April 2016


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.”

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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.”