The first key principle is all about scripture. Powlison opens up the scriptures in the first six chapters and unpacks six truths that are common in counseling. He begins by explaining that counseling needs to be biblical because God has ordained that scriptures is the only tool that can open the counselee’s blind eyes. However, it would be inadequate to simply say that Powlison is urging counselor’s to use the scriptures in counseling. He continually points the reader to the Christocentric nature of all the scriptures. It is as if he is saying that if we counsel with the scriptures and rightly divide the word of truth, then we will be giving people Christ because that is whom the scriptures are about. This principle runs through the entire book and Powlison makes it very clear that Christ alone is the hope for broken sinners and we have nothing else worth saying.
The second key principle is the impact that the Christ in the scriptures has on everyday life. In the second half of the book Powlison spends nine chapters “reinterpreting life.” The principle he is advocating is that God, Jesus, the Bible, the gospel, etc…are not disconnected from the day to day struggles and problems that each of us face.
On page 29, Powlison asks whether or not we should apply the scriptures like Paul did to the Ephesians. In general, I think I understand his point and do not really have any disagreements with the main point of the paragraph. However, while he is explaining that we should be like Paul and personally apply the scriptures to the varied conditions of humankind and do it in creative ways, he says: “sermons quote and exegete scripture, but they also cite scripture out of context, play with language in fresh ways, tell new stories, and apply in creative ways.” I totally agree that we should have “heart to heart conversations that quote or allude to passages and phrases from the Bible that are personalized by the details of our lives,” but I do not think we should ever cite scripture out of context. It does no good to apply the wrong meaning of the scriptures to someone’s life. We must never go too far with adapting and personalizing the scriptures that we lose the original meaning that it meant to have. Maybe I do not fully understand what Powlison meant by quoting scripture out of context, but in general I believe we need to contend for the truth and the clear contextual meaning of the scriptures.
The most significant challenge from Powlison’s book was the ninth chapter on the love of God. I have been doing a lot of study recently on the love of God and been looking at Don Caron’s book “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.” In Caron’s book he briefly mentions that most people in our culture do not understand God’s love and we use clichés like “unconditional love” that even though they have some truth to it they are by no means adequate descriptions of God’s love. Powlison’s chapter was thorough on this topic and it has been very challenging to try and wrap my mind around the heavy doctrine of God’s love. I have at least concluded one thing and that is our cultural baggage is a large part of what makes this topic so difficult. If we did not have so many presumptions and ideas about love, then we probably would be able to better understand God’s love. I plan to continue to dig deep in God’s word and pray for better understanding because I am seeing how closely connected this issue is with the gospel message that we believe and give to those we counsel.