Word of God challenge us that although we are in the world, we are not to be part of the world? The short answer to all these questions is yes. It is for this reason, however, that I believe it is important that believers become avid students and critical thinkers regarding the worldviews that surround them and can so easily capture them if they are not careful.

The Technological Age

As Christians we live in a world inundated by social media. We are all engaged on a daily basis not only with television, but also the Internet, alternative podcasts, and various websites that proffer readers and listeners to consider. We are surrounded by what is touted as Information Age. How are Christians to navigate the flowing rivers of information with which they face everyday?

I believe it is important that we engage this age of excess information with a well-honed critical eye. We take in information nearly every hour of everyday, whether or not we realize it. We surf the Web. We listen to various podcast lectures. We view a plethora of YouTube channels that flood us with a variety of worldviews, opinions, and sales pitches, touching on anything from for whom we should vote, what we should value, how we should spend our time, or what we should purchase. Our minds are constantly assaulted by the tons of airwave information bytes that flood over us like ocean waves.

Jesus Christ answered a young man’s question regarding what is the greatest commandment claiming we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul. Note in that statement, all our mind. God created our mind. We are supposed to use to his glory. That means we are supposed to use it in the best way we possibly can, not wasting it on things that are unimportant. A well-honed mind is a critical mind, meaning we should develop the ability to weigh things and discern rightly about them.

I would not make this a legalistic rule, but I personally believe that the less time we spend on social media and television, the better. Turn off the television, shut down the computer, and open a good book. Good books are ones that are going to make us think about how we should live in this fallen world, as Christians believe it to be. Well written essays, treatises, and other forms of non-fiction should lead us to reflect upon our worldviews, beliefs, and values. Simultaneously, we bring to those works our thoughts and beliefs that we have already worked out as Christians to see how an author’s thought aligns or misaligns with what we believe spiritually. This is not to say that the only works we should read are ones with which we are fairly certain that we already agree. For sure, take on challenging works, never forgetting who is our foundation. We should engage the thought of the day, while making sure of our principles so that we can face the ideas that might counter what we believe.

Sharpening our minds begins, I believe, by drastically reducing the time we spend on social media.

Centuries of Works at Our Fingertips

One of the things the Information Age has going for it is the cataloguing of works that have been written over several centuries. As believers in Christ, we have the early Church Fathers who wrote theological treatises, early Church histories, and Christian devotionals, all of which we can engage for our personal edification. We can read about how early Christian churches developed their ideas around the great creeds. We can plumb the histories regarding how early Christians dealt with heresies, theological error, and outright false teachings. We can learn about saints from early Church history and how they dealt with persecution and attacks due to their faith. We can study the philosophical battles that Church practitioners had to face across the centuries. We have a plethora of works we can read and study, beginning right after the time of Christ, moving on into the Middle Ages, and into our modern era regarding the history of the Church, doctrine, and specific individuals that have impacted our faith in various ways.

We have no excuses when it comes to what is available for us to ready and study. The issue becomes is what and how we prioritize our time.

Where We Spend Our Time

When it comes to the specific works we read, we will get various opinions from the many solid believers out there as to what should be the focus of our time and study. If I wanted, I could create another series of articles about all the things we could read that would edify us as believers, including works that would challenge us in many ways.

Instead what I will do is simply list some authors that I think any believer will find helpful in the development of his or her faith. In so doing, I am just dipping a toe in water that contains fathoms more that I could discuss.

The Early Church Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers could keep one busy for some time to come. One couldn’t do much better than picking up some works by Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, or Origen of Alexandria. All of these authors contribute a Mother Lode to the history of the Church. The one early writer that one does not want to miss, however, is Augustine of Hippo, who authored The City of God, and Confessions. Augustine is foundational to what would eventually take place in the Reformation, and saints of Christ still read his works to this day. There are numerous others besides these that one can explore.

Reformation Writers

When it comes to the Protestant Reformation, believers for sure want to engage the writings of both Martin Luther and John Calvin. I know of a set that comprises fifty-five volumes of Martin Luther’s works alone. Don’t let this fact overwhelm you. The editors of these Luther’s massive works are Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann. Anyone interested in reading some of Luther’s works can access this collection and choose the particular works one would like to read and study. His Freedom of the Christian is an excellent short work to read and a good solid beginning regarding his thought.

