Book Review: Scripture and Counseling: Part Two: The Richness and Relevance of God's Word

The following is part two of my chapter-by-chapter review and interaction with the individual parts of Scripture and Counseling, the newest offering from the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and Zondervan Academic.

Scripture and Counseling: Chapter One: The Richness and Relevance of God's Word: Kevin Carson

The sufficiency of Scripture may be one of the most unifying principles for those within the biblical counseling movement. And, it may be one of the most divisive for those who stand opposed to its objectives.

But, what would we say about the necessity of Scripture, or its relevance to life? Is the Bible written clearly enough so as to be useful in counseling? Does it even have enough depth to reach the deepest levels of modern suffering? 

Or, as secularists would have us believe, is it merely an ancient book written to an ancient people, thereby rendering it obsolete in the face of more modern, sophisticated psychotherapy?

For the Living About the Living

Speaking to this issue, Kevin Carson opens Scripture and Counseling with a chapter that fulfills the books stated goal, which is to help the reader "regain [their] confidence in God's word as sufficient to address the real issues we face today." Simply put, Carson writes, "The Bible is addressed to the living about living" (p.29).

The title of Carson's chapter, "The Richness and Relevance of God's Word," reveals a clue as to the substance of his writing. It is the right opening salvo in a book dedicated to lifting up the centrality of the Gospel in biblical counseling. In this chapter, Carson lays a foundation for the chapters that follow.

While offering a wealth of theological reflection concerning the role of God's Word in counseling, tied together with a variety of biblical passages for the reader to consider, Carson helpfully provides a series of real-life counseling scenarios that bring home four critical points, namely, that Scripture is necessary, relevant, clear, and profound (p.31). 

Indeed, if Carson is correct in saying that the Bible is addressed to the living about living, then those who struggle with the effects of sin and suffering in a broken world must find hope for healing in its pages. Were this not possible, were it not true, then the argument for the Bible's sufficiency would be a broken cistern.

Unique Content and Character 

Carson, however, builds the readers trust in the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling by showing how both its content and character are unique (p.31). Concerning these two issues, Carson writes: 
  1. Without the Scriptures, it would be impossible to know our purpose in life or how to live out that purpose. 
  2. The supernatural character of the Bible highlights the Bible's authority, inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy.
As to the believer's purpose in life, Carson shows how God, working through the Bible in the power of the Holy Spirit intends for Christians to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. But, what Carson has to say on this issue isn't ethereal, but tangible, and therefore hope-giving:

The Bible plus circumstances provide the believer with the ultimate opportunity to grow and change. It is in these individual, yet essential, moments of life where the follower of Christ chooses between bringing glory to God--which is Christlike--or not. (p.34)

Rich and Relevant

This opening chapter to Scripture and Counseling provides the reader with an encouraging view of the Bible as God's special revelation of both Himself, and His counsel. It justifies the title, and affirms for the reader that Scripture is, in fact, both theologically rich, and utterly relevant for all of life, and all of life's problems.

For the counselor, Carson reminds that, "The Bible teaches us about God, people, and problems" (p.46). For the counselee, Carson encourages that, "God is doing more than just wanting us to change a thought or a behavior" (p.46). And, for the church, he exhorts, "The depth of God's wisdom given to us as believers surpasses the knowledge and insight that can be gained from any other source" (p.43).

A Needed Reminder

As a biblical counselor, Carson's chapter has re-filled my heart with enthusiasm for God's Word by reminding me of its necessity, relevance, clarity, and profundity. It is a chapter that reorients the heart away from "the nomenclature of secular psychotherapies to real, dynamic, true, and significant issues of life in Christ" (p.45).

Thanks to Carson, the biblical counselor can once again pick up the written Word of God, confident that what they hold in their hand is indeed sharper than any two-edged sword, and uniquely capable of discerning the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (Heb. 4:12).

Kevin Carson serves as pastor of Sonrise Baptist Church, professor of biblical counseling at Baptist Bible College, and is certified by the ACBC.

Invest in Your Marriage in 2015!

Biblical counseling is not only valuable to couples who are struggling, but also to couples who want to stay ahead of the curve, and proactively invest in their marriage before trouble comes. 

For this reason, Baylight is happy to offer a six session, private-to-the-couple marital enrichment course.

While there are many excellent marriage seminars available throughout the year, and while any couple can and should engage in private Bible and/or book study, our enrichment course is intended to provide a setting that allows for personal feedback and interaction over a defined period of time. 

The goal of this course is to help already married couples re-engage, or stay engaged with one another relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Over the course of the six, bi-weekly sessions, we will get acquainted with your marital and personal history, and then discuss from a biblical perspective various foundational matters that exist in every marriage, looking for areas of strength, and areas that need strengthening. Homework is involved, so be ready to get busy (but, not too much so)!

If you and your spouse are interested, call to schedule your first session. As with all counseling at Baylight, the suggested donation amount of $50.00/session applies, but is not required.

