Reading Summary for the book, Soul Talk: The Language God Longs For Us to Speak, by Larry Crabb

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Introduction:  

The purpose of this blog post is to present an analytical summary of the book, Soul-Talk: The Language God Longs For Us to Speak, that is written by Dr. Larry Crabb. My use of the term ‘analytical summary’ functionally defines that I will seek to explore the central idea of this book and to present analysis by writing a synopsis of the Five Stages of Soul Talk. In the conclusion of this summary I will summarize his presentation and offer two thoughts of further researched discovery of Soul Talk as it relates to the Integration Movement that in the recent twenty years has made positive strides in bringing positive dialog and application between the disciplines of psychology and theology. Most recently this movement, engaging in the practices of ancient spiritual disciplines as they relate to ‘soul care.’

Larry Crabb, in his introduction, shares a personal story in regards to his doctor disclosing to him that he had cancer.[1] This began his journey in rediscovering a desire for God.[2] While sitting at a Starbucks he reflected on two parables that Saint Augustine which culminated with this thought: “What if God offered to give the author everything that he wanted on his list but it had one condition that he would never see God’s face!”[3] This was the explanation that Augustine gives to this parable and it is at this moment that the author in a moment of vocative clarity that the author understands Life is all about knowing God![4] The second miracle that the author had that evening was he experienced the presence of God. The impact of this experience empowered the author with the conviction that the greatest commitment he could make in his life was to discover his desire for God and indulge that passion with all of his soul.[5]
Thus, from this moment the author states that Soul -Talk is a language that has the power to pull back the curtains on our soul, to move through the mess, and to help each other discover that what we really want is God.[6] It is with this understanding that the author presents that Soul -Talk is the only really honest language.[7] Two key ideas establish the veracity and the need for Soul Talk in our current life situation: First, is the author’s assessment that most people go through their entire life never speaking words to another human being that come out of what is deepest within them, and most people never hear words that reach all the way into that deep place we call the soul.[8] The second key idea that flows from the latter is people almost never speak words that are formed in the center of their soul and pour out from our very being with power and a sense of life. And we almost never hear words that stir life within us, that pour hope into those empty spaces deep inside filled only with fear and fury and frustration.[9]
Therefore, for the author one cannot experience the love and joy of real life until one is connected to another at the level of the soul.[10] Soul -Talk is different from Self -Talk which the author defines as the natural language of every person ever born, except Jesus. It is the language of self-protection and self-sufficiency and self-absorption that is spoken in every context of life.[11]
The author’s conviction that Soul -Talk flows from the passion of the Spirit to stir up another person’s appetite for God to increase so that one can live with God’ purpose for their life.[12] With the understanding that Soul -Talk is the language that of the Spirit that we are born to speak, Larry Crabb presents five stages that helps us speak this language more fluently. These five are: think beneath, think vision, think passion, think story and think movement.[13] With the journey in mind, Larry Crabb presents these five stages as the process of one’s own spiritual formation maturing beyond the shallow bent of self-absorption that gives place to Self-Talk. Instead, the higher path is Soul Talk which is the language that allows us to love others, with no self-protective rules feeding our own self-obsession[14] because we can look into the heavenlies through the eyes of faith seeing the Trinity dancing over us as we speak the language of the Spirit drawing others in community toward knowing God.[15] The foundational premise of all of Crabb’s theology and praxis is God the Trinity desires to know us and we were created to know him. Thus, Soul- Talk allows us to dance with him. In the next section this will state what the central concept is throughout the book as well as give a synopsis of the five stages of Soul- Talk and in summary how this theme is conceptualized throughout the stages. 

