A Review of “Scripture and Counseling” ed. by Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey

Scripture and counselingWhat does it mean to say that the Bible is sufficient for counseling? Does it mean that there is no truth outside of Scripture? Does it mean that we can just give people some Bible verses and watch the problems melt away? Scripture & Counseling pulls together an array of counselors to help address and answer these questions. Don’t let the topic fool you into thinking that this is a predictable book on biblical counseling. Scripture & Counseling gives greater depth to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture for use in counseling than any other work I have read on the subject.

Biblical counseling has long hung its hat on the sufficiency of Scripture. It has been the driving force behind the recovery of pastoral care in the modern church. The subject has not, however, always been clearly articulated, defined, and nuanced. Some of the caricatures of biblical counseling have arisen primarily because we have not been clear on what we mean by this doctrine, nor how we implement it in the counseling session. Robert Kellemen and Jeff Forrey aim to correct this. In twenty chapters they pull together a host of competent counselors to cover a diverse series of issues related to the affirmation of the sufficiency of Scripture and its practical application in counseling. Kellemen states the purpose of the book as follows:

Is God’s Word profoundly sufficient, necessary, authoritative, and relevant to equip God’s people to address specific, complex issues in today’s broken world? Scripture & Counseling does more than answer with a resounding “Yes!” It communicates a way of viewing God’s Word to address life in a broken world – a robust theology of the personal ministry of the world. And it presents a way of using God’s Word to minister to broken people – a practical methodology of the personal ministry of the Word. (13)

The book is broken down into two parts. Part One: How We View The Bible For Life In A Broken World gives the “robust theology. Part two: How We Use The Bible For Life In A Broken World covers the “practical methodology.”

As the book began I found myself a bit leery that they authors were actually going to simply repeat the same “resounding yes,” of other works. Early chapters in the book do not presume that all readers will have bought into the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture. So Kevin Carson, Steve Viars, and Paul Tautges, in their various chapters, make a case for the doctrines validity. But as the chapters progressed it became quickly evident that there was more to this book. Jeremy Pierre’s chapter was particularly insightful as he dissected the contrasting philosophies of counseling. He beautifully avoided the reductionism so prevalent in these conversations and gave a rich discussion of the encyclopedic and emphatic authority of Scripture. Sam Williams helpfully discussed biological issues that counselors need to take under consideration as they practice their discipline and Kellemen himself closed out this part of the book with a great chapter on foundational principles for developing a methodology of counseling.

Part two was particularly insightful. In my opinion the second half of the book is worth the price. Here the authors want to help readers “develop a robust biblical use of Scripture in the actual one-another process,” writes Kellemen. Here we learn how to develop a personal methodology, how to develop a church-wide counseling ministry, how to utilize counseling in small groups, and how to make use of specific genres of Scripture in various cases. Garret Higbee’s two chapters in this second part of the book are extremely eye-opening to the potential ministry churches can have as they seek to live out the “one-anothers” of Scripture.

There is much to commend about this book. Readers will be blessed by its practicality and comprehensiveness. What might appear to be just another standard book on the same, important, message about the truthfulness of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 has, in fact, much more depth to it. It does not ignore the importance of considering organic issues, nor does it dismiss all contributions of our friends in the broader secular counseling/psychological community.  It avoids any tendency towards simplicity in its discussions of the theology and use of Scripture. “Robust theology” and “practical methodology” are indeed great ways to describe its contents. Undoubtedly this book will be a tool I use in training counselors in our church, and it will be a work I consult again for my own benefit. I highly recommend Scripture and Counseling.

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