Discipleship and the path towards religious fulfillment have been identified as one of the most complicated processes for individuals today. This is especially so in the modern day because of the religious dilution that characterizes society, thus making it hard for people to practice their religions accordingly (Putman & Duek, 2011). Having established this, religious leaders have identified the need for discipleship counseling, which involves providing guidance to individuals regarding discipleship and religion. This form of counseling is much different from secular counseling, as it involves encouraging individuals to live spiritual lives, in accordance with the expectations of their respective religions. Neil Anderson, an author, and a religious leader, expounds on this concept in his book, Discipleship Counseling. In this book, Anderson explains the significance of discipleship counseling, as well as, the various approaches towards discipleship counseling.
This paper provides an analysis of the book, Discipleship Counseling, by Neil Anderson. Specifically, the paper examines three themes brought out in the book, as well as, their relationship with the entire context of the book.
Upon a closer examination of Anderson’s book, it is evident that the author wishes to expound on the concept of discipleship counseling. This includes providing information regarding some of the basic approaches towards the practice. Throughout the book, the author explains some of the concepts and methodologies applied in discipleship counseling, all of which bring are used to build on some themes in this practice. Accordingly, three main themes are brought out in the book including a relationship between psychology and theology, Christ as the ultimate counselor, as well as, freedom in Christ as a contrivance of discipleship.
Relationship between Psychology and Theology
The relationship between psychology and theology is the central theme of the book. This is mainly because the book is centered on discipleship counseling, which is the process of guiding individuals into attaining their full spiritual potential and following the path of Christ (Anderson, 2003). As the author explains, theology and psychology have a close relation, unlike popular belief. Anderson explains that psychology is the study of the human soul, and it is in these souls that faith and religion are ingrained in individuals. Theology, on the other hand, is the study of God and religion, thus explaining the relationship between the two concepts. Accordingly, psychology also embraces human thought and imagination, which is also the root of one’s religious beliefs and practices (Anderson, 2003). Psychology entails an examination of the concept of spirituality, and the significance of this to individuals, something that is part and parcel of theology. As evident from the readings, the entire book examines how psychology can be used to encourage, and in some cases manipulate one’s thoughts regarding their spirituality and religious beliefs (Wade et al., 2007).
As the author explains, cognitive therapy, which is a technique used in discipleship counseling, plays an influential role in shaping one’s beliefs. Human beings lack the ability to control their emotions, but their thought and beliefs can be controlled or manipulated (Anderson, 2003). The author explains that most religious leaders have utilized this strategy to gain discipleship. This, in turn, illustrates the relationship between theology and psychology, and how this is brought out as a theme in the book. Further still, the book examines the role of counseling in human spirituality and religion. As the author explains, most people, especially those that are spiritually oppressed require guidance when it comes to religion. This guidance can be provided either through counselors or through Christ, which further draws on the relationship between psychology and theology. Being spiritually or mentally oppressed means that individuals are out of touch with their spiritual side, thus requiring the help of another to regain this (Anderson, 2003). Through the help of psychology, individuals have the ability to stabilize their religious wisdom, which further illustrates the relationship between theology and psychology.
Christ as the Ultimate Counselor
Admittedly, this book concerns the provision of counseling for discipleship and throughout the book the readers are introduced to the various approaches in counseling for discipleship. Accordingly, a counselor is defined as a guide: a person who directs another in their path towards spirituality. The author explains that, in most cases, the counselor is usually a human being who seeks to help another in becoming a religious disciple. Though the author describes the counselor as taking the form of a person or a human being, it is clear that Jesus Christ is the ultimate counselor. This can be examined from two main perspectives, Christ as the counselor to the ‘human’ counselor, as well as, Christ as the counselor to the counselee (Anderson, 2003). First and foremost, it is important to understand that for one to be a counselor, he, or she must have achieved the spiritual echelon that they intend their counselee to attain. This means that the ‘human’ counselor ought to have attained this spiritual height, he or she needed to have received counseling from another.
In essence, Christ is identified as the supreme counselor in relation to discipleship (Anderson, 2003). This is because Christ provides the necessary spiritual guidance for these ‘human’ counselors to guide others, as well as, themselves in the path towards Christianity. It is through the help of Christ that these counselors can guide their counselees into achieving the life that they seek in Christ. The author explains that because Christ is not physically present to provide counseling for his believers, the Bible, which is the holy book, explains what Christ expects from his followers. By reading the Bible, individuals are, therefore, guided into the ideal, Christian way of life (Anderson, 2003). Counselors, as well as, counselees get to understand what is expected of Christians, and for that reason, allow them to practice this accordingly.
Freedom in Christ as a Contrivance of Discipleship
The third and last theme brought out in the book is the theme of freedom in Christ, especially in relation to discipleship. Chapters nine through to fifteen elucidate on the concept of freedom in Christ, as well as, the different types of freedoms that individuals can attain. Accordingly, these chapters also reveal an underlying theme regarding discipleship, which is freedom in Christ as a contrivance of discipleship. As the author explains, the journey towards achieving discipleship comes with plenty of demands and sacrifices (Garzon et al., 2009). To attain spirituality and discipleship as required, individuals need to exercise freedom in Christ, which is defined as an encounter with God that is free from unnecessary ties and attachments. In essence, freedom in Christ involves the affirmation of individuals’ identities in Christ, renouncing all lies and deceptions, opting for the truth as presented in the Bible, as well as, the resolution of any personal or spiritual conflict that made interfere with the relationship with Christ (Anderson, 2003).
By adhering to these demands of freedom in Christ, individuals are, therefore, granted the ability to walk as disciples of God. As the author explains, it is only through the freedom in Christ that individuals will have the ability to acknowledge their discipleship to Christ and God. In support of this, the author provides a list of things that individuals need to free themselves including deception, bitterness, rebellion, pride, as well as, habitual and ancestral sins (Anderson, 2003).
Discipleship counseling is a crucial aspect of theology and religious studies. Anderson has successfully managed to explain this concept to interested readers in his book, thus encouraging awareness and comprehension on the practice. Accordingly, the readings in Anderson’s book reveal three underlying themes, all of which build on the concept of discipleship counseling. Understanding the relationship between psychology and theology, Christ as the supreme counselor, as well as, freedom in Christ as a tool for discipleship enables individuals to engage in discipleship counseling accordingly.
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Wade, N. G. et al. (2007). Effectiveness of religiously tailored interventions in Christian therapy.
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