Book review - Counseling one another - A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship - Paul Tautges - Shepherd's Press

Boy am I late with this review! When that happens sometimes it means that I've been ill, or extra-busy, or traveling. Sometimes it means I didn't like the book and I don't want to say so. But sometimes it means I really liked the book. And this is one of those times.

Have you ever wondered what Paul would make of our understanding of some of the things he wrote? For me the classic one is "speaking the truth in love". I think if Paul could see what we often make of that verse he would be appalled. Instead of a community united in love to share the truth of Jesus we turn it into a reason to divide the community by telling each other what we think of them, convinced that our opinion is just the truth, in love of course...

Another is the little phrase in Romans 15 where Paul expresses his confidence that the Roman Christians are competent to counsel one another. This turned into a polemic against dependence on psychology and psychiatry and a motor for pastors to train in the skills necessary for nouthetic - confrontational counselling. Is that what Paul had in mind when he wrote?

Enter Paul Tautges, convinced that the church can be and should be and must be a community of believers in relationship to the Lord and to one another and encouraging one another to love and to holiness, correcting one another, comforting one another, everyone engaged together on the goal of arriving at holiness and likeness to Jesus.

It's a great vision, and it makes for a great book.

It does have weaknesses. Here are three.

The first chapter maps out the reason for the book in the decline of Fuller Seminary's attachment to inerrancy, and therefore the entry of secular psychological dependence into the church. This chapter should be an appendix. Get straight to the meat and taters and put this into an appendix.

Then the book is still involved in the polemic between secular counseling and the life of God in the church. I think that's a pity. The author is not against medical intervention where necessary, but this concern with dependence on analysts, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists is a bigger problem in some countries and cultures than in others.

Then the author is very forthright in his confrontation of cohabiting unmarried couples etc. He calls a spade a spade. However in many places now the problem of sexual chastity and faithfulness has gone far beyond that. In many cities casual sex for recreation has become the norm in Christian young people.

I suppose what I am saying is that when we write really helpful books it is a good idea to make them applicable as widely as possible, and not to focus too much on the culture we live in and grapple with. Even in writing that sentence I can see how hard that must be to achieve. Don't ask for much, do I?


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