The Challenge Of Christian Counseling

Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, by Gary Collins (Word, 1980, 477 pp., $10.95); The Christian Counselor’s Library, edited by Gary Collins (Word, 1980, 28 cassettes, $235.00); Update on Christian Counseling: Volume 1, by Jay Adams (Baker, 1979, 89 pp., $2.75 pb); Brief Counseling with R. E. T., by Paul Hauck (Westminster, 1980, 252 pp., $11.95); are reviewed by David G. Benner, chairman, Department of Psychological Studies, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.

Gary Collins’s most recent book, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, fulfills the promise of its title. It is a comprehensive guide to counseling strategies designed to assist the pastor or Christian counselor in his day-to-day counseling ministry.

The book begins with an exploration of a number of general but important counseling issues. These include the relationship of counseling to the church, counseling goals and process, and the person of the counselor. This last topic is handled particularly well with a sensitive treatment of such all-too-often neglected subjects as the counselor’s motivation, sexuality, ethics, and burn-out possibilities.

The following five sections take the reader through a consideration of a range of personal, singleness-marriage, developmental and family, sexual and interpersonal, and other miscellaneous issues. Chapters on each of 27 different topics dealt with include a consideration of the relevant biblical material, followed by an overview of the major psychological contributions to the topic. Collins synthesizes these into strategies for counseling and problem prevention. This latter emphasis should be particularly helpful to pastors unable to make major commitments to remedial counseling but concerned with the prevention of difficulties.

Although the theoretical presentation and prescriptions for practice are occasionally too simplistic to be really helpful (particularly in the discussions of anxiety and homosexuality), for the most part the complexities of the subject matter have been represented adequately and the necessary simplification has not been at the expense of accuracy. Care has also been demonstrated in the preparation of the ample footnotes. These represent an important strength of the book as they allow the interested reader to follow ideas back to primary sources for additional details. The book’s major purpose, however, is to provide a source of basic understanding and practical help and in this regard it succeeds admirably.

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The book is, however, just one part of a much larger resource package, the Christian Counselor’s Library. Edited by Gary Collins, this multimedia library is built around a collection of 28 audio cassettes; each provides a lecture and case study related to one of the problem areas discussed in the book. The tapes are done by a number of pastors and counselors and are introduced in a manual which also provides guidesheets for discussion of the tape, suggestions for its use, and counselee worksheets. Taken together the package should be a helpful resource for the task-centered counselor whose style includes the use of homework or learning aids, such as tapes.

Two other recent titles are also worth noting. Those appreciative of Jay Adams’s Neothetic Counseling should find his most recent book, Update on Christian Counseling: Volume 1, helpful. Intended as the first in an ongoing series, this little volume gives brief treatment to such issues as counseling failures, the treatment of stress, and the effects of counseling on the counselor.

Brief Counseling with R.E.T., by Paul Hauck, presents strategies for short-term counseling based on Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Therapy (R.E.T.). Hauck does an excellent job of explaining the essence of this approach, showing its practical outworking in brief counseling situations. However, the reader who notices the book to be classified as practical theology and looks for a Christian perspective on R.E.T. or even a discussion of the use of R.E.T. within a Christian setting will be disappointed by the absence of any such considerations.

The Interplay Of Church And Society

Christianity in European History, by William A. Clebsch (Oxford University Press, 1979, 315 pp., $4.50 pb), is reviewed by Donald K. McKim, visiting faculty member in religion, Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

Occasionally we find a work that lets us look at a familiar subject through new eyes. William Clebsch’s provocative study of Christianity in European history is such a work.

Clebsch offers a model by which to gauge our historical understandings. He provides new paradigms and periodizations of European history and Christianity. He does not focus on the big names—Luther, Calvin, et al. Instead he has selected personalities who exemplified distinctive ways of being Christian in each of five major periods of European history.

The relationship of Christianity to the ebb and flow of events in Europe is an important dimension of Clebsch’s work. He writes with the purpose of showing that “the history of a religion and of its culture account for mutual dependence between the sacred and the secular.” This interpenetration of religion and culture means that cultural histories and church histories must be complemented and corrected by each other.

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An early example of this may be seen when the early Christians faced the question of “Citizenship” (27 B.C.E.–476 C.E.), and “Martyrs” and “Monks” emerged. Later the seismic shock of Rome’s fall led to chaos (476–962). The two responses to this were “Theodicy” and “Prelacy.” Still later, the quest for unity in the Holy Roman Empire (962–1556) was frustrated by pagans and heretics, the spread of Islam, the split between the Eastern and Western church, and the contentions of popes with emperors for power. “Mystics” in the Middle Ages responded to these crises by seeking the soul’s ascent to God. On the other hand, medieval “Theologians,” such as Anselm and Aquinas, and the later Reformers, Luther and Calvin, sought to make God known by all reasonable people.

