With the explosion and growth of the various psychotherapies and counseling techniques developed within the last few decades by secular psychology, there has been an ever growing tension within the Christian community as to how the Christian counselor should use, if at all, these new therapies.
The divide between Christian counseling/psychologists/integrationists and Biblical counseling and lies in (1) how or whether or not to utilize secular counseling methods for Christian counseling and (2) how relevant/helpful Scripture is to counseling. So questions arise such as, “Does Scripture have a primary role in Christian counseling”, “Can Scripture speak to all counseling needs,” or “Do secular counseling approaches help or hurt the counseling process?”
Seeking to answer these questions and more, Heath Lambert has written A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry (Zondervan, 2016). Lambert is the executive director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, serves as an associate pastor and professor, and is on the editorial board of The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is the author of The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams and Finally Free.
Scripture’s Foundation for Counseling
The first line of the book, as stated above, is the most contentious part – counseling is a theological discipline. It might not seem immediately apparent that this is contentious but this is the dividing line between Christian counseling and Biblical counseling. “Whether it is necessary to use secular counseling techniques” and “whether the Bible is a sufficient counseling resource” is what divides them.
The fundamental claim Lambert is making as a Biblical counselor is that Christians who are counselors are not required to utilize secular counseling techniques/methods or sources of information outside of Scripture but should use and view Scripture as necessary to Christian counseling as the primary source of information for dealing with ones problems; though it does not always have to be the only source.
The reason for this belief is found in the opening sentence of the book; if, as the author argues, counseling is a theological discipline then the use of Scripture in Christian counseling is not only helpful but necessary. If the goal of counseling is to answer questions, offer solutions to problems and help in troubled times, then Scripture must be a part of that. Thus, counseling is theological because it is based on Scripture.
In the second chapter of the book Lambert lays out a doctrine of Scripture as the foundation for why it is sufficient for counseling. Of the four areas of sufficiency that he explores, material sufficiency is where the disagreement lies. This “refers to the actual contents of Scripture and means that the Bible tells us everything we need to know from God about any topic.” (48) This means that everything that God wants us to know from Him through special revelation has been said and is contained in the Bible.
The net effect of this statement is that though the Bible is not particularly about dentistry or business, it does give enough information and guidance as to how to carry out these vocations in an ethical and moral way that glorifies God. However, in a general sense we understand that the Bible is not a dentistry guide but generally addresses many other things more specifically. It may not deal with business practices directly but it does address issues that relate to how to carry out ethical business practices.
God has spoken enough in Scripture to give us a starting place when counseling people.
Theology’s Dance with Counseling
The bulk of the book spends eleven chapters showing the relationship between ones theology of various topics and how that works out in Biblical counseling. This is where Lambert’s main message hits home and shines as the reader is able to see his thesis in action.
Each chapter opens with a real life counseling situation, moves into a discussion of the doctrine at hand, and then closes by showing how a biblical understanding of that doctrine informs the problems in the counseling situation.
What these eleven chapters give you is a short but packed systematic theology of every major doctrine along with examples of how that doctrine can, and does, apply to counseling. If you are not sold on Lambert’s thesis in the first chapter then reading the rest of the book ought to convince you of its validity.
A Theology of Biblical Counseling is Jay Adams’ Competent to Counsel 2.0 for to the 21st century. This is a solid book that every pastor and Christian leader who engages in counseling should read and learn from. Though this is not the first book of its kind, it is definitely the most comprehensive and up-to-date.
I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”