Theology of Biblical Counseling by Lambert“Counseling is a theological discipline” – Heath Lambert

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.

Conclusion

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.”

Literary Introductions by RykenThere is nothing like being able to read a literary work in its original language, as it adds such color and dimension to the work being read. The text goes from being viewed in black and white to being seen in full color.

Understanding the literary features of a text has a similar effect. The beauty and artistry of poetry can be appreciated by just reading it but when you understand the various literary forms being used by the author it comes alive and the meaning becomes clearer.

The same goes when reading the Bible. While the Bible is more than just another book in terms of its content and divine authorship, it is just like any other in terms of its literary content. It contains a vast array of literary genres and forms just like those found in any other piece of literature. When we avail ourselves to learning and understanding these genres and forms we have allowed ourselves to get closer to the mind and intent of the writer.

Having already written Ryken’s Bible Handbook and The Literary Study Bible, Leland Ryken, former professor of English at Wheaton College, has written a new book, Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible, as a companion and sequel to his popular A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms of the Bible. This new book draws from, utilizes, and expands upon the work he has already done in past books to help Christians better understand the meaning and message of the Bible.

The purpose of this book is very simple – to introduce the reader to and explain the various literary genres and forms contained in all 66 books of the Bible. Many books on the Bible and its literary characteristics organize the books or certain passages around the various literary forms thus giving you a catalog of forms with examples of each. Ryken’s book takes the reader through every book of the Bible separately and gives an overview of the literary features contained in each but without example passages.

There are six aspects of the books of the Bible discussed in each chapter:

  1. Orientation – The beginning of each chapter orients you to the book itself and gives basic info such as the meaning of the books name (Genesis means “beginning”).
  2. Generalizations – This gives a brief description of the content of the book like how Deuteronomy contains a number of orations/sermons to Israel about obedience to the Law and entering the Promised Land.
  3. Uniqueness – Where necessary, whenever a book contains unique topics or interpretive issues they are discussed such as the time aspect in the prophets and more specifically in the book of Isaiah.
  4. Charts – Each chapter has “Book at a Glance” chart which is a basic content outline divided by chapters. For instance, Habakkuk is divided into three sections: (1) 1:1-11 is Habakkuk’s first question and God’s reply, (2) 1:12-2:20 is Habakkuk’s second question and God’s reply, and (3) 3 is Habakkuk’s exalted vision of God.
  5. Literary Features – This contains separate unite on the major literary forms in each book of the Bible. For instance, the Gospel of John contains gospel, narrative, various categories of story (hero, miracle, testimony, etc.), proverb, and prayer.
  6. Summarization or Literary Form and Religious Vision – This concluding section summarizes the intention of the books religious message as expressed through the literary forms as well as literary tips for reading each book and quotes from literary commentators specific to each book. For example, 1 John has a series of tests for how to tell if someone is a Christian and they are not given in a single running list or argument. Therefore, you would not extract John’s argument the same way you would Paul’s.

Literary Introductions is a must have book for any Christian who wants to read and understand the Bible better. For Christians who are new to the Bible there is a lot that will help get you more oriented to the message of each book and help make more difficult sections easier to understand. For those like me who have been reading the Bible for years there is still a lot that can be gained from this book. As you read through different chapters and learn new things about how different books work, lights will begin to go on as you put pieces together.

I received this book for free from Crossway 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.”

Expository ApologeticsWhile reading books on the theory of various apologetics methods is necessary and beneficial, it is certainly helpful to read books that provide practical discussion and mock conversations on how to employ those methods in everyday life. What good is it to know what a method is if you don’t know how to use it?

Presuppositionalism is an apologetics method that has been gaining a lot of ground in the recent years. The two best sources for practical explanations of how to use this method have been Richard Pratt’s classic work Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of the Christian Faith and sections in K. Scott Oliphint’s more recent work Covenental Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Both books provide mock conversations used to show how the presuppositional method looks in practice.

Recently, Voddie Baucham Jr., has written a new book along these same lines called Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word (Crossway, 2015). Voddie is a well-known pastor, speaker, and writer and is the dean of African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. The book gets its title from Voddie’s unique way of preaching and practicing presuppositional apologetics when he speaks.