II. Synopsis of the Five Stages of Soul Talk
The central question the author desires to answer in this book is, “How can conversations between followers of Jesus become a stage on which the supernatural power of God is unmistakably displayed, where souls come alive, where life is enjoyed, where love is released and souls connect?”[16] The central idea of this book is progressively unveiled in separate conversations[17] that are developed around the five stages. Throughout each one of the five stages the central idea of the book is the power of the Spirit is in us and we are actually created for something more than the remedial and shallowness of Self-Talk that is derived from one’s own self-absorption.[18] Through the power of the Spirit, Soul-Talk can not only take place but it will impact every sphere of relationships that one engages.
In a previous book the author written while he was developing his concept of Soul-Talk being a possibility for human being to connect with each other he writes, “God’s Spirit loves to highlight the beauty of Christ, a beauty that is now in us. Everything he does has this purpose in view.”[19] Thus, for Larry Crabb, the outcome of Soul-Talk that energizes others with Christ empowers us to connect with one another in our communities the way God connects within the Trinity could revolutionize our understanding of how to help one another.[20]
It is important for any person who has been a reader of Larry Crabb’s material to know that the five stages he has developed that would empower Soul-Talk has been a part of the tapestry of both his professional and personal journey and to miss this is to not catch the ethos of thinking that is birthed out of his own integrated life situation. It is in light of this understanding that one can be convinced that he or she can be engaged in Soul-Talk as a way of life.

a. Think Beneath
To think beneath is to see the real battle that’s being fought in someone’s soul. This stage requires supernatural discernment to think beneath the problems people share and identify the battle going on in their soul that most folks never see.[21] The context of this stage is for one to understand that you are not connecting with another person with a psychological therapeutic counseling modality, but instead, the key to Soul-Talk is authentic encounter, not professional precision.[22] This is based on the truth that one is supernaturally alive, so a person can speak with supernatural power into your kids, your spouse, your friends, and your counselee. This empowerment allows a person to be energized by speaking into a situation and seeing the real battle.[23] An element of this sounds so much like the gift of discernment as presented by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. At some points in my reading I pondered whether or not Larry Crabb was attempting to present to an audience that the notion of this type of charisma being constitutional in the life of a person fully made alive in the Spirit was aim in this stage. I have no evidence of this being the aim of the author but instead the exercise of personal discipline related to one not helping and delaying judgment is a necessary step for allowing the Spirit to work.[24] This is a challenging stage for people who are in the business of care because for this student I am often times formulating an answer but ‘Thinking Beneath’ requires that one empties themselves of their own self-absorption and to listen to the Spirit. After establishing this stage there is stage two, think vision.

b. Think Vision
Larry Crabb describes this stage as the point in which one captures the real plan of the
Spirit answering the questions: “Why he enters people’s soul and what is he up to?”[25] This is the stage that a person begins to exercise supernatural imagination, in order to capture a vision of what the Spirit longs to do in someone’s life.[26] In order to think vision it is important to understand the context of Larry Crabb understanding of the “Old Way” and the “New Way.” The central battle in the souls of Jesus followers is the battle to keep the first-thing desire in first place and the second-thing desire in second place.[27]
The central evil in the human soul is the natural tendency to elevate second-thing desires to the first- place and to pursue their satisfaction as if the well-being of our soul depended on it.[28]
Parallel to this discussion the central deception in every soul is to believe that the second-thing desires belong in first place, to be deeply convinced that the core well-being of our soul does in fact depend on their satisfaction.[29]
This understanding is grounded with the understanding that the central point of Soul-Talk is to awaken and nourish the first-thing desire until the passion for God becomes consuming, the ruling passion of the soul, stronger than any other desire. For Larry Crabb, this is spiritual formation.[30]
The theological grounding is found in Paul’s discussion in Romans 7:6 in which the Old Way of the written code is weakened and corrupted version of God’s Old Covenant with his people.[31] This is religion which reduces God to a convenient and cooperative deity and turns prayer into presumption. The New Way is Christianity which is Soul-Talk which is led by the Spirit which they engage God for themselves.[32] The importance for one to understand this concept is essential in unpacking stage two, Thinking Vision. Larry Crabb, who is a licensed counseling therapist, desires that the reader grasps that Soul-Talk is not counseling. To miss this concept is to completely derail what stage two is meant to accomplish. The author in his other works defines effective counseling as the “process of peeling the layers, sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully, to reach the real person underneath.”[33] It is in light of this that the author stresses that we already have a vision for ourselves and for others. The importance is to focus on a vision for others by answering the question, “What do we most want to see happen in others as we hear them share their journey?”[34]

