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The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams

Book Review

Heath Lambert clarifies the purpose, development, and growth of the biblical counseling movement.

Jan 26, 2021

Heath Lambert’s book The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams is not just a chronological journaling of the biblical counseling movement but a look at the purpose, development, and growth of the movement. In Chapter 1, Lambert familiarizes us with the history of biblical counseling (which he defines as ministry). I found looking at nearly 600 years of history laid out in chronological events eye-opening. Lambert broke the years down into 4 categories, “The church’s attempt to do ministry in the last several hundred years has unfolded in a drama of deep theological reflection, theological neglect, theological recovery, and theological advancement.” (25)

Chapters 2-5 explain advancements made by second generation biblical counselors in how we think about counseling,1“All of the stress that the Bible puts upon human effort must not be misunderstood; we are talking about grace-motivated effort, not the work of the flesh. It is not effort apart from the Holy Spirit that produces godliness. Rather, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit alone that one can endure. Of his own effort, a man may persist in learning to skate, but he will not persist in the pursuit of godliness. A Christian does good works because the Spirit first works in him.” Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, page 73. our methodology,2“All approaches counseling have some kind of methodology, but biblical counselors approach methodological issues differently than secular counselors because we believe that the methodological commitments of the counselor are theological commitments growing out of the pages of Scripture. The reality is that God’s Word provides us with the resources we need to construct a theology of counseling process.” Heath Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling, page 81. our need to exegete the Scripture (speaking in love and applying it with grace), and finally the unifying belief in the sufficiency of Scripture that biblical counselors share.

He continues discussing an area still in need of advancement—specifically, understanding the difference between idolatry and the self-exalting heart. He does a wonderful job of considering idolatry from both an Old Testament and New Testament perspective and continues to explain seven ways to improve biblical counseling in this area of understanding the human heart. He explains that, “the motivational distinction being made here between specific idols and the sinful self-exalting heart is in many ways subtle, but the distinction has great practical relevance for counseling, which is seen in at least seven ways.” These seven areas according to Lambert are a better understanding of pride, of people, of sin, of repentance, the ability to counsel compassionately, protection against “idol hunts,” and protection against introspection.

Heath closes addressing the ongoing third generation of biblical counselors by laying out two positive approaches to evaluating the last two generations of biblical counseling advancements:

  1. Be grateful for the foundational work and advancement work that has preceded them.
  2. Diligently continue the work in the spirit in which it has been done—a Berean attitude.

He explains the first generation did the rough work, the second generation worked with more finesse, and the third generation must accept that there is a continuing need for theological reflection and development, creating opportunities for Christians to grow more competent to counsel.

This book held my attention from the beginning foreword by David Powlison through the conclusion. It brought the movement’s history more in focus for me, offered biblical instruction and encouraged me in the movement’s future. It ends with a specific caution that the Scripture is not archaic knowledge, but God’s wisdom. This makes biblical counseling a theological task (Isaiah 40: 9-31). “The fact is that counseling is ministry, and ministry is counseling…Counseling is…by definition, a theological task. Counselors may understand that counseling is a theological task or they may not. They may be good theologians or bad ones, but make no mistake: they are theologians who are neck deep in a theological enterprise.”(21)