Scripture and Counseling Review

January 28, 2015

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Diving Into the Deep End

If you are looking for a book to bolster your counseling apologetic with solid application, then Scripture and Counseling: God’s Wisdom for Life in a Broken World will fit the bill. Over twenty authors contributed to this book, but this is no armchair counseling crew. This is a group of biblical counseling “rock stars” with extensive experience and more degrees than a thermostat. With a vast array of authors, you will be exposed to years of counseling wisdom with immediate application. If that peaks your interest, keep reading, it gets better.

Is the Bible Relevant for That?

Working through a counseling philosophy is no small task. Like skilled surgeons, the authors of Scripture and Counseling first guide you through ten chapters covering, “How We View the Bible for Life in a Broken World.” They tackle questions regarding the relevance of God’s Word, where to find truth, psychology, the body, how far you can apply the Bible in counseling, and many other topics.

If you have read counseling material from the evangelical world at large, you know the topic of integrating theology and psychology arises often. Directly or indirectly, integration is a hot topic and one that deserves critical thought to arrive at a sound conclusion.  The questions surrounding this topic spin like a tornado with a vengeance. Is not all truth, God’s truth? Should you rebuild psychology? Should you cherry-pick the counseling applications?  Should you refer out the hard cases? What about physiology and mental disorders? This final question makes many squirm and embarks on an area where many counselors fear to tread.

What about Mental Disorders?

You know and your friends know that mental disorders are one of the hottest topics in counseling. We live in a world where people plead insanity, behaviors are overlooked when meds are not taken, and blame shifting is fashionable. Dr. Sam Williams dedicates chapter 8 to wrestling through physiological questions by unpacking a biblical theology of the body. He approaches the body/soul conversation by pointing out, “The body cannot be reduced to spirit, and the spirt or soul cannot be reduced to body” (p. 146). With this in mind, he avoids the simplistic approach of segmenting problems into spiritual vs. physical, and sees the body/soul functioning holistically.

This naturally ties into his recognition that a good diet, sleeping properly, exercise, and a wise schedule can stabilize moods and emotions. Although emotions arise and moods change when one disregards the body, it does not provide a get-out-of-jail-free card. This seems like a self-evident truth, but many voices will blame their actions on a lack of food, sleep, or exercise.  In other words, no one can say, “I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t eat breakfast, I am off schedule so my behavior gets a pass.”

Many struggle with the term “mental disorder,” but you will be challenged to see it in light of the fall and realize all people have mental disorders. This wisdom eradicates an “us vs. them” mentality, normalizes the abnormal, and helps stir compassion. Although Dr. Williams states there is no widely accepted test for brain dysfunction, he recognizes internal dysfunction can strongly influence a person but is not determinative. There is hope, and it is rooted in a Person—Christ. A single chapter will not equip you completely in the area of physiology, but it lays a solid foundation to build upon.

Applying Scripture to Everyday Life

As you move into Part 2, you will read about “How We Use the Bible for Life in a Broken World.” This is where the authors get into the grittiness of life. You live in a real world with real problems, you need real answers, and that is what you are going to get.

You will learn to apply God’s truth into difficult areas like depression, sexual abuse, and OCD. You will also learn how to see struggles in view of the entire Bible and how to help someone using wisdom literature and the epistles. The second half of the book is all about real life application. If you have already solidified your counseling philosophy, and want a fresh perspective on real application, the second half of the book is worth the price. 

When you understand the heartbeat of biblical counseling, you understand it affects every area of the church. It is the foundation of discipleship, so the church should drip with the fragrance of gospel-centered counsel. Dr. Garrett Higbee dedicates chapter 12 to the practicality of being a church with biblical counseling, and chapter 13 to counseling within a small group.

Five-Floor Counseling Model

If you want to inject soul care within the church, but are not sure where to begin, chapter 12 presents the following “Five-Floor” model for developing leaders and implementing biblical counseling in the church,

  1. The Welcoming Lobby: Mutual One-Another Care
  2. The Second Floor: Authentic Small Groups
  3. Third Floor: Equipping Small Group Leaders in Biblical Counseling
  4. The Fourth Floor: Equipping in Directive and Corrective Care
  5. The Fifth Floor: Experiential Equipping in Intensive Soul Care

Although Dr. Higbee admits this is not the only way to make biblical counseling part of the church’s normal rhythms, the entry of one-another care is an excellent start. As believers live out the one another’s of “love, correct, care, serve, rebuke, encourage…” the other areas will become easier to implement.

Implementing change can take time and provide challenges. There are always those who latch on, others who disagree, and some that remain ambivalent. Although Dr. Higbee is a pastor at Harvest Bible Fellowship and these truths are part of the pulpit life, the connection between the pulpit and change was not considerably covered. When the preaching lines up with a vision for change, implementing the change is less challenging. You will need more than a mini-sermon series or a quarterly shout-out, although both are commendable, but the idea of counseling within community should become a natural part of preaching in order to change the culture.

“I’ll Take the Conclusion for $200, Alex”

Weighing in at approximately 480-pages, Scripture and Counseling is a great resource for equipping lay counselors in the church, church leaders, college students, seminary students, graduate students, and pastors. If you do not fit those categories, don’t get discouraged. You know a 480-page book is not for everyone, but part of the beauty of having twenty authors is each chapter can practically stand on its own. You could read it in one fell swoop, or you could cherry-pick topics.

Scripture and Counseling is an excellent resource for anyone looking to become equipped in the area of soul care, or for anyone looking to grow in Christ. Buy it, read it, and apply the rich truths contained in Scripture and Counseling.  

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