We look forward to serving you!

Christmas, Gospel, and the Gift of Adoption

It's Christmas Eve, and families all over are making their final preparations for Christmas morning.
Those families that know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior recognize that among other things, Christmas is representative of the glorious reality of their adoption as sons and daughters into the family of God. 

As a child was given unto us on Christmas Day, so through the gift of Jesus are we redeemed, and given a new identity in Christ. Children who were once orphaned by sin, and separated from the life of God, are brought near to the heart of God, given unto Him in love, mercy, and grace. In Christ, we have become heirs of his eternal kingdom!

As families gather around their Christmas trees, and exchange gifts with one another as expressions of the love they have for one another, many families and couples will begin discussing and preparing for the possibility of welcoming into their homes in 2015 an adopted child. It is and will be one of the most stressful, yet joyous occasions this life has to offer. 

But, it's not without potential difficulties, and stumbling blocks. As with any major, life-changing decision, knowledge is key to preparation, and a successful outcome. Whether a family is pursuing a private or state facilitated adoption, there are more resources available to the adopting family than ever before. Taking advantage of these resources will be a significant help.

At Baylight Counseling, we have experience as adoptive parents, and in working with both adoptive families, and birth mothers as they navigate both closed and open adoptions. If you're contemplating adoption in 2015, we'd be happy to speak with you, and assist in either your preparation, or in facilitating a discussion to help you decide if adoption is right for you and your family.

In the meantime, here are some resources for you to consider. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We'd love to speak with you, and serve your family during this important time. 

Merry Christmas, and may the Lord bless you richly in 2015!

Scripture: Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-5

Adoption Resources

I Want to Change, but How?

Every counseling effort, at some level, and in some way aims at producing or accomplishing change in the life of the counselee. The question that Christians must ask is not simply if or how change was accomplished, but whether or not it proves to be true, lasting, biblical change. 

One of the common critiques of secular forms of counseling therapy is that the definition of change is found in what amounts to behavior modification. The smoker stops smoking. The adulterer stops fornicating. The thief stops stealing. In this, success is declared. But, the Bible defines success for change, or life transformation in much more dynamic terms. 

Ephesians 4:17-25 provides for us a paradigm in which we can understand what is involved if change is to be biblical. In verses 17-19, Paul explains to his audience the condition of the Gentile, that is, the unbeliever. He explains briefly, yet succinctly, how the unbeliever is both ignorant, and calloused to the life of God. What’s more, the unbeliever is given to unrighteousness, and desires what is sinful with increasing intensity. He exhorts his audience to not “walk,” that is, think and act in this manner. 

In the second portion of this passage, verses 20-25, Paul gives his Spirit-inspired grid for understanding and implementing Gospel-driven change. Four words serve as the hinge: put off (v.22) and put on (v.24). Keeping a biblical view of repentance in mind, Paul calls his readers to a genuine, two-part process of change. Jay Adams writes concerning why Paul gives a two-part, put off and put on process, “Putting off will not be permanent without putting on. Putting on is hypocritical as well as temporary, unless it is accompanied by putting off.”[1] 

If Paul is clear concerning what he calls his readers to put off (unrighteousness), then he is explicit as to what they are to put on, “…the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (ESV). Still, this talk of putting off and putting on can remain elusive if we do not grasp where Paul desires the roots of change to be found. 

Adams writes that, “Paul calls for genuine change; change in the person. Not merely in his actions.”[2] Here, Adams is explaining what Paul communicates when he writes about the heart and the mind throughout the passage. In reading Ephesians 4:17-25, it is hard to not hear Paul’s instruction in Romans 12:2, where he tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This process of change is very much a part of the believer’s life-long process of sanctification. 

For the purposes of biblical counseling, Wayne Mack writes, “For our instruction to be biblically accurate, we must not merely tell people what they should not do but also what they should do…We need to help them replace old, sinful habits with godly ones.”[3] This issue of habituation is critical if we are to successfully pursue biblical change, that is, if putting off and putting on are to be tangible in this life. 

The human capacity to form habits is illustrative of why repentance is so important. Repentance requires an acknowledgement, confession, and a final turning away from all sin as sinful, followed by a turning to Christ. Without this, there will be no putting off of sin, and if there is no putting off of sin, there will never be a putting on of the righteousness of Christ. All of this, Paul would advise us, begins in the heart of man as a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 2:12-13). 

Finally, Adams writes that, “When Christ said, ‘take up your cross daily and follow me’…He represented the Christian life as a daily struggle to change.” As we pursue the instructions of Paul in Ephesians 4, and seek to make them our own, let us remember the words of Thomas Watson, who said, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

In what areas are you struggling with sinful patterns and habits? How are these areas indicative of a refusal or failure to put off/put on?

[1] Jay Adams, Christian Counselor’s Manual, Kindle 2681
[2] Ibid, Kindle 2656
[3] Wayne Mack, Counseling, 170