There is a great movement afoot, not just amongst the Christian world, but one that crosses the secular world as well. It is a movement that elevates the importance of mental health. Both are united by their desire to alleviate an area of great need. However, they are divided, not merely by their foundation, but by their foundations. Such a distinction has given rise to the realm of biblical counseling and out of that has come a myriad of books to confront the issues that all people face, but from a biblical perspective. Within recent publications we find The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women by John D. Street and Janie Street.
The book is quite straightforward. The authors have set out to deal with issues that women face. Specifically they state their goal is to use Scripture to help them adequately address the most serious struggles that they will face. Each of the 17 chapters then deals with a specific topic, from the basic depression to the complex schizophrenia. Each chapter concludes with a few discussion questions that require one to be deeply engaged in self examination, an important concept according to Jesus’ half-brother James (cf. James 1:21-27).
However, in that simple layout does not come what many would expect, a list of verses followed by a summary that can be minimized to ‘read your Bible, pray, and change.’ Instead the authors use actual case studies to guide readers through an explanation of a cultural description, a biblical description, and a biblical resolution. Intertwined with explanations are many, many Scripture references that identify, explain, and expound upon the issues being addressed and the motivations behind them. Therefore the authors deal more with the root of the issues rather than the symptoms, using God and His Word as the active ingredients to life change.
In theory, there is a significant amount of important information in this book to be digested. Even more, the teachings and understandings laid out are applicable, not just for women, but men also (although the book is definitely more for the perspective of women). Yet, the authors make one explicit statement at the beginning that is noteworthy. While everyone should benefit from what is found here (because they would benefit from a greater understanding and application of Scripture) the book is not written for everyone. They assert, quite rightly, that this is a book for believers, for genuine Christians. This premise comes out in the case studies presented throughout the book. For unbelievers the Bible is merely a book of suggested morality, while for Christians it comes faith and authority. Thus, for The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women to be rightly interpreted and used, one must “possess a high view of the sufficiency of God’s word and its ability to adequately address the most serious personal struggles women will face.”
Because this is a book geared towards believers, there are three characteristics that make this book exceptional:
- Scripture: The first is that the book is rooted in Scripture and not prone to the wonderings & wanderings of human theories. The authors don’t treat Scripture lightly, figuratively and literally. They have made known that they take the authority of God’s Word seriously themselves and therefore they have placed an abundant amount of verses and references throughout the book that showcase the sufficiency of the Bible.
- Sin: The second area is their treatment of sin. As society seeks to minimize the significance of sin, John and Janie Street have made certain that sin is properly placed. They certainly don’t elevate it and they avoid rationalizing it. Instead, they deal with it as a core issue within the lives of humans.
- Stance: Finally they maintain a biblical stance on all issues. This stance forces them to be in conflict with the world’s views. Even more important they confront many of the false premises that have gained a foothold on people. This includes subjects such as society’s misuse of hope (chapter 6), flexibility of morality (chapter 10), and its definition of guilt (also chapter 10). Throughout the book the authors use legal terms and diagnoses that would be found in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard descriptions, definitions, and diagnoses used for diagnosing mental health conditions in the secular world) and explain them from a biblical worldview.
As secular influence mounts and expected subjection to it increases, the authors’ ability to bring forth these three areas are important for Christian consideration and understanding.
A reading through the book does reveal several deficiencies that can be noted:
- Pattern: The pattern for teaching and explaining in this book makes for a difficult read at times. Their chosen path of using case studies to demonstrate what is being taught is commendable, however, it makes for a dry description of information rather than an engaging experience of learning. What I mean by that is that it causes readers to disengage from the material and not learn as much because they don’t see the connections presented. This is further complicated that this chosen form of communicating their teachings makes the pattern difficult to follow, sometimes switching between using second person and third person verb tenses. Some chapters are better than others in this regard, but overall it detracts from the overall effectiveness of the book.
- Priority: A glance at the title suggests that this is a book to aide women in effectively counseling other women. In some ways it can do that, however, it reads more like a ‘self-help’ book. Not self-help in the the modern usage of the term, but more in a sense of “I know something is wrong with me, let me diagnosis it myself, and then read the appropriate chapter to figure out what to do about it.” In that regard I think the title is a bit misleading.
- Promotion: John Street is a professor of biblical counseling at The Master’s University (TMU) and is certified by and heavily involved in the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). I believe, but can’t say with full authority, that Janie Street is also heavily involved and certified by ACBC. Both are incredible organizations and I would recommend them to people (although I am biased because I graduated from TMU). There come points in the book in which the authors heavily promote ACBC. Related to this is the heavy insistence upon certified counselors, which not only suggests ACBC but also seems to belittle those who may not be certified but are still able to aide in the area of biblical counseling.
These weaknesses, although noteworthy, are minimal. They detract some from the effectiveness of the book but they do not negate the truth of the content that is shared.
The book is worthy of recommendation. It is usable in the Christian life. Is it better than other biblical counseling books written for women (i.e. Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Women Counseling Women)? Honestly, my experience in this realm is limited enough that I am not going to say this is the best or even one of the best books for women. However, I would not hesitate in sharing it with others that I might think would benefit from it and I appreciate that it deals with some of the deeper topics not addressed by others (i.e. schizophrenia, victims of abuse, etc.). I would even share it with some men who are dealing with some of the issues found within. For the content it addresses, this is a worthwhile book.
To purchase this book as a hardcopy or in Kindle edition click here.
Disclosure: I originally received this book free for review purposes. However, that did not impact my review and the opinions found here are the result of my own reading of the book.