Seeing With New Eyes by David Powlison Term Paper

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¶ … David Powlison's book Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture. Powlison challenges those who counsel others to try to change their perspective and to look at problems from God's perspective rather than their own, which is the "new eyes" of the title. He does this by challenging counselors and clients to try to view themselves through God's eyes. He also urges people to move past the idea of unconditional love and towards the idea of redemptive love, which enables love. The essay examines Powlison's use of the Ephesians and the Psalms to explain both Paul's view of Christianity and the Psalms' explanation of suffering. Then the essay looks at the x-ray questions as used by Powlison in the book, and how they can be useful in ministry and traditional counseling scenarios.

The Significance of Seeing with New Eyes

In Seeing with New Eyes, David Powlison challenges those who counsel others to try to change their perspective and to look at problems from God's perspective rather than their own. He explains this by taking the approach that, while counseling may seem like a relatively new convention, it is something of which God not only approves, but in which He plays an intentional role. Moreover, he believes that the goal of counseling should include soul care, not just care aimed at fixing the temporal life. To explain how he thinks one should do this, Powlison uses a familiar pattern from Scripture to help explain Scripture. He talks about issues in terms of creation, fall, and redemption, to place them in a familiar Christian context. Moreover, he breaks his book into two main parts. In Part 1: Scripture Opens Blind Eyes, Powlison discusses the role Scripture can play in helping people see previously unrecognized details and nuances in a situation. He makes the point that "when you see differently, you interpret differently. You react differently, intend differently, act differently" (Powlison, p.2). In Part 2: Reinterpreting Life, Powlison discusses how these new insights can help people reinterpret their lives. Taken as a whole, the book gives a comprehensive introduction to biblical counseling, though it is not as thorough as it could be.

The structure of Part 1 is very familiar to anyone who is familiar with the Bible. Powlison uses Ephesians, Paul, and Luke to examine the theology of counseling. In these chapters he begins by explaining the Biblical passages in question. Next, he applies the passage to a real-life scenario. Most importantly, he demonstrates how a Biblical counselor can apply the passage in a counseling scenario. Some Biblical counselors attempt to approach people in an idealistic manner, suggesting that people should behave in certain ways and almost refusing to deal with real world issues. Powlison makes it clear that such an approach is faulty in two ways. First, the Bible itself does not deal with perfect people, but with imperfect, flawed people. Therefore, the Bible gives good examples of how flawed people should engage in their conversations with God. Second, even if the Bible dealt only with perfect people, the message in the Bible is one of hope and redemption for sinners, therefore, one must be prepared to deal with real-life, imperfect issues in counseling. In fact, he uses the idea of a relationship with God to define growth and healing within the context of counseling. "Instead of defining change as an intra-psychic, psychosocial, or biological process of 'healing' or 'growth,' we define change as turning to a Person whom we trust, fear, obey, and seek to please. Instead of letting the goal of 'health' cue our system to a medical metaphor, we set the goal of being transformed into the likeness of this Person with whom we live in relationship" (Powlison, p.4).

Section 1 begins with a discussion of Ephesians. Powlison breaks that discussion into three distinct chapters, one interpreting the book, one discussing God's role in the book, and the final one talking about how this book relates to real-life interpersonal relationships. Powlison's endorsement of Ephesians is almost unlimited. He tells people who are approaching Biblical counseling and do not know where to start:

You will not go wrong if you plunge into Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Master it. Be mastered by it. Work Ephesians into your thinking, your living, your prayers, and your conversation. The Bible is vast and deep, and human life is diverse and perplexing. But in a pinch you could do all counseling from Ephesians. It's all there: the big picture that organizes a myriad details. And Ephesians is not only "counsel" but also "counseling." It talks and walks method as well as content. Paul himself is a changed man. He lives out and teaches wise pastoral strategy. Ephesians aims to teach you how to live. That is a synonym for counseling biblically, for doing face-to-face ministry (Powlison, p.17).

What is the practical significance of Powlison's approach to Ephesians? Well, first Powlison highlights Paul's story and helps demonstrate the change Paul felt in his life. In order to really understand the importance of Paul, one must go beyond Powlison. Many modern Christians assume that Jesus began Christianity. This is not true. Jesus was born and died a Jew, and, while alive in His earthly body, Jesus was a Jew. It was Paul who expanded on the idea of Jesus as a different type of Messiah than the ones who had previously been experienced in Jewish history. After all, looking at a Jewish definition of Messiah, prior Jewish leaders could be given the same title because of their actions to save the Israelites from various circumstances. For example, Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt would have been considered a messianic act. Paul's writings helped change the view of what it meant for Jesus to be The Messiah. That is because Paul's writings are almost solely responsible for introducing the idea of atonement to Christianity. According to Paul, Jesus' death served as the means of redemption for His followers. Moreover, this atonement was more than just the relief from the burdens of sin, but also relief from the burdens of Old Testament law. Through Jesus' death, man and God come to peace, so that this death is what makes possible the very conversation that Powlison believes is necessary for biblical counseling (See generally "Atonement"). Therefore, Paul's perspective on how Christianity, a new religion in his time, can be useful to those seeking guidance is absolutely critical for someone seeking to use the Bible as a resource in counseling.

What is most interesting is how Powlison uses Ephesians 5:21-6:4 to explain interpersonal relationships. Ephesians 5:21 extorts people to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (NIV). Moreover, Paul follows up that general advice by giving specific advice about who should submit to whom. Specifically, he sets up the scenario of a patriarchal family where a wife should submit to her husband, children should submit to their parents, and servants to their masters. However, Paul is careful to explain the duty of submission as a reciprocal duty, where the master is required to treat submissive people with a certain amount of dignity. While this may not be especially relevant in a modern world where wives, children, and servants are not the property of a master, it does make sense when one considers Ephesians, like Paul's other writings, as a practical theology.

Furthermore, Powlison looks at suffering in a way that has frequently been ignored by people exploring biblical counseling. Suffering is real, and while some suffering seems to be the natural consequence of sin, which is how it has been explained in the past, some suffering seems random. It would seem that this random suffering is one of the things that most threatens people's relationships with God; the age old question of why do bad things happen to good people. Powlison uses the Psalms as a guide for explaining the how and why of suffering. He does not shy away from depicting some people as hurtful and looks at why some innocent people are trapped in the plans of these evil people (Powlison, p.96). He makes it clear that evil people think about and plan hurting others; it is not inadvertent (Powlison, p.96). This is actually a very hopeful approach, because it makes it clear that the evildoers themselves have the option of turning to God and renouncing their prior ways and that, because this hurtfulness is intentional, victims have the right to remove themselves from those situations.

In Part 2, Powlison goes beyond knowledge found in the Bible. For some Biblical counselors, this approach may be troubling, because some people insist that it is never necessary to go beyond the Bible. However, Powlison acknowledges that while counseling may have begun with clergy and remained in that domain for years, it has gone beyond that in the last few centuries. Counseling is no longer considered solely an issue between God, a clergyman, and a parishioner. Instead, there are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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