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While Powlison may not agree with those approaches, he does acknowledge their existence. Therefore, in the second part of his book, Powlison examines psychological knowledge of human behavior and motivation.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the Bible is the basis for all of Powlison's discussions. While he may develop a personality theory, it is a personality theory based on Scripture. According to reviewer Bob Kelleman:
"the strength of this section is found in Powlison's insistence on building a view of human nature not coram anthropos (from the perspective of humanity), but coram Theos (from the perspective of God). We can understand people via people, or we can understand people via God. Powlison rightly chooses to understand the creature not through the creature but through the Creator (Kelleman).
To do this, Powlison uses x-ray questions, which he says reveal what God sees when he looks at an individual. He almost dismisses modern diagnostic tools, because he says that God not only sees what makes people tick, but also accurately interprets what he sees (Powlison, p.125-126).
However, these x-ray questions are not meant to be answered by God, but by the person who is being asked the question. Powlison says that all of the x-ray questions come back to explore one central issue: "Who or what is your functional God/god?" (Powlison, p.131). Powlison makes it clear that one of the main tasks of a biblical counselor is to help his clients understand their definitions of God. Furthermore, these questions place the clients in the position of trying to view themselves through God's eyes, rather than looking in a mirror or trying to guess how others view them.
This self-reflection is of critical importance; because Powlison then goes on to describe God's love. In non-religious therapeutic venues, the idea of unconditional positive regard is one that has garnered a significant amount of attention. However, these theories largely ignore where the model of unconditional love developed. God established the first model of one who loves unconditionally. Even when punishing people, there was a love there. Powlison distinguishes this from unconditional law. To Powlison, unconditional love means loving a person including his or her flaws, but God loves people despite how they are (Powlison, p.170). Moreover, after recognizing these flaws, God continues to love people enough to direct His efforts to renewing people in the image of Jesus. This difference is crucial, because it does predicate change on the idea of love, but it does so in a way that differs from the concept of conditional love. According to Powlison, people can begin to change, not to earn love, but because they have already received love (Powlison, p.170).
However, Powlison also recognizes that people are motivated by more than the ideal of God's love. Some Christians approach earthly desires as taboos, and suggest that they really should not be considerations in developing a healthy life. Powlison disagrees with that approach. Instead, he believes that people should be encouraged to pursue their desires, with the caveat that they should explore the motivations behind those desires. This means that want, drive, need, and lust can all be creative forces, if they are pursued in appropriate ways and for the right reasons.
Powlison is constantly aware that biblical counselors are dealing with flawed human beings as their clients, and are, themselves, flawed human beings. However, he does not allow that to cloud his primary vision, which is that counselors and clients should attempt to view things as God would view them, rather than through the limiting vision of mankind. By using counseling as a way of one-on-one ministry, Powlison reveals that counseling is as old as ministry and is something of which God would approve. Powlison uses Scripture to help explain his biblical approach, and places recurrent issues in the context of creation, fall, and redemption. By placing his approach to biblical counseling in a traditional biblical pattern, Powlison creates a great introductory text for those looking to incorporate counseling in their ministry. However, his subtle dismissal of more scientific therapeutic methods may make the book seem inaccessible for those seeking to introduce some ministry into their counseling.
Cross, F.L., ed. "Atonement." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York:
Oxford University Press. 2005.
Kelleman, Bob. "Book Review: Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition
through the Lens of Scripture." Discerning Reader. N.p. 2 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Oct. 2010.
Powlison, David. Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of…[continue]
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