Biblical Counseling and Practical Calvinism

Nuts and Bolts of Biblical Counseling

These are my reflections on an essay by Jay E. Adams in The Practical Calvinist entitled “Biblical Counseling and Practical Calvinism.”

Adam’s essay is the most obviously structured around the theme of practical Calvinism.  He consciously applies in turn each of the five points of Calvinism (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) to the pastoral counseling environment.  I wish I had read this essay years ago when I first became convinced of the doctrines of grace as espoused in the acrostic TULIP.  It would have saved me hours upon hours of pondering how Calvinism is directly applicable to wounded Christians where the rubber hits the road.  Surely the time-consuming Scripture searching and soul searching exercise was very good for my spiritual growth, but having the theoretical groundwork laid for practical Calvinism through demonstration in biblical counseling could have shortened the “cage stage” of  a newly minted, zealous Calvinist.

I was especially impressed by Adams’s application of the doctrine of limited atonement.  This controversial doctrine is usually the first to be rejected by self-professing Bible-believing Christians.  For one, it is not immediately obvious how God special love for a particular people is useful to living the Christian life.  But a Christian in mental and emotional anguish needs (among other things) to be assured that God loves him personally, like a Father loves his own son.  For if God loves everyone, then that love becomes strictly incomparable (in an analogous way since God’s love is not exactly like human love), because it cannot be contrasted to anything.  In the “humanly speaking” sense, it becomes incomprehensible and loses its sweetness and the specialness of love that exists in the human world.  As the joke goes, “you are unique—just like everyone else!”  But the particular love of God expressed in limited atonement assures the Christian counselee that God loves him and that Jesus died for him (Gal 2:20).  What a wonderful and practical assurance of grace and salvation.  God is a personal God who decides to save persons.  He knows us by name, and the sins and sorrows of the Christian counselee in particular are yoked upon Christ and nailed to the cross so we should bear them no more.  Amen!

Adams is right.  People don’t want to hear Hallmark platitudes that “everything will turn out alright in the end” or that “God didn’t want this to happen but he cries with you.”  The gospel and the doctrines of grace cannot be improved upon or substituted.  They are what a hurting world needs to hear.

This entry was posted in Book Review, Pastoral & Theological, Seminary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Biblical Counseling and Practical Calvinism

  1. John says:

    I am writing non-profit Sunday School material and I would like to use the above nuts and bolts graphic in each lesson under the Practical Points heading. May I get your permission to us it?

  2. John,

    I am not the owner of the graphic, so I don’t have authorization to grant permission to use it.

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