How Theology Informs Counseling

9780310518167mA Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry (Zondervan, 2016). Due out this week by Heath Lambert. Can’t wait to give it a thorough read!

The book shares the format of  Jay Adams’s More Than Redemption: A Theology of Christian Counseling (i.e., applying the loci and illustrating their importance to the practice of counseling), but brings many of the advances in both thinking and tone that have been made by the 2nd and 3rd generation of biblical counselors. Note: For a very helpful treatment of the similarities and differences between Adams and those after him, Lambert’s dissertation is definitely worth the read, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Crossway, 2012).

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R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

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10 comments on “How Theology Informs Counseling

  1. Ron Gilbert says:

    Tragic, but not uncommon, that a pastor gives his imprimatur to the biblical counseling movement, which has usurped his role (Ephesians 4:11-14).

    • Bald assertions don’t really encourage conversation, Ron. If you’ve got something to add, then I encourage you to add it. Speak (type) in such a way that is helpful for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (read) (Eph. 4:29).

      • Ron Gilbert says:

        I don’t see “biblical counselor” or “counselee” in Ephesians 4, or anywhere else in Scripture.
        If it weren’t for the the church following the world–the biblical counseling movement coming into being and vogue as a result/response of the secular psychology movement–we wouldn’t be seeing Lambert’s book, methinks.
        I was hoping you’d respond with something substantive, as it is a major concern for me at this time that pastors (two in my particular arena) refuse to shepherd their flock, but sub their work out to “professionals”.

        • Ron Gilbert says:

          If you read pp. 202ff at this link you’ll find that Adams’ construct of “nouthetic counseling” is no more than a substitute for his training in secular psychology. http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/pdf/hard_cases_ebook.pdf

          If what I am saying is true, it should build you up immensely, as only the truth can edify (give grace to those who hear it). Peace.

        • That is a much more substantive comment, Ron. Thank you. And as a side note, I don’t see “biblical counselor” or “counselee” in Eph. 4 either, although I don’t think you’re actually trying to argue on those grounds. (Think Mormonism and the word “Trinity.”) But on to the point…

          I am floored to hear that there are pastors who subscribe to the biblical counseling movement in your area who believe that the works of Lambert and Adams (and etc.) encourage pastors to refuse shepherding the flock. Wow … that’s sort of the point of Adams’s book title: “Competent to Counsel.” Just tell them to actually read Lambert, Adams, et al.

          I’m not interested in constructs, whether that of Adams or the Bobgans. If you’d like to learn a bit more about Adams’ relationship to clinical models, I suggest you read Higbee’s essays in the recent volume Biblical Counseling and the Church (Zondervan, 2015). Very useful reading.

          I would encourage you to read closely the works of those who you are critiquing. If you’ve read Lambert’s work and you still disagree (as clearly the Bobgans do), then that’s fine, but I’m just having a hard time seeing how *anything* Lambert et al have written in recent years undermines pastoral counsel. Your assessment of the BCM as a result/response to the secular psychology movement and how Lambert’s work fits into that confuses me a bit. Clarification is appreciated.

          I greatly appreciate your follow up. It had substance and has helped me to understand a bit more about your reservations towards Lambert et al.

        • Ron Gilbert says:

          “pastors who subscribe to the biblical counseling movement in your area who believe that the works of Lambert and Adams (and etc.) encourage pastors to refuse shepherding the flock” isn’t what I stated.

          Also, to rephrase: I don’t see justification for the title, concept, or construct “biblical counselor” or “counselee” in Ephesians 4, or anywhere else in Scripture. I think you knew what I meant.

          Is it possible you’re swimming in the mainstream of evangelicalism re: the BCM?

          Why wasn’t there a BCM before Adams? Would you say the church is stronger since psychology came into vogue with Freud (preceded by Darwin and the early advent of Scientism)?

          I am far from learned in these things, just a simple Christian who desires to follow in the way of the sola’s….

        • Ron Gilbert says:

          I don’t want to belabor the point, Andrew, as I really do appreciate “The Reformed Reader” work you and Shane are doing.
          Working today, I was meditating on the Eph. 4 context. To the local church (and larger Body of Christ, secondariily) Paul appears to be saying it is pastors and teachers (the other extraordinary offices being ceased) who are responsible for sanctifiction within the Body. I agree that all of our gifts should be exercised in the “communion of the saints”, but don’t see “professionally trained counselors” who lead an individual or couple through the resolution of besetting sins.
          Hope that is clearer.

        • Thanks for the interaction, Ron. I appreciate how nicely tailored the pastorate is for being able to minister to people struggling with sin and affliction. The wisdom of God is on display beautifully there. In so many ways, the professional therapist model functions for many as a sort of “secularized pastor.” It is sad when even Christians prefer anonymous advice from a paid professional over sharing their burdens with a shepherd who has been called to know them and care for them personally, not just when they’re on the clock.

          Yet having said that, there are times when the complexities of people’s sin and suffering do tax even the brightest and most highly trained of pastors. Not just in terms of time, but in terms of equipping. Perhaps an anecdotal example first, then a biblical one…

          Sexual molestation affects people on a number of levels and often in some surprisingly complicated ways. While a pastor can bring the beauty of Christ to the shame and brokenness felt by a victim of molestation, and while a pastor can even study up on particular issues so that he knows how best to help people with the particular struggles molestation foists upon them, there is a vast range of literature that is out of the focus and expertise of a typical pastor. Thus I think we want Christians engaged in a genuinely Christian psychology that they might better understand the varieties of responses people have to afflictions. In turn, theologians and pastors have better information at their disposal for helping the people under their care.

          But even sticking closely with the very words of Scripture, I believe there is a wide range of opportunities for non-officers to help people that fall within the categories of the “one another” (and less often “each other”) passages. Verbs like “exhort,” “stir up to love and good works,” “confess sins to,” “encourage & build up,” “teaching & admonishing,” “comfort,” etc. all seem to occur in passages not speaking specifically to officers. These are “counseling-type” language … and in the end, I think it helps us to better understand what the BCM is really after. It’s not so much that the BCM envisions pastors as therapists, but it is trying to get the communion of the saints to reclaim the robust character of the ‘one another’ passages.

          Anyway, those are some thoughts. I’ve personally felt that these things are in perfect harmony with the ecclesiology of the Reformed confessions, but I know not all will agree. Still, this should – at minimum – provide a model of how the BCM can be applied in the day to day life of the church that does not lean in the direction of a clinical/therapeutic model.

          Blessings to you,

          Andrew

  2. Ron Gilbert says:

    Thanks for taking so much time to line out your thoughts. Blessings to you in Christ as well.

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