Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: A Theology of Biblical Counseling

We have all read books with titles that intrigue us and draw us in.  For example, I just finished an epic fantasy book entitled The Shadow of What was Lost.  As the story progresses, the meaning of the title is gradually revealed.  On the other hand, there are books where the title carries no intrigue at all.  A Theology of Biblical Counseling:  The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry by Heath Lambert, is one of those books.  This book sat on my shelf for a number of months and I hesitated to pick it up because, frankly, the title communicated “dry” to me.  I finally picked it up because the author will be one of the speakers at a counseling conference I will attend later in July.

I am happy to admit that, although the title is not flashy, this book is anything but dry.  In fact, about halfway through the year, apart from the Bible, this is the best book I have read so far this year.  Lambert endeavors to survey a number of aspects of Bible doctrine, specifically bringing out the reasons why these truths are vitally important in counseling for both the counselor and the counselee.

Heath Lambert writes well.  He is obviously passionate about his subject.  And he does a great job beginning and ending his chapters with counseling stories that relate to the topic at hand.  These stories make each chapter – which is essentially filled with a mix of systematic theology and counseling theory – approachable for the reader.  Yes, you heard me right.  This book is primarily theology and theory.  If you are looking for a practical, step by step guide to counsel someone, this is not your book.  But if you want to develop the theological foundation for your counseling efforts so that you will be offering people solid biblical truth, this is the book for you.

The first three chapters of the book alone are worth the price of the book.  In chapter 1, Lambert argues that counseling, at its heart, is a theological discipline.  In chapter 2, he explores the topic of Scripture.  So much of the content of our counseling turns on what we think of Scripture.  Is it authoritative?  Clear?  Necessary for counseling?  Sufficient for the task?  How you answer these questions will set the direction of your counseling.  And in chapter 3, the author unpacks the doctrine of common grace and explores the pervasive effects of sin in our lives.  Throughout these chapters, he gently but firmly gives reasons why biblical counseling is a better alternative that other approaches to counseling, all the while showing the areas where medicine and even at times, secular psychological observation can be helpful to the biblical counselor.

The table of contents for the rest of the book looks very similar to any other systematic theology book on my shelf.  Lambert, in turn, explores the doctrines of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, humanity, sin, suffering, salvation and the church.  In each case, he lays out the orthodox teaching of Scripture, but then makes specific application to how and why these truths are vital for various counseling situations.  He ends with an excellent summary chapter on the goal of theology.  As he puts it, counseling is taking what we know from theology and applying it to people who are suffering under the weight of all the kinds of pain this world has to offer, for the purpose of building their hope and increasing their joy in truly knowing Christ.

I think this is an excellent resource that belongs on the shelf of anyone who endeavors to counsel others from the Scripture.  We want to give those we counsel our best, but ultimately our best is only that if it is God’s best, counsel firmly grounded in God’s very Word.

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