• Book Review: Seeing with New Eyes

    Posted on July 30th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Seeing with New Eyes:

    Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture


    *Title: Seeing with New Eyes

    *Author: David Powlison, Ph.D.

    *Publisher: P&R Publishing (2003)

    *Category: Church, Biblical Counseling, Ministry


    Reviewed By: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, Author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, Sacred Friendships, and God’s Healing for Life’s Losses


    Recommended: Seeing with New Eyes offers a Christ-centered, comprehensive model for building a biblical theology of biblical counseling based upon a biblical psychology of human nature.


    Review: The Creator’s View of His Creation


    Author David Powlison is one of the foremost theologian-practitioners in the modern biblical counseling movement. Seeing with New Eyes compiles articles previously penned (over a period of two decades) by Powlison, all centered around the theme of a theology of biblical counseling.


    Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him


    Powlison defines counseling very practically as “intentionally helpful conversations.” His goal in Seeing with New Eyes is to equip readers to look at such spiritual conversations through God’s perspective—this encompasses the “new eyes” of the title. We see everything in life and ministry entirely differently when God’s eyes become our lens.


    Powlison uses the common and very helpful model of creation, fall, and redemption to unfold Scriptures’ view of people, problems, and solutions. It is through this three-fold conceptual grid that Seeing with New Eyes seeks to assist the church in the care and cure of souls.


    The premise is simply profound: Does God have a take on counseling? Powlison answers in the affirmative: God’s gaze has everything to say about the myriad issues counseling addresses. Seeing with New Eyes aspires to listen well, to look closely, and to think hard within the patterns of God’s gaze.


    Opening Blind Eyes


    Powlison organizes his thoughts in two parts: Scripture Opens Blind Eyes and Reinterpreting Life. In part one, readers enjoy a biblical theology of biblical counseling from three books of Scripture: Ephesians, Psalms, and Luke. In part two, readers benefit from a biblical psychology of biblical counseling: what is the nature of human nature and why do we do what we do?


    In several chapters on Ephesians, Powlison seeks to understand how Paul uses Scripture and thus how we should do so in practical theology. He then explores Paul’s view of God and the titanic difference our image of God must make in our lives and ministries. In a final chapter on Ephesians, Powlison uses Ephesians 5:21-6:4 as a model for understanding human relationships. Throughout this section Powlison artfully crafts a pastoral theology for real people with real life issues and a real God with real answers.


    Biblical counseling has sometimes been slow to emphasize suffering, instead focusing almost exclusively on sin. So it is encouraging to see Powlison spend two important chapters on the why and how of suffering, using the Psalms as his guide. These chapters provide a biblical sufferology useful both for the person going through suffering and for the person called along side to help the sufferer.


    His chapter on Luke is a sermon on Jesus’ sermon on worry. What Powlison does here is reflective of his entire purpose: he takes one section of Scripture and not only applies it, but models how we can apply it in biblical counseling.


    For readers wanting a full-blown, systematic, detailed theology of biblical counseling, Seeing with New Eyes may fall a little short. However, that was not Powlison’s purpose. However, for readers wanting an excellent introduction into how to view and use Scripture to begin to develop a biblical model of biblical counseling, Seeing with New Eyes is an excellent primer.


    What Is the Nature of Human Nature?: Why Do We Do What We Do?


    Having shared a foundational model of biblical counseling theology-building, Powlison now illustrates how to build a biblical psychology—a biblical view of “personality theory.” Put practically, he asks and answers the question, from the perspective of the Creator, “What makes us tick?”


    The strength of this section is found in Powlison’s insistence on building a view of human nature not coram anthropos (from the perspective of humanity), but coram Theos (from the perspective of God). We can understand people via people, or we can understand people via God. Powlison rightly chooses to understand the creature not through the creature but through the Creator.


    These nine chapters cover, in overview form, almost every issue a biblical counselor needs to ponder when developing a Christian approach to human nature. In each case, Powlison shows insight into the world’s perspective, shares his view of God’s perspective, and does both with a keen eye to practical application and ministry implications.


