"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked," begins the Psalms. George C. Scipione, director of the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD), is an advocate for this verse. "Jesus set up the principle that a disciple will look more and more like the person who disciples him. Counseling is discipleship," said Scipione. "A non-Christian cannot point you to Christ. By definition, it's impossible. Non-Christians don't understand the gospel." Scipione believes Christians should not participate in secular psychology and psychiatry. "Psychology is dangerous. The pupil [of a secular psychologist] will become an outright pagan, a New Ager. A lot of modern science is pagan philosophy plus proof text. The medical community has allowed more and more New Age principles into their practice. If you're going to get advice, there are things that pagans can do. These are things that are ethically acceptable and within the bounds of common grace and scripture." Scipione mentioned car mechanics and heart surgeons as types of professions from which Christians can seek non-Christian counsel. "But even financial advisors can offer advice that contradicts Biblical writings."
Scipione believes all counsel should be based on scripture. He said he is in the minority among Christians to believe this. "Sanctification never comes in a pill. There are times when people do need to be on medication. These include when people have bizarre hallucinations or schizophrenia. But even if someone has a thyroid problem, which can cause depression, the thyroid needs to be treated, not the depression. Often, it is easier for the medical community to provide psychiatric drugs, rather than treat the real problem. Psychiatrists prescribe Prozac rather than administer $5000 in tests to address the real issue."
Scipione emphasized that he does not dismiss the impact of depression or anxiety on people's lives. "People are real, with real problems. They need answers. If they don't get them from their church, they will go elsewhere," said Scipione. "People go to psychologists because their church doesn't believe in the gospel. Christians need to ask themselves, 'Is this a God-controlled universe? Do I have faith in the God of the Bible? Or is God an insurance policy?'"
"I know people will think I'm in a time warp, but this is the view of Scripture. This is the view from Genesis to the New Testament period, through the Reformation. It is the historical position of Biblical Protestantism," said Scipione. "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yes, there are new scientific advancements, but do people think God shortchanged us with instruction on how to live? It is the liberals who will say [people like me] are in a time warp. They attack the interpretation of scripture and explain away clear Biblical instruction, like the instruction to have men as pastors or that homosexuality is a sin. They even explain away drunkenness as a sin, because they will say it is a disease. These traditions of men are contrary to scripture. [Liberal Christians] believe that the scriptures are naive and pre-scientific. They believe that man has so much knowledge now, that scripture isn't true."
Scipione said this liberalism has moved into mainline Evangelical churches. "Most churches are man-centered in their theology, so they will have man-centered solutions." Scipione said psychology "crept into the church in the early 1900s, when the church bought into a secular sales pitch. This was ignorance. Christians now take courses at universities, thinking these are neutral subjects. [Christians] have been convinced that the Bible can't change the soul. Evangelical churches today have a secular anthropological view of man. The evangelical church is replacing scripture with social scientists.
"Evangelical churches don't believe the Bible is infallible and the inherent word of God. Mainline Evangelical institutions like Intervarsity and Willow Creek have brought in [secular] modernism and egalitarianism into the church. James Dobson is well meaning, but he integrates psychology with Christianity in ways that demonstrate he doesn't understand the theological issues." Scipione believes the integration of psychology and Christianity is an epidemic in the Christian community. "Most Christian counselors are syncretists. They are like South American Catholics who worship and pray to the saints to replace their local deities. This is the same compromise that Israel made when they brought pagan practices into their worship of God at Mount Sinai. Syncretism brings heresy into the church.
"Another challenge is that pastors are so into church growth that they want to get people saved and into a Bible study, but they don't think they should spend time to counsel them," added Scipione. "If counseling is discipleship, a pastor who thinks this is saying, 'I'm not going to do the job God gave me.' Pastors no longer shepherd their flocks. Pastors need to step back and reevaluate their use of secular counseling. They need to wrestle with the Bible."
Scipione said IBCD was established to return to the belief that the Bible is sufficient to counsel people. "My passion is that, apart from physiological problems, which need the best medicine available, the church deals with every other problem using Scripture. I want the church to believe that God's ways are superior to man's ways. I am here to convince churches of that and train pastors on how to counsel." To accomplish these goals, IBCD provides counsel to patients at no charge and offers church leaders courses on how to counsel.
655 West Eleventh Avenue, Escondido
Founded locally: 1982
Senior pastor: George C. Scipione
Congregation size: n/a
Staff size: eight, and local pastors
Annual budget: $110,000
Weekly giving: no charge; donations only
Singles program: n/a
Sunday worship: n/a
Length of reviewed service: 55 minutes