Certification for ACBC requires completion of a theology and a practical counseling examination. You can find the process for certification here.
The following are some draft notes I am using to help my students prepare to complete theology examination. The answers should be 1.5 pages or less. The purpose is not a comprehensive statement of theology but a brief statement of one’s theological commitment.
A second purpose of this study guide is to help students after they graduate by directing them toward additional relevant resources:
Questions Concerning Scripture and Revelation:
- Describe the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as well as the relationship of each one of these issues to one another.
- Describe the sufficiency of Scripture. Relate the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture to the practice of biblical counseling. Research and respond to the arguments of at least one integrationist or Christian Psychologist regarding the insufficiency of Scripture for counseling.
- Describe your position on the nature of continuing revelation (i.e., prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge). In particular explain whether you believe prophecy is a present gift in today’s church. Explain the relationship between your understanding of the gift of prophecy and the sufficiency of Scripture.
- Define general revelation and special revelation and describe the nature of their authority as well as their relationship to one another.
Overview of Issues:
These three questions require you to demonstrate an understanding of the source and status of Scripture.
Introduction (by Francis Schaeffer):
Not far from where we live in Switzerland is a high ridge of rock with a valley on both sides. One time I was there when there was snow on the ground along that ridge. The snow was lying there unbroken, a seeming unity. However, that unity was an illusion, for it lay along a great divide; it lay along a watershed. One portion of the snow when it melted would flow into one valley. The snow which lay close beside would flow into another valley when it melted.
Now it just so happens on that particular ridge that the melting snow which flows down one side of that ridge goes down into a valley, into a small river, and then down into the Rhine River. The Rhine then flows on through Germany and the water ends up in the cold waters of the North Sea. The water from the snow that started out so close along that watershed on the other side of the ridge, when this snow melts, drops off sharply down the ridge into the Rhone Valley. This water flows into Lac Leman—or as it is known in the English-speaking world, Lake Geneva—and then goes down below that into the Rhone River which flows through France and into the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
The snow lies along that watershed, unbroken, as a seeming unity. But when it melts, where it ends in its destinations is literally a thousand miles apart. That is a watershed. That is what a watershed is. A watershed divides. A clear line can be drawn between what seems at first to be the same or at least very close, but in reality ends in very different situations. In a watershed there is a line.
A House Divided
What does this illustration have to do with the evangelical world today? I would suggest that it is a very accurate description of what is happening. Evangelicals today are facing a watershed concerning the nature of biblical inspiration and authority. It is a watershed issue in very much the same sense as described in the illustration. Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on the inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of Scripture is completely undercut. But it is happening in very subtle ways. Like the snow lying side-by-side on the ridge, the new views on biblical authority often seem at first glance not to be so very far from what evangelicals, until just recently, have always believed. But also, like the snow lying side-by-side on the ridge, the new views when followed consistently end up a thousand miles apart.
What may seem like a minor difference at first, in the end makes all the difference in the world. It makes all the difference, as we might expect, in things pertaining to theology, doctrine and spiritual matters, but it also makes all the difference in things pertaining to the daily Christian life and how we as Christians are to relate to the world around us. In other words, compromising the full authority of Scripture eventually affects what it means to be a Christian theologically and how we live in the full spectrum of human life.
The Importance of the Issues:
Just as a definitional issue, “biblical” counselors must those who rely upon the Bible.
Indeed, everyone who makes any claim to being a Christian must have an understanding of the Bible, what it is and how it works.
While many will claim some sort of allegiance to the Scripture, there are a myriad of challenges which are made to the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, sufficiency and stability of Scripture. For instance, you may find yourself challenged by the clear teaching of Scripture when it comes to some issue which puts you in conflict with other people — particularly if there is a press from outside the church.
A notable example of a church which purportedly holds to a high view of Scripture is the City Church of San Francisco, which in March 2015 reversed its position on same sex relationships. In the letter to the congregation, the elders stated that they made their decision:
How did we seek to answer our questions?
- As a church within the Reformed Tradition we go directly to Scripture to find counsel and to reengage the verses that talk about same sex activity.
