During the eye-straining hours I spent reading through more than one hundred 1972 books in pastoral psychology, Paul’s words to Timothy kept intruding into my mind: “ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” I chose the following books for mention because they seem to me to present significant opportunities for further learning. Readers are urged to be like the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so.” As we evaluate these books in the light of Scripture, perhaps our ever learning will move us toward a fuller knowledge of the truth.
For the Christian counselor, five new books will be especially useful. Henri Nouwen, psychologist and Catholic priest, has written persuasively on the need for deep involvement in counseling in The Wounded Healer (Doubleday). Particularly useful is his analysis of modern man’s predicament (inward, fatherless, convulsive) and the corresponding three requirements of effective pastoral ministry (it must be articulate, compassionate, contemplative). The open and meaningful encounter Nouwen speaks of is far removed from the instant closeness and forced honesty sought in many encounter groups. “Involvement” in counseling (apparently the “in” theme for 1972) is further explored in Groups, Gimmicks, and Instant Gurus by William Coulson (Harper & Row). After reading Coulson’s convincing criticisms of the gimmicky, artificially open group, Christian leaders will be more likely to be appropriately cautious about promoting such cell groups in the church. Although Coulson’s framework is thoroughly Rogerian, his book will stimulate useful thinking about group work with Christians. Jay Adams’s essay “Group Therapy- or Slander,” appearing in his new collection of essays on Christian counseling entitled The Big Umbrella (Baker), should be read along with Coulson for needed Christian balance. I found some of these essays disappointing, especially the one on demon possession (see Kurt Koch’s Christian Counseling and Occultism [Kregel] for the definitive work, newly reprinted, in this area). In A Psychologist Looks at Life (Key), Gary Collins discusses in an easy-to-read style some common human problems, such as laziness, anxiety, and phoniness. Collins is good at simply summarizing psychological research findings and, within a biblical perspective, drawing out implications for Christians. Finally, Hazel Goddard’s Hope For Tomorrow (Tyndale) unites warmth with insistence on responsible behavior in a counseling strategy that insists Christ is the final answer.
Sifting through the seemingly endless books on marriage and family life yielded a few that stood out as fresh and helpful: David Hubbard’s Is the Family Here to Stay? (Word), Kenneth Gangel’s The Family First (His International Service), and Everything You Need to Know to Stay Married and Like It by Wiese and Steinmetz (Zondervan). Both Hubbard and Gangel have written short, incisive books that offer excellent guidelines for the couple wanting to follow God’s pattern in their life together. Everything You Need to Know comes across more like an interesting and thorough textbook on the subject; unless used in regular family or group study, it could easily end up on the shelf of half-read books. Help! I’m a Parent by Bruce Narramore (Zondervan) is a must. The author provides a biblical framework and a balanced approach to discipline—both firm and loving—that is often lacking.
Two new excellent books on drug abuse were published in 1972. Although Voices From the Drug Culture by Harrison Pope, Jr. (Beacon) is written from a secular, sociological viewpoint, his conclusions are believable and full of implications for Christians. Most books on the drug problem ask why kids use drugs. In Is Your Family Turned On? (Word) Charlie Shedd asks why some kids do not use them. His comments are based on essays written by teens explaining why they have remained straight.
One other book that deserves mention before we go on to second choices in various categories is James Jauncey’s Psychology For Successful Evangelism (Moody). Any soul-winner who reads and follows Jauncey’s biblically consistent advice will not be vulnerable to the charge of irrelevance in his efforts to communicate the Gospel.
PASTORAL COUNSELING Elizabeth Skoglund’s Where Do I Go to Buy Happiness? (Inter-Varsity) is an important contribution. Loosely based on reality therapy, this book is mainly concerned with counseling the teen-age drug-user. Pastors will find useful counsel in two books on suicide. Howard Stone’s Suicide and Grief (Fortress) discusses ministry to the family after a suicide. Guidelines for working with the person contemplating suicide are offered in Understanding and Counseling the Suicidal Person by Paul Pretzel (Abingdon). Ministers who have had a hard time with hospital visits will find some help in Pastoral Care in the Modern Hospital by Heije Faber (Westminster).
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFEGod Help Me, I’m a Parent by Gordon McLean (Creation House) deals mostly with teen problems, is solidly biblical, and is filled with practical advice. Families afflicted with a dull sense of routineness could find their spirits lifted by following Robert Schuller’s Power Ideas For a Happy Family (Revell). Common conflicts that often cause trouble are effectively discussed in Your Marriage—Duel or Duet by Louis Evans (Spire). This is a good one to give to married couples seeking help with “normal” problems. In a warm and readable style, Bernard Harnik in Risk and Chance in Marriage (Word) analyzes various stages in marriage and suggests how to use crises in each stage as growth opportunities. Although too brief to be convincing, David Belgum’s defense of marriage in Why Marry? (Augsburg) should stimulate productive thinking among young people about problems involved in living together without legal commitment.
SEX AND THE CHRISTIAN Two books about nonpracticing homosexual Christians merit attention. In a series of articulate and thoughtful articles to his would-be lover, Alex Davidson in The Returns of Love (Inter-Varsity) gives us a meaningful glimpse into the inner struggles of a Christian pulled by strong homosexual desires. For a less philosophical, narrative account of the same theme, read John Drakeford’s Forbidden Love (Word). 1971’s God, Sex, and You by Vincent is still the best Christian book on sex. Such problems as impotence and orgasm inadequacy (not specifically dealt with by Vincent) are discussed simply and scientifically by David Mace in Sexual Difficulties in Marriage (Fortress). This short book could be used to advantage in a pastoral counseling situation.
SELF-HELP In our age of increasing busyness, John Alexander’s Managing Our Work (Inter-Varsity) is a timely call to a disciplined use of time. His detailed program for effectively budgeting time is practical and workable. Christians may develop a new perspective on some issues and problems by reading heart specialist Dudley Dennison’s discussion of such topics as drugs, abortion, and anxiety in Give It to Me Straight, Doctor (Zondervan). H. S. Vigeveno’s Letters to Saints and Other Sinners (Holman) deal with problems in three areas: family, personal, and Christian. Those who have opportunity to counsel by mail might find this one useful. A final self-help book worth listing is Peter Gillquist’s Farewell to the Fake ID (Zondervan). With conviction and enthusiasm, the author invites us to experience all that God has for us by doing away with phoniness.
GENERAL AND ACADEMIC Every Christian student preparing for college should receive from his church a copy of Christ and the Modern Mind, edited by Robert Smith (Inter-Varsity), in which recognized Christian scholars briefly suggest a biblical perspective on most academic disciplines. Paul Johnson’s Healers of the Mind (Abingdon) includes fascinating, sometimes heavy, autobiographical sketches of ten prominent psychiatrists and their search for a faith to live by. It is a good book to give to your intellectual, searching friends. Monroe Peaston in Personal Living: An Introduction to Paul Tournier (Harper & Row) provides insights into the man and a useful summary of his work. Colston and Johnson’s Personality and Christian Faith (Abingdon), argues for the relevance of faith to man’s central problem of alienation, and Philip Helfaer’s The Psychology of Religious Doubt is a scholarly, thorough treatise on the subject.
George M. Marsden is associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has the Ph.D. (Yale University) and has written “The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience.”
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