    Chapter 7 goes for the big picture of human motivation theory. It explores God’s “X-ray” of what He sees when He looks at why we do what we do. The 35 X-ray questions are worth the proverbial price of the book—practical, theological, psychological, motivational, convicting.


    Chapters 8 and 9 present a theology of desire and affections. Again, biblical counseling at times has been seen (and perhaps has been somewhat guilty of) to deemphasize desires, affections, and longings. These two chapters go a long way toward reemphasizing the biblical importance of and place of desire, rightly understood, in the Christian’s life. Powlison accurately demonstrates that desire and affection are good terms and core aspect of God’s design, but that because of the fall we must always battle the temptation to orient our desires away from God.


    No pie-in-the-sky theology, Powlison shows the practicality of a theology of desire/affection in chapter 10 when he addresses the question, What if your father didn’t love you? How does a Christian counselor deal with the legitimate but unmet desire (see James 4:1-4) of “father love”?


    Similarly, Powlison’s chapter What Do You Feel? explores another area that at times has seen limited press in modern biblical counseling. How do we understand emotions biblically and how do we mature as emotional beings? Powlison strikes a good balance between living for feelings and ignoring feelings.


    In his final chapter, Powlison attempts to address the complex issues surrounding bio-psychology: what is the role and relationship of the body to the mind? Powlison, in the space allowed, provides a nuanced approach. For instance, Powlison summarizes supportively the historic rule of thumb in biblical counseling, “See a doctor for your body. See your pastor, other pastoral counselors, and wise friends for your heart, soul, mind, might, manner of life, and the way to handle sufferings.” But perhaps because the mind/body issue is so complex in its God-designed interworking, this chapter at times felt a little less “deep” and a little too “definitive.” The possible interrelationship of mind/body, brain/soul at times seems a bit minimized. That said, Powlison does acknowledge the potential ambiguity and does encourage the biblical counselor to keep abreast of accurate medical research.


    Living Life Well


    Seeing with New Eyes is about living life well for God’s glory. It is a surprisingly cohesive book given that it pulls together over a dozen articles written over nearly two decades. It provides a consistent sampler of how to erect a biblical, God-honoring, God-following approach to people-helping. It  supplies a compass, a GPS, a directional marker, a map to guide, without being a straight-jacket to follow blindly. The gaze of Christ does in fact shape the spiritual conversations between real people in the real world.




  • The DNA of Biblical Counseling

    Posted on July 4th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The State of Biblical Counseling Today:

    Discussing the ABC Symposium,

    Part II—The DNA of Biblical Counseling


    Note: This is Part Two of a several-part blog about the Symposium on Biblical Counseling that took place on May 14, 2009 at the Association of Biblical Counselors’ National Conference.


    “But You Didn’t Disagree Enough!”


    It was interesting during the Intermission, directly afterwards, and the day after the Symposium, how many times the four speakers plus President Lelek heard comments like, “There wasn’t enough disagreement!” Perhaps some people were expecting a “Biblical Counseling Four Views Debate.”


    More likely, most people simply wanted to hear how four leaders from four different counseling organizations distinctively nuanced what makes biblical counseling truly biblical. I’d challenged readers to purchase a copy of the DVD. Then…do what good biblical counselors do—listen well. I guarantee that you will hear the distinctive vision and passion of each speaker.


    Tertiary, Not Primary Differences


    What may surprise many is that the differences you will hear are, as David Powlison noted, tertiary (third level) and not primary. Primary differences would be foundational differences in our beliefs about the sufficiency of Scripture.


    We don’t have those! David Powlison (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation—CCEF), Steve Viars (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors—NANC, Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries—FBCM), Eric Johnson (Society of Christian Psychologists—SCP for the American Association of Christian Counselors—AACC), and Bob Kellemen (Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network—BCSFN for the AACC, and RPM Ministries) really are “on the same page.”