For so long this has been a “case closed” kind of issue for evangelicals. But in recent years, multiple respected evangelical scholars and theologians have begun to wrestle with this and a healthy debate is underway. Asking questions about what the Scriptures say on this issue must always be coupled with asking why the Scriptures say what they do and what kind of same-sex activity is being addressed. Scholars and leaders who have previously been united in their interpretations are coming to different conclusions. This does not mean that your view must change, but it does counsel humility with how we each hold our views. Given the status and variety of these opinions, what has become clear to us is that there is no longer clear consensus on this issue within the evangelical community.
As Robert Gangon wrote in First Things
As a church inspired by Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and founded in the Reformed tradition, City Church is supposed to give preeminence to Scripture. Instead, on the matter of homosexual practice, the Pastor and Elder Board gave preeminence to their judgment regarding what conduces more to human flourishing and, oddly, to a scripturally misguided book written by former Vineyard pastor Ken Wilson called A Letter to My Congregation. The letter recommends it to church members for showing, “great empathy and maturity to model unity and patience with those who are in different places on this conversation, all the while dealing honestly with Scripture.”
This was a notable contemporary example. But what we want you to see is that one can hold to a weakened view of Scripture and still claim in some way to be faithful. The trouble with chiseling away at the stability of Scripture is that soon you will lose your way. As Thomas Brooks wrote in 1652:
Ah! how many in these days have fallen, first to have low thoughts of Scripture and ordinances, and then to slight Scripture and ordinances, and then to make a nose of wax of Scripture and ordinances, and then to cast off Scripture and ordinances, and then at last to advance and lift up themselves, and their Christ-dishonouring and soul-damning opinions, above Scripture and ordinances. Sin gains upon man’s soul by insensible degrees: Eccles. 10:13, ‘The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talking is mischievous madness.’
And although many think that their weakness on the matter of Scripture will somehow save their Christian witness and protect Christ, yet as Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, and as the history of the Church teaches,
[I]f you begin to play fast and loose with the authority of the Scriptures, and with the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, you are of necessity involved in difficulties about the person of the Lord Himself.
You will be pressured in your work as a biblical counselor to soften or amend your biblical stand in some place and at some time. Now, you may think though others fall I will never fail. And so the Enemy will not come in the same way on every occasion. While he may just pressure one, he will seek to trick another. You cannot be firm and remain firm in your conviction on Scripture unless you both have a high view of Scripture as the very words of God and know what such a view entails.
Another attack upon Scripture can come from adding to the Scripture new information which lessens the authority of what has been said
ACBC Standards of Doctrine
- The Doctrine of Scripture.
The 66 books of the Bible in the Old and New Testaments constitute the completed and inscripturated Word of God. God the Holy Spirit carried along the human authors of Scripture so that they wrote the exact words that he desired them to write. The words in Scripture penned by human authors are thus the very words of God himself. As inspired by God the Bible is completely free from error, and serves as the inerrant, infallible, and final rule for life and faith. The Bible speaks with complete authority about every matter it addresses. The words of Scripture concern issues of life and faith before God, and because counseling issues are matters of life and faith, the Bible is a sufficient resource to define and direct all counseling ministry. Acts 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:1-17; 2 Peter 1:3-21; 2 Peter 3:15-16
XII. The Doctrine of Revelation. God discloses himself to humanity in two ways. Special revelation is God’s disclosure of himself to his people in the pages of Scripture. General revelation is God’s disclosure of himself to the entirety of humanity in the things that have been made. General revelation and special revelation each come from God and so are of equivalent authority, though they differ in content. Special revelation discloses detailed information about the character of God and how to live all of life in a way that honors him. General revelation is a disclosure of the beauty and power of God, which leads to judgment. The subject matter of general revelation is the character of God, and not mere facts about the created order. General revelation requires special revelation to be properly understood and applied.
Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23
Overview of the Doctrines:
Inspiration refers to the creation of Scripture: it is the Spirit of God working upon the prophet who the Scripture. This applies to the original texts, only. Neither translations nor copies are inspired or inerrant.
Inerrancy: The words in the Scripture are precisely what God intends, and, thus, all of the words are true.
Authority: This refers to the manner in which the human must respond to the Scripture. If God has spoken truly, then the words spoken (and written) have authority.
Sufficiency: The Scriptures are sufficient for the end intended. This does not mean that the Scripture is encyclopedic: it does not contain all information about every topic. But it does contain all that is necessary to achieve its determined end.