When it comes to John Calvin, the work in which to delve is his Institutes of the Christian Religion. One can find this work in a two-volume set, edited by John T. McNeill and published by Westminster Press. The Institutes is basically Calvin’s systematic theology, covering major theological subjects that are important to believers who want to be on sound footing regarding their theology.

Modern Writers

The theological treatises of the Early Church Fathers and the Reformation Fathers represent some intense reading indeed. I encourage any believer, however, not to shy away from delving into those works. You can glean from them if you put in the effort and time.

Works that reach back to the more modern era, say from the 17th to the present century are also available for our edification. Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and B. B. Warfield come to mind. Hodge’s Systematic Theology is a wonderful work to study regarding Reformed theology.

When it comes to the 20th century, personally, I would begin with writers such as Francis Schaeffer, James Sire, and C. S. Lewis. Both Schaffer’s and Lewis’ works can now be obtained in Collected Works sets. They are worth owning, and readers can survey them in terms of what they want to read. Both Schaffer and Lewis shaped my thinking as a young believer, helping me understand that being a Christian is a thinking individual’s life. We don’t turn off our mind when we become Christians. Lewis’s fictional works too are fun to read.

James Sire is a Christian author who for most of his life has written for Intervarsity Press (IVP). As a Christian thinker he explores philosophical avenues that deal with various worldviews. His work The Universe Next Door was instrumental in shaping my thinking about worldviews and how to think about and critiques various philosophical frameworks to which people might hold and try to live out. Another work by Sire, Habits of the Mind, impacted my thinking heavily, especially as a believer who is interested in the place of scholarship in the Christian life. I have probably read just about everything Sire has written, so I highly recommend him for any believer who is interested in how we fulfill the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our mind.

Os Guinness is another IVP writer who has branched out over the years who I highly recommend as well. His early work, The Dust of Death, is one I strongly suggest, even though it surveys the decade of the tumultuous 1960’s. I don’t think it’s dated, and it can be critically studied to think about what is happening today in our postmodern era. A work by Guinness that I passionately recommend is his book The Call. In this book, Guinness discusses how we come to understand our calling before God. It is not a work that sets out to answer specific questions, such as what my career should be as a Christian. It provides a framework, however, for us as believers to think and pray about such questions along with a host of other questions we may want to explore regarding our lives.

There are so many others I could list, but this short blog article cannot possibly cover them all. Garry Friesen, Mark A. Noll, John Lennox, Gene Edward Veith all come to mind. Readers can easily build a reading list, drawing from James Sire’s bibliography from his work, Habits of the Mind.

Conclusion

The main issue, believer, is that you should challenge yourself to read deeply, study thoroughly, and use your mind to God’s glory. This will look different for each believer, but the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our mind, is not a relative one. It is not one to be shirked.

For those believers, like myself, who are therapists, it is important that we engage our clients, particularly Christian clients, on a deep level that helps them build their Biblical knowledge, their theological study, and their personal relationship with God so as to navigate a postmodern world that is anything but friendly to a Christian worldview.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14th, 2020

THEMATIC/WORLDVIEW

Counseling Christian Clients

Introduction

The last two articles on this blog focused on my worldview as a Christian, and how that worldview informs my work as a counselor. In this third article, I look at why I prefer to work with clients who are Christian. Although I enjoy working with anyone, helping individuals from all walks of life work through any concerns they may have, working with someone who holds the same or a similar worldview is highly satisfying work.

A Christian client and I stand on common ground when it comes to major core beliefs about life. We have a common view regarding morality and what is right and wrong, or good and evil. We have a common foundation as to who God is and what our need for a Savior entails. We have a common experience of the fact that we cannot set our lives right via our own will and power. Indeed, apart from Christ, we lack any power to change in ways that we would otherwise prefer. A Christian client and I will speak a common language. We have a common source for our understanding of God and his Son, which is Biblical Scripture. We share the necessity we have for prayer. Different and antithetical worldviews collide and in some cases do not mesh at all. Working with believers in Christ proves to be work that can be highly gratifying because a common worldview provides us with an approach to life that gives meaning to the struggles we face.

What are some of the struggles that Christians might bring into the counseling room?

Problems That Christian Clients Encounter

So what can a Christian client expect when he or she enters my office? One of the first things that I hope Christian clients experience is that they are stepping onto ground that is safe. Their Christian beliefs are not only welcomed in my counseling office, but they should know my office as a place where their faith in Christ can become front and center for our work. Unfortunately, many people hold Christianity and therapy to be antithetical. In many cases, no doubt the counseling field has placed itself at odds with a Judeo-Christian worldview. In my office, one’s Christian worldview and faith will form the foundation for our work together.

