"Biblical Counseling Basics" by Jeremy Lelek. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Counseling opportunities and situations hit us all. Neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members and family come seeking direction or help in a trying situation. Often times, whether as pastors or parishioners, we feel pretty helpless. To the rescue comes a new 288 page paperback "Biblical Counseling Basics: Roots, Beliefs, and Future". This resource is penned by Jeremy Lelek, PhD, president of the Association of Biblical Counselors and Metroplex Counseling, a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas, and a lecturer. The volume primarily attempts to "unpack the single question, What is biblical counseling" (1)? It is written for moms, dads, ministers, and data processors, and meant to arouse the perception that to do biblical counseling is in your grasp.
As noted in the subtitle, Lelek goes into the roots and genealogy of biblical counseling. He moves briefly through the early church fathers, medieval era, the Reformers, then the Puritans and up into the present. In the first two chapters the author not only schools us on how biblical counseling rose out of concern for the growing milieu of secular psychology , but also the different perspectives and approaches in Christian counseling. The author ends the book close to where he began as he addresses the issue of epistemology and the future of biblical counseling in the present environment.
The weight of the book sits in it's middle descriptor, which is about beliefs and practices in biblical counseling. This section is something of a theology of biblical counseling, where the author runs through many categories in systematic theology and shows how they apply in a counseling situation: the role of God's revelation, who God is and how his attributes apply in a counseling scenario, what is humankind, where does the body fit into counseling, and what is the church's role in soul care. This middle section covers twelve chapters, and works out how Christian "counselors not only need a rich theology of motivation but also a vibrant theology of change" (153). As Lelek illustrates his points, using true-to-life counseling situations, it encourages the reader that they just might actually be able to help others!
Of the many items in "Biblical Counseling Basics" I could point out, I take note of two subjects that were of interest to me. First, when the author is describing deceptive desire, and that we are to put off these desires that produce corruption, he then lays out a table of four deceitful desires, their accompanying futile beliefs, and the way they corrupt. The four desires he mentions are: acceptance, security, control, and love (148). When I read this I stopped and read it again. I immediately scribbled in the margin, "How are these deceitful desires?!" None of those listed are evil or immoral in and of themselves. In fact, all of them are useful in promoting what is right and good and godly. Take acceptance as an example. Paul tells us in Romans 14 that God's kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking but "of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (14.17). The Apostle then declares, "Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men"(14.18). And lastly he directs the readers, "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (14.19). Acceptance is part of the godly motivation for caring about fellow Christians that Paul is promoting (and a case could be made that security, control and love are also). I was puzzled by Lelek's table. It was in the following paragraph that the explanation comes forth: "It is important to note that not all the desires listed under "deceptive desires" above are wrong or sinful. Rather, a particular form of sin's deception is that it influences people to desire these good things to the point that they become evil" (148). This is exactly what James aims at when describing desires that lure and entice us (desire seeks to gain dominance); once desire has gotten the upperhand (when it has conceived) then it gives birth to sin (James 1.14-15). I was glad that Lelek saw the difference between desires, and dominating desires that lead to sin.
Secondly, the author rightly critiques the church's reactions to people's struggles with sin. "Unfortunately, the community of faith has not always been a safe place to struggle. Just open up about wrestling with a porn addiction, homosexuality, severe depression, or manic delusions and watch the room clear...In many cases, this has unfortunately reduced the community of saints to a religious Gestapo, eager to punish or ostracize anyone unable or unwilling to offer immediate conformity to a set of rules. Paul's instruction to restore with a spirit of gentleness is too often lost" (166). Ouch! But, really, a good "ouch".
Though "Biblical Counseling Basics" will not make a person an expert counselor, it will, at the least, kindle a hopefulness that one can actually fulfill Galatians 6.1-2, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Pastors and parishioners alike should snatch up a copy, read it thoughtfully and prayerfully, and mark it up with highlights and notes for future reference. I highly recommend the work.
Thanks to New Growth Press for the copy they handed me used in this review. They made now demands of me and no requirements. Therefore this review is freely given, and all my opinion.
You can purchase the book here: New Growth Press
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