The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams

The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams


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Those inside and outside of the biblical counseling movement recognize growing differences between the foundational work of Jay Adams and that of current thought leaders such as David Powlison. But, as any student or teacher of the discipline can attest, those differences have been ill-defined and largely anecdotal until now.

Health Lambert, the first scholar to analyze the movement's development from within, shows how refinements in framework, methodology, and engagement style are changing the face of the biblical counseling movement as we know it-producing a second generation of counselors who are increasing competent to counsel. Find out how the biblical counseling movement has changed and improved and how the present-day leadership differs from the leadership of the past, in a respectful effort to evaluate and advances the efficiency of biblical counseling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433528132
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 11/28/2011
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Heath Lambert(PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, is a founding council board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and sits on the review board for The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He previously served as executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and as associate professor ofbiblicalcounseling at Boyce College of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

David Powlison(1949–2019)was a teacher, a counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation for many years. Hereceivedhis PhD from the University of Pennsylvaniaand was also the senior editor of theJournal of Biblical Counseling. He wrote a number ofbooks, includingHow Does Sanctification Work?;Making All Things New; andGod's Grace in Your Suffering.

Read an Excerpt


The Birth of a Biblical Counseling Movement and the Need for Growth

This is not a book about counseling. Even though you might be tempted to think it is a book about counseling, it is really a book about ministry. The fact is that counseling is ministry, and ministry is counseling. The two are equivalent terms. Counseling is the word our culture uses to describe what happens when people with questions, problems, and trouble have a conversation with someone they think has answers, solutions, and help. Those kinds of conversations are what ministers do every day, all day long, and the ministers who don't do this know that they could spend their time this way if they wanted to. So don't think that just because this book is about counselors, it doesn't have anything to do with your ministry. That it is about counselors means it has everything to do with your ministry.

If counseling is equivalent to ministry, it means that it must be informed by the Bible and that those who do it are theologians. Ministry always grows out of worldview commitments. As Christians we believe that our worldview is authoritatively informed by God's Word, the Bible; that is to say, it is theologically informed. Counseling is, therefore by definition, a theological task. Counselors may understand that counseling is a theological task or they may not. They may be good theologians or bad ones, but make no mistake: they are theologians who are neck deep in a theological enterprise.

I hate to say it, but most people don't understand this. In fact two very different groups have been guilty of cutting the theological foundations away from the counseling task. The first group is secular psychotherapists who are very well intentioned but ultimately seek to help people solve their problems while ignoring Christ and his Word. They have rejected the Godward dimension of counseling, moving in the opposing direction to claim that God and his people should have little or no role to play in the counseling task. Their diagnoses of and their attempts at "curing" people and their problems are man-centered and so will always fall short of offering people true and lasting change for their deepest problems. Integrationists, taking their cues from this group, attempt to be theologically faithful but formulate the theology in an unfaithful way.

A second group misunderstanding this issue is — ironically — conservative, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting ministers of the gospel. These conservative ministers fail to grasp that counseling is an essential part of ministry and so disconnect theology from counseling. They demonstrate the misunderstanding every time they say things like, "Oh, I don't counsel people; I'm a preacher," or, "Counseling takes too much time away from my other ministries," or, "I don't think the Bible has anything to say about this problem; you need to see a professional." Such people mean well, but they are wrong about the theological, ministry-driven nature of counseling. Each of these groups fails to understand the intrinsic connection that counseling has with ministry and theology. The truth of the matter is that I used to be in the second group. Let me tell you my story.

My mother was addicted to vodka during the first eleven years of my life. By the grace of God she quit drinking, repented of her sins, and became a believer in Jesus a few years before her death, but that was after I had grown up. A large portion of my childhood was filled with the roller coaster of my mother's months and years of drunken stupors followed by her many failed attempts to stop drinking. I would sit with my mother during her many visits to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and at these meetings I overheard a great deal of talk about "the disease of alcoholism" and statements like, "It wasn't me who did those things; it was my disease." At a very young age I remember thinking, "It doesn't seem like a disease." When my grandfather died of cancer I thought, "Now that seems like a disease." The point here is that even before I became a believer, I was not convinced about the application of a disease model to problems such as drunkenness that were clearly moral in nature, because such problems involved issues like self-control and avoidance rather than being merely physical.

Then, years later, after I became a Christian in my freshman year of high school, one of the first books I read was the first book Jay Adams wrote about counseling, Competent to Counsel. I read through the book in one sitting, and my mouth was hanging open the entire time I read it. I was captivated by Adams's vision to reclaim counseling as a theological and ministerial task and of his mission to make counseling an enterprise that was centered on Christ, based on his Word, and located in the local church. From that point on, I was a wholehearted believer in biblical counseling and wished the best to those who were a part of the movement. I only wished them well, however; I certainly did not want to be a counselor.

