Q&A: Secular Counseling

Secular Counseling

Question

I would agree that Christians should have distinct feelings that are not common to unbelievers. I also agree that "heart" represents the core of a person, but I disagree with your statement that secular counseling cannot change the heart. This is why I would advocate a Christian to participate in such secular counseling - because it seems to be a common grace that benefits both believes and non-believers.
  
There is something powerful and healing about experiencing our shame in the presence of others of care - both for the Christian and non-Christian. This is why I would advocate a Christian to participate in such secular counseling - because it seems to be a common grace that benefits both believes and non-believers. (It goes without saying that if a Christian did participate in such counseling they should not accept non-biblical teaching.) Any comments?

Answer

Well, of course I agree that secular counseling embodies some common grace insights, and we should be humble enough to benefit from those. You say you disagree with my statement that it cannot change "the heart."

Maybe we're defining "heart" differently. In my view, "heart" in the Bible refers to the innermost core of our being, what we are when all the masks are off. The Bible says that this core is either wicked or good. Its references to human depravity refer to the heart as the seat of wickedness, as in Jer. 17:9. In that core sense, only saving grace can change the heart. Unbelievers can, through counseling, become more balanced, sociable, content, happy, etc., but that is not the radical change given through redemption.

If by "heart" you are referring to emotions, or to personal stability or something short of our basic human nature, then I can agree with you. But if you are using "heart" in the full biblical sense, then I cannot.


Answer by Dr. John M. Frame

Dr. John M. Frame is Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.