Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen

I've always respected Martin Luther and interested in Biblical counseling so I was excited to have an opportunity to review this book. Most people (me included) know Martin Luther as the champion of the Reformation and theologian but probably not so much as a pastoral counselor. Counseling Under the Cross is a thorough, well-researched case study on how Martin Luther applied the gospel of Christ's grace to daily life, to suffering, sin, and sanctification. The book is divided into two sections: I. What Shaped Martin Luther's Pastoral Counseling? and II. What Is the Shape of Martin Luther's Pastoral Counseling? In the first section, Bob Kellemen helps readers understand the background of Martin Luther's faith journey which shaped Luther's life and ministry. Luther severely suffered soul anguish and eventually realized that his own works of righteousness only led to hopelessness, despair, and uncertainties. He discovered that man-made remedy is futile and impossible. Once he saw and embraced the light of God's infinite grace, he experienced joyful, sweet, soul-freeing peace and comfort. His view of God changed from an angry Judge to a loving Father. Luther wanted to help others experience the same so he shared with others what he found helpful to him. "Justification/reconciliation by grace through faith was the core of Luther's pastoral care--not only for salvation--but for daily Christian living." (p.26) Luther drew people back to the Cross of Christ by weaving God's Word and grace in his counseling ministry. I really admire how Luther personally cared for people's soul with compassion and tenderness yet at the same time with strong conviction and straightforward admonition. He cared not only about people's external suffering (diseases and misfortunes) but also their internal suffering (distresses and doubts). "For Luther, we must look at everything in life, including our suffering, through the lens of Christ's gospel victory narrative." (p. 68)

In the second section, the author explains how Luther approached the four areas of pastoral care: sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. Luther's personal experiences of deep spiritual quest and soul torment enabled him to empathize with others who suffered. Luther showed how gospel truth transformed and freed soul sufferers. He believed in the sufficiency of Scripture and of God's grace for all our trials and sufferings. This book is filled with Luther's personal accounts, excerpts from his books and letters, and quotes from many who wrote about Luther. At the end of each chapter, you will find a tweet-size summary of the main message from that chapter. There are so many valuable lessons and practical applications we can glean from Luther's loving, insightful, hope-giving words of wisdom and ways of counseling. Counseling Under the Cross is a great resource for pastors, Christian counselors, and anyone who wants to offer Christ-centered, gospel-saturated, grace-based counseling to those who need to hear (including ourselves).

~I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. To read other reviews, visit here.

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