Old Testament Wisdom and the Integration Debate in Christian Counseling -- By: John W. Hilber

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 155:620 (Oct 1998)
Article: Old Testament Wisdom and the Integration Debate in Christian Counseling
Author: John W. Hilber


Old Testament Wisdom and the
Integration Debate in Christian Counseling

John W. Hilber

John W. Hilber is Pastor, Believers Fellowship Church, Gig Harbor, Washington.

Integration of secular counseling theory and methods in the Christian community continues to be a controversial issue.1 On one side of the debate are those who appeal to the sufficiency of Scripture, contending that modern psychology and psychotherapy are poisoned wells from which Christians cannot drink without compromising biblical truth.2 They say no integration is possible. On the other side of the debate are integrationists, who argue that general revelation is a legitimate source of truth and who therefore attempt a cautious use of modern theory and methods regulated by biblical theology and a Christian

worldview.3 No consensus among integrationists has emerged on the method of integration or the extent to which integration is possible.4 But all integrationists share an openness to the contribution of modern psychotherapy.5

Most debate over the validity of integration has focused either on the doctrine of general revelation or New Testament passages dealing with the sufficiency of Christ or of Scripture or the giftedness of the church. But absent from the discussion is any serious engagement with the one area of Scripture that speaks most extensively to the issue of counseling, namely, Old Testament wisdom literature.6 This article addresses the integration question from the neglected viewpoint of Old Testament wisdom literature and the role of the sage in ancient Israel in relation to two questions: Where is wisdom to be found? What was the function of wisdom in the Old Testament community of faith?

Sources of Authoritative Knowledge

Wisdom as a Voice of Moral Authority

According to Proverbs the way of wisdom leads to upright and blameless character, a life lived in the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:1–7; 2:1–22; 8:1–21). As wisdom and the way of righteousness are the same path, so a “wise man” and a “righteous man” are synonymous (8:20; 9:9). In defining wisdom, Crenshaw takes as his starting point the defense of Job (

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