The expository part of the title comes from his commitment to expository preaching and the apologetics part comes from how, in his messages and speaking, he answers objections to Christianity or arguments in the passage of Scripture he is preaching from. For Voddie, “Expository apologetics is merely the application of the principles of biblical exposition to the art and science of apologetics.” (20)

The first few chapters of this book give a basic overview of and defense for Christian apologetics as Baucham explains passages like 1 Peter 3:15, Romans 1:18-32, and Acts 17:22-33. His explanation of the Peter passage is thorough and clear and probably gives one of the best defenses of why all Christians are to engage in apologetics.

His discussion of the Romans passage is the standard explanation for why the presuppositionalism is the best method (some say only biblical method) to use given the relationship between man and sin. Presuppositionalism does not rely as heavily on evidences to defend the faith because the problem is not evidential but spiritual – man is dead in sin and needs to be supernaturally awoken from it. Unbelievers reject the evidences God has given them of himself because of their sin. This does not mean Christians are not to familiarize themselves with evidences for Christianity or dismiss questions about those evidences. It does mean that Christians do not argue primarily from the evidences for the truth of Christianity.

The core of the book is found in chapter five on Learning Apologetics through Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms and chapter six on The Ten Commandments. Baucham firmly believes that the best way to train someone to defend the Christian faith is to teach them the various creeds, confessions, and catechisms. If one can learn the content of these Christian writings then one has learned the basics of the Christian faith and learned how to respond to objections to it. Similarly, learning the many implications of the Ten Commandments further equips Christians to defend the faith and cut to the heart of the unbeliever’s questions, doubts, and objections to Christianity.

There is a lot to like (love) about this book. Baucham presents the material in how own unique way that adds to the body of existing material, rather than just merely repeat it. He is to be commended for his commitment to Scripture and the usefulness of the Church’s various creeds, confessions, and catechisms that seek to faithfully summarize the teaching of Scripture.

My only criticism of the book is that it suffers from too much trailing. There are many times in which the thought goes and goes only to end abruptly without actually finishing the thought or really answering the questions posed by the author. More time needed to be spent directly on topic rather than various off-shoots.

Expository Apologetics is a must read for fans of presuppositionalism. Even those who are persuaded by other apologetic methods can benefit from this book. This would be a great book for any Christian, especially upper level high school teens and college kids. It might serve well as a good small group book to train Christians to defend their faith better.

I received this book for free from Crossway 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.”

 

Garden, the curtain and the crossOne way in which to describe how the Bible presents the plan of redemption is through story. The message of the Bible can best be told as a story and kids love stories. Kids love stories with colorful and unique pictures to help them picture the story. The best children’s books combine both of these.

That is why parents and children will love The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross: The True Story of Why Jesus Died and Rose Again written by Carl Laferton and illustrated by Catalina Echeverri (The Good Book Co, 2016). This book combines great story telling with amazing original and unique picture art to tell the real story of God plans of redemption for young kids.

As the title indicates, this book tells the story of redemption through the lens of the garden of Eden, the curtain in the temple, and the cross. What threads these three things together is the desire for God to be with boys and girls but the separation that their sin causes. This is where the curtain takes a central role in communicating that reality and how the cross resolves the tension that sin brings.

There is everything to love about this book. The story telling is captivating and rhythmic. The picture art is truly unique and can almost tell the story itself without the words. Kids, and parents alike, will love reading through this book over and over again.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Co. through Cross Focused Reviews 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.”

Recently Christian Focus has sent me a number of books to share. While I am not able to provide complete reviews of all of them, I wanted to provide a brief overview of each on to help you decide if they are something you might be interested in.

 

Christian Pocket Guide to Suffering by CosbyA Christian’s Pocket Guide series has been a great series of short books on various topics ranging from the Papacy to Loving the Old Testament. The latest book is A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Suffering by Brian H. Cosby. In short, this is an excellent book on suffering. Cosby roots every chapter in the Bible’s teaching on suffering. He discusses issues such as the causes of suffering to its cure. While our culture wants to deny the reality and effects of suffering, Cosby shows how the Bible presents a view of suffering that matches the reality we live in and gives us the best hope of redemption from it – Jesus Christ. If I were to recommend just one book on the biblical view of suffering this would be it.

