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Psychologist joins faculty at Southeastern Seminary

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–A former Louisiana psychologist who specializes in family counseling has been named associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.

Sam Williams, 45, comes to Southeastern with 24 years of experience in counseling and mental health services, most recently as part owner of the Psychology Clinic of Lake Charles, La., where he had a private practice for 10 years.

Williams received the doctor of philosophy and master of arts degrees in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego.

Southeastern Seminary President Paige Patterson said, “I am delighted in his decision to come here because of his commitment to biblical guidance as opposed to secular approaches under Christian names.”

Patterson also noted Williams’ “multiplied years as a gracious counselor of the troubled.”

Williams said he is committed to helping Christians reclaim the ministry of biblical counseling in an age in which psychology holds preeminence.

“According to our culture, secular psychology has all the answers,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, mental health professionals have become the reigning priests in our society. It’s tragic because they don’t have any ultimate answers. And I realize that very well having been on that side of the fence.”

He said he hopes to impart the lessons he has learned from his experiences as a psychologist — a pilgrimage that at one time caused him to turn his back on his faith for seven years.

Williams said he recommitted his life to Christ while on a business trip after reading “Peace With God” by Billy Graham.

“I tried to keep my clinical practice and my faith in two separate boxes,” he said. “I felt the two should not meet. But I began to see over and over how people’s problems were God-related and sin-related. And if our problems are God-related, then the solution has to be gospel-based, Christ-centered and biblically founded.”

Williams said most confusion in Christian counseling stems from an effort to reconcile biblically based counsel with worldly counsel.

“[A lot of Christian] counseling sounds much more, and is much more, secular than it truly is biblical,” Williams said. “We don’t realize how much we’ve been psychologized in a secular sense or how much we’ve been co-opted by the clinical professional model.”

To illustrate his point, Williams reacted to an article released recently by Associated Baptist Press in which Christian singer Amy Grant recounted the advice given to her by Christian counselors rationalizing the divorce which ended her 16-year marriage with Gary Chapman.

“What happened here,” Williams said, “is that they are trying to find ways to blend secular notions of relationships with their own desires and dip it in a little bit of spiritual talk. They are really finding ways to rationalize their sinful motivations and actions … without having to face [their] fallenness or having to bend [their] knee to the one and only God.”

Williams said his goal in teaching is simply to help students learn to counsel from the Bible.

“The Bible I read brims with insight into people and what makes them tick,” Williams said. “True-to-life psychology grows directly out of applied, practical theology. Consequently, counseling is pastoral and ministerial rather than clinical and professional. In many ways, good counseling is individualized discipleship, within the context of the community of the redeemed. Transformation and change are the product of learning to wholeheartedly love God and others; that’s the great prescription by the Great Physician.”

Williams and his wife, Mindy, have four children, Matthew, 11, Sarah, 10, Andrew, 7 and Stephen, 5. The Williams family resides in Wake Forest.

King is a newswriter at Southeastern Seminary.

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  • Melissa King