[A current project is to examine the following question in terms of the discipline of biblical counseling. The question arises as follows there is some technique or therapy which works in that it will reliably produce symptom reduction. For instance, some presents with “anxiety.” (I am not questioning the existence of anxiety with the quotation marks, but merely marking off a semi-formal diagnosis.) If there were a technique which reliably resulted in a correction of anxiety, but that technique could not be based in the Scripture, or in Christian theology in application more generally (that is, it is a wholly “secular” technique), should/must a biblical counselor learn and utilize that counsel? Below is merely the draft introduction to the problem.]

There are three potential grounds upon which a biblical counselor could justify the acceptance of some proposition or technique from “secular psychologies.”[1]  These are not distinct arguments but rather three versions of the same argument, which each contention emphasizing a somewhat different element of the same basic contention.

First, there is the argument from common grace.[2] This foregrounds the theological proposition that God has provided good to human beings even in their fallen state.  Having dealt with this proposition previously, I will consider no more here.[3]

Second, there is the argument from “science”. This is a restatement of the “common grace” argument, but this time the emphasis is upon the means by which one obtains information from the world. An aspect of common grace is the ability to accurately make observations about the world and then to draw conclusions about the nature of reality from these observations.

The work of science is point-of-view neutral, because such observations should be independent of the observer’s personal presuppositions.[4] It ultimately rests upon the self-authenticating function of the senses. While this proposition is subject to a number of critiques, both at the level of the observer’s presuppositions and at the level of the senses; we can broadly agree that the fact that stones fall to the ground and fire is hot are incorrigible aspects of experience.

A difficulty of the science justification is whether a particular proposition can be justified as a matter of “science.” The methods of scientific justification were developed in the arena of “hard sciences”, such as physics and chemistry. Soft science


The related question of mathematical demonstration need not concern for three reasons. First, that while mathematics does provide an extraordinary tool for creating models of reality; the relationship between our mathematical models and reality as empirically observed is very difficult to explain or understand. Second, the means of logical proof used by mathematics is built up by rules of logical inference, not observation. Numbers and functions do not exist anywhere in the tangible world. Third, while mathematical demonstrations do map on the physical world, math does not provide any useful information about why I love my wife or hate my sin.

A third justification used primarily to justify the incorporation of some technique or medication into the practice of biblical counseling is pragmatism. And I mean pragmatism here both in the broad sense of “it works”, but also in the more strictly philosophical manner: not merely that “it works”, but rather that because it works it is true.

The motto, “All Truth is God’s Truth” is trivially true. However, that motto provides no real guidance in this area, because true is the point of debate.

Justification on the ground of “it works” cannot settle the question of whether we as biblical counselors should incorporate a technique into our system.  To say it is “true” because it “works” likewise does not answer the question.

In the mid-20th century, one could purchase a watch which could be read in the dark. The technique used to create glow-in-dark numbers was ingenious and more importantly, “it worked.” No one denies that the technique worked and would work today. But you will not be able to purchase this style watch online or at your jeweler’s shop:

During World War II, radium dials and gauges allowed pilots to fly at night without cockpit lights. This helped the pilots avoid being seen by enemy soldiers.

Radium is highly radioactive. It emits alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. If it is inhaled or swallowed, radium is dangerous because there is no shielding inside the body. If radium is ingested or inhaled, the radiation emitted by the radionuclide can interact with cells and damage them. During the production of radium dials, many workers who painted clock or instrument dials with radium developed cancer. To create fine tips on their paint brushes for small surfaces, many radium dial painters licked the bristles of their paintbrushes. In doing this, they often swallowed some of the radioactive paint. In the body, radium acts similar to calcium, so the radium that workers ingested was deposited into their bones. Many of these workers developed bone cancer, usually in their jaws. Eventually, scientists and medical professionals realized that these workers’ illnesses were being caused by internal contamination from the radium they ingested. By the 1970s, radium was no longer used on watch and clock dials.[5]

Techniques come loaded with presuppositions and with consequences. The argument in favor of incorporating a technique based upon the jejune basis that “it works” cannot satisfy the biblical counselor who understands that the task of the church is to make disciples and our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

As one who has lived long enough to have experienced fear, pain, loss, in myself and to have seen it in others, I cannot justify a “technique” solely on the basis that it would alleviate such fear, pain, or loss. I say this with fear and trembling and compassion. I realize such a bold statement will itself require substantial justification, because there is a self-evident argument that ending pain is a per se good.

I ask only, dear reader, that you grant leave to make my argument before you condemn my conclusion.

[1] This is obviously an inadequate description of the class of theory and observation at issue. But the phrase will work well-enough for our immediate concerns.  By referring to such as a “secular”, I mean nothing more than non-biblical. It should also be noted there is not a uniform biblical psychology. However, to fully develop a taxonomy the various genus and species of psychological theory would overly tax my knowledge and the lengths of this article.

[2] For example:

More specifically, it is my conviction that the Holy Spirit distributes certain blessings through secular psychotherapy as an aspect of common grace. Christians may use these blessings in order to help believers with relational, intrapersonal, and even spiritual problems. They may also engage with secular psychotherapy at a scientific and philosophic level in order to find insights that bless humankind.

Lydia Kim-van Daalen , “The Holy Spirit, Common Grace, and Secular Psychotherapy,” Journal of Psychology and Theology Vol. 40, no. 3 (2012): 229–239

[3]  Edward Wilde, “Why Common Grace is Not Enough,” Journal of Biblical Soul Care, Vol. 1, no. 2 (2022): 58-72;  

Edward Wilde, “Why Common Grace is Not Enough,” Journal of Biblical Soul Care, Vol. 2, no. 2 (2022): 5-30.


Scientific objectivity is a property of various aspects of science. It expresses the idea that scientific claims, methods, results—and scientists themselves—are not, or should not be, influenced by particular perspectives, value judgments, community bias or personal interests, to name a few relevant factors. Objectivity is often considered to be an ideal for scientific inquiry, a good reason for valuing scientific knowledge, and the basis of the authority of science in society.

Reiss, Julian, and Jan Sprenger. “Scientific Objectivity.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 30 Oct. 2020, plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-objectivity/. As might be expected with anything involving philosophy, the reality of the property is far more complex than the proposition that all scientific knowledge is “objective.”

[5] US EPA, OAR. 2018. “Radioactivity in Antiques.” US EPA. November 30, 2018. https://www.epa.gov/radtown/radioactivity-antiques.