Every few years a new manual on Biblical Counseling is released. These are generally introductory books designed to expose the reader to the theological and methodological foundations of the practice. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and I’ve found various volumes insightful and useful for training counselors. The Gospel for Disordered Lives is the most recent, and it is stands out above the others. This is the most comprehensive introductory volume on Biblical Counseling available to date.
The book’s thoroughness is no doubt owing to its multiple authors. Robert Jones is professor of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary, and was my professor back in seminary. The content of the book reflects his course notes, which have seriously shaped the way I train counselors in our program. Kristin Kellen is professor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Seminary, and Rob Green is professor, pastor, and counselor at Faith Church and Seminary in Lafayette, IN. Each brings years of experience and education to the work, but also each surely brings their own emphases to this introductory work. The diversity of voices and interests allows for nuance, clarity, and thoroughness in ways that a single-author-volume cannot.
The book is broken down into five parts. Part one covers the introductory matters, clarifying both what biblical counseling is and who should do it. These are common chapters for every introductory volume and the authors do an excellent job of communicating these basic concepts in very accessible ways.
Part two unpacks the theological foundations of biblical counseling. They start, uniquely, with the subject of epistemology, which is their development of the doctrine of Scripture as the foundation for reliable counseling truth. While all introductory volumes have a discussion of Scripture, the emphasis on epistemology is an interesting turn in this book. Other doctrines include the triune God, humanity, sin, and Satan. While other volumes may explore these doctrines in greater detail, showing their essential contribution to counseling, this volume provides good introduction to these concepts. For example, they explore God, Christ, and the Spirit in one chapter, as opposed to multiple chapters. The more concise descriptions, however, do not lack in depth and usefulness.
Part three focuses on the process and method of counseling. Again, readers will find the common subject matter discussed: nature of change, role of the counselors, giving hope, assigning homework, and concluding a case (just to name a few). The meat of this section, however, utilizes Jones’ own counseling methodology, a three step process of counseling: enter their world, understand and feel their need, and bring them Christ and His answers. This is a process I was taught, and one I have been using and training others in for years, so it was wonderful to see it in print.
Part four directs offers an introduction to the common problems that counselors will see. Here readers will learn about issues like anger, anxiety, depression, addiction, and grief. They will be taught not simply about the issue but some basics of the counseling process for these types of issues. The authors prove their comprehensiveness in this section of the book. They cover fifteen topics, including some not commonly discussed in introductory volumes, like pregnancy loss and eating disorders. Here too readers will find the most up-to-date information regarding these various issues. The chapters on addiction and trauma, for example, show the ways in which biblical counseling has continued to develop as a movement. The information in those chapters specifically shows authors’ awareness of modern research and counseling practices. I was so thrilled to see the depth that they went into in all these chapters, while still keeping the introductory emphasis in mind.
Part five ends the book by looking at the distinct features of counseling different age groups. Here is another unique contribution to the introductory literature. There are distinct features of counseling children, teens, middle-aged adults, and older adults, and these authors capture the basics of those distinctions.
I loved this volume as an introductory tool. I have generally used three separate books for our training course. One volume to introduce the theological foundations, one volume to clarify the mythological foundations, and one volume to give an introduction to various counseling scenarios. Jones, Kellen, and Green have provided me with an all-in-one introductory book. While other volumes will surely give more detail to any one of these situations, here is a book that provides a breadth of material without being too shallow. I highly recommend this book to all those wanting to better understand biblical counseling and looking to get started in it.