After the Reformation and the failures to reunify Christendom through warfare, the question of “Allegiance” thrust itself on Europeans (1556–1806), resulting in “Moralism” and “Pietism.”

The crisis of “Autonomy” became acute with the birth of modern nations (1806–1945). In the aftermath of the French Revolution, human self-liberation permeated politics, poetry, art, philosophy, and theology. In religion, manifestations of the sacred became invoked and regulated by human beings. “The divine functions of the creation and redemption and mastery of their history,” writes Clebsch, were liberally taken over by men and women. When this drive reached into the role of “judgment over the welfare and existence of other peoples, the result in the West has been colonialism, slavery, and most rampantly, Holocaust. The secular imperium initiated by Napoleon Bonaparte thus presaged that borne by Adolf Hitler.” Christians responded to this fully autonomous view of humanity as “Activists” or “Apologists.” The tapestries of history are extremely complex. But William Clebsch has proposed a new angle of vision through which certain strains of the pattern may be viewed. Some may fault him for forcing his categories. But far more important is his concern for the interplay of church and culture and his lucid descriptions of how Christophanies and salvation functioned for European Christians.

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Only One Bible?

The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism, by D. A. Carson (Baker, 1979, 123 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Harry Boonstra, director of libraries, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.

D. A. Carson, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, will probably not persuade his opponents in the KJV debate. They will continue to argue the superiority of the Textus Receptus and of the King James Version. Neither, I think, will he dissuade their loyal readers. Scholarship and realism seldom change firm convictions and deep loyalties.

What readership, then, is left for the King James Version Debate? Certainly those who have always treasured the King James and are sad to see it eclipsed by modern versions, translations, and paraphrases. Also those who wonder about the profusion of competing versions that have tumbled from the presses in the last 20 years, and who are concerned about a proper evaluation of those versions. And, finally, all of those who would like to know how a translation differs from a paraphrase and who wonder why things “come to pass” in the KJV and “happen” in the TEV. In other words, there is much more in Carson’s book than a comparison of the KJV with modern versions; he includes a great deal of profitable information about the history of Bible translation and the process of translating.

In Part I Carson considers “The Textual Question,” in which he discusses the ancient copying of New Testament texts, the preservation of manuscripts, the printing of the first Greek New Testament, and, especially, the relative trustworthiness of the Textus Receptus versus the Greek texts used for modern translations. Some of the material is a bit technical (although Carson keeps insisting that he is simplifying it all for nonscholars), but certainly informative and rewarding for the persistent reader.

In Part II Carson continues with Bible translation as such. Pages 85–97 are an excellent summary of Bible translation theory and practice. Here he considers issues such as sentence length (if Paul writes a paragraph-long sentence, should the translation do the same?), idioms, semantic range, and literal versus paraphrase translations. I would have preferred fewer testimonials for the NIV, but the discussion is a sound one.

In a lengthy appendix Carson critiques Wilbur N. Pickering’s The Identity of the New Testament Text. The discussion here is more elaborate and technical.

Those familiar with, for example, Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament and Eugene Nida’s The Theory and Practice of Translation will find little new material in Carson’s work. Others may find certain issues slighted or discussed superficially (I find the one-sentence dismissal of the TEV on page 84 unfair). But such criticisms are perhaps not to the point. Carson set out to write a short, popular treatment of Bible translating, and especially of the comparison between the King James Version and modern versions. He has achieved admirably what he set out to do.

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The World Council And The Bible

The Bible. Its Authority and Interpretation in the Ecumenical Movement, edited by Ellen Flesseman-van Leer (Geneva, World Council of Churches, Faith and Order Paper No. 99, 1980, 76 pp., plus selected bibliography, 7.90 Swiss francs), is reviewed by Carl F. H. Henry, World Vision International lecturer at large, Arlington, Virginia.

This revealing navigational log of the S.S. Faith and Order’s exploration of biblical authority recalls the vessel in Acts 27 that set out for Rome and disregarded apostolic exhortations to anchor securely at Fair Havens, only to be deluged by unexpected Adriatic crosscurrents.

The several Faith and Order conferences from Oxford/1949 to Bangalore/1978 reflect significantly changing directions in the ecumenical debate over the Bible. Reports of the Faith and Order Commission’s successive study conferences on Scripture appear here for the first time in a single volume. Fleesman-van Leer makes insightful introductory comments on the reports of conferences that consummated intermediary study sessions, but the full range of contrasting commitments can be gleaned only by reading the entire documents.

