The Seven Foundational Principles Underlying IRBC’s Philosophy of Counseling

The Seven Foundational Principles Listed

We are now ready to begin our accelerated studies in the basics of biblical counseling. The counseling instruction you receive will be divided into two parts: philosophy and methodology.

There are seven core principles underlying IRBC’s philosophy of biblical counseling—principles that will help you build for yourself a philosophy of counseling that is biblical and distinctively Reformed. Our core principles lay the groundwork for the 7 Dominant Domains for the Origin of Human Problems. Some of these domains will be introduced within the context of our discussion of IRBC’s philosophy; the others will be touched upon later when we dig into counseling methodology.

IRBC’s seven foundational principles are

1 God created man for his glory.

2 God created man in his image; therefore, man is a complex being.

3 God sovereignly superintends over the Spectrum of Environments using them, at times, to specifically create problems in the lives of men.

4 God created man to work.

5 God’s truth revealed through the medium of special revelation is sufficient to address and fulfill all of man’s spiritual needs.

6 God’s truth revealed through the medium of general revelation is sufficient to minimize the effects of the Fall by providing insights and applications connected with the general operations of the natural capacities associated with the Primary Dominant Domains.

7 The Bible is a sufficient lens to discern truth from error when evaluating academic material associated with the study of general revelation.

Let’s spend some time unpacking each of these foundational principles.

Foundational Principle 1: God created man for his glory

This principle is rooted in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 1 Corinthians 10:31, which say, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. . . . Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (King James Version).

Most Reformed believers who are confessional and familiar with the Westminster standards immediately think of the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) when they encounter this first principle. WSC question 1 says, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer given is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

An important point needs to come to expression as we discuss this foundational Reformed principle: The primary objective of counseling is not merely the fixing of problems. It is to help counselees gain a proper perspective on the problem that has brought them to you for counseling. And what is the proper perspective? God has ordained the problem as a means whereby they can and should glorify him. There are times when God will bring about either complete or some degree of temporal relief or resolution to the problems with which his children are wrestling. At other times there will be little or no relief or resolution. God always knows what is best and will work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28) as counselees respond to their problems by faith and in accordance with God’s Word. The primary objective for everything that happens in the life of a Christian, both good and bad, is the glorification of God. Any counseling philosophy that does not acknowledge this foundational objective will be short-sighted. More will be said about this later when IRBC’s counseling methodology is discussed and the first of our seven steps, which is Provide Perspective, is unveiled.

Foundational Principle 2: God created man in his image; therefore, man is a complex being

One of the features that sets IRBC’s counseling model apart from others within the biblical counseling movement is an evaluation instrument we have begun and continue to develop. It is called The 7 Dominant Domains of Origin for Human Problems.™1 The diagram both depicts and summarizes the domains.

The seven domains represented in the instrument are divided into The Primary Dominant Domains™ (PDD) and The Secondary Dominant Domains™ (SDD).

The PDDs are what is reflected in the philosophical principle under At times, the problems with which people wrestle are directly related to the misuse (sin) or inefficiencies of one or more of the various capacities with which they have been endowed.

At other times, they arise in numerous ways within the various environments in which they live and interact, a matter we will touch upon while thinking about the third foundational principle.

Before moving forward to consider the third principle, it is important that our readers understand that a large number of common counseling-related problems are rooted in unaltered personal sinful behaviors (in the Spiritual Domain). For this reason a Table for Common Sins Underlying Personal and Interpersonal Problems© was developed to assist counselors in recognizing particular types of sins in the lives of their counselees. Although more attention will be given to this table and the manner it may be used in an organized counseling practice later, you are encouraged to spend a few moments reviewing it now.



A Classification Table for Sins Underlying Personal and Interpersonal Problems™

Ignorance(IG) Sins committed due to one’s lack of biblical knowledge or understanding [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]:___________________

Neglect(N) Purposefully neglecting, leaving out, or passing over one of Christ’s comsociet [Neglect Commandment/Responsibilities (NCR)]. Also includes lack of time spent in personal devotional life [Neglect Devotional Life (NDL)]. A special designation of [Neglect Sluggard (NSL)] should be applied to the counselee who demonstrates a pattern of habitual laziness in all areas. [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]:_____________________

Improper Response (IR) Sin associated with unbiblical responses to life’s circumstances, the sins of others, or the manifestations or results of sin the world. Common responses include behavior characterized by intense antagonism or hostility [Bitterness (B)], despair or [Hopelessness (H)], the suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement [Apathy (A)], and an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear towards another person [Anxiety (ANP)], place(s) [Anxiety (ANPL)], or things [Anxiety (ANT)]. Can also include an unbiblical response to one’s own disabilities, sin, or shortcomings via [Self Maligning Speech (SMS)] or, more severely; [Self Destructive Behavior (SDB)]. This designation also includes unbiblical patterns of communication in which one cuts down or inappropriately addresses others [Inappropriate Verbal Communication (IVC).]

Idolatry-Self Sin related to one’s primary focus being on oneself [Self-Focus (SF)], being overly-confident in one’s intellect or abilities [(Overly Self-Confident (OSC)], expecting others to serve oneself [Expecting Others’ Service (EOS)], viewing oneself as better or above others [Self-Importance (SI)], being overly critical of the sins, errors, and ignorance of others [Self-Righteous (SR)], or expressing excessive pity over one’s mistakes, problems, or sorrows [Self-Pity (SP)]. Also includes being unbalanced in the fulfilling of legitimate bodily needs / desires or seeking to have such fulfilled outside of God’s ordained mediums and boundaries [Eating- Related (ER)], [Sex-Related (SR)], and [Substance Related (SUR)] which includes the use of alcohol and other chemicals such as caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]:____________________.

Idolatry-Things (IDT) Sin related to being overly involved with or concerned about [Material Things (MT)], [Money (M)], or [Work (W)]. Also includes being more desirous or expressing more confidence in something other than God – signify under [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]. [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]:____________________.

Idolatry-Others (IDO) Sin related to being overly concerned about [Pleasing Others (PO)]. Also includes being [Overly Dependent on Others (ODO)]. [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]:____________________.

Defiance (D) Sin which is rooted in an intentionally contemptuous behavior or attitude; an overall readiness to contend or resist God [Defiance Against God (DAG)], some aspect of God’s will [Defiance Against God’s Will (DAGW)], a person(s) in authority [Defiance Against Authority (DAA)], or rules [Defiance Against Rules (DAR)]. [Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)]:__________________________.

1. This diagram along with the domains which comprise the 7 Dominant Domains of Origin for Human Problems have received a trademark to ensure that they are developed under the oversight of The Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling. All of The Outlook articles pertaining to IRBC which have been authored by Dr. Doll are under the copyright of IRBC. Permission to reproduce any of the articles must be obtained by IRBC.

Dr. Jeff L. Doll is director at The Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling, director at The Shepherd’s Way Biblical Counseling Center in Holland, MI, and pastor of biblical counseling at Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI.