Posts Tagged ‘Nouthetic Counseling’

I intend this year of reviewing helpful biblical counseling booklets for the purpose of identifying resources to equip and edify God’s people.

Margaret Ashmore. Depression.  Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, April 17th 2013. 38 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: P&R Publishing | Amazon

This is a work that is a part of The Gospel for Real Life Series put out by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing written by those who are a part of the Association of Biblical Counselors.  This particular work addresses the topic of depression.  In this review I want to briefly summarize what the author Margaret Ashmore has to say followed by the positives that I found in this book.


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Head psychology logo

We have completed our week long Marathon series on Biblical counseling and concern for Psychology.  Here is the compilation of our posts related to this topic from this week and also from the past.  Book mark this as a resource–and also to visit in the future as we will add more links and resources to equip God’s people to think Biblically and apply a Christian worldview in the areas of helping people with their problems.

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Goal of Counseling

The goal or end (τέλος) of counseling is to glorify God (Col. 3:23).  Whatever we do in this life given to us from our Creator must be done for the glory of God, not man.  As a result, we must filter out sin and mortify sin in our words and deeds so that we may glorify God.  Sin done by humans do not glorify God.  Since we are dealing with counseling, it is imperative for counselors to understand that counseling a counselee is a serious task. In order to glorify God in counseling, we need to have a desire to restore the brother or sister from sin in a spirit of meekness (James 5:19-20; Gal. 6:1).

To desire one to be restored, it would be wise that the counselor’s thoughts, models after Paul’s heart.  Paul glorified God.  His goal or end (τέλος) in terms of glorifying God when writing to young Timothy was for the Christian’s instruction to be in “love from a pure heart,” “good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).  Paul is clear when he uses the word goal (τέλος).  Paul underscores the notion that there is only one appropriate goal for a teaching ministry.[1]  True doctrine and genuine ministry find their satisfaction on love, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.[2]  Love is important to Paul, which is why he uses the word ten times in the pastoral epistles; and nine of the ten times, love is used with faith (πίστις) (1 Tim. 1:5, 14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2).[3]

Out of love springs forth some powerful components that are essential to counseling.[4]  The components are: pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith.  Heart is the wellspring of the human life.  It is the seat of the human knowledge (2 Cor. 4:6), emotions (Eph. 6:22), and volition (2 Cor. 9:7).  It’s important for the counselor to examine his knowledge of God, emotions, and volition.

The word conscience (1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3) is a compound word that is combined with the word “with” and “knowledge.”[5]  This speaks of a joint-knowledge one shares with oneself.[6]  In other words, it speaks of self-awareness.[7]  The conscience is a gift from God that can be defiled by sin (Titus 1:15) and seared to the point of desensitization if rebellion is habitual (1 Tim. 4:2).[8]  If the counselor does not have a good conscience, he can’t share biblical truths with conviction and genuine passion.

Since faith speaks of a faith that is not filled with hypocrisy, the counselor needs to examine himself before judging others (Matthew 7:5).[9]

On another note, I believe that if the counselor implements 1 Timothy 1:5, then God has been glorified, which is the ultimate goal of counseling.  Last but not least, in order to maximize the goal of biblical counseling, we need to believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, especially when it pertains to spiritual matters.  What the disciples and believers used in ancient times to counsel individuals is the same for us today: the Word of God (Psalm 19:7-14).

I will leave you with this last note: the aim of biblical counseling is to glorify God.  The manner  we must do it in is to “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).


[1] John Kitchen, “The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors”: (Woodland Hills, TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2009), 47.

[2] Ibid., 47.

[3] Ibid., 47.

[4] Ibid., 47.

[5] Ibid., 47.

[6] Ibid., 47.

[7] Ibid., 47.

[8] Ibid., 48.

[9] Ibid., 48.

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Please see part 1 of this series:Choose Biblical Counseling Not Psychology: Part 1

The Doctrine of Man

Before discussing why the doctrine of sin is important, I will first discuss the importance of the doctrine of man.  There are four major reasons why the doctrine of man is important: man is the pinnacle of creation, man’s relation to his Creator, negative implications of the false views of man, and the importance of applying biblical truths of man to contemporary issues.

Man is the Pinnacle of Creation

Man is the high point of God’s creation.  He was the only created being of God that was made in His “image” and “likeness” (Gen. 1:27).  For more information on humans being made in God’s image and likeness, please see this link: Created in God’s Image.

From the creation account, not only was man made in His image and likeness, but man was given authority by God to have dominion over the earth and man was given the authority to give names to all the creatures God created (Genesis 1:26).  No other created entity was given this kind of authority.

