The biblical counseling movement has grown in different aspects since the days of Jay Adams who is considered the founder of biblical counseling. New leaders have developed, bringing improvement to Adams’ model. “The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams” by Heath Lambert walks the reader through the birth of the movement to the advancements still needed.
Lambert begins by challenging the reader that the book is not about counseling. He writes: “The fact is that counseling is ministry, and ministry is counseling.” Thus, since counseling is ministry the Bible is the guide for counseling. He lists nine reasons why biblical counseling was neglected for so many years until 1970 when Jay Adams published “Competent to Counsel.” In this book, Adams “alerted Christians to their failures in the area of counseling and began pointing the way to the resources laid out in Scripture for helping people.” Lambert discusses Adams’ counseling model which occurs through the process of biblical change. This process involves the Bible and the Gospel, putting off unrighteous behaviors and putting on righteous ones. These “putting off” and “putting on” commands are clearly found in Scripture.
Lambert moves from Adams to introduce the “new blood” of the biblical counseling movement: Ed Welch, Paul Tripp and David Powlison. He discusses how these men, most notably Powlison, have advanced the biblical counseling movement from Adams’ model in three ways:
- Conceptual Advancements
There is a better understanding of ministering to those suffering as well as to those sinning and a better understanding of looking at the motivation behind counselees. Adams focused on sin as the counselee’s problem. This left a void for those experiencing suffering. His contemporaries acknowledge suffering and the need to lovingly administer God’s word to the counselee.
In regards to motivation, in later years Adams acknowledged the heart as being “the biblical seat of motivation” behind the behavior. His contemporary, David Powlison, takes this idea further and relates the heart to worship:
“It is worship that motivates human activity. The central feature here is not whether there is worship, but instead what is being worshipped…Human beings are worshipping beings whose actions are motivated by the true God or idols.”
- Counseling Methods
What was once done in a formal atmosphere is now more relaxed. The counselor/counselee can develop a one-another relationship based on brotherly love for one another. Using Scripture as his guide, Lambert shows us that listening and learning from the counselee is the beginning of the information gathering process. Giving biblical instruction to the counselee is what helps people change and thus a counseling session does not just end after discussion but the counselee is given an assignment or homework so that there is application of God’s word in their life.
How can biblical counseling systems interact with other counseling systems? Adams did not want to engage with other systems while his contemporaries see the need for open discussion with those of other systems. Lambert points out that most of the discussion of biblical counseling occurs among other biblical counselors. Adams rarely engaged other psychology or Christian psychology professionals because he had disdain “for those Christians who should know better than to incorporate secular teaching into the church’s approach to ministry and so detract from Christ.” On the other hand, it is Powlison’s desire to speak with other audiences in order “to edify others with what God has given us.” Powlison does this in a kind but firm way that does not back down from his biblical convictions.
Lastly, Lambert examines how advances have been made in how biblical counselors think about the Bible. The common link is the sufficiency of scripture in counseling but this view does not exclude the use of other informational sources as being used secondary. Lambert writes:
“Though some believe there has been disagreement among counselors concerning Scripture’s sufficiency, in truth this is one of the main areas where there has been no change in the last twenty years. In the actual advancement of the biblical counseling movement, Scripture-far from being a source of division, is actually a source of unity.”
Other areas of advancement needed involve the “idols of the heart” model of counseling. Lambert listed seven ways to improve on this:
- A Better Understanding of Pride
Pride and self-centeredness are mentioned many times as a source of idolatry in the Bible. Again it comes down to worship. Are we worshipping our self instead of God?
- A Better Understanding of People
What are we seeking for pleasure instead of God and why?
- A Better Understanding of Sin
First of all we must acknowledge we are sinners. What are the causes and outcome of sinful behaviors? How can they best be dealt with?
- A Better Understanding of Repentance
A Christian’s life is one of repentance. This is the only way true and lasting change will come about.
- Compassionate Counseling
Counselors do not respond in shock and disgust over a counselee’s situation. We all sin. We all have exalted ourselves over Christ. It may not be in the same way as our counselee but it is equally bad in God’s eyes.
- Protection against “Idol Hunts”
Counselors must not be overly focused on an “idol” in a counselee’s life.
- Protection against Introspection
Counselees must not become preoccupied with looking within themselves in pursuit of their own “idol hunt.”
In conclusion, Lambert restates the commitment of biblical counselors to the sufficiency of Christ, his Word and his church. He exhorts biblical counselors to be thankful for the founding work of Adams and for his contemporaries and he calls biblical counselors to be diligent to continue the work always “striving to make the work conform more closely to God’s Word.”
What I thought would be a dry read turned out to be very informative. I enjoyed learning more about Jay Adams’ counseling approach and how his contemporaries have grown his approach. I look forward to being a part of those biblical counselors who will strive to conform even more to God’s Word.