Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling

March 26, 2013 — 2 Comments


Though it doesn’t dominate my blogging conversations, I’ve been interested in counseling in the church since the end of my time at Word of Life. It was for my last intensive class that I was introduced to Ed Welch’s When People Are Big and God Is Small, and it was long after before I was reading David Powlison. I was attracted to the nouthetic counseling model, even as I was completing the course requirements for a psychology major. It seemed to me that biblical counseling was the way to go, but maybe not quite in the initial way Jay Adams articulated it (when is often criticized for being too sin-focused). A pendulum needed to be swing, and perhaps Adams launched it too far (you can read more on that here), but with this latest volume from The Biblical Counseling Coalition, I think most readers will find a fine balance.

As Powlison explains in the Foreword, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling is “like an architect’s 1:12 scale model.” It communicates the concept of a structure, but is not overly detailed. Powlison says to think of the book as “a scale model of biblical counseling, delineating key theological underpinnings and sketching key methodological implications.” (7) In the Introduction, Bob Kellemen and Steve Viars echo this mission and at their motivation is to “promote authentic spiritual growth among God’s people in ways that are grace-based and gospel-centered, relationally and theologically robust, grounded in the local church, and relevant to everyday life and ministry.” (11-12)

The first two parts (grace-based/gospel centered, relationally and theologically robust) are the focus of the first part of the book: A Practical Theology of Biblical Counseling. In the second part, A Practical Methodology of Biblical Counseling, the focus shifts to it’s grounding in the local church and its everyday relevance. This gives balance to the overall work and for many readers will help to rehabilitate the perceived focus of biblical counselors (we’ll get to that in a minute).

In part 1, readers are taken on a journey through the major contours of a systematic theology. Just so we see the road map better, Kellemen and Viars make it explicit in the introduction:

  • Chapter 1: Theology Proper
  • Chapter 2: Christology
  • Chapter 3: Pneumatology
  • Chapter 4: Trinitarian Theology
  • Chapter 5/6: Bibliology
  • Chapter 7/8: Anthropology
  • Chapter 9: Hamartiology
  • Chapter 10-13: Soteriology
  • Chapter 14: Eschatology

I really appreciated the chapters on anthropology because they show a sensitivity to mind-body interactions that many people think biblical counselors either are either insensitive to or ignorant of. Here we see careful nuance and thoughtful reflections on how counselors can approach counselee’s sensitive to how we are created as a psycho-somatic wholes. Beyond these chapters, there is much to be gleaned in this mini-systematic theology for counselors. Chapter 5 is a rather imaginative dialogue rather than essay form, and Stuart Scott’s chapter on gospel balance is much needed in many churches today.

Part 2 of the book is informally split into two sections. First, chapters 15-20 “probe how we help – congregationally.” Here the focus is on the macro-level of church structures and logistics. Particularly helpful for me was the chapter on the relationship between small group ministry (which our church has, and which I am involved) and biblical counseling ministry (which our church doesn’t have, but I think we should). Second, chapters 21-28 turns to a micro-level focus of how we help and minister to each other individually. Here, there is everything from a chapter on emotions, to chapters on diagnosing idols of the heart, the power of forgiveness, the complex mind-body connection, dealing with suffering, and the power of confession and repentance.


After making my way through this book, my only complaint is that there is no author page. With 40 contributors, I’d like to know where some of the names I don’t recognize come from. But, this has little to do with the substance of the book. As a book that sets out to explain the why and the how of biblical counseling that is Christ-centered, it is a smashing success. Overall, it is a book that belongs on every pastor’s shelf, and perhaps should be required reading for elders and deacons alike. Our churches would be much healthier with a robust counseling ministry, and this book shows that it doesn’t have to be headed up by “professionals.” Anyone in ministry is already functionally a type of counselor, either for better or for worse. With this book, you can be equipped to fall on the better end of the spectrum.

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

2 responses to Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling

  1. Zacarias Rivera March 27, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for the review. I concur with you that it is crucial for the church to have a solid counseling ministry. A variety of issues would be dealt with responsibly without having to go to a professional, who may not be a Christian and whose worldview is totally in juxtaposition to ours.

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