 

 

 

The Focus on the Bible series is a wonderful series of devotional commentaries on all the books of the Bible. The most recent installment is Joel & Joel and Obadiah by Iwan JonesObadiah: Disaster and Deliverance by Iwan Rhys Jones. A few things about these books make this series stand out. First, these books are light commentaries and as such they are completely text driven. While they are not deep academic commentaries, they dip into the text enough to stay rooted. Second, they are devotional. This is a series of books that have found a good balance between commentary and devotional material. Finally, these books have a tremendous focus on application. Because the commentary portion stems from the text the application portion is rooted in the text. I recommend this new addition to the Focus on the Bible series along with all of the others.

 

 

 

Theodore Beza by Shawn D. WrightIf you like (or love!) studying Calvinism then Theodore Beza: The Man and the Myth by Shawn D. Wright is the book for you. I am slowly working through this one and so far it is fantastic! While Calvinism is predominately tied to John Calvin himself, it is Theodore Beza who pushed Calvin’s theology to the next level and developed his system into what would later be called Calvinism. He basically put the Calvin in Calvinism. Wright first puts Beza in his historical context and then the following chapters are organized around the main ideas of Beza’s theology. This book really rounds the rough edges that have characterized Beza’s theology for years and allows the man to be seen for who he really was – a lover of Jesus Christ. This is a book for those interested in Calvinism and historical figures in general.

 

 

 

If there is one member of the Trinity who has more books published about him then it is the person of Christ. While there is always room for Person of Christ by John Owennew books to be written, sometimes the best books on a subject have already been written. Once such book on the person of Christ is Johns Owen’s The Person of Christ: Declaring a Glorious Mystery – God and Man. Christian Heritage has recently published this book as part of their commitment to make classic Christian works available for generations. Sinclair Ferguson says it is “one of the most important books you could ever read,” and Mark Jones said, “If there is a richer book on Christology in the English language, I am not aware of it.” This is a must have book for every Christian!

 

 

 

 

I received these books for free from Christian Focus & Christian Heritage for these reviews. 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.”

 

 

Reordering the Trinity by Durst“In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.” This is the way Christians, of various confessional backgrounds, have understood and referred to the three persons of the trinity for hundreds of years. In fact, it has been the overwhelmingly majority way in which Christians think of the relationship of the persons of the godhead. And it is for good reason that they think of them this way because it is historically consistent with the witness of Scripture and the church.

But is it the only way in which the Bible expresses the relationship of the three persons of the trinity? Is it the only triadic order that is presented? Is it the only way in which the three persons of the trinity can be ordered? We typically order the persons of the trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit because of the hierarchical nature we see expressed in the godhead, but is that it? It is being faithful to Scripture when we stop there? Are we overlooking other orderings of the persons of the trinity because we rely so heavily on just one?

In his new book, Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament (Kregel, 2015), Rodrick K. Durst, professor of historical theology a Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, convincingly argues that the New Testament authors had a much more diverse understanding of the relationship of the persons of the trinity that much of the Church has missed since the closing of the canon. While this diversity of understanding and expression was more predominate in the first few centuries of the church, it has been less so since with little press.

As already mentioned, while most Christians think of the order of the trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit (F-S-Sp), there are in fact five other orderings in the NT:

  1. Father-Son-Spirit (F-S-Sp) – Missional Order
  2. Father-Spirit-Son (F-Sp-S) – Regenerative Order
  3. Son-Father-Spirit (S-F-Sp) – Christological Order
  4. Son-Spirit-Father (S-Sp-F) – Sanctifying Order
  5. Spirit-Father-Son (Sp-F-S) – Spiritual Formation Order
  6. Spirit-Son-Father (Sp-S-F) – Ecclesial Order

The crux of the book is simple: these various orderings are used by the NT authors intentionally so as to express the various ways in which the functions/roles/responsibilities of the persons of the trinity relate and interact with each other. So, while it is accurate to refer to the trinity in the order of F-S-Sp, it is not the only way in which it would be considered biblically accurate to do so. In fact, says Durst

Research indicates that there are seventy-five Trinitarian references in the New Testament. Just eighteen instances (twenty-four percent) do follow the expected order of Father, Son, and Spirit. The remaining fifty-seven instances (seventy-six percent) exist in [the] five other diverse orders. (73)

Think about that. The standard order of F-S-Sp only accounts for 24% of the six orderings. To put this into perspective, the second runner up in terms of frequency is S-Sp-F comprising 20% of the occurrences. The last being the Sp-S-F ordering which takes up 10% of the total Trinitarian references. As Durst would argue, if we want to be faithful to Scripture in our understanding and expression of the trinity then the standard F-S-Sp ordering ought not be the only way in which we talk about the trinity. It may be the majority way but it is by far the only way.