Struggling with Their Faith

For whatever reasons, right or wrong, some believers in Christ find it difficult to voice their doubts and struggles with their faith to other believers who make up their local church. My counseling office is a place where they can bring the doubts they might hold and open them up for exploration. Perhaps they have encountered some difficult times that have led them to question what they believe about God. Such doubts and questioning is not something to squelch, but an experience to explore so that things can be cleared up. As believers in Christ, we are children of God, members of the household, who can approach God as Abba Father, and enter into his rest (Hebrews 4:1).

Typically the fears and doubts a believer in Christ experiences are based on wrong information and understanding about God. I have a jaded past. Has God really forgiven me? The work we do can be about getting a right understanding of God and on what and whom forgiveness is based. A person who doubts whether or not God has forgiven him commonly is looking to himself to garner God’s forgiveness rather than God’s forgiveness standing on whom one believes. Our forgiveness is not based on what we do to get at God’s grace. It is based on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This passage indicates that if God doesn’t forgive those of us who confess their sins as believers in Christ, he would be unfaithful and unrighteous. This is a rock bottom foundational truth because forgiveness is not based on us but on Jesus Christ. Many believers have a difficult time embracing the richness of God’s love and grace that awaits those who have placed their faith in his Son. It is something we must step into and hold onto because it’s easy to want to earn something before God.

Hurtful acts toward others in the past prove to be a common weight that believers in Christ carry on their shoulders. Again the richness of God’s grace is something to which we cling in faith. There are also truths about life that God has built into existence. Although God readily forgives those who are in Christ, other people might not be so forgiving. We simply may have to live with the fact that our actions have an impact on others in ways that we may not ever in this lifetime experience their forgiveness. The question becomes whether or not we value God’s grace more than what others may think and feel about us. We can ask them to forgive us. Whether or not they do is up to them, not up to us. What we do know is that God has forgiven us.

The world today holds an antagonistic view toward our faith in Christ. Christianity and the world do not mix. We are told this in Scripture over and over. We are in the world, but we are not to be of the world (John 17). Sometimes Christians have to face how difficult and tough it is to live out their faith in a world that is an enemy of Christ. Some clients will enter the counseling room because they have found that they lack the courage at times to live as God would want them to live. The heaviest pressure that anyone faces, believer or otherwise, is the call to conform to other’s beliefs rather than our own. Simply put in many cases, we liked to be liked. We want people to accept us. Nothing feels worse than rejection from others. Christ knows what that rejection feels like. He came to his own and those who were his own did not receive him (John 1:11). There is neither a temptation nor a pain that we face that Jesus Christ did not face. We have God’s promise that he will give us the courage, and even the words to say, when we face the antagonisms of the world. When we do fall short in that battle, God’s forgiveness is still there. The battle is not easy at all; but we have the panoply (Ephesians 6:11) to carry it out.

Living Out Our Christian Faith

From my perspective, some of the most satisfying work as a counselor is helping clients tap into their local churches so as to jump start their sanctification. How does a believer grow in his or her faith? Although therapists and clients can touch on the beginnings of this process in the counseling room, sanctification must take shape via one’s relationship to God and the body of Christ. The counseling room can never replace the fellowship that believers need with other believers. Nor was it intended to do so. I inform my believing clients that if they are not plugged into a solid Bible-believing local church, their struggles will continue to weigh them down.

It is equally true that unless believers find time for prayer, their struggles will continue to come at them in ways they don’t understand. We have the right to approach God’s throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We have the greatest gift of all in Christ to be considered children of God. That means we can talk to him, which is exactly what prayer is. Just as the counseling room is not meant to replace a local church, neither is it meant to replace one’s relationship to God as Father and the power of prayer that comes with that relationship. God gives us promises regarding prayers we place before him, promises that we need to understand on levels that come only in time of relating to him. It is easy to think of prayer as simply our wanting God to give us things to make us happy in the moment. I fall into that trap time and time again. Prayer, however, carries with it the power of knowing God on a deep level, which simply put, takes time. Although forgiveness is always there, and God is ready to take us places no matter what, we have to realize that if we’re not careful, we can waste the valuable resource of time that we can spend with God. Hours go by in flashes that turn into days that turn into years that turn into a lifetime. Don’t let the reality of being allowed to know God slip away.

