By Thomas Watson
CCEF’s Former Executive Director, Senior Editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling
- Early life
- When: December 14, 1949
- Where: Honolulu Hawaii, United States
- Parents: Peter A. and Dora M. Powlison
- Spouse: Nancy H. Gardner
- Children: Peter Powlison, Hannah Powlison, Gwenyth Powlison
- Death: June 7, 2019
David Powlison was a Presbyterian author and biblical counselor; he is the executive director to CCEF, the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling and is a member of the counsel of the Gospel Coalition. He has been practicing counseling for over 30 years. His work is credited for bridging the gap between the secular psychiatric philosophy and biblical schools of counseling. He has written many books and articles on subjects such as sexual sin, anxiety, and grief.
David Powlison was born on December 14, 1949 to Peter and Dora Powlison on the island of Honolulu of Hawaii in the United States. He and his wife, Nancy H. Gardner, had 3 children, Peter, Hannah, and Gwyneth Powlison (TGC, PTLGOS).
At the age of 25, Powlison was working at McLean Psychiatric Hospital in the mental health department, in Belmont Massachusetts, when Christ convicted him of sin and brought him to repentance (CW, HGSD). After his conversion, while working in the Psychiatric Hospital as a mental health worker, Powlison started observing the constant suffering of the patients, that had little to no hope for change or healing. Powlison became “disillusioned with secular psychologies.” He found one individual quite interesting while working there, a man who was a mental health worker with no aspirations for high education. This man was building relationships with the patients, holding them accountable to their choices, and not blaming their behavior primarily on mental disorders. This induced the patients to react differently and ask for this particular man when they were in distress. The difference between what this man and the rest of the faculty practiced help lead Powlison to believe that the theories were fundamentally at odds and went to study theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS; WSTIC).
Powlison started his education at Harvard University, with a Bachelor of Arts in 1971 then pursued a MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary 1980. In 1986 he received his Master of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. Then went on to get a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 his subject of study—history of science and medicine, with an emphasis on the history of psychiatry (PB, DAP).
- AB, Harvard University, 1971
- MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary 1980
- MA University of Pennsylvania, 1986
- PhD from University of Pennsylvania, 1996
- History of science and medicine, primarily history of psychiatry.
III. Significant life events that impacted person
- Pancreatic Cancer – https://www.ccef.org/a-special-note-from-david-powlison/
- David Powlison came to Christ while working at McLean Psychiatric Hospital in the mental health department, in Belmont Massachusetts, 1973 to 1976.
- He is a teacher at the Christian Counseling and Educational foundation.
- Editor of The Journal of Biblical Counseling.
- He has been a Biblical counselor for over 30 years.
- How God Saved David Powlison From Destroying Himself
IV. Theological Views
Anger: Escaping the Maze – 2000
The Biblical Counseling Movement: history and Context – 2010
Breaking the Addictive Cycle: Deadly Obsessions or Simple Pleasures? – 2010
God’s Grace in Your Suffering – 2018
Good and angry: Redeeming Anger, irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness – 2016
How does Sanctification Work? – 2017
Jax’s Tail Twitches: When you are Angry – 2018
Making All Things New: restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken – 2017
Pornography: Slaying the Dragon – 1999
Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare – 1994
Seeing with new eyes” Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture – 2005
Speaking Truth in love: Counsel in Community – 2005
Zoe’s Hiding Place: when you are Anxious – 2018
Power Encounter: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare – 1994
Controlling Anger Responding Constructively when life Goes Wrong – 2008
I’m Exhausted: What to do When You’re Always Tired – 2010
Pleasure – 2005
Competent to Counsel? The History of a Conservative Protestant Biblical Counseling Movement – 2008
Anger: Understanding anger – ?
Coming Clean: Breaking Pornography’s Hold on You – 2012
Controlling Anger: Responding Constructively When Life Goes Wrong – 2012
Domestic Abuse: How to Help – 2001
Facing Death with Hope: Living for what Lasts – 2008
God as Father: When Your Own Father Failed – 2005
God’s Love: better Than Unconditional – 2001
Grieving a Suicide: Help for the Aftershock – 2010
Healing After Abortion: God’s Mercy Is for You – 2008
I Just Want to Die: Replacing Suicidal Thoughts with Hope – 2008
I’m Exhausted: What to Do When You’re Always Tired – 2010
Innocence Lost: Rebuilding after Victimization – 2012
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 28-1 – 2014
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 28-2 – 2014
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 28-3 – 2015
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 29-1 – 2015
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 30-1 – 2016
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 30-2 – 2016
Journal of Biblical Counseling, 30-3 – 2016
Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads on Anger – 2013
Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads On Redeeming Psychology – 2013
The Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads: On Apologetics –
The Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads: On Counseling in the Church –
The Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads: on Methodology –
The Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads: on Model –
The Journal of Biblical Counseling Must Reads: on Sexuality –
Journal of biblical Counseling, Volume, 26 #3 – 2012
Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 27 #1 – 2013
Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 27 #3 – 2014
Journal of Biblical Counseling 18-1 – 1999
Journal of Biblical Counseling 18-2 – 2000
Life Beyond Your Parent’s Mistakes: The Transforming Power of God’s Love – 2010
Overcoming Anxiety: Relief for Worried People – 2012
Pre-Engagement: Five Questions to Ask Yourselves – 2000
Real Love: Better Than Unconditional? – 2012
Recovering from Child Abuse: Healing and Hope for Victims – 2008
Renewing marital Intimacy: Closing the Gap Between You and Your Spouse – 2008
Sexual Addiction: Freedom from Compulsive Behavior – 2010
Sexual assault: healing steps for Victims – 2010
Stress: Peace amid Pressure – 2004
Stressed Out: becoming Peaceful on the Inside – 2012
When Cancer Interrupts – 2015
When You Are Worried: Finding Reasons for Peace – 2012
Why Me?: Comfort for the Victimized
Worry: Pursuing a Better Path to Peace – 2004
You Make Me So Mad! Managing Your Anger – 2012
A Conversation Between David Powlison and Winston Smith
Why do we Pray?
Emmanuel shall come to you
Helping those who are angry with God
God is changing us – but how?
VI. Influence on Biblical Counseling
- Bridging the gap between sin and psychopathology, Powlison believed that “sin is the core of psychopathology.” Sin skewed your goals and perception of God and the world. Powlison looked at Ecclesiastics 9:3 and saw that there is “madness in our hearts while we live.” His point is that whatever the physiological or environmental influences may be, such as genetic predispositions and cultural values, all factors must be held together. This idea is in contrast to the idea of blaming environment or only one factor. That the root of all sin and mental illness comes directly from the persons heart (CCEF, RBSP).
David Powlison – “Why I Chose Seminary for Training in Counseling” http://online.wts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Powlison-on-Seminary-for-Counseling-2.pdf , (WTS WSTIC) August 2017
David Powlison – “on the relationship between sin and psychopathology”
https://www.ccef.org/video/david-powlison-relationship-between-sin-and-psychopathology/ , (ccef, RBSP) April 2016
PraBook Biography: :David A. Powlison” World Biographical Encyclopedia, Inc
https://prabook.com/web/david_a.powlison/358932?profileId=358932 ,(PB, DAP) Accessed May 2019
Dr. David Powlison, “How God saved David Powlison From Destroying Himself”
https://www.crossway.org/articles/how-god-saved-david-powlison-from-destroying-himself/ , (CW, HGSD) May 2017