Book Review: Gospel-Centered Counseling

gospel-centered_counselingWhat is biblical counseling? For a term that seems so easy to define, the reality is it is more complex. There is unbiblical counsel parading itself as “Christian” counseling. There is the concordance approach, where one verse for your one problem will give you the solution. What is lacking is a robust, gospel-centered approach to counseling. True biblical counseling is gospel-centered. In all of this, the Christian must understand its importance. The issue is not whether we counsel or not; it is whether our counsel is biblical or not. For this reason, it is a joy to share with you Dr. Bob Kellemen’s book Gospel-Centered Counseling. The first work of two in the Equipping Biblical Counselors series, Kellemen provides a theologically comprehensive, rich, and relevant resource.

Theologically Comprehensive

The first note of appreciation with Gospel-Centered Counseling is the book’s theologically comprehensive nature. The book seeks to deal with the whole person for their whole life. Likewise, the church is not to be a place with a biblical counseling ministry; rather, the church is a people of biblical counseling. Seeing it in terms of “a church of biblical counseling” contributes to a theologically comprehensive understanding.  Gospel-centered counseling, too, is comprehensive in its understanding of a fallen world. Kellemen writes, “biblical counseling that deals only with the sins we have committed is half-biblical counseling” (Kellemen 170). Chapter 10 of the book deals with the subject of suffering, the evils we suffer in a sinful world. The chapter is so crucial because in biblical counseling we can tend to focus much on sin, rightfully so, but forget it also means people will be sinned against and will suffer. Gospel-Centered Counseling reminds us of that.

Theologically Rich

A second characteristic in Kellemen’s work is its theological richness. Whereas secular psychology would begin with man, biblical counseling begins with God. The Trinitarian emphasis is simply superb and it is edifying to see how the Trinity affects our biblical counseling. The bookends of the sufficiency of Scripture and progressive sanctification (Kellemen 19) provide the foundation as Scripture permeates the book. In conjunction with theological richness, the structure of the book is set up like a systematic theology textbook (Kellemen 250). Theology is not abstract beliefs for the intellect. Theology is for real life.

Theologically Relevant

Theology is not only meant to be known but to be applied. The third mark of Gospel-Centered Counseling is it is theologically relevant. Throughout the book Kellemen examines the eight questions of life. He shows the reader theology is not abstract but applicable by sharing numerous real-life examples from his many years of life experience. Much more could be said on this solid, biblical work. It is clear in its direction, provided at the end of each chapter with tweet-sized summaries and headings of “Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed”. Suffice it all to say, Gospel-Centered Counseling seeks to equip biblical counselors and it does just that. I greatly and wholeheartedly recommend it!

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