The counseling office is not a replacement for fellowship with other believers within a local church. No form of therapy is a replacement for prayer and knowing God. Additionally, counseling though it can help us gain insight into our selves and struggles that we face, it is not a replacement for our study of the Word or God, or Scripture. In addition to prayer, one of the ways we come to know God and his will for our lives is through his Word. Just as I tell believing clients about the necessity of church as the Body of Christ and prayer, I also tell them that if they are not reading and studying the Word of God, their struggles will continue to kick them in the rear. It is interesting and fulfilling work in counseling to help a believer develop some understanding of how to read and study God’s word. However, such work only begins in the counseling room. It must be developed in a local church setting with other believers who are trained to teach others how to study God’s Word.

These three truths help ground our faith into an ever growing and strengthening foundation: the Body of Christ, prayer, and Scripture. They are the foundation to how we should live out our Christian faith. I firmly believe that many of the doubts and struggles that Christian clients bring into the counseling room stem from their lacking in or neglect of these three areas.

The Upper and Lower Stories

One of my favorite Christian authors to read is Francis Schaeffer. He penned several works that I like to review at different times. One in particular always hits home for me, How Should We Then Live? (In The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Vol. 5, Crossway Books, 1982) In this work and others, Schaeffer described some faulty Christian thinking that he calls living in two stories. What many Christians tend to do is think of their Christian lives in some kind of upper spiritual story, while other aspects of their lives, e.g. finances, work, family, etc., are experienced in some kind of earthy lower story. Such upper/lower story divisions lead Christians to separate their spiritual beliefs from what some might call real-world beliefs, as though the two have no connection whatsoever. The upper and lower story division is a false one, and it can lead Christians into some dynamics that weigh them down.

God’s Calling

All Christians are gifted and called to do various forms of work and labor in this life. The upper/lower story division tends to place those who are in what is considered full time Christian work on a pedestal. Obviously, we think, pastors, evangelists, and other full-time Christian ministers are doing more important work than the rest of us. But think about for a second. Perhaps it’s easy to think that way about bankers, accountants, business owners, and those that do similar work of service. But would we think that way about doctors, surgeons, airplane pilots, and engineers who build things?

Many times Christians enter counseling because they think that what they’re interested and skilled in doing is not important to God. They truly, perhaps secretly, don’t have an iota of interest or desire to enter seminary, do full-time evangelism, or become a pastor. For various reasons, they may desire to talk to a counselor because they feel guilty about the kind of work they want to do. I enjoy working with Christian clients who need to explore these thoughts. I like having the upper/lower story conversation with them. God has gifted us all to do and enjoy certain types of work, whether that entails pursuing the pastorate, becoming a teacher, working in a medical field, or training for certain types of business endeavors. Would anyone truly believe that a local church doesn’t need an accountant? The body of Christ should not disparage any of these fields of endeavor. The important task for all of us is to make sure of our calling before God, and then pursue that calling. As a believer in Christ, you should feel no guilt because you do not want to work in some full time ministerial capacity. Simultaneously, regardless of how we make a living, all believers are priests, and we’re called to serve the body of Christ in some capacity. Serving God can take place through any type of work we do, regardless of what it is.

As believers in Christ, we are also to pursue what Scripture calls the spiritual gifts. We utilize these gifts to serve the body of Christ. It is important to remember that we are all members of the body of Christ. That doesn’t mean we all do the same thing and serve the same way. Analogous to the physical body, Paul claims that the eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you (I Corinthians 12:21). Every member of the body of Christ has a place in the church. It is not the same place as all other believers. Other forms of work I enjoy doing with Christian clients is exploring how they might fit into the body of Christ. It is important, however, for them to do this work in relation to their local church as well.

There are a lot of traps that believers can fall into when trying to decide what God has called them to do. It is not the purpose of this particular blog article to delve into that topic. It is, however, an important topic that believers need to explore. Such work is fulfilling work for me when I can help other believers work through these concerns.

Relationships

As believers in Christ, our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ are of the utmost importance. Although I’m not a pre-marital or marriage counselor, I can help individuals work through their concerns with various kinds of interpersonal relationships. I firmly believe that our understanding of how our relationships to others should work begins with our relationship with Triune God. If we are not developing our relationship with Christ who allows us to approach the throne of grace before the Father, then our interpersonal relationships can and will suffer.

