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Heath Lambert’s Biblical Counseling and Common Grace

Book Review

God’s ministry done in God’s way will never lack the resources needed to help people with their problems on this side of heaven.

Jan 25, 2024

What is common grace and its role in biblical counseling? How are biblical counselors able to value common grace without using its discoveries in counseling? In Biblical Counseling and Common Grace, Heath Lambert provides an accessible, theologically-faithful defense of the sufficiency of Scripture as it pertains to the doctrine of common grace.  

From trauma-informed counseling to evidence-based practices, the doctrine of common grace is now at the center of a shift from Scripture to psychology in the care of souls (p. 47). The argument is that since counselors have an ethical obligation to offer the best care possible, then it makes sense that believers would use helpful counseling interventions given to us by God’s common grace (p. 48). In Chapter 3, “Common Grace and Integration,” Lambert poignantly points out that this line of argument is not new. While the troubling developments regarding the doctrine of common grace are new in the history of pastoral care, the method of the evil one to turn the believer away from the riches of Scripture is always the same. Just as the apostle Paul warns the Colossian believers against the threat of Gnosticism that have an appearance of wisdom, but it is of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh and conforming the believer into the image of Christ (Colossians 2:23). Hence, Lambert warns the believer against a fascination that focuses on new secular interventions with faithful-sounding arguments—such as honoring general revelation or embracing common grace—as justifications to integrate psychology with Scripture. Although it has been relabeled, it is simply old-school integration (p. 71).  

Using a case study, Lambert addresses the doctrine of common grace with both theological clarity and pastoral warmth as it pertains to truth, sin, integration, and biblical counseling. Biblical counselors ought to recognize how common grace has substituted general revelation as a way to incorporate secular methodologies into soul care ministry which belongs. There is always a tradeoff. Just as Freud wanted pastoral workers to be secular (p. 49), the integration of Scripture and secular methodologies will only make counselors more secular, not more biblical. This is because as believers move away from God’s interpretation and intervention in counseling, they attempt to heal the wounds of people by saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14). Here, Lambert says, “I am ready to promise that eternity will reveal countless counselees who would gladly trade their time engaging such therapies, regardless of any common grace value they may hold, for time spent lingering over the Word of God” (p. 74). The wisdom of this age is doomed to pass away, which is why believers must be resolved to trust the wisdom and power of God in His revealed Word (1 Corinthians 2:5-7). God’s ministry done in God’s way will never lack the resources needed to help people with their problems on this side of heaven.  

Lambert also provides the believer with three lenses to evaluate the role of common grace in counseling methodology: the lens of assumption, the lens of analysis, and the lens of authority. With this tri-fold lens, believers will be equipped to theologically evaluate the observations, discoveries, and methodologies that are purportedly effective in helping people with their problems. Now, this does not mean that biblical counselors are dismissing or devaluing God’s goodness and kindness in His gift of common grace, but the role of common grace must be subservient to the role of special grace. This is because “common grace does not and cannot supply the strategy or content of counseling conversations. That role is reserved for special grace, and the Holy Scriptures are alone sufficient for that” (p. 81, emphasis mine). Reversing and subjugating the role of special grace under common grace will be detrimental for the counseling needs of man, which are ultimately spiritual in nature. Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Nonetheless, one’s familiarity with these verses must not result in any functional disbelief in the veracity of these verses—God’s Word is sufficient for every good work.  

Personally, I am deeply encouraged and challenged by Heath Lambert’s theological and pastoral concern for biblical counselors and believers alike on this topic, as he wrote this book after six significant brain operations. What is at stake, you may ask? Or if you think that the doctrine of common grace may be an obscure, secondary doctrine at the periphery of your counseling ministry, may Lambert’s words instruct and exhort you in this way: 

When we get frustrated with a perceived lack of resources in Scripture and become enamored with the latest secular therapy, we will do something very damaging to Scripture, to our souls, and to the people God gives us to help… When we step away from Scripture’s resources for counseling and utilize the world’s resources, we also hurt people by exchanging the Bible’s lasting, powerful, and Spirit-empowered principles with more or less harmful replacements. (p. 73)  

Whether you are a seasoned counselor discerning the latest trend of trauma-informed counseling or a believer who has been struggling with the effects of trauma, this new book by Lambert is both clarifying and convicting on the issue of common grace. Christian, common grace costs God nothing; it flows out of the infinite repository of His perfections to all His creation. But the special grace of God costs Him everything—Jesus Christ died to save and sanctify the elect until glorification. God’s special grace alone is efficacious to finish the salvific and sanctifying work in every believer (Philippians 1:6).  

May you stand firm in the sufficient Word of God, trust in the superior power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit for all that you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  

Key Quotes: 

  1. An uncritical race to embrace secular theories based on a simplistic acceptance of common grace is the exact kind of intellectual laziness we would expect as a result of the noetic effects of sin (p. 33). 
  1. The clarity of biblical teaching on [the existence of an immaterial soul in every human being] demands that Christians use the lens of authority, declare that the Bible has the final say on the existence of the soul, and reject any self-styled expert with a divergent view (p. 44). 
  1. Nothing about the existence of approaches outside of Scripture does anything to erode the sufficient resources of Scripture (p. 66). 
  1. When Scripture has powerfully impacted us, we will counsel Scripture. When the resources of the world have impacted us, that is what will come out of our mouths… When counselors get excited about the resources of the world, they reveal a gap in their own hearts that Scripture has not yet filled (p. 71-2).  
  1. [A] desire to offer real and lasting care demands the admission that it is secular resources, not scriptural resources, that are deficient to offer true help. Common grace requires the addition of special grace to offer real care, not the other way around (p. 78). 
  1. Common grace never stops being a servant. Common grace does not and cannot supply the strategy or content of counseling conversations. That role is reserved for special grace, and the Holy Scriptures are alone sufficient for that (p. 81). 
  1. Every faithful Christian must lament the poverty of resources secular persons have in their attempt at solving the serious problems that plague broken people (p. 82).