As one Thinks Vision, a person then is embracing the New Way of the Spirit which is more God-centered rather than self-centered in its focus.[35] It is at this point that a person desires that the other person they are engaging with find out who they are in God. The focus is to surrender and allow the Trinity to pour through you in order that your vision is simply to have a picture of what this person would be if they place knowing God as the first-thing in their life. At this point the person offering Soul-Talk has shed the Old Ways and is now in the New Way of the Spirit. As we listen to others we come to stage three, Think Passion.[36]

c. Think Passion
Thinking passion finds its starting point that a person must face the real mess that
exists in their own soul as they speak to another, Person.[37] Larry Crabb‘s vision begins from the foundation: “the desire to see a passion for God rule in the human soul.“[38] Once again, the basic conviction here of the author is that he has come to believe that we can stir up passion in each other if we discover what is most alive in us and become free enough, and authentic enough, to pour into others.[39] It is conviction that those being trained as coaches and spiritual direction, as well as therapy have become what he identifies as the “expert model” and is getting in the way of our stirring up passion in each other.[40]
In contrast to the previous model, the author states if we learn the discipline of silence as we engage in conversation and think passion as we quietly listen, not attempting to figure out anything like experts do and focus more energy allowing the powerful life of Christ to surface within us and be released in the words that we speak.[41] It is at this stage a person is no longer relying upon themselves but instead the flow of life and wisdom that only the Trinity can give.
The dance lesson for thinking passion comes in three movements: The first movement is “to think high enough about vision to think low enough about yourself that you’re humbled into brokenness”[42]. We come to the place of understanding that our own ability to get somebody to the place in which they totally want God cannot be done. We come into humility. The outcome for one in this movement is to experience brokenness. In the words of the author, “Brokenness, not training or effort, is the key to discovering and releasing holy passion that makes Soul-Talk possible.”[43]
The second movement “is to reflect on your own motives as you relate.”[44] It is here that one begins to confront the realization of the subtle self-centeredness that is in them. The goal in this movement is to come to the place of total dependency on God as to allow brokenness to break one’s self-deception.[45] This is another place that one sheds the Old Way. The outcome for movement two is a person comes to clearly see themselves as being self-centered. The author defines true brokenness, “as not seeing only our visible selfishness, but also on our disguised self-centeredness.”[46]
The third movement “is when you spot Old Way energy, repent.”[47] This all one can do if they are to avoid slipping into Self-Talk. The outcome is to release our holy passion. Larry Crabb states, “Brokenness, releases the holy passion lying dormant in the depths of our soul.”[48] Ultimately these movements are to free us from our own self-need as being our ultimate value. This gives place to a spirit of entitlement that blocks our ability for authentic Soul-Talk.[49]
As we fully embrace the meaning that people will not move as far as they could on their journey into God’s presence or experience the power of the Spirit as fully as they could without telling their story to another person.[50] It is here that one move into stage four which finds its basis that deep change requires community.

d. Think Story
It is at stage four, Thinking Story, that one begins to actively and intentionally enter into another person’s story with “Transcendent Curiosity.”[51] It is at this stage that our purpose is not merely to hear what another is feeling but instead we want to discern what the forces of darkness have been deceitfully saying to our friend: we want to recognize the Spirit’s whispers of truth coming from deep places in our friend’s soul that they may be unheard.[52] Thus, the author describes this step as, “moving beyond empathy and accountability to the most unpracticed relational movement in modern culture.”[53] This functional description is understood by the author that Transcendent Curiosity focus is not specializing on empathy or on accountability, but rather it is an appetite of another person being aroused by the Spirit for further connection with Christ.[54]
Stage four becomes the subtle switch from religion to Christianity in which one simply gets away with Christ. Anything less than this normally defaults into empathy as our primary response to pain which strengthens narcissism and self-centeredness. The goal is not for the one who is listening to share their story but rather to fully engage into their story collaborating with the Trinity in the discovery of what has been hidden and now made known. This leads us into stage five, Thinking Movement.