As I stated above, forgiveness of and from others is one the main sources of personal pain we may suffer. Consequently, I work with believers to focus on what forgiveness means, and how it serves us. Others may withhold their forgiveness of us, but it is key to our wellbeing that we learn to forgive others, whether or not that leads to a restoration of friendships.

The ultimate foundation on which we all stand is grace. We must learn to develop and apply that notion to every area of our lives, including how we relate to others.

Conclusion

Sometimes believers can find it difficult to talk with others in their church about any concerns they are trying to navigate. The counseling room is a safe place where Christians can explore such navigations. My aim is not that counseling replace what they should find in the body of Christ. Instead I want to support what the body of Christ offers all its members. Working with other Christians who face the difficulties that life can and will throw at us is fulfilling work. I hope that any believer in Christ can enter my office and find the grace, safety, and encouragement to take on whatever challenges that life offers. 

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D, LPC-S/August 14th, 2020

THEMATIC/WORLDVIEW

Part II: A Christian Worldview Encounters the Counseling Profession

Introduction

This month’s blog article continues with the second part of a four-part series I am writing about how our worldview informs the way we work as counselors. In this series I explore worldview from a Christian perspective.

On last month’s blog post, I opened this series discussing James Sire’s definition of a worldview from his book, The Universe Next Door. I broke down the various components of his definition, and then highlighted how our worldview enters the counseling room, whether or not we are aware of its presence. Sire writes from an evangelical Christian perspective with which I’m in alignment. I practice my faith from a Reformed theological perspective. We should be aware of how our worldview shapes everything we approach in life. Moreover, as counselors, we do not check our worldview at the door as though we can detach ourselves from it or operate without it.

On this month’s blog I continue to explore what a worldview comprises, again drawing on Sire’s work, which he calls a catalogue of different worldviews. Sire proposes that a worldview, as he defines it, should answer seven foundational questions. I will discuss each question, and how he answers each one from a Christian theistic worldview, and how those answers might shape my counseling practice.

Sire’s 7 Questions

Let’s review James Sire’s definition of worldview:

A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which my be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being. [p. 17]

Building on his definition, Sire believes that a worldview should seek to answer seven basic questions, answers to which should provide a foundational understanding for why and how we live the way we do.

The seven questions are:

1) What is prime reality – the really real?

2) What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?

3) What is a human being?

4) What happens to a person at death?

5) Why is it possible to know anything at all?

6) How do we know what is right and wrong?

7) What is the meaning of human history?

Delineated as such, these seven questions are indeed mind-boggling. They are questions that theologians and philosophers have wrestled with for millennia. My responses here will necessarily be short, but in being so I don’t mean to trivialize the questions with over simplifications. My best response to the far-reaching effects of how we seek to answer these questions is to say simply, read Sire’s book.

Prime Reality

Sire explores various worldviews and how they might answer each of these questions.  I am drawing on his chapter where he examines the worldview of Christian theism. The answer to the first question regarding prime reality sets the boundaries for how we will answer the other six questions. Given this question’s foundational nature, I will explore Sire’s discussion of this question more in depth, and build on it to discuss the other six questions.

A Christian worldview can be understood in terms of basic Christian theism, or what is also called a theistic worldview, or simply theism. In response to the first question, prime reality is found in the nature of God. Sire states it in the following manner: God is infinite and personal (triune), transcendent and immanent, omniscient, sovereign and good (p. 26). From a Christian theistic perspective, God is the only self-existent being. He is like no other. He is I Am That I Am.

God is personal, not some intangible force in the universe. He is someone ultimate who is there to ground our highest aspirations, our most precious possession – personality (p. 27). As a personal God, believers in Christ can relate to him on a personal level. Hence, I can pray to him, ask him for guidance, comfort, healing, and forgiveness. I can also petition him to guide, comfort, heal, and forgive others.

God’s communal nature is seen in that he is triune, personal but comprising the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hence God is personal and communal, so we can relate to him in a personal way. When a Christian says he knows God, such a statement is not merely about God’s existence, but the believer knows God on a personal level, as our own father.

God is not merely a part of the world, like pantheism, but he is transcendent, beyond our world. Hence he is otherly. He is separate from us and his creation. Simultaneously, he is immanent, meaning he is present, with us, and with us now. Immanence doesn’t mean that God is in a rock or a tree as pantheism or primitivism might understand it. His presence is with us constantly in a way that we can depend on and rest in it. God actually holds the world together through his Son, Jesus Christ.

