Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture
A different perspective on soul care
This book is an effort to bridge psychology of counseling with "moral-spiritual" issues (249). Powlison believes that "sinners sin instinctively," and though external factors such as having a dysfunctional family or experiencing childhood abuse can contribute to sinful desires or actions in adulthood, his contention is that "sin is its own final reason" (206). People have sinful thoughts or do sinful acts because they are focused on themselves rather than God (230).
Powlison points out that "secular psychology" views "human problems" simply as "things that are not working right," this is because the Bible was not utilized to understand the core issue of all humans, which is their "alienation from God" (192). He explains that if sin is seen as a "willed action" then "complex inner troubles" will be classified under "other categories" (194). In fact, psychiatrists will not explain that a paranoid schizophrenic is yielding to sin, but rather he or she is experiencing a psychosis. Powlison states that paranoid schizophrenia is a "defensive behavior" and actually refers to it as the personification of "powerful unconscious defensiveness" (193). Powlison explains that the underlying issues for schizophrenics are pride and "hiding" (195).
Powlison admits that biblical counselors are seen as "bizarre spiritualizers" because they rely on God, repentance, and faith as their main focus in counseling (251). He speculated that the premise of Jay Adams (the founder of Nouthetic counseling movement) was not fully understood when he said, "to be feeling-oriented is the central motivational problem in people" (215). Powlison believes that the problem with current counseling practices is that the counselor is seen as "primary" while God (if He is even considered at all in the process) is usually "secondary" (178).
This book has helped me to understand the stance of Nouthetic counselors, and to comprehend the reason why they say sin is the core issue of human disorders. However, I did not get a clear indication of Powlison's position regarding psychotropic medications. Powlison's perspective on counseling is a good start in the right direction, but his book does not outline the direction. There is something missing. To counter society's view of biblical counselors as "bizarre spiritualizers," Powlison suggests, "We have work to do to protect and build up the body of Christ" (251). This is not a solution-it is merely a generalized statement. In order for others to see biblical counselors as competent practitioners, they need to find a way to truly bridge the gap between traditional and biblical counseling.
Review by: M. Teresa Trascritti
December 26, 2010
Although the chapters in the book were written as separate articles, the unifying theme of Scripture's sufficiency for counseling was clear and unmistakable. Whether it was a chapter which unearthed the truths of Scripture by thoughtful exposition and application of particular passages, or a chapter with a series of heart-searching, sin-exposing questions, Powlison creatively and persuasively demonstrates how Scripture truly is sufficient for counseling others. Powlison's interaction with psychological, physiological and biological theories of motivation, behavior, counseling and treatment was also very helpful and fair. Although the size and scope of this book required Powlison to often generalize and summarize people, theories and movements, one does not get the impression he is deceitfully stacking the evidence in his favor or guilty of misrepresentation; rather, in laying Biblical truth alongside of popular psychological theory, Powlison demonstrates how any human effort to determine the ultimate cause and solution for people's problems will always, in the final analysis, be insufficient. Finally, in the last chapter, Powlison encourages us toward simplicity. Although people's problems are often complex, the goal of counseling (Christlikeness) and our means of counseling (the truth of Scripture) remain simple. As Powlison points out, Jesus spoke "exceedingly simple words" (253). This does not mean, however, that we are to use the truth of Scripture simplistically. As we have already noted, people's problems are complex - the varieties of problems are as many as there are people in the world, and applying the truth of God's Word to specific people and situations is hard work. We need to be careful we do not turn "heart-searching and life-altering truth into a cookie cutter, pat answer formula and quick fix" (254). This book was both encouraging and helpful. I highly recommend it!
June 20, 2009
I'd highly recommended this book for every Christian counselor, and anyone else who wants to apply the truth of scripture to the details of life. In the chapter on Psalm 131 Powlison shows how looking at its antithesis, (sort of a photographic negative) is helpful in understanding what needs to be put off in order to come to the peacefulness described by the psalmist. It's a very creative reading and counseling tool and he describes it beautifully. This is just one of the many ideas included in Seeing with New Eyes. There are also three chapters on counseling from Ephesians, and chapters covering ways we need to examine secular counseling using the lens of scripture. David Powlison covers a lot of ground in this book. I'm sure I'll read it a few more times.
February 22, 2008
If your looking to obtain more information on TRUE biblical counseling, I agree with CJ Mahaney in that this book is a must for those who desire to point either themselves or others to the Cross of Christ Jesus. I was so fired up about this book and highly recommend it. Powlison has done it again. Thank you for your gifts David!
December 17, 2006