I wanted to be a pastor, and by that I meant that I wanted to be a preacher. By my second year of college, the Lord had created in me a strong desire for the work of ministry. I wanted to preach. I wanted to spend my weeks surrounded by commentaries unearthing the glories of God's Word. I wanted to spend my Sundays dispensing those glories to God's people. I admired preachers such as R. C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArthur, and Tim Keller. A few years later I reported for duty to my first paid pastoral position and couldn't wait to hit the books. Little did I know that in that first week God was going to completely redefine how I conceived of pastoral ministry.

That very first week, three separate groups requested meetings with me. I wasn't sure what they wanted to talk about but was thrilled at the thought of conducting such meetings. I couldn't wait to answer the theological questions these people had. I was ready to deal with issues about the Trinity, inerrancy, Calvinism, whatever. Let me at it!

I was in for a surprise.

The first meeting was with an elderly couple who were having marriage problems and wanted advice. Their words to me were, "We've been married for more than fifty years and all of it has been bad. We don't know how much time the Lord has for us, but we want what is left to be good. Can you help us have a better marriage?" The second meeting was with a mother and her daughter, who had been molested, and they wanted help they had not received from secular therapists. The third meeting was with a mother who wanted help knowing how to control a difficult child.

To say that I had absolutely no idea what had hit me would be putting it mildly. I had no kids, had never been molested, and had been married for only a few weeks! What did I know? I realized in the span of one week that I should not only wish biblical counselors well but figure out how to do what they were doing. I realized that there was no arbitrary distinction between the public ministry of the Word in preaching and the personal ministry of the Word in counseling. I realized that being a faithful pastor and preacher meant also being a faithful counselor.

So I began to work hard to understand biblical counseling. I made friends with people who were committed to counseling and spent a lot of time with them. I also started reading everything I could get my hands on and even began formal study in the area. In fact, I got a little carried away and ultimately earned a PhD on the topic.

I tell you that story because I want you to know how I came to see that learning about counseling is really about learning how to do ministry well. Here is a fact that you'd better write down, underline, circle, highlight, and memorize: if you want to be faithful in ministry (I didn't say successful) you're going to have to learn something about counseling. There's just no way around it.

The other reason I tell you that story is to help you understand something I began to figure out about biblical counselors. As I read all the different books and all the different authors on biblical counseling I started to notice that not everybody sounded the same. Oh, there were plenty of strong similarities: everyone was committed to Scripture as the source of wisdom for change, to Jesus as the source of power for change, and to the church as the central location for change, but there were also a lot of differences. Specifically, people who wrote during the first twenty years of the movement often sounded different from those who have been writing in the last twenty years of the movement. I also noticed that these differences were really improvements. The movement was not merely changing but was changing for the better. I further noticed that there was actually a fascinating story that surrounded these changes and improvements.

The purpose of this book is to tell you that story and to describe the improvements that have happened in the biblical counseling movement. I think it is important to tell you this because I believe that if you know how the biblical counseling movement has advanced, you will be a better church member, friend, brother, parent, or minister who is more equipped to have the kinds of conversations Jesus wants his church to have.

The story of this group of men and women is actually the fourth part of an even larger theological drama. You see, the Christian effort to help people with their problems did not begin forty years ago but rather is as old as the Scriptures themselves. God inspired the Scriptures for the very purpose of helping people with their problems (2 Pet. 1:3–4). Throughout the centuries of church history God's people have been at times more faithful and at times less faithful to use the Scriptures in ministering to struggling persons. The last forty years have been a time when the American church has been growing in its facility to use the Scriptures this way, but it is not really possible to understand what has happened in the last few decades without a brief peak into the last few centuries for some historical perspective. The church's attempt to do ministry in the last several hundred years has unfolded in a drama of deep theological reflection, theological neglect, theological recovery, and theological advancement.

A Period of Deep Theological Reflection

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. Those men wrote hundreds of works to help people deal with their problems in living. It is impossible to survey all the literature there, but it will be helpful to mention a few works. Richard Baxter wrote The Christian Directory, outlining in exhaustive detail the spiritual problems Christians face. John Owen wrote, among other things, The Mortification of Sin as a practical guide for dealing with the flesh. A Lifting Up for the Downcast was intended by William Bridge to be an encouragement to Christians struggling with all manner of life's difficulties.