God is omniscient, sovereign, and good. For the Christian, this means we can rely on God’s sovereignty, even in, and especially in, situations where we don’t have a clue as to how and where our lives might be heading. This is the rest that Christians can find in a personal God who not only knows and controls all things, but who also is good, having our well being in hand. His goodness means that there is an absolute standard of what is right and wrong. It also means that human beings have hope in a world that at times may appear and feel chaotic, dangerous, and hopeless.

When we think of what is real and important to us, experiences such as love, friendship, joy, pain, dreams, aspiration, and a meaningful life, such experiences are of prime important to us because God exists as a personal, infinite, and loving God. These are not merely concepts. They are real.

External Reality

Given God’s omnipotent and omniscient nature, external reality, or what we call the universe or cosmos, is God’s ex nihilo creation, created to operate with uniformity of cause and effect in an open system.

External reality is there. It’s not a creation of human beings’ minds. We bump up against it. If you don’t buy that, then try closing your eyes and walking around your home for a few minutes. The old adage that toes exist to find things we didn’t know were there is a stark reminder to the fact that we do not create external reality as many subjectivists and radical postmodernists believe. The beauty of God’s creation can be observed, explored, studied, and learned in exquisite detail. God’s creation is not programmed, but open. God’s constantly involved in its operation. And so are we human beings. We can alter it for the good or the bad. Hence, we are stewards of its care. I reflect on the times I’ve driven to Colorado or Glacier National Park in Montana and the breathtaking beauty that unfolds right before one’s eyes. David’s Psalm 19 addresses how the heavens declare the glory of God.

Human Beings

The epithet Imago Dei explains the relationship of all human beings to the Creator God. Not only did he create the external universe, but also he created human beings in his image. Hence, the Image of God is stamped on our being. We are personal because God is personal. We are self-conscious because God is self-conscious. We act according to our own character as God created us to be. We are like God in a limited sense. We each possess a unique character and we can choose to act. We are not God’s robots. In as much as we are created in the image of God, we therefore have intrinsic value. Our lives hold sanctity. Hence we possess a unique personality, we aspire to self-transcendent values, and we are intelligent in that we are capable of reason, knowledge, and wisdom.

Life and Death

We are also fallen human beings. The Christian theistic message is one not welcomed so much in our culture today when it speaks to life and death. Naturalism teaches that death is a normal process in the life and death cycle. Christian theism teaches that physical death is abnormal, contrary to God’s purpose for us. It was not meant to be. The Fall brought death to humankind. Hence, death is a portal, either to a life with God, or a life separate from God. I get how difficult it is to embrace this notion. Sire quotes G. K. Chesterton as stating death is a monument to human freedom (p. 40). He didn’t mean that in a disparaging sense. It means that our decisions have eternal significance. People must answer individually whether or not they accept this Christian claim.

Knowledge

Sire states, the foundation of human knowledge is the character of God as Creator (p. 34). Because we are made in his image, we can know, reason, and pursue wisdom. To put it more succinctly, God created our minds. Hence he takes an active role in communicating with us via two channels, the natural universe or general revelation and through his Word or Scripture, special revelation. Human beings can explore, study, and come to know the external world around them, and they can come to know God himself. God’s omniscient knowledge is the foundation for our knowledge and intelligence. Because God is both Creator and personal, we can know him personally and what he created. Indeed he granted and gifted us with the stewardship we have over God’s creation. Christ addressing the Old Testament stated that the greatest commandment is You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Hence, your mind matters, as John Stott’s pamphlet of the same title states. We were given a mind and we should not let it go to waste.

Good and Evil

From the perspective of Christian theism, human beings were created good, but through the Fall, the Imago Dei within us became defaced. Looking across cultures and societies, human beings for millennial have codified rules of law. Our nature as human beings leads us to search out ethics, morality, and an understanding of good and evil. The ultimate reason, however, for any understanding of right and wrong, is grounded in the nature of God himself. Moreover, we are not left alone in the Fall. God has provided redemption through the work of Christ. To get a clear picture of what is good, we look to Christ for that understanding. We listen to his words and we see his actions. Sire states, ethics is transcendent and is based on the character of God as good, holy, and loving (p. 41). Everyone lives according to some moral code, whether one realizes it or not. Theism says to us that there is an absolute standard for right and wrong, good and evil. Jesus Christ is the fullest embodiment of the good. He is the complete man, both man and God. We live in a postmodern world where the idea of an absolute moral standard is no longer acceptable. The problem comes when one tries to live consistently with the notion everything is relative. When evil comes people’s way, they tend to suddenly want what is right.

