Sufficiency of Scripture essential to counseling, speakers say at Southern Seminary’s Counsel the Word Conference

Communications Staff — September 25, 2014

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Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. gave the first general session message at the Counsel the Word Conference, Sept. 18.

Affirming the sufficiency of Scripture in biblical counseling is a “radical idea,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the school’s first Counsel the Word Conference, Sept. 18-19.

The conference, co-sponsored by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), featured popular practitioners Paul David Tripp, David Powlison, Heath Lambert, and others during the two-day event.

“If we’re going to think about biblical counseling and we’re going to understand that it must be premised upon the sufficiency of Scripture, we must recognize what a radical idea that is,” Mohler said. “We must be certain the sufficiency of Scripture is the theological foundation of our understanding.”

Mohler opened the conference lamenting how few counselors commit to the sufficiency of Scripture in today’s church. The nature of biblical counseling, he said, necessitates a conference like Counsel the Word because the sufficiency of Scripture is so neglected.

Tripp, popular author and founder of Paul Tripp Ministries, offered three principles for counseling from Psalm 27 during his message. He began by asking what it means to counsel biblically, then moved to his principles. First, he said, “people do not live life based on the facts of their experience, but based on the interpretation of the facts.” Second, the Bible is not arranged by topic. Third, counseling “is profoundly more than exposing sin and telling people what to do instead.”

Tripp used the example of David in Psalm 27 as he faced trouble and pointed himself to the God of his salvation. He said that difficulties in life point us to how Christians interpret life and Scripture.

“You will only ever properly understand the trouble in your life when you look at the troubles through the stunning beauty of your redeemer,” he said.

Closing his sermon, Tripp gave four words for personal reflection and to use in counseling others: gaze, remember, rest, and act. He encouraged listeners to remember their identity in Christ while gazing on the beauty of the Lord, calling their hearts to rest in God and also to act “because God is wise and is all that he is for you by grace.”

Powlison, executive director of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling, spoke about“working toward God’s goal in us.”

Scripture is sufficient for identifying important decisions in a person’s life, to inhabit reality and to equip Christians for ministry, he said.

Seminary professor Jeremy Pierre moderated a discussion with Counsel the Word speakers Heath Lambert, Paul David Tripp, and David Powlison.
A panel discussion during Counsel the Word Conference is led by Jeremy Pierre, Southern Seminary assistant professor of biblical counseling, with participants Heath Lambert, Paul David Tripp, and David Powlison (left to right).

Powlison reviewed seven false assumptions about the sufficiency of Scripture, providing biblical counterparts. He then demonstrated how attendees can use Psalm 23 to counsel themselves or others.

Lambert, president of ACBC and counseling professor at Boyce College, emphasized the necessity of counseling with a sufficient Word because it is the subject matter of Scripture.

“You get the power you need for your life as you get to know Jesus and trust his promises,” he said, noting that the commitment to Scripture’s sufficiency is the source of the counselor’s authority.

The conference also featured a panel discussion and breakout sessions about counseling topics like anxiety, bipolar disorder, brain injuries, anger issues, and homosexuality.

Audio and video from Counsel the Word is available at sbts.edu/resources.

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