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Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically

Book Review

Understanding and counseling people biblically is a challenging and rewarding responsibility.

May 4, 2021

This classic work by John MacArthur and other respected pastors and professors at The Master’s University is necessary reading for those who are considering or pursuing participation in the great endeavor of helping people navigate the issues of life!

While much of the material has been in publication for some time, because of the enduring principles of biblical counseling, the truths presented are fresh and true today.

This book is based on the convictions that (1) God’s Word should be our counseling authority, (2) counseling is a part of the basic discipling ministry of the local church, and (3) God’s people can and should be trained to counsel effectively.” (Preface p, vii)

The first section of this book consists of three chapters that trace the rediscovering of a biblical approach to counseling after the “psychologizing” of the church in the first half of the twentieth century, the initial efforts of reclaiming counseling to the church under the leadership of Jay Adams and others, and the clarification of the contrast between psychological counseling and biblical counseling. Dr. John Street illustrates the inadequacies of psychology in the area of counseling as he writes: “Using psychology for soul-care is like dressing cancer with Band-Aids. It may temporarily relieve the pain or even mask the symptoms, but it will never penetrate the issues of the heart like God’s Word” (page 44).

The second part entitled, The Theological Foundation of Biblical Counseling, consists of four chapters discussing the necessity of a Godward focus, the sinfulness of humanity, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual discipline of the biblical counselor. This section digs deep into the importance of standing on solid ground in the endeavor of biblical counseling! In these chapters we find discussions about the integration of psychology and theology, the necessity to be born again to become united with Christ, and the prerequisite of the work of the Holy Spirit’s influence on the counselee. Regarding this, John MacArthur writes: “The counselor, armed with biblical truth, can offer objective guidance and steps for change. But unless the Holy Spirit is working in the heart of the counselee, any apparent change will be illusory, superficial, or temporary—and the same problems or worse ones will soon reappear” (page 87).

The next section consists of seven chapters delineating a methodology for biblical counseling. This section might be considered the “meat and potatoes” for those who engage in the ministry of biblical counseling. Here we see the “how to” in a helpful step-by-step process of developing a helping relationship with counselees, instilling hope in the counselee, taking counselee inventory (gathering data), interpreting counselee data, providing instruction through biblical counseling, biblical counseling and inducement, and implementing biblical instruction. In these chapters, Wayne Mack thoroughly and clearly describes the individual steps in this process. In the chapter on gathering data from the counselee, Mack writes, “Understanding and counseling people biblically is a challenging and rewarding responsibility. But sloppiness or neglect in gathering date can undermine the whole process. That is why biblical counselors need to develop expertise in this endeavor” (page 146).

The final section entitled, The Ministry of Biblical Counseling, includes five chapters presenting the necessity of what is being taught; the importance of spiritual giftedness, the importance of the participation within the local church, and frequently asked questions about biblical counseling. In responding to a question about what secular disciplines (psychology) might have to offer to the methodology of biblical counseling, John MacArthur says: “The answer is a flat no. Scriptures provide the system for biblical counseling. Other disciplines—history, anthropology, literature, sociology, psychology, biology, business, political science—may be useful in a variety of secondary ways to the pastor and the biblical counselor, but such disciplines can never provide a system of understanding and counseling people” (page 247).

This is a resource that will bless, instruct, and encourage anyone who seeks to further the kingdom of God by way of biblical counseling!