The 30-year span of deliberation between Oxford and Loccum/1977 (approved the following year at Bangalore) reflects a gradual shift of perspectives, some issuing logically through earlier departures from Christian orthodoxy and others through an exploratory probing of alternatives. In the end, Loccum/1977 declared biblical authority “a relational concept.” It did not resolve whether world religions other than Judaism and Islam must understand Christ through their own thought structures, so that Hindu Christian or Marxist Christian alternatives are as valid as Judeo-Christian—that is, whether the Old Testament must be reinterpreted in the light of other cultures and religious traditions even as Christianity interprets it in the light of Christ—or whether Old Testament and New Testament are normative in relation to all other faiths and require rejection of what is incompatible with faith in the true God. The biblical reinterpretation is “to us no longer convincing”; “modem critical scholarship” becomes the key to reinterpretation through the Spirit.

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It is clear that ecumenical spokesmen consider decisively settled certain positions that evangelicals dispute: that the Bible is an errant literary corpus; that Scripture is invaded by tradition; that biblical criticism establishes late and unknown authors or redactors for many canonical books; that the biblical canon is fluid; that the historical remoteness of biblical content requires creative transposition into “categories appropriate for today”; that divine inspiration relates to our inner response to Christ’s lordship in and through the Bible and not to the propositional truth and cognitive authority of the biblical writings; and not least of all, that the institutional church must be aggressively involved in changing social and political institutions.

What The Church Was Not

The Roots of Christianity, by Carroll V. Newsom (Prentice-Hall, 1979, 263 pp., $12.95), is reviewed by Timothy P. Weber, assistant professor of church history, Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.

Though primarily trained in the sciences, Carroll Newsom, former president of New York University and Prentice-Hall, has used some of the perspectives of cultural anthropology and an evolutionary model to describe Christian origins.

In his introduction, Newsom argues that religion evolved out of early man’s need to understand and control his world. In order to make sense of and survive in a hostile environment, primitives posited the existence of the gods, then sought ways to appease them. As human society, imagination, and morality developed, however, new and more sophisticated religious needs emerged: questions about purpose, meaning, values, and the possibility of an afterlife. Sooner or later, creative and insightful individuals provided answers to these questions, which prompted followers to formulate elaborate doctrines and establish institutions to go along with them.

Newsom places Christianity within this theoretical framework and accounts for its development in the following way: (1) borrowing heavily from their Semitic neighbors, ancient Hebrews advanced concepts of monotheism and morality; (2) Jesus of Nazareth built on this Judaic foundation by emphasizing certain humanitarian ideals; (3) Paul and the other New Testament writers expanded on the simple teachings of Jesus by using legends (virgin birth, miracles, and resurrection) and Greek thought forms; (4) finally, their followers finished the task of establishing Christian dogma and institutions by interacting with Roman culture.

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Clearly Newsom has a handle on an immense amount of material and argues his thesis lucidly and well. His book may serve as a recent example of an older (and somewhat dated, I think) approach to Christian beginnings. However, for a variety of reasons, I believe the book is seriously flawed.

First, Newsom’s generally low regard for the reliability of biblical and historical sources seriously undermines his own conclusions. When Newsom argues that “virtually no information which historians would accept as authentic is available in regard to the life and work of Jesus” (p. 125) and “recognized historical sources contribute virtually no information of value … pertaining to events and people immediately after the death of Jesus” (p. 160), readers have a right to ask what he is basing his own opinions on. More times than not, he does not say.

Second, Newsom rarely documents his work. The book has no bibliography or footnotes. Consequently, readers do not know where Newsom’s arguments originate or whether he has done all his homework.

Third, Newsome leaves too many crucial gaps in his presentation, especially in the area of theology. Throughout the book, he shows little interest in or facility with the theological controversies in the early church. In his rather brief discussion of Arianism, he states that “a modern scholar accustomed to processes of rigorous thought finds himself taxed to find any meaning in much that was said” (p. 217). Furthermore, he handled the Christological controversies of the fifth century in just over a page, without even mentioning Apollinarianism or Nestorianism.

Fourth, Newsom often fails to show how certain ideas or institutions developed, which is odd in a book that was written to demonstrate the evolution of Christianity.

For these reasons, I am afraid that the book has rather limited value, especially for beginning students in church history. Nevertheless, it may serve as an example of how an author can let his ideology get too far in front of his evidence.

O’Connor’S Letters

The Habit of Being, by Flannery O’Connor (Random House, 1980, 617 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Thomas Howard, professor of English, Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts.

I do pray for you but in my fashion which is not a very good one. I am not a good prayer. I don’t have a gift for it. My type of spirituality is almost completely shut-mouth. I really dislike books of piety most of all. They do nothing for me and they corrupt most people’s ear if nothing else.”

