Book Review -- By: Clifford Rapp, Jr.
Professor of Biblical Studies
How to Counsel from Scripture. By Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985. 224 pages. Paper, $9.95.
This book combines a challenge for the church to turn away from humanistic psychotherapy with a methodology for counseling from Scripture. The first part of the book deals with the theory, contrasting the humanistic methodologies with his biblical model. The second part considers the roles of the counselee, counselor and conversation in the cure of souls. The third part looks into the way God's love produces positive changes in people. This section considers receiving and giving love and forgiveness, inward and outward change, and activities for change. The final part of the book lays out a program for counseling in the church that is a comprehensive plan, involving public worship, small groups, and one-on-one counseling.
While the critique of humanistic psychotherapy gives encouragement to look elsewhere for guidance, the discussion of the scriptural model provides solid help, the only real help there is. The Bobgans leave no middle ground between the false systems of counseling devised by men and the truth from God. God's plan is for a person to live his life out of a relationship of love with Him. Accordingly, a personal relationship with God in Christ solves problems in living.
There is no formula for counseling people with a certain type of problem. A biblical counselor may help two people with similar problems in very different ways. Why? Because each person, created in God's image, is unique and because God's work in transforming people into conformity with Christ is individualized. A counselor must counsel from scripture out of his relationship with Christ, rather than from some fixed approach to human problems. It is the love of God that motivates change. The counselee must receive God's love and be changed inwardly. Then change outwardly.
A man who is new to the pastorate, or an experienced pastor who is reluctant to develop a counseling ministry, will find himself challenged and encouraged by this book. The book will not answer all your questions and it does not give case studies to show you how to do it. Yet with broad strokes the Bobgans lay out a method for helping people change and a plan for counseling in the church. Pastors wishing to train lay people to counsel from God's Word within the church could use this book for training people. Professional Christian counselors would find only very limited help, but much about which to think.
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