Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Review - The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams

Well friends, it's been almost a year since my last post...time flies when you're having fun! There have been lots of life changes since the last time I posted anything, but one of the biggest is....I finally started grad school! I'm pursuing a Masters degree in Biblical Counseling from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and have been learning some great stuff in the lectures and reading that I would love to share with you sometime. But for now, I get extra credit for publishing a book review on my blog, so if y'all are interested in counseling at all, this book was an interesting summary of the history of the counseling movement in the last 44 years and how it has changed. 

Lambert, Heath. The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.  

Initial Stages of Biblical Counseling

Lambert begins by saying that counseling is synonymous with ministry, and points out that counseling is a theological task. He goes on speak of the history of biblical counseling. The first era of counseling discussed is that of the Puritans. Lambert remarks,
The Puritans took counseling seriously. They didn’t call it counseling, but they believed that ministry was important, and they began a particularly rich period in theological thought regarding personal ministry of the Word. (25)
After the Puritans, there was a long period where counseling was neglected. After this period of neglect, in 1970 Jay Adams published a book that highlighted the historical view that counseling should be a ministry within the church because it was a theological task. Because a worldly view of counseling had permeated the church, Adams needed to critique and break down the secular approach, while instructing people on how to view counseling through the lens of Scripture and teaching that all Christians were competent to counsel and ordained ministers were mandated to counsel. Lambert states,
In Adams’s system, God is the fundamental reality, sin is the fundamental problem, and redemption in Christ is the fundamental solution. Therefore, the Christian minister operating in the context of the local church is called to the task of helping people with their problems, of mediating God’s truth to people, and of walking alongside them in the struggle to put off sin and put on obedience. (43)

How Counselors Think About Counseling

In the next section of the book, Lambert identifies two major areas that he feels Jay Adams missed in his works, but also shows how second generation counselors have built upon Adams’ foundation to give a more complete understanding of the counseling process.  

The first area of weakness in Adams’ teaching on how to think about counseling is a lack of the acknowledgement of and appreciation for suffering and how to address that in the life of the counselee. Without a biblical understanding of suffering, counseling may seem unloving, legalistic, and harsh. It is important to note that the second generation of counselors are not seeking to minimize the role of personal sin, but to balance a biblical view of sin and suffering. Powlison, Tripp, and Welch have all been influential in emphasizing the understanding of suffering.

The next area that Lambert feels Adams needed to build upon is motivation, the reasons behind the behavior of a counselee. Lambert suggests that Adams was very focused on behavior without regard for the motivating factors. Powlison played a big role in the shift in thinking of second generation counselors when he taught that people are worshippers and worship is what motivates human actions. Powlison also introduced the metaphor “idols of the heart,” which has been widely adopted by second generation counselors.

How Counselors Do Counseling

Lambert goes on to speak of counseling methodology, first listing consistencies over the years. The three consistencies outlined are: information gathering, instruction and implementation. Lambert then portrays how the second generation of counselors have sought to develop Adams’ methodology further into a more biblical view of counseling. Lambert writes,
The most significant area of Adams’s methodology that needed advancement was understanding of the counseling relationship. Adams’s approach to the relationship between counselee and counselor was relatively formal and authoritative in nature. (87)
He goes on to talk about how Adams’ approach is not commended anywhere in Scripture. Powlison made the initial adjustment to Adams’ methodology by focusing on the relationship with the counselee. The second generation of counselors have developed the methodology of counseling in teaching that counseling should be familial, affectionate, sacrificial, person-oriented, viewing the counselor as a fellow sinner and sufferer, and addressing suffering before sin. Lambert likens Adams’ methodology to Job’s counselors who ministered in an unhelpful way.           

How Counselors Talk About Counseling

This section of the book focused on the apologetics of counseling and how counselors interact with those with differing views on counseling models. There were several examples cited of how Adams attempted to speak about counseling with those of differing viewpoints, but Lambert explains that Adams eventually decided that would not be a part of his ministry. The second generation of counselors have attempted to engage others, but Lambert believes,
…this effort at engagement may continue to be the hardest area for biblical counselors to develop. There are at least two reasons for this. First, the sharp dividing lines between the movements make conversation difficult…Second, most biblical counselors simply are not willing to devote their ministries to intellectual defenses of the movement. (120)

How Counselors Think About the Bible

The question Lambert seeks to answer in this section of the book is whether there is a difference in the beliefs about the sufficiency of Scripture between “traditional biblical counseling” (TBC) and “progressive biblical counseling” (PBC). In looking at various writings from Mack, Powlison, Adams, and others, Lambert concludes,
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. (137)

Area in Need of Advancement

The second generation of biblical counselors have focused much time on developing the “idols of the heart” metaphor, but Lambert argues that this is one major area still in need of major advancement. Although the focus on idols has been beneficial, there is still a lack of understanding and teaching on the belief that idols are the result of a deeper motivation for self-exaltation, which is consistent with what the Bible teaches about idolatry in both the Old and New Testament.


Lambert concludes this writing by challenging the third generation of counselors to be thankful for the advances of the first and second generations of counselors, and to be diligent in growing in theology and methodology so that even greater advances will be made to conform more closely to God’s Word in the realm of biblical counseling.