    The Unique DNA of Each Speaker


    That said, the four speakers were not clones of one another. Again, listen carefully to the DVD and you’ll hear clearly the different perspectives, the unique passions, and the individual emphases of each speaker.


    My goal today is to highlight something of the unique thumb print of each speaker. Obviously, I can do a better job remembering my own words and conveying my own passion, then I can those of my three fellow speakers. I’d love to hear each of them summarize what they shared during the Symposium.


    Eric Johnson’s Unique DNA


    Listen to Dr. Eric Johnson’s (see http://tinyurl.com/pvq3wj for his bio) interactions throughout the Symposium and you’ll hear several messages.


    1. A Humble, Gentle Heart and a Brilliant Mind


    First, Eric uniquely balances a gentle heart and a brilliant mind. Eric is a theologian/philosopher of biblical Christian counseling. Yet, he is no mere “academic.” His passion for people, his humble heart, and his desire for people to grow in grace all came across loud and clear throughout the Symposium.


    2. Reclaiming “Psychology” for the Church


    Second, listen to Eric on the DVD and you will pick up his passion for “psychology”—Christian psychology, biblical psychology. Eric, like myself, is a student of Church history. He knows that psychology is native to our faith—not secular psychology, but biblical psychology. Eric wants to build a foundation for soul care from a biblical and historical (Church history) basis. He wants the biblical counseling movement to reclaim what is rightfully theirs—understanding people, diagnosing problems, and prescribing solutions—biblically. Eric spoke consistently about how biblical counseling must mine the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God’s Word to develop a theological grid out of which we then build our counseling approaches.


    Steve Viars’ Unique DNA


    Listen to Pastor Steve Viars (see http://tinyurl.com/pvq3wj for his bio) interactions throughout the Symposium and you’ll hear several messages.


    1. A Passionate Heart and a Love for the Church


    Steve got people fired up about biblical counseling in the church—because Steve is fired up about it! And his words are not mere theory. Faith Baptist Church practices what Steve preaches. They are on the cutting edge of equipping people to be biblical counselors. They are not a church with biblical counseling, they are a church of biblical counseling. Principles of progressive sanctification flow through everything they do. How they preach, teach, do small groups, do evangelism, etc.—all flows from their model of biblical counseling.


    2. Reclaiming Biblical Counseling for the Community


    What may surprise some, because it blows away the false stereotypes about Nouthetic counseling, is Steve’s passionate commitment to community outreach through biblical counseling. Every Monday nearly 50 people from their community receive biblical counseling through Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. These are not church members (they receive counseling from one another and from the staff throughout the week). Unbelievers are coming to Christ, having their sins forgiven, and their lives healed every week through biblical counseling.


    Another example is Faith Baptist’s Vision of Hope Ministries. Vision of Hope Ministries recognizes the worth and sanctity of human life by ministering to young women, children, and families in a Christ-centered environment. They offer a faith-based residential treatment program for girls age 14 to 28 struggling with: unplanned pregnancy, alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, and/or self-harm. Steve Viars is convinced that God’s Word has real answers for real people with real problems.


    David Powlison’s Unique DNA


    Listen to Dr. David Powlison’s (see http://tinyurl.com/pvq3wj for his bio) interactions throughout the Symposium and you’ll hear several messages.


    1. A Love for People and a Love for God’s Word


    Clearly, David Powlison loves people and loves God’s Word. He uniquely united these twin loves in every interaction during the Symposium. He is a biblical scholar with a pastor’s heart.


    2. Reclaiming the Sufficiency of Scripture for Theory and Practice


    Repeatedly I heard David highlight the sufficiency of Scripture in theory-building and for counseling practice. David does not believe in a one-verse-one-problem-one-solution simplistic approach to biblical counseling. Rather, he wisely builds his model on a thorough, theological-biblical understanding. Every life issue, when considered conceptually, is addressed with wisdom in the Bible. Our role is to trace conceptual categories of living throughout the Bible and relate those to modern categories people face today.