If man does not understand this creation account of his authority coming from God, negative implications for society will be generated dramatically.  He does not rule in his own autonomy, but rules under the sovereignty of God.  He must do only what God tells him.  To do the contrary, would be to sin before Him.  Sadly, our nation at this point and moment of time has deviated further and further from God’s rule (Psalm 24:1).

Relation to the Creator

In terms of man’s relation to God, the Bible helps us understand who we are before our Creator.  The Bible alone dictates our relationship before Him.  The Bible is the only standard.  The individual must come to a realization that he is small and God is bigger than His life.  He was created from dust, but God was never created because He is eternal.  And this eternal Creator that reveals Himself in nature (Psalm 19:1-7; Romans 1:18-20), Scripture, and via His very Son, is authoritative; and His revelation does not rest upon any relativistic human opinion or unreliable and tentative sources.[1]   There is nothing more epistemologically authoritative  that can hold stand the test of time, apart from what He has disclosed via His revelation.[2]

If the Bible is not accepted as the only standard, epistemology authoritative or morally ultimate from what God disclosed to humans, then humans will use their own standards to dictate how their relationship should be before their Creator.[3]  That approach is untenable because that means everyone’s standards will be relative.  And if it is relative, no one has a right to say their standard in terms of defining their relationship before their Creator, is better than the standard of another person.  They have no authority to authenticate their own standards.  That is why we need God in order to avoid these relativistic implications.  Because of the inconsistency of man’s standards, man does a disservice not only to God, but also to his fellow man.  But with God’s standard, there is absolute truth and consistency.  Since that is so, it is wise to look to the Bible to determine our relationship before God.  Every minutiae and every fact we come across must be understood in light of Christ (Colossians 1:16).[4]

Negative Implications of the False Views of Man

Studying the doctrine of man is imperative when it comes to refuting false views of man.  If you just take a look at the world, there are countless differing views of man.  For example, Freud sees man as an instinctual animal that has a conflict between the Id, Superego, and Ego.  Adler sees man as being born weak and small and needs to control his or her fate at an early age in order to survive.  Other psychologists like Skinner believes that man’s problem are a result of his environment.  And because of the environment’s influence on man, he says that man may keep practicing the behavior with the proper incentives until the person does not feel guilty anymore.  In other words, repeated behaviors are like allergy shots; and the effects will still be there until you are immune from it.  The differing views I stated earlier concerning man are just examples from hedonists who have their own standards of man outside of God’s words.  But what you could see already is that when you go outside the Bible, man has distorted views of man.  Once, I get into the doctrine of sin, you will see the correct view of man in accordance with Scripture.

Biblical Truths and its Connection to Contemporary Issues

In lieu of all the other three points I mentioned: man being the pinnacle of creation, man’s relation to his Creator; and refutation of false views of man, we should also study the doctrine of man so that as Christians we maybe able to apply biblical truths in regards to modern issues that are facing us today such as: abortion, euthanasia, and other pertinent modern issues facing us.  But before we do that, we need to touch upon the doctrine of sin.

If you study church history, before the Modern and the Enlightenment Era, there was a large consensus that man was born with a depraved nature.  This concept was ushered in with popularity not only by John Calvin, but also by Martin Luther who testified in disgust over his sinfulness.  But when the Enlightenment came into the scene, the traditional view of the sinfulness of man began to lose its effect.  People started to view man in general as being good.

If you study the history carefully, the traditional view of man’s sinfulness probably waned due to the rise of man’s education, technological advancement, science, health, etc.  As you know, the advancement of human knowledge continues to persist today.  But even with man’s advancement, man can not be good because if you take a look at the twentieth century, it shows that humanity witnessed the most bloodshed and evil when compared to any century.  Well, I have said much regarding the background to this discussion.  I will now transition to reasons why the doctrine of sin should be studied.

First reason why the doctrine of sin should be studied is due to its link and relation to God.  This truth is important and sobering because before one is regenerated, he or she was enslaved to sin prior to his or her regeneration (Ephesians 1:1-3).

What is sin?  The Westminster Catechism, which is not infallible, but is a biblical statement nonetheless, says this about sin, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”  In other words, to sin is to conform to our sinful ways and to transgress against His ordained laws (Psalm 119:4).  When we sin against a Holy God, we need to exemplify David’s heart when he sinned.  He understood the reality of sin and he understood that sin was an attack against God (Psalm 51:4).

