17 Jul A Copernican Revolution
While recently reading Post-Christian: A Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture by Gene Edward Veith Jr., my thoughts went on a tangential journey about the Copernican Revolution of the 16th Century. Up to that time, astronomers and scientists thought the Earth was the center of the universe, and that the Sun revolved around the Earth. This makes perfect sense to the observer. The Sun rises in the east, travels across the sky, and sets in the west faithfully each twenty-four-hour period. If the Earth was standing still and not rotating, logic would dictate that the Sun must be revolving around the Earth. What Copernicus proposed was that the Sun’s “rising” and “setting” was not because it revolved around the earth every 24 hours. Instead, the Sun was the center of a planetary system, of which the Earth was a part, and the Earth was rotating on its axis every 24 hours while also revolving around the Sun, completing one revolution every year. What Copernicus proposed—which was eventually proven—was nothing short of a scientific revolution that changed human understanding forever.
Enough with the science history. What does this have to do with biblical counseling? In order to rightly assess a counseling problem, the counselee must have a Copernican perspective. A Copernican perspective says that Christ—the Son—is at the center of my life. My thinking, my relationships, my issues are like planets that revolve around the Son. When He is at the core of everything that is my life, the important questions become, “What is God’s purpose in my situation? What is He trying to accomplish in me or through me? How can I participate with Him in accomplishing His purposes?”
It is not uncommon for me to encounter various aberrations in the mental solar systems of my counselees. A common one is being problem-centric. When a sufferer has placed their problem at the center, all other aspects of their lives are affected by its gravitational pull. The pagan worldview suggests that the way to solve a problem is to label it, study it, determine its origin, determine a desirable solution, and pursue that solution. While methodologically accurate, the underlying assumption is atheistic. There is no God, or perhaps there is a god but he is completely inconsequential to solving the life problem at hand. Though I rarely encounter a true atheist in my counseling, I frequently encounter Christians who are thinking and behaving in completely atheistic ways. They may pray, “God, please take this anxiety away from me.” Then, when God doesn’t immediately zap the anxiety from their brain, their thought is, “I guess I just have to put up with it or figure it out on my own.” Maybe there’s a medication to take, a pithy meme to ponder, a book to read, some Scriptures to memorize, a distraction to engage in. Without a Copernican revolution, the planets being pulled into orbit by the problem often have names like Fear, Worry, Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Despair… (you can probably come up with a few more).
In my recent Bible reading, I ran across the sad story of King Asa in 2 Chronicles 14-16. He got off to such a great start. “Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God. He removed the pagan altars and the high places. He shattered their sacred pillars and chopped down their Asherah poles. He told the people of Judah to seek the Lord God of their ancestors and to carry out the instruction and the commands. He also removed the high places and the shrines from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom experienced peace under him” (2 Chron. 14:2-5).
For thirty-six years, Asa was a good king, but in his final years, he began to trust in his own strength and ignore the Lord’s voice. The prophet Hanani came to Asa and rebuked him. “’When you depended on the Lord, he handed them [Judah’s enemies] over to you. For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him. You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore you will have wars from now on’” (2 Chron. 16:8b-9). Asa developed a disease in his feet that steadily increased in severity, but sadly the Scripture says, “Yet even in his disease he didn’t seek the Lord but only the physicians” (2 Chron. 16:12b). When Christ is not at the center of how we see things, we scarcely see Him at all.
A Christian worldview demands that we have a Copernican revolution in our thinking. When Christ saved me from my sin, I didn’t clean out a small closet in my heart for Him to reside in. I surrendered every room in my heart to His conquering power. He does not occupy a remote outpost on the edge of the galaxy. He is the center—the Sun. For me to live is Christ. All words, all thoughts, all actions are understood in light of Him. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17).
Christ the Sun
Counselor, don’t underestimate the power of seeing Jesus as the Sun. Malachi 4:2 says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” Your counselee may be helped by medication. She may respond well to homework or Scripture memory. She may benefit from your counsel or some recommended reading. But seeking the Lord is what we are commanded to do. Remember, it is only in keeping our eyes on Jesus that we are able to run the race with endurance.
Questions for Reflection
- Do I encourage my counselees to see their problems with a “Copernican” understanding of Christ being the Sun?
- Am I looking for idol-making in my counselee’s thinking (i.e., attaching unrealistic expectations to the things of God rather than the God of things)?
- When my counselees consider my life, does it look like a model of the Solar System, where Christ is the Sun and every other component revolves around Him?
This article originally appeared in the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog on February 7, 2022 at www.biblicalcounselingcoalition.org and is used by permission.
Dr. Gary Hallquist is the Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Shepherds Theological Seminary where he teaches biblical counseling. He is also a pastor of counseling and care at The Shepherd’s Church in Cary. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Worship Studies degree from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.