Why You Should Buy ‘A Theology of Biblical Counseling’

You’ll never approach a suffering person in the same way after reading this

Heath traces the devastating impact of sin in every dimension of human existence and carefully distinguishes between three different ways we experience sin — the sinful world we live in, personal sin, and the sins of others. As Heath says, “typically, counseling is a complex combination of each of these contexts.”

 

I’m conscious that my recent criticisms of the early chapters of A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert could overshadow the tremendous help most chapters in this book will be for Biblical Counselors and Pastors everywhere. I would like to interact with these later chapters in more detail in the future, but let me just fast-forward to them in order to begin to balance out my reservations about the first part of the book. Yes, there are still the odd sentences here and there that I’d question, but from page 103 onwards you’ve got a couple of hundred solid pages of some of the best biblical counseling writing I’ve come across.

It’s why I’ve decided that despite my earlier reservations and criticism, I will be using this book as an integral part of my Foundations of Biblical Counseling course next semester and making it required reading for my students. I’m looking forward to lively and edifying discussions! But more than that, chapters 4-10 have already re-oriented my heart and mind and infused me with hope and optimism as I face some challenging counseling scenarios in my own ministry. So let me give you a quick summary of these chapters to whet your appetite.

Chapter Four: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of God
This is an outstanding chapter of warm practical theology. The deepest truths about God are brought into life-saving and life-transforming contact with the deepest human problems. It finishes with five responses for biblical counselors that were convicting, encouraging, and doxological.

Chapter Five: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of Christ
Heath faces the difficult question of “How can we comfort people with God’s grace and mercy, if we can’t be sure they are for them personally?” That’s a great question that biblical counselors have sometimes found difficult to face and answer. Heath’s answer takes us on a grand whistle-stop tour of Christology that puts the person and work of Christ at the beginning, center, and end of every counseling session, and leads to three powerful truths: (1) Counselees need the Person and Work of Christ for Forgiveness; (2) Counselees Need the Person and Work of Christ for Power; and (3) Counselees need the Person and Work of Christ for Comfort. I like the way Heath answers the initial question so clearly in his conclusion: “Jesus Christ is the key to all counseling. Everything we need from God requires us to trust Jesus to receive it” (155).

Chapter Six: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of the Holy Spirit
Heath emphasizes what we are to quick to forget — that “for counseling to be successful, the Holy Spirit must take the words of our biblical counsel and press them into the hearts of people…” (163). We must not depend on our skills or knowledge but upon the Holy Spirit both in us and in our counselees. Heath’s greatest accomplishment in this chapter is to remind us of the incredible resources we have at our disposal in the power of the Spirit to convict, indwell, teach, empower, and gift.

Chapter Seven: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of Humanity
Three huge issues are explored here — humanity as made in the image of God, as body and soul, and as male and female. It’s obviously impossible to go into much detail about any of these topics in one chapter, but Heath manages to articulate excellent summaries of the main principles in each area which will form a good framework for further thinking on each issue.

Chapter Eight: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of Sin
Heath traces the devastating impact of sin in every dimension of human existence and carefully distinguishes between three different ways we experience sin — the sinful world we live in, personal sin, and the sins of others. As Heath says, “typically, counseling is a complex combination of each of these contexts” (228). The chapter goes on to deal with each of these contexts and the biblical response to them in a sensitive and balanced way.

Chapter Nine: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of Suffering
This chapter reminds us of how painfully complex so many of our problems are, but also that God has provided sufficient answers. No, not all the answers but enough answers, if we would accept them and believe them. You’ll never approach a suffering person in the same way after reading this.

Chapter Ten: Biblical Counseling and a Theology of Salvation
This follows a fairly ordinary “order of salvation” but, in his application of it to Lorie, Heath produces something that is far from ordinary. It reminds us of our extraordinary salvation and its power over the most extraordinary sin. Heath also ably deals with the question as to how biblical counselors can counsel unbelievers.

Chapter Eleven: Biblical Counseling and A Theology of the Church
Thankfully, but not surprisingly for biblical counselors, Heath comes to a close with the local church and a practical ecclesiology (yes such a thing is possible) demonstrating how vital the local church is to successful counseling.

As I said, I’d like to unpack and explore these chapters at greater length, but I hope these summaries are enough to interest you in the book, my earlier reservations notwithstanding. And don’t forget to check out Heath’s book on counseling pornography problems. It’s #1 in my Top 10 Books dealing with that topic.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.