The second reason why I study the doctrine of sin is because sin directly affects who we are as humans.  Sin is a destructive force that not only brings about death, but it affects our thoughts, which influences our deeds.  If one understands the doctrine of sin well, I believe that the Christian will be able to explain the problem of evil against an opponent of the Gospel; and one will be better prepared to counsel one who has just lost a loved one.

The problem of sin is inseparably linked to the problem of evil.  How one responds to a unbeliever or a love one in Christ will be dictated on how one understands the problem of evil.  People need to understand that sin was brought into this world by Adam who rebelled against God when God prohibited him (Gen. 2:16-17).  Man is to be blamed for the sin that was brought into this world.  In the beginning, God gave our parents volition and free will before the Fall.  In his original state, he had the ability to choose between good and evil.  Since then, he is enslaved to sin; and is in desperate need of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit to synergistically open his eyes to the truth.

Man ultimately chose evil and he paid the price.  For time’s sake, I cannot devote an entire paper regarding the problem of evil.  Basically, my intention was to give a snapshot of how the doctrine of sin is inseparably linked to helping one explaining the problem of evil.

Although sin is a horrendous enemy, it is also glorious.  It is glorious in the sense that it has some direct bearing to the doctrine of salvation.  This may be ironic to you, but it brings much glory to God.  For example, take a look at Acts 2:23.  In Peter’s sermon, he says, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”  God predetermined Jesus’ death before the foundation of the world.  Why am I bringing up this verse?  Well,  what happened to Jesus was sinful and evil, but at the same token, His bloody sacrifice brought salvation!  So yes, the evil event that happened to Jesus was sinful (of course God did not sin by offering His Son), but it was a spectacular type of sin that brought hope to humanity.

Another major reason why I study the doctrine of sin is because it affects how I do ministry.  When I see humans sin before God and others—by the grace of God, it causes me to have patience with sinners because the goal is to bring reconciliation to them.  Only the transcendent Word of God can free man from his enslavement to sin, not psychology.


As many you know, this year has been a year of carnage.  We have witnessed the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing.  Whenever carnage is done in this soil, the media will often bring in psychologists or psychiatrists to explain why carnage exists in our world.  They will give you their explanation.  But it is superficial.  They will avoid human responsibility and will say that the person’s act was due to mental illness.  The Bible is clear about those behaviors.  For example, Matthew 15:19 says “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”[5]

[1]Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1998), 201.

[2]Ibid., 202.

[3]Ibid., 202.

[4]Ibid., 202.

[5]All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible: Update.


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I decided to read this book because it is germane to our marathon week, which deals with biblical counseling and psychology.  Without further ado, this is perhaps the best book I have read so far that is in relation to the topic of depression.

There were a few obstacles in the beginning of the book.  For example,  I was somewhat confused while reading the first chapter when he partitioned depression into three categories: mild depression, moderate depression, and severe depression.  I was scratching my head for a while; and was thinking whether the author believes that the first two types of depression was okay or not in one’s life.  However, I came to an understanding later when the author said in the latter part of the book that he is in no way advocating depression.  It would of helped much if he clarified it earlier so that it would help prevent people to not strictly begin making a parallel with “sadness” to depression.  We know that the Bible makes a clear indication that there is a time to weep and grieve.  As a result, sadness is not the same as depression.  The author clarifies his point in page 69,

We should note here that ‘sorrow’ is not the same as ‘depression.’  In the midst of painful circumstances, there is nothing wrong with a Christian grieving and sorrowing.  But in the midst of that pain, we must never be utterly cast down and dejected.  We must never become hopeless and pessimistic.”

Before I do a brief review of each chapter, I would like to point out a few helpful resources in the book.  What I really appreciated about this book are the “questions for discussion and application” and the “graphs.”  Those two components were helpful.  While reading the book, I was better able to retain the information when spending some time carefully analyzing the graphs and the questions.  It allowed to me to retain the main points of each chapter better.  I can’t wait to use those main points with those I am discipling and counseling.  I believe it will benefit the body tremendously.

What’s it Like to be Depressed?  Defining and Describing the ProblemThis chapter describes the universal problem of depression in the sense that it effects many people.  It does not discriminate against race, age, status, etc.  One area I really valued about this chapter was its clarification of depression.  For example, the author describes that in a majority of cases, depression is a spiritual problem, but there are a few cases where depression maybe caused by a physical disease that happens only on a minority of cases.  In other words, depression can be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer; to name a few (Please see The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference).

Also since the author makes reference to Jesus in many occasions as a “man of sorrows,” Wayne Mack is no way saying that Jesus was depressed.  Although Jesus experienced sorrow, weariness, discouragement, and disappointment over the effects of sin in the lives of others and in the world – as the author puts it, Jesus did not “allow Himself to be controlled by these feelings” (5).  He was sinless and perfect, unlike humans who cave into the dangers of depression.

