In the beginning, we are told, the world was “formless and void.” That is, the creation had no shape, no boundary, no definition. But God spoke and order came from the chaos. God gives definition and organization to existence. How we look at the world, then, is bound to God’s interpretation of things. God sets the criteria by which we may understand the world.
Our world is not open to interpretation. We posit ideas about life, self, sin, and salvation, but when we do this apart from God’s revelation we are left with an unworkable paradigm. If the world belongs to God, that is He created it, then no understanding of existence apart from Him will ever truly make sense. Any interpretation that does not look at the world through God’s revealed lens will fail to rightly understand the world. We may get bits and pieces right, but if God has defined and determined existence, any reference to it apart from Him will fall short of truth. We are bound to God’s interpretation.
The world is no longer formless and void. It has been given a meaning, an understanding, an existence. Our knowledge of the world, then, must conform to these standards. If I fail to use a hammer correctly, so swinging with the opposite end, I may potentially drive a small nail into a piece of wood. But I have not, thereby, rightly understood a hammer, nor the science of hammering. I will also find it impossible to produce this same result on a more complex process of hammering. The same is true as we consider how we think about our world. We may get some things right, but this does not mean that we have rightly understood the world.
John Frame is helpful on this point as he discusses the reality that facts are best understood as the world seen by God. He writes:
It will serve us adequately if we think of “facts” as the world seen from God’s point of view… and “interpretations” as our understanding of those facts, whether true or false. Often in philosophy, however, the “fact” is thought to be a kind of reality-in-itself, a reality totally devoid of any interpretation – divine or human – by which all attempts at interpretation are to be tested. In reply, (1) we must insist that there are not facts utterly devoid of interpretation; there are no “brute facts,” to use Van Til’s terminology. All facts have been interpreted by God, and since all things are what they are by virtue of God’s eternal plan, we must say that “the interpretation of the facts precedes the facts” (Van Til). The idea of “brute fact” is an invention intended to furnish us with a criterion of truth other than God’s revelation. Yet, as with all other such substitutes, it cannot even be made intelligible. A “fact” devoid of any normative interpretation would be a fact without meaning, without characteristics – in short, a nothing. (The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 71)
The only way we get “facts,” in other words is from God. Apart from Him we have no true knowledge. We must, then, seek to understand the world as God intended, or we will fail to understand the world rightly.
In counseling, we must consider, then, what God says about people, problems, and solutions. Do our interpretations match His? If a system of belief is developed with leaves no room for God, thinks inaccurately of people, and diagnoses problems in a way that contradicts Scripture then we must ask if our counsel will truly work. We may get some things right, and help some people, some of the time. In the long run, however, we have not rightly interpreted the world and our successes will be less likely with more complex problems and situations.
This is why we practice Biblical Counseling at Cornerstone. Not because we don’t find value in the work of our colleagues in secular fields of counseling. Not because we don’t believe in medicine, biochemical brokenness, or various therapeutic tools. We may find value in all these and even utilize them in appropriate cases. Yet, we cannot adopt whole systems of belief which deny the Biblical understanding of the world, of man, of problems, and of solutions. We believe in holistic care, but we do not believe in adopting systems that seek to interpret the world apart from God. Such efforts will end in futility and frustration, and, even when they don’t, they will point people away from God and away from a proper understanding of themselves and their world.
The world belongs to God. He defined and determined what it is, who we are, how we work, and more. Things are not open to interpretations. Alternate interpretations are, at one level, idolatrous interpretations for they are attempting to redefine the world God has made. The world is not formless and void. God has established order out of the chaos. If we don’t read and understand the world in light of His revelation we will fail to find the truth. In counseling this means also that we will fail to provide lasting help and hope. God sets the criteria by which we may understand the world. We need to submit to it.