Writing in the Puritan tradition in America, Jonathan Edwards wrote A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections to deal with the pastoral issue of judging true works of the Spirit from false ones. One of the last careful works was Ichabod Spencer's A Pastor's Sketches in the 1850s. In this work, Spencer recounted his conversations with many troubled persons and showed — in the context of nineteenth-century case studies — how ministers might talk with troubled people about their problems. Spencer's work was not perfect. He could be a bit heady and ignored internal realities that helped some secular thinkers believe that Protestant reflection on counseling was a wasteland. Still, in many ways, it represented the end of careful and uniquely Christian reflection about the task of interpersonal ministry.

Theological Neglect

The next book after A Pastor's Sketches that would offer uniquely biblical insight into helping people with their problems was Jay Adams's book Competent to Counsel, more than one hundred years later! Why is it that Christians neglected a robustly biblical approach to counseling for more than a century? The truth of the matter is that there were many reasons why this happened, and here I want to address nine of the most important.

1) People Want to Understand and Help Other People

Just look at the best-seller list. Books written by psychologists thought to explain people and their problems typically dominate. Seen any TV lately? Talk-show hosts often serve the role of pop-psychologist to their viewers (when they are not professionally trained as such). With increasing frequency, news programs invite psychologists to explain the inner workings of newsmakers or the public that observes and responds to them. Psychology is the most popular undergraduate degree program in colleges across the United States. All of this is true, because people love to know how they and others function. But there is a rub. When people begin to discover how others function, they become aware of problems and want to help. This is where counseling and therapy come in: when you observe, you see trouble and try to give help.

This reality ensures that what David Powlison calls "the Faith's psychology" will always have competitors. That competition will come from both inside and outside Christianity, but this drive to know about people will mean that many different philosophies of helping people with their problems will always be present and in need of critique and correction. Therefore, Christians must always be vigilant to strengthen their understanding of the problems people have and be aware of alternative positions so that such positions may be critiqued. When this fails to happen, the faith's psychology will recede and a faithless psychology will ascend.

2) Counseling Is Hard to See

Another consistent problem that makes it hard for Christians to engage in theological reflection on counseling is that it is hard to see. Think about it. Preaching is not hard to see at all. It's a public ministry visible to the masses. The opposite is true with the interpersonal ministry of counseling. Very often, those who are in the room at the time are the only ones aware that counseling is happening. Out of sight, out of mind — that is the problem here. People do not generally give much thought to things they never see.

As I mentioned earlier, the Lord used the preaching ministry of several men to ignite a passion for ministry in my heart, and this centered initially on preaching rather than counseling, because I could see the former and not the latter. There are thousands just like me in this regard. They think about and love the public ministry of the Word because they see it. Conversely the personal ministry of the Word doesn't occur to them, because they never see it. Because this is true, it is critical that Christians be vigilant to use the public ministry of the Word to exhort other believers toward the importance of the personal ministry of the Word.

3) Counseling Is Hard to Do

Another timeless difficulty of personal ministry is that it is hard. That is not to say that the public ministry of the Word is easy. I have spent years as a pastor preaching three to five different sermons a week, so I know it can be tough. I'm also saying, however, that the challenges of personal ministry in counseling are on display in a way that the challenges of public ministry — in preaching, for example — are not. Both the audience and the content of public ministry are general. However, preachers preach to crowds, addressing no particular person or problem. Because this is true, the sermons of a preacher could potentially fail to produce change in the lives of his hearers for quite some time before anyone caught on.

But personal ministry is the exact opposite. Both the audience and the content of personal ministry are, by definition, specific. The counselor counsels specific people with names, faces, and stories. Because this is true, counselors cannot fail to address problems and pursue change with their counselees. Failure is immediately apparent to real people with real problems who need real grace from a real God. Counselors cannot hide behind crowds but are always under scrutiny from the others in the room.

The difficulties of counseling are, therefore, more difficult to obscure than the difficulties of public ministry of the Word. Because this is true, some may be less inclined to engage in counseling ministry. Quite frankly, the level of scrutiny present in counseling is likely to make it an undesirable locale of ministry for many people. This reality makes it incumbent on those who would be faithful ministers of the Word in all its forms to be diligent to practice the personal ministry of the Word as well as to proclaim its necessity to anyone who would be an authentic servant of Christ.


