Dr. David E. Carlson wrote an intriguing article in the mid 70’s that was delivered at the Research in Mental Health and Religions Behavior Conference in 1976. It was title, “Jesus’ Style of Relating: The Search for a Biblical View of Counseling”. His goal for this article was to “Bridge the gap between carrying helping professions and dedicated to communicating with those in the church who are threatened by [mental health care professions].” This was a daunting task then and a battle that is still being fought today.

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In the 1970’s the Southern Baptist were regaining their strength after a long season on interdenominational quarrels. Not only were they struggling to find their identity (again) theologically, they fought against each other over differing views of methodology. The way they related to people and the input they received from the Mental Healthcare professionals was only a small slice of the overall controversy they were facing. However, it was this type of conversing over the hard topics of methodology and theology that was happening, not only among the Southern Baptist, but the Church as a whole as they tried to care for people completely by staying true to their convictions unswervingly.

Dr. Carlson addresses this problem well in his article, and I am sure it was received as vital words in a time of turmoil when he first delivered it. Nonetheless, we are still struggling with these same types of decisions today. Evangelicals are still trying to find how they relate to culture and how much input they allow secular scientific study to speaking into the methods we hold so tight to when doing what the Church has been asked to do.

This Article gave great insight into the different areas of controversy when integrating scriptural authority and relevance of culture. Though I’ve read many good articles that talk about the problem as a whole, no one comes close to drilling down as deeply as Dr. Carlson did on the specific issues. The author identified the points of conflict between the medical professional and the church such as “Authority”, Hermeneutic approach, and relating biblical and non-biblical data. Carlson look at Jesus’ ministry objectively as the basis for how to  deal with these points. In spirit of some of its controversial statements, this article was a great help for those studying counseling and working within the church.

As a pastor myself, I wrestle with the integration of Mental Healthcare thoughts and the Bible. I know I am not the first to struggle with this. It is very helpful to understand the struggles that the Church has faced since the 70’s and see Carlson’s approach, practicals, and theories as insights for my own ministry.


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