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The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context (Powlison)

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New Growth Press

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In principle, Christians believe that knowing Jesus Christ is the original and abiding "cure of the soul." But in practice, the church's provision of personalized care and counsel has often been unthoughtful and unskillful. During the past 150 years, many other practitioners and theorists have filled the gap. Psychiatry and psychotherapy (transliterations of two Greek words for "cure of the soul") claim to offer the deep truth that explains a human being, and the final word on how we can be cured from the troubles that beset us. Secularized explanations and cures call for no recourse to the Bible or Jesus.

Beginning in the late 1960s, a biblical counseling movement sought to reclaim counseling for the church. It aimed to provide a coherently Christian alternative to mainstream psychiatry and psychotherapy. The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context is an informative and thought-provoking account of that movement. How did it begin and develop? What were the defining ideas? Where were the tension points and struggles, both internally and with evangelical psychotherapists? David Powlison's historical account combines careful scholarship with a unique, eyewitness insight.

This book is an invaluable resource for those who want to understand the biblical counseling movement. The core chapters were originally a Ph.D. dissertation in history of science and medicine (University of Pennsylvania). This new edition adds a lengthy appendix, containing articles by Dr. Powlison. These extend and deepen the history, giving a fine-grained analysis of developments within the biblical counseling movement and in its relationship to evangelical psychotherapists. The author also freely expresses his point of view and personal convictions regarding the history he has carefully described.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Making of a Conservative Protestant Counselor
  3. ‘Your Place in the Counseling Revolution’: The Emergence of a Biblical Counseling Movement
  4. Ground Taken: Adams’s Clientele
  5. God, Sin, and Misery: Adams’s Positive System
  6. Good News and the Pastoral Task: Adams’s Positive System
  7. Adams’s Interaction with the Modern Psychologies
  8. Counterinsurgency: The Response of the Environing Professions
  9. The Fortunes of War: The 1980s and Beyond

Appendix 1: An Annotated Case Study of Adams’s Model

Appendix 2: Crucial Issues in Contemporary Biblical Counseling

Appendix 3: Biological Psychiatry

Appendix 4: Cure of Souls (and the Modern Psychotherapies)    


David Powlison, M.Div., Ph.D., is a faculty member and counselor at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) with over thirty years of experience. He has written several books, including The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context, Seeing with New Eyes, and Speaking Truth in Love, many minibooks, including Facing Death with Hope; Healing after Abortion; Recovering from Child Abuse; and Renewing Marital Intimacy.