In this chapter, he also focuses on describing mild and moderate depression.  What helped and brought clarity were his examples from the Bible such as Asaph (Psalm 73), Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:1-20), and the psalmist (Psalm 42-43).

What’s it Like to be REALLY Depressed?:

Here in chapter 2, the author provides a detail explanation of severe depression.  He describes it as “utter hopelessness” (15).  He further defines it as

It is a permanent spirit of heaviness or gloom that affects, controls, and dominates every area of a person’s life” (15).

Severe depression according to the author can be found in Psalm 32, 38, 1 Kings 19:3-10.  These men: David and Elijah were godly men who experienced depression.  Their depression is described with some death imageries.

One other point the author included in this chapter that was very helpful in describing depression was his example of Paul when quoting 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.  Paul says,

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairingpersecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (NASB).

Paul’s description of what does not happen to him and others who are obedient to God is a good description of what happens to others who are depressed (21).  The words in red provides the contrast.

On another note, when you put depression together, it affects the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of oneself.  He goes in greater detail in the book.

Why Do People Get Depressed?:

The general biblical perspectives on the causes of depression need to taken into account when dealing with depression.  What are some of the “general biblical perspectives?”  Here is how the author puts it:

First, the experience of any kind of depression (mild, moderate or severe) is only possible in a fallen world.

Second, depression is the only logical, rationality consistent result of living without God.

Third, deliverance from depression – which is one of the possible effects of the fall into sin – is made possible through the redeeming work (justification and sanctification) of Jesus Christ and the regeneration (new birth and continual work) of the Holy Spirit in us.

Fourth, experiential deliverance from depression (and other effects of sin) is not an automatic result of the regeneration and redemption that begins at salvation.

Fifth, because we all still struggle with indwelling sin, it is possible for believers to experience all three kinds of depression.

Sixth, believers can look forward to a time when they will experience complete and continuous deliverance from all sin and all problems, including all kinds of depression.”

Besides the general biblical perspectives concerning depression, the author also narrowed things down to three specific causes to depression (37).  The three causes are:

  • One’s refusal to deal with sin
  • One’s mishandling of a difficult event
    • One major talking point is the notion of separating ocassion from cause.  It must be understood that depression is not a result of a event, but the person’s response to an event in their life.  The formula that the author uses is: EVENT + INTERPRETATION=RESPONSE.
  • One’s unbiblical standards and values

Getting Out of the Blues-Biblical Principles:

Chapter 4 is primarily a reiteration of the three causes mentioned prior:

  • One’s refusal to deal with sin.
    • Because of one’s failure to deal with sin, which can lead to depression, the individual must:
      • Specifically identify and acknowledge the sins and failures that are at the root of one’s struggle.
      • Use Scripture as the standard to determine right and wrong.
      • Understand the serious nature of sin according to Scripture.
      • Understand what genuine repentance is (2 Corinthians 7:9-10; Psalm 51).
      • Understand the basis for God’s forgiveness which is given by God’s grace through faith (Romans 1:17; Ephesians 1:7;  2:8-9).
      • Confess sins to anyone who has been directly hurt by us (James 5:16a).
      • Have a committed mentality to mortify sin on a daily basis (Proverbs 28:13).
      • Substitute godly habits for bad habits/replace ungodly with godly habits.
      • Learn from your failures by avoiding and fleeing from the temptations that eventually lead to sin (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Corinthians 6:18).
      • Take Paul’s admonition to forget what is behind and press forward to what God has for us ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).
  • One’s mishandling of a difficult event.
    • Because of one’s mishandling of a difficult event, which can lead to depression, the individual must:
      • Have a right relationship with God (Gospel needs to be the motivation)
      • Obey God.
  • One’s unbiblical standards and values.
    • Because of one’s unbiblical standards and values, which can lead to depression, the individual must:
      • Seek relation with God (Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks,/So my soul pants for You, O God./My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;/When shall I come and appear before God” (NASB)?
      • Develop a candid communication with God (Psalm 139:2b, 4).
      • Learn to talk to yourself based upon what you learned from Scripture rather than listen to yourself which can lead you astray (Psalm 42:5, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?
        And why have you become disturbed within me?
        Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
        For the help of His presence” (NASB).
      • Focus dominantly on facts, not feelings (Psalm 42:8)
      • Understand that you have a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) and know that you are not helpless (1 Corinthians 10:13).
      • See the present in light of your future in Christ, not your future in Christ in light of the present.
      • Learn to be a patient person and know the implications when one is not patient.
      • Reflect on a holistic view of God’s attributes (i.e. justice, holiness, love, omnipresence, omniscience, immutability, sovereignty, etc.).

