First, there are men whom I dearly love and I wanted to gain greater understanding of problems particular to them. Second, I know and greatly respect some of the authors. (Others are new to me.) I knew that I would learn something or be reminded of truths to use in counseling.
Why write a review of it? Perhaps some men may read this post and, thereby, learn of this resource.
While there are over 300 psychotherapies which have various goals for an end result in the counselee, all biblical counselors subscribe to the same one main goal–Christlikeness for the glory of God. Biblical counselors seek to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Men Counseling Men is written to teach men how to counsel other men toward that goal.
Biblical counseling holds to several major distinctives. One is in the paragraph above–its goal. Another, God and His Word are the authority for counseling. God’s Word is powerful and sufficient counsel. Biblical counseling transforms lives because it applies the Word of God to the hearts of people. It is not the counselor or the method, but only the Holy Spirit who can change people by His sovereign will and work, using the Word of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ bears upon every counseling problem. The local church is the primary context for counseling and the counselee’s practice of what is learned. And the Bible has the authoritative view on the family.
The book is divided into sections regarding the relation of men to God’s Word, to emotions, to relationships, and to specific problems. This order lends itself to grounding the reader first in the basics of counseling and then applying those basics to more particular issues. Each chapter is written by a different author, so each has a unique flavor of approach and style.
The chapters in the section “A Man and the Word” lay the foundation. They teach an understanding of biblical counseling and building hope. In “Counseling Men with the Bible,” John Street provides a sample counseling case to show how the Bible is commonly misused in counseling, making evident the necessity of proper Bible study and interpretation. He then explains how the layman can study to rightly handle God’s Word–how to exegete God’s Word. He makes it doable for the layman. Even so, while a man may understand the Bible, if he does not know how to understand his counselee and the problems biblically, he won’t know how to connect the counselee to the Bible in an effectual manner. So, in “Developing Discernment as a Counselor of Men,” Chris Kropf discusses how to “exegete” the counselee.
The section “A Man and His Emotions” contains chapters on depression, anger, emotional extremes, severe physical affliction, and contentment. They dish up a banquet of hope and grace to men struggling with emotions. So does the section “A Man and His Relationships.” Men need to know how to develop biblical relationships and resolve conflicts. Husbands need to understand what it means to leave parents and cleave to a wife. I appreciated the chapter on parenting adult children, where Jim Newheiser applies biblical principles to the difficult situations of grown children remaining dependent upon parents and grown children estranged from parents.
The section “A Man and Specific Problems” contains chapters on idolatrous lust, homosexuality, fathers in relation to children tending toward homosexuality, divorce, rebuilding a marriage after adultery, and the use of psychotropic drugs.
In “Manhandling Idolatrous Lust,” Nicolas Ellen takes on lust as a category not limited to sexual lust. This is helpful because all lusts are desires generated by the heart, and any lust can become idolatrous. He defines idolatrous lust and then applies biblical principles to several cases, a man full of greed for money, a man who fears the disapproval of his boss, and a manager who micromanages his subordinates. In each case, Ellen explains the underlying lust that is driving the problem, for example greed can result from a lust for security. The rest of this chapter provides an overview of how to biblically understand and overcome idolatrous lusts.
Ed Wilde’s chapter on divorce walks the reader through what the divorce process is like–the hurt, the state determining a man’s relationship with his children, financial costs, what it may be like at the courthouse, what an attorney is likely to expect, how court works, and how judges and social workers will behave. It isn’t pretty. He also teaches what the Bible says about divorce in relation to believers and unbelievers, and the Bible’s mandate to love and do good to one’s wife even when that wife behaves as an enemy and even if there is a divorce. He shows God’s relevance to the situation. There is a biblical way of dealing with every situation that leads to hope and forgiveness between the couple and, possibly, a reconciliation that the world would consider to be impossible.
The appendices list counseling organizations and resources, the “one another” commands of the New Testament, short lists of Bible verses on many counseling topics like anger, guilt, masculinity, parenting, phobias, priorities, singleness, substance abuse, transsexual, transvestitism, video game addiction, and more. I enjoyed reading the bios about each contributor.
DON’T MISS Appendix One, about cases in which the counselee is an unbeliever or thinks he is a believer but his responses contradict his profession. The unbeliever cannot receive biblical counsel because he rejects the Bible and Jesus Christ. This appendix explains characteristics of a truly Christian counselee to help men discern authentic faith. It provides a two-page outline for guidance in sharing the gospel.
It is not intended that each chapter provide a full plan for dealing with a particular problem. People’s problems are more complicated than that. But, each chapter lays out a framework for the course of change, informs on important principles needed, and sets the reader’s feet firmly into wise starting blocks for an effective beginning in helping others.
Should you choose to purchase this book–and I think that would be a great idea!–it might encourage you to know where your money will go. On page 14 it says that the work and time for writing Men Counseling Men given by the twenty-two authors
…is purely for the glory of God and the benefit of other men. There will be no personal monetary reimbursement for their efforts. All financial proceeds from the sale of this book will go toward scholarships for men who desire to receive accredited graduate training in biblical counseling in the Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling (MABC) program at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California.
John D. Street, General Editor. Harvest House Publishers, 2013.