August 7, 2020

Recommendation and Review: Running Scared by Edward Welch

runningscared.jpgIt’s going to be a bit of a book review week here at IM. I’m backed up with several books I’ve needed to review and I’m going to try and get them all in in the next few days.

The Biblical counseling movement has never gotten very high marks from me. I’ll spare you the specifics for some other time. I have, however, taken notice that there are a range of people in the movement with different approaches to the practice of Biblical counseling. Some seem to “zero out” the language and insights of secular psychology and offer the Bible as a psychiatric textbook for the most complex problems. This has always seemed to me to be irresponsible, dangerous and ill-founded.

Edward Welch represents another kind of Biblical counselor; one that is helpful, practical and classically wise in the diagnosis of the soul. Welch is a pastoral practitioner, a person pursuing ministry to human beings as souls who are best addressed in Biblical language and categories. Reading Welch, one gets the feeling that secular counseling isn’t under attack, but that specifically Christian ways to of speaking to the issues of broken, fallen existence are highly valued.

Edward Welch’s Running Scared is a practical, Biblical and eminently helpful exploration of the subject of fear. Welch explores the dynamics of fear, the varieties of fear and the Biblical response to fear. For a book within the Biblical counseling sphere, Running Scared is a kind of work that shows the Puritan skill at dealing with souls and a pastor’s gift of using the Word of God skillfully.

I appreciated all of this fine book, but my particular interest in the second half of life was pleased to find so much of the book aimed at the fear of adults. This is not a book written with teenagers as the primary audience. While anyone can benefit, I felt the book would be particularly helpful to adults looking at the particular fears and anxieties of maturity, adulthood and the second half of life.

Welch has a Ph.d in Counseling Psychology from a state university, so when he speaks about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, he’s aware that it’s a complex problem addressed with a multi-disciplinary approach. He never suggests that it is wrong to address such a disorder through psychiatric medication. He clearly believes that the Christian response to OCD in all its manifestations should, if possible, take place within a relationship with the God of the Bible in all his revealed fullness. Readers expecting otherwise should expect to be disappointed, but those wanting a Bible centered response to anxiety and fear will not find a better book.

Running Scared reminds me of John Piper’s approach in Battling Unbelief (taken from Future Grace). Welch’s approach is clearly reformed in its God-centeredness and use of scripture, but there is nothing in the book that would restrict its usefulness to those sharing reformed presuppositions. This is a book written specifically for the ordinary reader. No higher level understanding of theology or counseling necessary.

Welch models the kind of Biblical counseling that any pastor, teacher or counselor can should appreciate. It is well-written and easy to read. The 30 chapters make a good monthly study of the subject of fear.

I highly recommend Running Scared as a basic pastoral resource for dealing with the many manifestations of fear.

This reviewer received a complimentary copy of the book to be reviewed.


  1. Thank you Michael for this review. I was unaware of Ed Welch’s latest. I’ll certainly be getting it. I especially enjoyed his treatment of addiction issues in his “Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave”. It is the best Christian treatment of addictions issues I’ve seen out there. It’s theologically sound while being pastorally sensitive and medically responsible. A rare combination. Right now I’m finishing up reading what I believe will be the foundational text for future Christian counseling, Eric Johnson’s “Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal”. It’s put out by IVP Academic. So far it is exceptional, both in its assessment of what we’ve seen so far in Christian counseling, as well as of the underlying theological issues, and their practical expression. Johnson points out that Welch represents “progressive Biblical counseling” contra the old school “tradional Biblical counseling” (think Jay Adams) which saw no value in any of the secular psychologies. He still critiques their humanistic presuppositions, yet allows that some truth still has come through, but always through the lens of what God has spoken through His inspired word.
    Once again, thanks for the heads up!

  2. This is really a good site.