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The frame of mind at work in these statements, which occur in the course of a letter from Flannery O’Connor to a very devout friend of hers, might dismay someone who had heard of her as having been an outspoken Christian. What sort of truculent piety is this? Not the sort of mellow and gregarious spirituality one might look for in a famous believer.

But it is characteristic of her whole mind and imagination, and this collection of her letters, which runs from 1948 to her death at the age of 39 in 1964, registers this toughness and fidelity again and again. She was a fiercely orthodox, unreconstructed, pre-Vatican II Irish Catholic who happened to live in the Protestant fundamentalist South.

But she saw in the vagaries of the religion that surrounded her an awareness of the same titanic mysteries that Roman Catholicism had taught her. The enemy was Northern liberalism, not fundamentalism. “This is one reason why I can write about Protestant believers better than Catholic believers—because they express their belief in diverse kinds of dramatic action which is obvious enough for me to catch.”

There has never been a writer of fiction more implacably faithful to his craft. But she wrote against terrible odds, since her topic was grace, and the modern era has no way at all of even beginning to know what this is all about. Grace? The critics floundered in their Freudian and sociological and literary categories, and more often than not missed the mark completely, even when they praised her. Earnest religious types ran aground because her fiction seemed “grotesque,” and this did not strike them as being a very good advertisement for the Faith.

These letters, along with the volume of her essays entitled Mystery and Manners (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1969), make it all starkly clear. But they are very, very far from being abstruse and theoretical. They are enormously funny—she had a deadly accurate ear for Southern country argot, which she lapses into very frequently—and full of details about her Muscovy ducks and her peafowl, and about letters from dim-witted English teachers who were straining at all sorts of gnats that weren’t there at all in her fiction. Her friend Sally Fitzgerald, in editing these letters, has done a wonderful thing for us all. The book is thoroughly and vastly salutary reading, to be put at once in the “drop everything” category.

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How to relate properly to God is something that interests us all and numerous books continue to appear on the subject of prayer.

Theology of Prayer. These books deal essentially with theoretical aspects of prayer but have practical import as well. Robert Faricy has written two helpful books. Praying (Winston) and Praying for Inner Healing (Paulist); the latter is especially instructive. Intercession (WCC), by Lukas Vischer, is a contemporary theology of prayer. Donald G. Bloesch’s The Struggle of Prayer (Harper & Row) is a full-blown study of first-rate significance. A few smaller works are: Talking about Prayer (InterVarsity), by Richard Bewes; A Silent Path to God (Fortress), by James E. Griffiss; Prayer: Our Journey Home (Servant), by Maria Boulding; A Letter Book about Prayer (Beacon Hill of Kansas City), by W. E. McCumber; and The Heart of Prayer (Broadman), by Fisher Humphreys.

The Soul in Paraphrase (Seabury), by Don E. Saliers, is a perceptive study of prayer and the religious affections. Anything You Ask (Bethany Fellowship), by Colin Urquhart, is an attempt to explain why God answers prayer. Forgive Us Our Prayers (Victor), by John A. Huffman; Why Prayers Are Unanswered (Tyndale), by John Allan Lavender; and A Time for Intercession (Bethany Fellowship), by Erwin E. Prange, deal with the question of “unanswered” prayer.

Andrew Murray’s The Secret of Believing Prayer has been reprinted by Bethany Fellowship. A set of E. M. Bounds’s six works on prayer have also been reprinted (Moody Press); Purpose in Prayer: The Weapon of Prayer: Prayer and Praying Man: The Reality of Prayer: The Possibilities of Prayer: and The Essentials of Prayer. These books have been best sellers for over 50 years. Louis Parkhurst has edited a collection of 40 meditations by Charles G. Finney in Principles of Prayer (Bethany Fellowship).

Practice of Prayer.Let Prayer Help You (Christian Herald), by Ruth C. Ikerman; Prayerobics (Word), by Cecil Murphey; and Prayer Ways (Harper & Row), by Louis M. Savary and Patricia H. Beme, offer help on the basic issue of making prayer a part of your life, the last mentioned offering somewhat unconventional suggestions. Pray to Win: God Wants You to Succeed (Revell), by Pat Boone, has some helpful material in it, but is marred by its implicit statement that if you aren’t beautiful or rich, it’s your fault because you didn’t pray properly. Prayers that Are Answered (Chosen Books), by Betty Malz, is a moving personal testimony that succeeds where Boone’s fails. Three books that offer model prayers are Harold Myra, Is There a Place Where I Can Scream? (Tyndale); Daniel Seagren, Uncommon Prayers for Couples (Baker); and Kenneth Wray Conners, Lord, Have You a Minute? (Judson).

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