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Classic Book of the Month - Effective Biblical Counseling

WORLD Radio - Classic Book of the Month - Effective Biblical Counseling


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 6th.

Thanks for joining us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It.  Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming up next: WORLD’s Classic Book of the Month.

Larry Crabb was an author and Christian counselor. He died in February after years of battling cancer and other health problems. Of his 25 books, one of the most influential was Effective Biblical Counseling.

EICHER: And that’s  our Classic Book of the Month for April. Here’s WORLD’s Emily Whitten.

EMILY WHITTEN, REPORTER: Psychologist Larry Crabb was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1944 to Christian parents, but he drifted from his faith as a young adult. After earning a doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois, Crabb came back to Christianity with new vigor. Why? Partly because he saw a gaping hole in his secular studies. Here’s Crabb in 2017 at the C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Institute.

LARRY CRABB: I was looking for answers that Christianity didn’t provide in psychology. Five years of graduate school disillusioned me. Secular psychology isn’t going to be speaking into the deepest parts of my soul…I never heard the word love once in my five years of graduate school.

One could summarize Crabb’s work as seeking to bring Christian love back to the center of counseling. It’s a central theme in our Classic Book of the Month for April, Effective Biblical Counseling, published in 1977.

Two Christian authors helped reshape Crabb’s vision of counseling. First, Francis Schaeffer’s “infinite personal God” helped him see God—and all of life—as deeply personal. Secular professors and psychologists talked about applying techniques to clients. But Crabb began to see clients as friends and relationship as central to their growth. Again, here’s Crabb.

LARRY CRABB: In private practice, all of my efforts to provide counseling whenever any real change happened, it had next to nothing to do with my skill, had everything to do with the quality of relationship I was offering my clients.

Crabb also says Christians counselors seek a different goal from secular psychologists—the goal of Christian maturity. That means instead of asking, “What will make me happy?” we should ask, “What will please God?” This brings us to the second influential author, C. S. Lewis.

LARRY CRABB: As I continued to read Lewis…he says in one place, every Christian is called to become a little Christ. It’s not simply a matter of becoming behaviorally holy—of course it’s right to do the right things—but there’s issues of the heart, and longings and desires, and the spirit flesh battle within me.

Effective Biblical Counseling attempts to answer that question, combining Biblical and secular insights. So, how can we become like Christ? In the book, Crabb clarifies that some Christians will still need professional help, including well-researched techniques and medication. But he hoped to equip an army of everyday Christians in churches around the world to offer help to hurting people.

We can see Crabb’s vision at work several ways today. Many seminaries offer counseling classes and degrees. Christians can find Biblically-minded counselors in many churches and in organizations like the CCEF—the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.

Licensed counselor and author Christina Fox studied Crabb’s books at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and she says his work impacted her in important ways.

FOX: Currently right now I’m working with my church on developing a lay counseling ministry. So I can be thankful to his work in that, because it really helped me within work in women’s ministry, small group ministry, in my own personal context of helping people within the body of Christ work through their troubles and to see how God is at work in them through that.

Fox had been a Christian for many years when Crabb challenged her to think more Biblically about her suffering and disappointment. Here she reads a short but impactful passage from Crabb’s book, Shattered Dreams.

FOX: God does want us happy. He’s gone to great lengths to ensure our eternal joy. But the happiness he provides now is the strange happiness of longing for what we were designed to experience but must wait to fully enjoy. It’s the happiness of serving a God we trust enough to let us cry today knowing He has promised to wipe our tears tomorrow. That was really helpful for me personally, and that of course, helps me as I help others.

That’s not to say Effective Biblical Counseling is perfect. Crabb’s chapter critiquing wrong counseling ideas from the 1970s feels somewhat dated, and at times he references obscure academic ideas and authors. That said, it’s still a good resource. Caring moms, dads, grandparents, and friends will find the basics of Biblical counseling clearly stated in the book.

Crabb continued to develop his ideas about Biblical counseling throughout his ministry. But many of his insights never changed, like his focus on love. Warren Smith’s interview last September with Crabb would be a great place to hear some of his later thoughts. In this clip, Crabb talks about his final book, Waiting For Heaven.

CRABB: And that to me is the exact central point that I think the book is built on. Dostoevsky in Brothers Karamazov the key person there was asked, what is hell? And he said, hell is the suffering of being unable to love. What’s the abundant life? It’s an abundance of the ability to love, thanks to the work of the spirit. 

Maybe like me, you often find yourself tongue tied when trying to counsel others. Maybe when someone around you suffers, you always seem to say the wrong thing, or you say nothing to keep from making things worse.

Effective Biblical Counseling helps us take the focus off our failings and focus on God’s power in our relationships. Crabb can help you find better ways of engaging friends who struggle—and prepare you to face your own trials with a more Biblical perspective. For that reason and many others, I hope you’ll get to know Larry Crabb a little better this month.

I’m Emily Whitten.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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