    No mere theoretician, listen to the DVD and you will hear great practical wisdom from David about how the counselor/pastor can interact in love, insight, creativity, and engagement with a counselee/parishioner. You can tell quickly that David has remained active in the field—as a practitioner. His use of images, humor, stories, biblical vignettes with people bring his counseling to life.


    Bob Kellemen’s Unique DNA


    Listen to Dr. Bob Kellemen’s (see http://tinyurl.com/pvq3wj for his bio) interactions throughout the Symposium and you’ll hear several messages.


    As I noted, obviously I know my own passion for counseling better than the passion of Eric, Steve, or David. And, I remember better what I said—because it is what I would say in any setting. Anyone who knows me will listen to the DVD and say, “That’s Kellemen! I’ve heard him highlight that a million times!”


    Since it would seem arrogant for me to attempt to categorize my own “heart” and “mind,” I’ll let others attempt that. Instead, I’ll share two summary areas of theory that I recall highlighting during the Symposium.


    1. Reclaiming the Profundity and Relevancy of Scripture for Theory and Practice


    If I said it once, I said it half-a-dozen times, “true biblical counseling must be Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed.” The “comprehensiveness” of biblical counseling comes out, in part, when we think of the profound nature of Scripture. I believe 100% in the sufficiency and supremacy of the Word of God. I also happen to believe that if we talk about the Scripture’s sufficiency but ignore how it deeply relates to life, then we’ve missed the point entirely. Our calling is to relate Christ’s changeless truth to our changing times. Our calling it to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. God’s Word, rightly interpreted and aptly applied, has real answers to real problems of real people. During the Symposium, I shared the example of 2 Samuel 13 and the rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon. Carefully exegete that passage in context, and you begin to see the profound wisdom of the Word for the horrors of sexual abuse and sexual sin. You begin to see the amazing timeliness and relevance of God’s Word for life as we live it today.


    2. Reclaiming the Necessity of Compassion for Theory and Practice


    I also highlighted passages like Romans 12:15; Philippians 1:9-11; Romans 15:14; Ephesians 4:15; and 1 Thessalonians 2:8; all of which insist upon speaking the truth in love. I called upon us as biblical counselors to be like the Apostle Paul who said that he loved the saints so much that he gave them not only the Scripture, but his own soul, because they were dear to him. Do a DNA analysis of Kellemen’s biblical counseling approach, and you will find truth and love. I believe that in modern biblical counseling we have not emphasized enough the relationship of the counselor to the counselee. We have at times been too focus on “information in” (listen to data) and “information out” (read a verse/apply a principle). Instead, when listening—we should be engaging, feeling (that’s not a bad word!), empathizing (another good, biblical word), and climbing in the casket (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-11) as we weep with those who weep. And, when sharing truth, we should be doing it soul-to-soul, in a three-way trialogue relationship—counselor, counselees, and the Divine Counselor—it is a collaborative, relational, even intimate interaction.


    Part of that truth-compassion connection that I highlighted at the Symposium also means that we must deal both with the evils people have suffered and with the sins people have committed. Modern biblical counseling has done good work dealing with sin. But it has, at times, not done as much work developing a biblical “Sufferology”—a theology of how to apply God’s Word to suffering parishioners and spiritual friends. It should never be either/or: suffering or sin. Biblical and historically, the Church has always dealt with both. We need to develop biblical approaches to soul care for the suffering through sustaining and healing. And we need to develop biblical approaches to spiritual direction for sin through reconciling and guiding.


    The Distinct DNA Was There!


    I could go on and on about each of us. The differences were there. God fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely created each of us with individual passion, calling, life experiences, personality. It all came out in numerous ways during the Symposium.


    Where Do We Go From Here?


    In the next blog, I’ll take a risk. I’m going to address some stereotypes and the dangers thereof. See you then.