Baptist seminary shies away from modern psychology in counseling

Louisville, USA - Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wants students to be skeptical toward much of modern psychology and to look first to the Bible for guidance - a major shift for a school that pioneered the integration of theology and psychology decades ago.

Students preparing for counseling careers will need to supplement their education elsewhere to receive certification in their field from professional organizations or state agencies, The Courier-Journal reported. Other seminarians also will see some impact.

Theology dean Russell Moore said, "What we want to avoid is having our curriculum ... driven by the demands of any outside agencies." He expects seminary graduates will work in churches or related institutions, rather than private practice or secular settings.

Moore said the seminary disagrees with the ethical codes of professional associations that oppose discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation.

Some former seminary students and faculty, including both opponents and supporters of Southern's conservative shift in recent years, questioned changes in the counseling curriculum.

"Those behind the doors of Southern are creating a false dichotomy by implying that pastoral care and counseling is not and has not been biblical," said Vicki Hollon, executive director of the Wayne E. Oates Institute, a Louisville-based agency named for a pioneer in pastoral counseling at the seminary.

The seminary's move responds in part to a 2002 resolution by the national Southern Baptist Convention that said Christian counselors should rely "upon the Word of God" rather than theories that "ignore human sin and its effects."