It’s an amazing time to be part of Biblical counseling. The amount of new work being done in the field is evident in the astounding rate at which new material is being published. There are new books on Biblical counseling theory, practice, and application to specific problems being published nearly every month. But, there are a number of other important works that outside of our specific field that Biblical counselors should consider reading.
This list, then, recommends a number of important non-counseling books that Biblical counselors should read. Check it out!
1. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith
Smith’s book is specifically written to address issues in higher education, but the premise of the book is relevant for Biblical Counselors. Smith contends that we have made education about information transference, and as a result treated people simply as brains. In reality, however, he points to the powerful and shaping influence of our habits. Growth, change, and development require both identifying our habits and fashioning new ones to point us towards greater truth.
Biblical counselors will find this book helpful in reshaping our basic understanding of the change processes. We can be tempted to basically sanctify Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and believe that if we just give counselees the right information then they will change. But we must engage with them at the level of habit too.
2. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry by Michael Lawrence
Since Biblical counselors work with the Bible it’s immensely important that we have a good grasp on both the content of the Bible and the best way to read it. Lawrence has written a practical and accessible guide to the basics of hermeneutics in this volume. While it focuses largely on Biblical theology, it actually provides a starting point for the larger subject of how to study the Bible. Biblical counselors should read it in order to sharpen their Bible study tools.
3. God Is…:A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God by Mark Jones
The character of our God can be a powerful resource in the battle against sin and in the search for comfort in suffering. The more we know about God the more help we have in our fight. Mark Jones has written an accessible and yet not a simple work on the character of our great God. Each devotional in this volume interacts with a key aspect of who God, ranging from divine simplicity to the goodness of God. This is a great introduction to the character of God and also a good tool to be familiar with for the sake of your counselees.
4. Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller
Keller is well-known for his ability to teach on deep subjects in an engaging manner. This book is just one example of that skill. To book is broken down into three parts. Part one explores the nature of suffering and gives a very insightful sociological look at views on suffering throughout history and across the globe. Part two turns to help readers face suffering. Keller explores the “why” of suffering, and the key doctrines that can help us face it. Part three helps readers to walk through suffering with God; here Keller gives the “how” of walking through suffering. This is a tremendous tool written by an intelligent scholar and a gracious pastor. It will help counselors to think carefully about how they explain suffering and give you additional tools to help others.
5. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame
While this is a more academic volume, Frame has a keen interest to do systematic theology for the specific betterment of Christians, not just scholars. This volume helps us to think carefully about the nature of knowledge, of understanding God, of epistemic justifications, and more. I have consulted this book more frequently than any other book in my library – save the Bible. The best benefit of this book to Biblical counselors is Frame’s definition and articulation of the discipline of theology. Theology is the application of the Word of God, and such a definition should be part of the Biblical counselors understanding since application of the Word is precisely what we aim to do in helping others.
6. Death by Love: Letters from the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
I hesitated to put this book on this list. Driscoll has been far from a positive example and as an abusive leader in the past, and a seemingly unrepentant one in the present, I am not inclined to support his work. Still, I can think of no other book exactly like this one. Driscoll and Breshears have found a way to take the doctrine of the atonement and apply various aspects of it in very specific ways. Readers will get a compelling glimpse at both the relevance of doctrine for life’s problems, and a compelling model for how to apply it. While I do not make a habit of recommending Driscoll, and don’t support him in any other fashion at this point in his ministry career, I do believe this volume is worthy of your time.
7. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer
The Puritans have done more to help the modern church understand the Christian life than any other group in the history of Christianity. In this volume Puritan scholar J.I. Packer gives readers a thorough, compelling, and fresh look at what Christian spirituality can look like. Through the example of the Puritans we begin to see the shallowness of modern spirituality, even modern Christianity, and are encouraged towards a better and more robust experience of the Christian life. Biblical counselors will find here both encouragement for their own spiritual lives – for we can’t encourage what we don’t have – and a good example of the goal they are working towards in counseling others.
8. A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology by Kelly Kapic
Biblical counseling is theological in nature. In doing counseling we are doing theology, the issue at hand is whether we are doing well at it or not. Kelly Kapic has written a wonderful little book giving insight on the basic tools of doing theology, but here he focuses on some that you might not naturally think about: prayer, service, and suffering. I highly recommend this “little book” to counselors, it will reframe your understanding of doing theology and encourage a healthy perspective on the “how” of theologizing.
9. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
There is perhaps no more famous and insightful book on battling sin ever written than this one. Since it was written by an English Puritan it will require a bit more concentration to read, but like digging for diamonds, it will be worth all the hard work. Owen’s book gives principles for dealing effectively with sinful attitudes and actions, and exposes the futility of the common excuses we have for not dealing with our sin. As we seek to help others wrestle with sin this book will be a wealth of insight and practical assistance.
10. The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson
This is one of the best guides to understanding the Biblical nature of repentance. The world has largely ignored the subject of repentance all together, and the church, in turn, has made it a shell of the real thing. We have settled for “I’m sorry,” but Biblical repentance is far more robust. Puritan Thomas Watson gives us great help in understanding repentance and guides us into actually repenting. Counselors seeking to address sin issues should read this volume in order to strengthen our own understanding of repentance that we might better help others repent. Paul warns us of the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:11). Thomas Watson’s book helps us see that difference afresh.