Excerpted from "The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Heath Lambert.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword David Powlison 11

Acknowledgments 19

1 The Birth of a Biblical Counseling Movement and the Need for Growth 21

2 Advances in How Biblical Counselors Think about Counseling 49

3 Advances in How Biblical Counselors Do Counseling 81

4 Advances in How Biblical Counselors Talk about Counseling 101

5 Advances in How Biblical Counselors Think about the Bible? 121

6 An Area Still in Need of Advancement 139

Conclusion 157

Appendix 165

Bibliography 171

Notes 197

Index 217

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Having been a part of biblical counseling for some twenty-five years, I greatly appreciate and whole-heartedly endorse Dr. Lambert’s incredible work. He informs the novice, the veteran, and the critic on how the great heroes of the biblical counseling movement have built upon one another. He shows how an understanding of the movement must proceed from both historical and biblical contexts. And, as he reflects on the past one hundred years of church history, Lambert contributes a clear perspective on present day biblical counseling by demonstrating its strengths and weaknesses. He does this work in a way that leaves readers challenged, more unified, and strengthened in their faith and resolve concerning the sufficiency of the Scriptures.”
Stuart W. Scott, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, The Exemplary Husband; co-editor, Counseling the Hard Cases

“Like any significant church movement throughout ecclesiastical history, the biblical counseling movement has been subject to many changes and considerable growth. It has become a worldwide, multi-cultural agent of change for the Church of Jesus Christ. Heath Lambert has written an amazing account of key influences that God, in his perfect sovereignty, has brought about in this movement. This factual account is an important contribution to understanding how and why the biblical counseling movement has had such a profound and lasting impact. It is a must read for anyone who desires to understand this movement.”
John D. Street, Chair, MABC Graduate Program, The Master’s College and Seminary

“This book is an excellent resource for explaining the history of the biblical counseling movement, including the successes and failures along the way. Heath Lambert presents a great framework for all who want to grow and advance biblical counseling.”
Dennis Lee, Program Manager, Hebron Center Addictions Recovery Program

“A thoughtful analysis of the development of a growing discipline, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams offers a careful assessment of the intriguing history of the biblical counseling movement. Dr. Lambert goes to great lengths to help the reader understand the rich heritage of biblical counseling, transitions in its development, and wise recommendations for its future. Definitely an insightful read!”
Jeremy Lelak, President, Association of Biblical Counselors

“I deeply appreciate the impact Jay Adams’s teaching has had on my life, writing, family, and ministry. His emphasis on progressive sanctification, of continually growing and changing as followers of Christ, has been especially meaningful. This volume is a fascinating story of how Jay’s students, building on his remarkable foundational work, have caused the biblical counseling movement to grow and change for God’s glory. Thanks, Heath!”
Randy Patten, Executive Director, National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC)

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The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
chris-ho More than 1 year ago
I guess anyone who has read about Biblical Counselling would have know Jay Adams, Edward Welch, David Powlison, and many others. But few would know that the there are some differences between the first (Adams) and the second (Welch & Powlison) generation of biblical counseling. These differences are presented in this book by Lambert, and he has carefully separated them into 5 chapters, with one remaining chapter on what biblical counsellors ought to continue to work on. The first chapter sets the context of biblical counseling, the author (rightfully) acknowledges the seminal and crucial work of Adams, being the sole counsellor who was deeply driven by the truth to retain and restore counseling as the work of pastors and not for the “professionals”. The second to fifth chapter talks about the various areas where the differences lies between the first and second generation of biblical counselors. Three areas were highlighted in this section, first the what of counseling. The model of what counselling should be, what is causing this problems? With an emphasis on thinking in the aspect of how a a person who is being counselled can be both a sinner and sufferer at the same time. Second, the how of counselling. How should counselling be done? Emphasis was given to cases of how people are suffering and also on how counsellors should learn to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, being able to put themselves in the shoes of others. Third, the why of biblical counselling. Why should a christian use biblical counselling? This is one area that is not well addressed by Adams, who sees that since biblical counselling derives itself from the bible, it should be something held by all christians. The second generation has rectified this by trying to engage those within the christian circles and also secular circles as well. One area that saw no significant change was on how they thought of the bible, Lambert defends against the notion that the second generation has moved from this position as reported by those outside the biblical counselling movement. Lambert shows how this conclusion is wrong and substantiates this claim from works of both generations of biblical counsellors. Lastly, Lambert hopes that work will continue in the motivation aspects of people. Trying to people see that many a times, our problems arises because we seek to worship something else rather than God. Lambert very helpful shows in each chapter the similarities and differences you find between the two generations and also presents these materials in a clear manner, i do not recall having difficulty in trying to understand any technical words that he used which is a remarkable feat. For those who wish to know how biblical counselling has growth throughout these years, this is the book to read. Ratings: 4/5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im the first to write a reveiw!!!!! Beat you freakin losers!!!!!!!! ~ adam