One of the great temptations in life is to swing the pendulum too far to one side or the other. This can happen in all manners of life, and even in ministry — from theological issues like hyper-Calvinism to practical debates between approaches to preaching, use of application, etc. Certainly there are many issues where we (rightfully) swing the pendulum adamantly to one side — issues like the exclusivity of Christ or the inerrancy of Scripture. But with many of the more practical or gray areas, oftentimes a healthy balance is found somewhere in the middle.
One area of ministry where the pendulum tends to go to one extreme or the other is in Biblical Counseling. On the one extreme are those that deal with the external behaviors and actions only, while extreme number two includes those who focus only on the heart, never addressing the actual actions themselves. Either extreme is dangerous. We must find a healthy balance between the two.
A New Book
To help in this endeavor, Jeremy Pierre, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at SBTS, has written a helpful new book titled The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience. Pierre states in the introduction that his goal in this book is “to give a theological vision of how faith in Christ restores the dynamic human heart and a practical vision of how to help people join in on the process” (5).
In order to accomplish this goal, the book contains three major sections.
The first section addresses how people respond to life dynamically. In this section Pierre includes 5 chapters showing how God “made the dynamic functions of the heart to reflect the beautiful complexity of his own personhood” (6). He shows that human experience is three-dimensional, with the heart responding cognitively (knowledge and beliefs), affectively (desires and emotions), and volitionally (choices reflecting the willful commitments of the heart). After laying that foundation, he looks at the storyline of the Bible and how this dynamic heart that God has given us was corrupted and redeemed, and what bearing that has on how we understand ourselves and those we counsel.
The second section addresses what it is that people dynamically respond to. After laying the foundation that the individual is a dynamic human being and that the human heart responds in this three-dimensional cognitive-affective-volitional way, Pierre looks to 4 primary categories of daily experience that humans experience and respond to: God, self, others, and circumstances. Each of these 4 categories comprises a chapter in this section.
The third, and final, section lays out a methodology for counseling and interpersonal ministry of the Word. This section gives the reader a counseling cycle compressed of 4 parts, each occurring not necessarily in order and exclusively, but occurring at various times throughout the counseling process. This counseling cycle is:
- Read: Hearing People’s Hearts
- Reflect: Helping People Understand Their Heart Responses
- Relate: Looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Faith
- Renew: Calling Them to New Responses from Faith
Each of these steps of the counseling cycle comprises a chapter in this final section. In each section, Pierre gives a chart helping the reader/counselor understand how to, within that counseling step, address the three-dimensional heart (cognition, affection, and volition) within each of the 4 categories of daily experience (God, self, others, and circumstances). Following the chart in each of these 4 chapters are excellent, helpful, and practical suggestions for how to counsel the person from God’s Word in that particular area.
“People must know God to change. Knowing him relationally involves increasing in the knowledge of who he is from the Word (cognition) in such a way that addresses deeply held values or strongly felt emotions (affection) and calls them to submit to God as responsible moral agents (volition) in the various contexts of their experience (self, others, and circumstances)” (177).
While I absolutely thought that this was a helpful book, one suggestion for improvement that I have would be an appendix with some practical counseling case scenarios. Pierre does a great job throughout the book, especially in the second and third sections, giving the reader practical bits of advice and applying the principle to real-life examples. However, what is lacking is a full example or two of what this sort of three-dimensional counseling would look like in practice. After finishing the third section and giving the reader a full look at the proposed method to address the dynamic heart in daily life, I think that it would have been helpful to include a case study or two to tie it all in together.
Overall, I was greatly helped by this book. Jeremy Pierre is an excellent biblical counselor, teacher, and writer. Though the book is written in a bit of a more academic style, I think that any reader who is interested in counseling or interpersonal ministry will find that they benefit from this book. Rather than swinging to one extreme of the pendulum or the other, Pierre helps the reader gain a full-orbed three-dimensional view of the person and how they respond to daily life, as well as a well-balanced approach to counseling that person from the full counsel of God’s Word
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank New Growth Press for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.