History

From a theistic perspective, history is linear. It is heading someplace. Sire states it this way: Human history can be summed up in four words – creation, Fall, redemption, and glorification (p. 37). Christian theism does not see history as cyclical, reversible, repeatable, and it is for sure not meaningless. In this sense, history is a form of revelation, especially when one looks at the history of the Jewish people and the history of the church. History is heading somewhere, the Kingdom of God. History is meaningful as seen in the Divine Logos, Jesus Christ. As a Christian this means even though I cannot know nor see the beginning from the end, I can rest in God’s sovereign and providential control. We’re not merely floating around in the river of history heading into nowhere. Because history has a direction and is meaningful, we can also live meaningful lives.  

Necessarily I had to give short space to these seven challenging but substantive questions. Again, one should read Sire to get at his fullest exposition of a Christian Theistic worldview. The question becomes now, what does this mean for the counselor who, like myself, is a Christian.

Christian Theism in the Counseling Room

I want to reiterate something I said on last month’s blog. I do not believe that anyone can check their worldview at the office door before sitting down with clients in the counseling room. In fact, it is incumbent upon all of us, counseling professional or otherwise, to become aware of the worldview we hold. Then we can ascertain whether it truly informs the way we live. Not only is it impossible to set aside or worldview, but also I don’t believe it’s ethical to try to do so. Neutrality refers to the absence of coercion, not the suspension of one’s beliefs. I stated last month that I do not seek to proselytize clients to my worldview. I want to meet them at the edge of their worldview the best I can do that. In that sense, counseling involves the coming together, and possibly clash of different worldviews.

My worldview does mean that I seek to take a certain stance toward my clients. Clients who enter the counseling room are seeking help. Many times they are hurting, both psychologically, and what I believe to be spiritually. Life may be swallowing them up in various ways. They come to me hoping that I can understand what they’re going through and how their experiences impact them. From a Christian perspective, I want to treat my clients as I want to be treated if I sought counseling. I want to empathize, hold a space for them with compassion, and be a solid ground for them from which they can navigate difficulties that life has thrown at them. I see them as human beings stamped with the Imago Dei; therefore, they deserve respect, dignity, and all the support that by God’s grace I can muster. I realize that they face the difficulties they do because they live in a fallen world that can bring pain into their lives. Their struggles are real, can be hard hitting, and indeed may be tearing at them inwardly. They seek counseling to find a way to make things clear, to embrace some form of knowledge and understanding that can guide them to what they hope is a better, more fulfilling, and meaningful life. Like all human beings, they are finite in their resources, capacities, and abilities to deal with the vagaries that life throws at them. Like all of us, they are finite, their choices lead to consequences, and their timeline has an end. As a Christian, I want to provide that space for them where they can enter and find the grace they need to face whatever life throws at them.

As a Christian I hold that as finite human beings we are armed with an incomplete panoply to deal with life’s difficulties without the Spirit of God and the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. This is a truth that I fall back on, nonetheless, not seeking to proselytize any clients. I do, however, welcome any questions that clients may want to ask of me regarding my faith. I indeed hope they do so, and I relish the opportunity to have a discussion with them regarding my beliefs in Jesus Christ. Because the culture at large has a tainted view of Christianity, many times such discussions may be about what Christianity is and what it is not.

As I’ve described it here, Christian theism shapes who I am in the counseling room. My hope is that in my work, God is glorified in someway. My worldview comprises my personal beliefs in Jesus Christ and it enters the counseling room with me.

I would have it no other way, nor should anybody else.

Conclusion

As I stated on the last blog, the work I really enjoy doing entails working with those clients who hold the same worldview as mine. Next month’s blog article, the third of four blog posts in this series, will explore what Christian clients should expect if they want to engage a counseling relationship with me.

Until then.

References

Sire, J.W. (2004). The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog.(Originally published in 1973). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Stott, J. R. (1972). Your Mind Matters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph. D., LPC-S/July 14th, 2020

THEMATIC/WORLDVIEW