A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“That is not how Christianity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry it does not give you lessons in cookery. When it tells you to read the Scriptures it does not give you lessons in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar. It was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and science: it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal (p. 82-3).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

How much “how to” does the Christian faith and text of Scripture provide? C.S. Lewis begins to answer this question with the assertion, the Bible does not intend to be an exhaustive work – covering every detail of every task to which it calls a believer. Those who try define “the sufficiency of Scripture” to imply prescribing the details of life ask more of the sacred text than it contains. The logical conclusions of this assertion begin to become silly.

C.S. Lewis concludes his answer by asserting that the Bible is (or should be) the director, energizer, and Lord of all human learning. Applying these kinds of principles has been the center of fierce debate within Evangelical Christian Counseling. What role does the Bible play in developing a Christian psychology? Or, vice versa, what role should psychology play in developing a robust application of the Bible?

If the Bible did not intend to be exhaustive even on points it addresses extensively, how do we engage the field of counseling under the direction of Scripture, energized by Scripture, and submitting to the Lordship of Scripture while studying a complex field like counseling? As complicated as it sounds, every believer does it (or at least attempts to) every day.

I think we start by acknowledging that none of us do it perfectly and that there are no pure systems or exact principles for this type of work. We should also acknowledge that the more involved we become in the life of real people’s suffering and sin, the less clear the process will become. The more “lives” our subject; the less exact our science. Hence, chemists are more reliable than weathermen.

To answer the question better, we must examine the nature of Lordship as we experience it in real life. Lordship expresses itself through continual repentance and learning. I know Christ is my Lord not because I obey Him perfectly, but because each time I fail, I repent and learn more of His character.

Similarly, academic submission to Christ’s Lordship (expressed through submission to biblical teaching) will be expressed through repentance and learning. We will strive to know real, hurting people and use Scripture to help them. Sometimes we will apply Scripture in artificially rigid ways. Other times we will offer practical, “common sense” advice without thinking that it contradicts Scripture. It is inevitable that we will do one or the other (probably both) repeatedly.

The mark of a growing biblical counselor (and there is no other kind) is the willingness to repent and learn. The standard of repentance will always be the violation of biblical teaching. The content of learning will always be the fuller application of Scripture. However, the context of both repentance and learning will be the willingness to love others by placing ourselves in messy situations for which we do not have pre-scripted solutions.

That is how Christianity works. It provides the grace to allow us to repent and learn as we strive to do the things it calls us to do, love those it calls us to love, and carry out the mission it says should define our lives. It is in that reality of grace that “fuels” (i.e., source of energy or is the life for) all forms of the human arts and sciences are practiced by those who seek to be “Christian” at their trade.