Getting Out of the Blues – Biblical Examples:

Chapter 5 provides excellent examples of the biblical characters in the Bible as to how they waged war against depression.  One thing that these men had in common that we can learn from them is that they loved God and feared Him.  They had an encounter with God.  We have an encounter with God through His Word and in prayer.

  • Asaph (Psalm 77)
  • Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:21-30)
  • David (Psalm 42-23)

Loneliness or Lovely-less?:

This is a great chapter that goes into great detail concerning the pros and cons of loneliness.  Loneliness is another factor that can lead to depression.  Here are the author’s main points in order to wage war against loneliness that can lead to depression:

  • Loneliness: A Common Experience
  • Loneliness: A Painful Experience
  • Loneliness: A Destructful Experience
  • Loneliness: A Problem with a Solution
  • The Causes of Loneliness:
    • A deficient relationship with God
    • A transient type of life that we all have
    • The nature of one’s responsibilities in life
    • One’s sins and failures
  • God’s Solution for the problem of loneliness
    • Accept the reality of the unavoidable (John 16:33; Isaiah 43:1-2).  All of will experience some amount of loneliness.
    • Rejoice in the benefits that results in loneliness.  It will stretch your walk with God (James 1:2-4).
    • Know God better by developing an intimate relationship with your Creator.  What helps as the author puts it: “practice the presence of God” in your life.
    • Put off/put on by identifying and eliminating the bad attitudes and deeds that brings about loneliness and endeavor to develop the attitudes and deeds that brings about good relationships.
    • Apply what you learn.  One way to help you achieve that is by getting a concordance and find the passages that deals with our responsibilities to other people.  Use that as your devotional time.

Questions and Answers About Depression:

Chapter is one of my favorite chapters, because the author list down the major or very significant questions related to depression.  Some of the questions are great because they are the controversial ones or the types of questions that seems to be confusing to many.  And he addresses them so that the counselor or counselee will have a better idea of how to approach it biblically and confidently.

In this section, some of the questions that has to do with whether one is diagnosed with depression; is depression a mental illness; is there genetic tendency toward depression, can a physical defect or deficiency if found, be the cause of depression; what is the difference between a disorder and a disease as it relates to depression? etc.

Additional Notes for the Counselor:

Here in chapter 8, the author provides helpful resources to use when counseling a depressed counselee.  This section covers the physical area of the person’s life, the theological area of the person’s life, the cognitive area of the person’s life, the relational area of the person’s life, the motivational area of the person’s life, questions for the counselor, and a case study for discussion and application.


I hope and pray that this book or other biblical materials related to this essential topic will encourage you to seek Christ even more if you are experiencing depression or not experiencing depression.

There are a myriad of negative things going around in the world.  This year alone, in this nation, we have seen much violence and death such as the Aurora mass shooting, Sandy Hook mass shooting, the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon; and the numerous amount of suicides that have been going on in this nation.  You do not have to look far to see what is going on.  Just look at your communities, read the newspaper, watch the news, or listen to the radio.  Hope can only be found in Christ.

I pray that God will equip you and grant you wisdom to be effective ministers that will reach out to the lost and hurting.

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westminster theological seminary biblical counseling

Westminster Theological Seminary has no doubt been tremendously impactful in churches across the world beyond the Conservative Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).  Besides Reformed Theology, the Seminary has also also introduced to the church at large in other denomination Presuppositional apologetics (as systematized by their professor Cornelius Van Til) and also Biblical Counseling through Jay Adams who taught there from 1963 through 1983.  Westminster Seminary also houses the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) which has been training people in Nouthetic Counseling since 1968.  Many professors in Biblical counseling in other seminary do have their doctorate work done at Westminster.  No doubt it would be appropriate to see what resources WTS has made available to the Public.  The Seminary has free audios available of lectures concerning Biblical counseling over at Itunes University!

Here are the topics the lectures covered:

1.) Dynamics of Biblical Change

2.) All Theology is Practical Theology

3.) When People Go Insane

4.) Command: Resist the Devil

5.) Dealing with a Person’s Past

6.) Union With Christ: Dynamic for Change

7.) Temptation

8.) Homosexuality

9.) Union With Christ: God at Work

10.) A.D.H.D Diagnosis

11.) Therapy and Faith: Integration or Inundation?

You can access the audios at ITunes University by clicking HERE.

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