e. Think Movement
It is at stage five that one follows the Spirit as he penetrates every defense against brokenness and every layer of self-sufficiency until the true self that he has created is released to love God as the supreme treasure of the human soul and to love others on behalf of Christ, at any cost.[55] One of the keys to this stage is that one cannot deny their own emotional past because this will get in the way of developing present intimacy which is necessary for thinking movement.[56]
As one enters into stage five and begin to share their story three types of storytelling must be avoided: First is romance, in which people present themselves as the heroes of their story[57] which simply magnifies their own self-sufficiency. Second, is the use of irony in which people tell their stories as sneering cynics that objectify themselves as not being part of the story but making comment from a detached perspective?[58] Third, is the use of comedy, in which the Comedy tellers stay busy, distracted by religion and activities and responsibilities that keep from reflecting on the deeper truth?[59]
We are a blessing-obsessed culture and we often times place second thing in first place.[60] We are now ready to do the circle dance with the Trinity which is known as the perichoresis. At this stage one is completely surrendered to the dance with the Trinity and the Spirit is completely made alive to reveal that which is deep beneath a particular situation. It is the place in which authentic change takes place and heartfelt responses such as repentance is birthed from a person that is experiencing an authentic encounter with God.
It is with the following thought that Larry Crabb, finishes his presentation of thinking movement: “Thinking movement is not a technique we master; rather, it’s a relationship we offer, a relationship energized by the Spirit’s passion and guided by his wisdom.”[61]
I have offered an analytical summary of the stages of Soul-Talk and in my conclusion I offer some areas that further research could possibly be pursued.

Conclusion:
I have attempted to present an overall reading summary of Larry Crabb’s book, Soul Talk: The language God Longs for us to Speak, as well as to present the five stages of Soul-Talk. I have enjoyed this book and stated in the previous section that I have experienced what I would call a “Holy Disturbance” in my own soul to explore further what the Trinity would have for me to dance with Him.
There are two areas of further research that when I have the opportunity could be explored in research. First, is the correlation between the stages of Soul-Talk to the function and operation of Spiritual Gifts? I see some possible engagement in some of the practices that Larry Crabb presents with the New Testament role of prophetic gifts. Second, is the exploration of what the concept of Soul-Talk is going to affect in the Integrationist Movement. Two questions could be researched: “Will members of the Integrationist Movement treat Soul-Talk has a separate modality from counseling spiritual direction, and therapy or will they create a subset discipline in a particular modality? Second, what are the age demographics of people who desire to practice Soul-Talk?
The outcomes of the previously stated research could be helpful on a theological level as it relates to the praxis of Soul-Talk, especially in the Charismatic/Pentecostal ecclesiastical community. As well as in the churches understanding of spiritual formation assist in identifying life transition points that practices like Soul-Talk would be better embraced. This book is an incredible read I have enjoyed this aspect of my work and I highly recommend that you consider purchasing this book and reading it for your own edification.

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[1] Larry Crabb, SoulTalk: The Language God longs For Us to Speak. (Tennessee: Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2003), p 1. 

[2] Larry Crabb, p 3.
[3] Larry Crabb, p 7.
[4] Larry Crabb, p 7.
[5] Larry Crabb, p 8.
[6] Larry Crabb, p 9.
[7] Larry Crabb, p 9.
[8] Larry Crabb, p 13.
[9] Larry Crabb, p 14.
[10] Larry Crabb, p 17.
[11] Larry Crabb, p 18 – 19.
[12] Larry Crabb, p 29.
[13] Larry Crabb, p 31.
[14] Larry Crabb, p 239.
[15] Larry Crabb, p 238.
[16] Larry Crabb, p 26.
[17] Larry Crabb, p 29.
[18] Larry Crabb, p 28.
[19] Larry Crabb, Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships A Radical New Vision.(Tennessee: Nashville, Word Publishing, 1997) p 137.
[20] Larry Crabb, Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships A Radical New Vision, p 144.
[21] Larry Crabb, SoulTalk: The Language God longs For Us to Speak, p 31.
[22] Larry Crabb, p 67.
[23] Larry Crabb, p 68.
[24] Larry Crabb, p 71.
[25] Larry Crabb, p 31.
[26] Larry Crabb, p 31.
[27] Larry Crabb, p 83.
[28] Larry Crabb, p 83.
[29] Larry Crabb, p 83.
[30] Larry Crabb, p 84.
 
