Ask Steve: Anthropology


Currently Reading:

Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification

by R.C. Sproul

Category: Christian Living

2012, David C. Cook




Question: Steve, I am studying biblical counseling and trying to understand the relationship between secular science and biblical theology. What role does anthropology play in counseling theory and practice?

Answer: Since anthropology is the science and study of humanity, it plays a significant part in any counseling theory and practice. Effective biblical counseling must begin with understanding who and what humanity is. When we understand that humanity is not a random product of evolution, but rather a purposeful creation by God made in the divine image (Genesis 1:27), we begin to understand the significance of men and their purpose here on earth. Furthermore, when we understand the innate depravity and fallenness of humanity (Romans 3:23), we correctly address the problem with people, which is their sinful nature which needs to be changed by the Lord. Transformation only comes through the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit when the sinner repents and trusts in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11).

A wrong understanding of anthropology would be to assume that man evolved from primitive forms, is not anymore special than other life forms, has no moral absolutes to abide by, is innately good by nature, and can transform or reform himself. If one adopts a humanistic worldview, then he already builds a weak foundation to counseling practice. It would seek to change counselees in the superficial sense, placing little emphasis on the supernatural elements of the counselee’s healing (ex. regeneration, sanctification by the Spirit, sin). It would also mimic secular psychology practices of shifting personal blame and guilt on other factors such as societal influence or genetic makeup, and appeal to the person’s sense of inner “goodness” or self-esteem to bring about the desired change. These enlightenment approaches of behavior science must not be the underlying theories that propel true biblical counseling. This is the problem with secular anthropology and psychology, which biblical counselors must be aware of when trying to relate anthropology to effective biblical counseling and practice.

Counseling theory and practice must begin with a faithful biblical worldview. It all starts with a correct understanding of the history and nature of man, as well as His maker, Yahweh. Counselors must recognize that there is a supernatural world that exists alongside the natural one, that God is the Creator of all things, that men are made to worship God and are accountable for their responses to God, are sinful and incur the eternal wrath of God, need to be reconciled to a holy God through the perfect God-Man Jesus Christ, and need to be grow daily in Christlikeness according to God’s perfect and sufficient word, the Bible.

When this is established, the counselor has an accurate anthropological lens in which to approach every counselee. To the unbeliever, the counselor’s task is to evangelize them so that the counselee may repent of sin and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. No unbeliever is receptive to the teachings of Scripture because they are spiritually appraised (1 Cor 2:14-15), therefore it is useless to counsel him like a believer. Once he gets saved, then the counselor understands that his primary task is to exhort the counselee to pursue Christlikeness by abandoning the sinful habits that they are being counseled for and putting on the fruits of the Spirit in its place (Eph 4:24; Gal 5:22-23). In other words, the counselor understands his role to edify the saints, so that the counselee may grow in his sanctification.