Though not an historically new concept, or one that is unnatural to the biblical text, Durst’s proposal will seem new to many. Durst himself has taken inspiration from others before him but much of his work here is his own. Because of the newness for many readers Durst takes pains in the first several chapters to lay a foundation for what will follow. He admits early on that if one does not accept his proposal in the first section then the rest of the book will probably fall on deaf ears. This might be so for some. But, if we are willing to let the text teach us in new ways, I think the most convincing portion of the book is the section in which Durst lays out the six triadic orderings.

This is truly a book that has taken a theological/biblical concept and advanced the discussion. This is no small feat. Reordering the Trinity is not a book about imposing artificial concepts onto the trinity. Durst is not trying to reorder the Bible. Rather, what you will find at the end of the book is that your own thinking about the trinity has been reordered into a more biblically faithful understanding.

The implications for this book will only be understood more fully as one continues to ponder and study the text of Scripture regarding the trinity. You will be amazed at what you have missed and you will be amazed that the NT writers were much more Trinitarian than we give them credit for. The trinity was more real and natural in their thinking than we think and we need to make their understanding a more real and natural part of our thinking as well.

I received this book for free from Kregel 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.”

The good folks at Bethany House Publishers have recently sent me a number of new books to check out. While I cannot fully review all of them I wanted to provide a brief overview to help you decide whether or not these are books you should get or might be interested in.

Becoming a Disciple Making Church by Neil T. AndersonPastor, teacher, writer, and lifetime student Neil T. Anderson has written a new book connecting his previous books work with discipleship in the church. Anderson has written extensively on topics like addictions, depression, spiritual warfare, and other counseling issues. In this new book, Becoming a Disciple Making Church: A Proven Method for Growing Spiritually Mature Christians, Anderson condenses much of his other books and applies them to discipleship. If you love Anderson’s previous books then you will love this one. If you, like me, have been more reserved in using his books this book might not be for you. However, as someone who has not been a fan of some of Anderson’s underlying principles for spiritual growth and being free from sin, I did find a number of things in the book helpful as they relate to discipleship.

 

 

 

Do you notice that when you know better the needs of your churches missionaries that you feel more empowered to pray for them? But, when you An Insider's Guide to Praying for the World by Brian Stillertry to pray for general needs in other countries you can feel lost in prayer. The same prayer an apply to so many places that it can feel canned. If you want to pray better and more specifically for the needs in other countries then An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World by Brian C. Stiller is for you. Stiller is the Global Ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance. Having traveled extensively all over the world for over 30 years, Stiller has a unique pulse on the missionary needs of so many countries. This book is a guide to praying better for countries like Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Columbia, Korea, and Nepal. Each chapter is short and gives helpful prayer information specific to each country. This is a must have for all Christians who want to regularly pray for missions around the world.

 

 

 

Delighting in God by TozerA. W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, is a Christian classic. It has served to enrich and deepen Christians lives as they grow closer to God through a better understanding of the attributes of God. While it was the last book Tozer wrote, it was not the last book he intended to write. He wanted to write a follow-up book dealing with the attributes of God in a more devotional fashion. He did not get to do that. However, James L. Snyder, authority on the life of Tozer, has compiled a number of Tozer’s writings and sermons on this very topic and put them into book form under the title Delighting in God. The essential message Snyder tries to get across through Tozer’s writings in this book is that a person’s passion for God will determine their lifestyle. This book is classic Tozer and as such you will put it down challenged whether or not you agree with everything he says.

 

 

One of the greatest areas of growth in the publishing industry is that of apologetics. There are so many good books on every subject and many of themGod You Thoight You Knew by McFarland are written at a number of levels of reading, from beginner to more advanced. Author, speaker, and apologist Alex McFarland has recently written The God You Thought You Knew: Exposing the 10 Biggest Myths About Christianity. In this book McFarland seeks to correct ten myths that are perpetuated by non-Christians about the Christian faith. This is a very readable book in which McFarland weaves the personal struggles he had with the Christian faith throughout the book. While some readers will not agree with all of the responses McFarland gives in response to the myths, there is still a lot to benefit from in this book.

 

 

 

I received these books for free from Bethany House for these reviews. 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.”

 

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