Questions for Biblical Counselors
Pastors, counselors, and lay people who desire to participate with the Holy Spirit in the biblical cure and care of souls should begin by answering three critical questions:
- What is biblical counseling?
- Who is the biblical counselor?
- How do you counsel biblically?
In their helpful book, Curing The Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling, Drs. Eyrich and Hines begin to answer all three of these questions.
What is biblical counseling?
What makes counseling biblical? If I encourage two young adults in my counseling office who are dating each other to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22), have I just engaged in counseling that is biblical? Undoubtedly, in citing that verse, I have given them good counsel from the Scriptures that will benefit their relationship. However, my counsel to this couple is not truly biblical if I have given them an imperative (“flee youthful passions”) without addressing the heart issues within that are prone to ignite those youthful passions or the gospel which alone can bring freedom from them.
The first five chapters of Curing The Heart discuss general revelation, special revelation, the nature and sufficiency of Scripture, the Bible as a counseling tool, and the importance of a heart-focused approach to counseling. These chapters serve as a helpful introduction to biblical counseling, providing a solid foundational apologetic for counseling from the Scriptures. Of course, entire books have been written on the material covered in these first five chapters. The reader will find Eyrich and Hines’ treatment to be introductory, but sufficient for a foundational understanding of biblical counseling.
Who is the biblical counselor?
Counseling is intensely relational and highly personal. Therefore, the essential beliefs, gifts, and character of the counselor are highly relevant. Who is this man or woman with whom I am sharing the most intimate details of my life and to whom I am entrusting the care of my soul?
It is on this point that I believe Drs. Eyrich and Hines do some of their best work in Curing The Heart. They state that, “the truly biblical counselor understands that he is a theologian.” We’re all theologians, because we all have beliefs about God. Even the atheist is a theologian. The truly biblical counselor understands that he or she is a theologian in this sense: “understanding God and His universe and His ways of working in man.” This should be a passion for the biblical counselor according to Eyrich and Hines.
It has been my experience that many who call themselves “Christian” or “biblical” counselors do not fully appreciate the theological implications of their day-to-day work with their counselees. Our theology informs what we believe about nature of sin, humanity, the heart, the Scriptures, suffering, the believer’s identity in Christ, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and a host of other issues.
The biblical counselor is also a fellow struggler with the counselee. His or her gifts, passions, talents, and essential character are incredibly important to the process of biblical counseling. While I found myself wishing for more from this section, I applaud the authors for “going there.”
How do you counsel biblically?
Eyrich and Hines devote over half of Curing The Heart to a “how-to” model for the biblical counseling process. This emphasis is to be expected from the book’s subtitle: A Model for Biblical Counseling. The authors are careful to stress in the book’s Introduction that theirs is only “a model. The Bible does not lay out such a precise model and we do not want to give the impression that there is just one way to carry on a counseling session.” I appreciate this caveat.
The model Drs. Eyrich and Hines have outlined here is a very helpful and workable beginning framework for the process of relational biblical counseling. Those new to biblical counseling often are curious about what a session “looks like” or how the process of counseling works, or how many sessions is typical for for a particular type of counseling. I appreciate that the authors sketched out the process in some detail, while leaving space for the “variegated, fluid, interrelated and complex” nature of biblical counseling. The authors’ model owes a lot to Jay Adams’ work, and they are careful to give him the credit due while expanding it and making it their own. The authors encourage the reader to do the same.
A Helpful Introduction to Biblical Counseling
Curing The Heart is a very helpful introduction to biblical counseling, suitable to anyone considering a calling to this important ministry and who is looking for answers to the what, who, and how questions the book addresses. The answers are not, nor are they intended to be, complete or exhaustive. The authors offer a very accessible starting point and framework for lay biblical counselors, Bible college and seminary students, or pastors who are beginning to ask these questions.