[31] Larry Crabb, p 85.
[32] Larry Crabb, p 85.
[33] Larry Crabb, Effective Biblical Counseling. (Michigan,:Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1977) p 79. The most important concept in Crabb’s theory of counseling is the idea that there is one basic need, the need for personal worth, that is satisfied in two ways. The first input or longing that has to be met is for significance. Significance as defined by Crabb is the need for, “purpose, importance, adequacy for a job, meaning fullness, impact (Crabb, 1977, p. 79). The second input to have a person feel personal worth is the need for security. Security is defined by Crabb as unconditional love that is expressed continually, permanent acceptance, and in a later look, the longing (need) for relationship. If these two needs are met the person will feel like a worthwhile person and be free from psychological problems. It is Crabb’s view that all personal problems result from trying to fulfill or meet these needs apart from God.
Dr. Crabb has, in later books, changed his wording from needs to longings. He says, “Some have interpreted me to teach that man’s needs for security and significance defines his essential nature. . . the result, in the minds of some, has been a man-centered focus on fulfillment rather than a God-centered emphasis on obedience …” ( Refer: Crabb, Inside –Out, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1987, p. 15). Crabb was afraid he was being misinterpreted as to what he truly believed by using the word “need”. These longings (needs) are meant by God to draw us to Him. He is to be the one who meets these longings.
 
[34] Larry Crabb, SoulTalk: The Language God longs For Us to Speak, p 91.
[35] Larry Crabb, p 98.
[36] Larry Crabb, p 111.
[37] Larry Crabb, p 31.
[38] Larry Crabb, p 114. Larry Crabb affirms the work of other modalities such as the Counselor, Coach and the therapists and he states that as long as they flow from this common foundation they are affirmed.
[39] Larry Crabb, p 114.
[40] Larry Crabb, p 114.
[41] Larry Crabb, p 115.
[42] Larry Crabb, p 115.
[43] Larry Crabb, p 117.
[44] Larry Crabb, p 116.
[45] Larry Crabb, p 116.
[46] Larry Crabb, p 121.
[47] Larry Crabb, p 116.
[48] Larry Crabb, p 123.
[49] Larry Crabb, p 126.
[50] Larry Crabb, p 138.
[51] Larry Crabb, p 129.
[52] Larry Crabb, p 139.
[53] Larry Crabb, p 143.
[54] Larry Crabb, p 142. It is here that this student would submit that further research may indicate that the author’s functional definition of Transcendent Curiosity may in fact be the “energma” of the charismata functioning through believers. The assumption would be that prophetic gifts are to constitutional in the gifting’s of individual believer’s. Some scholar’s not only identify the charisma of prophecy as being constitutional but would also use language when seeing the function of wisdom (Sophia) in conjunction with wisdom (gnosis), easily translates “insight of the Spirit in a particularly difficult situation in the life of an individual person or community.” The intentional action of the one functioning in the gift is surrender to the mind of Christ (refer: Gordon Fee, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. p 592). If this is the case the critical question would be, “Soul-Talk being one functional use of sophia and gnosis as part of a revelatory gift of the Spirit in the life of believers?” Therefore biblical theology is used in adding to the veracity of the constitutional nature of this gift in each believer defining the modality of Soul-Talk being a possible outcome.
[55] Larry Crabb, p 31.
[56] Larry Crabb, p 176.
[57] Larry Crabb, p 182.
[58] Larry Crabb, p 183.
[59] Larry Crabb, 184.
[60] Larry Crabb, p 220.
[61] Larry Crabb, p 242.
[62] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church. (Michigan: Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2003) p 184.

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Bibliography

Bird, Peter Scazzero with Warren. 2003. The Emotionally Healthy Church. Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan.
Crabb, Larry. 1977. Effective Biblical Counseling. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Repeated Author. 1987. Inside-Out. Colorado, Colorado Springs: Nav Press.
Repeated Author. 2003. Soul Talk: The Language God Longs For Us to Speak. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.
Fee, Gordon D. 1987. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Edited by F. F. Bruce. 18 vols, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

About PastorAl

Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats. His hobbies include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!”
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