Revelation: The disclosure by God to a human being. Revelation may be either general – in that it is given to all human beings; or special in that it is conveyed through the Scripture.
When it comes to the question of general and special revelation, the issue often centers on the slogan, “All truth is God’s truth.” Does that mean that everything which is the consensus among some school of psychologists is “general revelation” and therefore on a plane with Scriptural revelation? Jay Adams discusses this issue as follows:
There are Christians today who are so caught up in the views and practices of unbelievers that in their writings they spend more time attacking those who attempt to set forth biblical positions that those who oppose them. They often go to great lengths to defend ungodly counsel.14
This might seem incredible if we did not understand how it comes about. The progression of compromise tells us. No Christian sets out to pervert and deny God’s truth; the process is gradual. It happens in stages, not all at once. That is the warning of Psalm 1. Such compromise with ungodly counsel, therefore, can happen both to counselors and (sadly) to those who are counseled by them.15
It is important to note that neither Genesis 3 nor Psalm 1 leaves any room for a third, neutral counsel. One of Satan’s ruses (as an angel of light) is to convince those who claim theological sophistication to accept error under the slogan, “All truth is God’s truth.” Under that banner nearly every error in the book has been blamed on God!
Of course all truth is God’s truth. But there is only one touchstone for determining whether a given statement claiming to be true is, indeed true: Does it square with God’s standard for truth—the Bible?
And, when compromisers talk about all truth as God’s truth, they call it “common grace.” They abuse this concept too. They mean by such use that God revealed truth through Rogers, Freud, Skinner, etc. God does, of course, restrain sin, allow people to discover facts about His creation, etc., in common grace (help given to saved and unsaved alike), but God never sets up rival systems competitive to the Bible. And God doesn’t duplicate in general revelation (creation) what He gives us by special revelation (the Bible). That is not common grace.16
You can be sure that it is not the result of common grace that two rival ways of counseling exist side by side! God cannot be charged with such contradiction. His common grace is not responsible for false teachings by Freud (man is not responsible for his sin), Rogers (man is essentially good and needs no outside help), or even Skinner (man is only an animal, without value, freedom or dignity). It is nearly blasphemous to claim (as a number do) that such systems, full of errors, falsehoods and anti—Christian teachings, are the product of God’s common grace! Imagine God, in common grace, through these systems, leading people to believe that their problems can be solved apart from Christ! Systems designed to do (apart from the Scriptures) what the Scriptures themselves claim to do are not the product of common grace. This theological language cover is but another of Satan’s distortions.
The questions here on revelation are also relevant to the matter of common grace.
In addition to the Scripture cited in connection with the ACBC Standards of Doctrine:
On the doctrine of Scripture see also: 1 Corinthians 14.37; Hebrews 4.12; 1 Peter 1.22-25 and the Psalm 119.
On the truthfulness and authority of Scripture: Since God speaks where Scripture speaks, the character of God is at issue in Scripture. God is infallibile and unchangeable: Isaiah 14.24, Malachi 3.6, Hebrews 13.17, James 1.17; God cannot lie Titus 1.2, Numbers 23.19; Hebrews 6:18. God’s revernce for his Word: John 10.34, Matthew 5.18-19, Psalm 119.4 and 105. God has ultimate and complete authority:
Genesis 1, Job 36-42, Revelation 20-22 . The Word has authority: John 1.1-4, Matthew 24.34-35, John 17.17, 1 Peter 1.23
There is an enormous literature on these issues. You will find entire books and journal articles which will discuss this topic or some aspect of the topic at length. You find sections of other books, such as systematic theologies, which will provide you with detailed discussed. You will also find relevant discussion in commentaries and sermons on relevant biblical passages. Finally there are church confessions on this issue.
Plainly these resources are far more comprehensive than you will need to complete the ACBC Theology Examination questions. But, the purpose of this list is not merely to prepare you for the examination, but to give you a series of resources to begin to study the theology at greater length. Moreover, you will find some ideas in certain resources which will be challenging. You need to be aware of challenges to your positions before they arise in the context of your ministry.
The Inerrancy Summit of the 2015 Shepherd’s Conference has four days of sermons and lectures on the doctrine of Scripture, particularly on the question of inerrancy: https://www.gracechurch.org/sermons/events/321
The website http://www.defendinginerrancy.com has a great many resources on issues specifically relating to the question of inerrancy. On the site you will find the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy which is the current “gold standard” for a discussion of inerrancy.
Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. , has written the best books on the matter of the New Testament Canon, Canon Revisited and The Question of Canon. His website often contains materials relevant to the doctrine of Scripture: http://michaeljkruger.com.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Article I, Of the Holy Scripture.
On the question of continuing revelation, there was the Strange Fire Conference held by Grace Community Church in 2013, together with an accompanying book. The lectures and sermons may be found here, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon-series/325/. John Piper responded here, http://www.christianpost.com/news/john-piper-talks-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-conference-pursuing-gifts-of-prophecy-and-speaking-in-tongues-109022/
The Masters Seminary Journal: Fall 2004, a series of articles on the doctrine of Scripture: http://www.tms.edu/m/msj15.2.pdf
Thomas, Robert L.. “Correlation of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts and NT Canonicity.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 1997): 5-28: http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj8a.pdf
Mack, Wayne A.. “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Counseling.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 9, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 63-84. http://www.tms.edu/msj/msj9.1.4/
“Does God Still Give Revelation?.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 14, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 217-34. http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj14h.pdf
Thomas, Robert L.. “General Revelation and Biblical Hermeneutics.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 9, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 4-23. http://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj9a.pdf
Jay Adams, A Theology of Christ Counseling, pp. 16-37.
Daniel Akin, ed. A Theology for the Church
Section 1: Theology of Revelation
Chapter 1: Theological Method
Chapter 2: General Revelation
Chapter 3: Special Revelation
John Frame, Systematic Theology
Part 4: The Doctrine of the Word of God
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Part I, The Doctrine of the Word of God, pp. 47-140.
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Part Two, Knowing God, Chapter 8, “Universal Revelation”; Chapter 9, “God’s Particular Revelation”; Chapter 10, “The Preservation of Revelation: Inspiration”; Chapter 11, “The Dependability of God’s Word: Inerrancy”; Chapter 12, “The Power of God’s Word: Authority”; pp. 177-285.
Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, Chapter Three, The Source of Theology: Revelation; Chapter Four, Scripture as Covenant Canon; Chapter Five, The Bible and the Church: From Scripture to System, pp. 113-219.
Robert Duncan Carver, Systematic Theology, Chapter 6, How God has Revealed Himself to Mankind (pp. 44-52).
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Part One, The Doctrine of God, Chapter One, “The Existence of God”; Chapter Two, “The Knowability of God”; Part Five, The Means of Grace, Chapter Two, “The Word as a Means of Grace”.
Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Part Three, The Scriptures as Revelation From God, chapter 1, “Preliminary Considerations”; chapter 2, “Positive Proofs That the Scriptures are Divine Revelation”; chapter 3, “Inspiration of the Scriptures”.
BB Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, volume 1 in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield.
John MacArthur, ed., The Scripture Cannot be Broken, ed.
John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God
J.C. Ryle, Is All Scripture Inspired?
Merrick, Stephen M. Garrett, eds. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, particularly, “When the Bible Speaks God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy” by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Steven B. Cowan, Terry L. Wilder, eds. In Defense of the Bible
Vern Sheridan Poythress, Inerrancy and Worldview
Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, eds., Counseling the Hard Cases, chapter one, “Introduction: The Sufficiency of Scripture, the Biblical Counseling Movement, and the Purpose of this Book”.
Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey, eds., Scripture and Counseling
Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster
Scripture and Counseling, Bob Kelleman and Jeff Forrey eds.
2: “Sufficient for Life and Godliness” (sufficiency)
Paul Tautges and Steve Viars
3: “Where do we Find Truth?” (general revelation, common grace)
5: “Scripture is Sufficient, but to do What?” (sufficiency of Scripture)
D.A. Carson, ed. The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
The Word of God in the Child of God, George J. Zemek
Thomas Manton, Sermons on Psalm 119.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, “The Great Evangelical Disaster” vol. 4 (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 327–328.
 You may find the entire letter here: https://www.citychurchsf.org/A-Letter-From-The-Elder-Board
 Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, “Precious Remedies for Satan’s Devices,”vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 20.
 Jay Edward Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resource Library, 1986), 8–9.