Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Appreciated Critique of Jay Adams
J. Harold Ellens
Executive Secretary
Christian Association for Psychological Studies
University Hills Christian Center
Farmington Hills, Michigan 48024

From: JASA 29 (September 1977): 137.

I have appreciated the ASA enthusiastically since I began to read it a couple of years ago. The particularly useful piece recently printed and to which I should like to call attention is "An Analysis and Critique of Jay Adams' Theory of Counselling" in Volume 28, Number 3 for September 1976. My purpose in calling attention to it again is that I may endorse the editorial policy, the journalistic superiority, the professional excellence, and the Christian wholesomeness of that treatment of Adam's work.

I am convinced that Adams' theory and publications are a pernicious and overtly destructive force in an area of intense and vulnerable human suffering. Dr. Oakland's general assessment of Adams was eminently comprehensive and balanced. George Venable and Rosemary Camilleri were extraordinarily incisive and warrantable in their evaluations. Gerald North touched a key point in a resoundingly Christian way.

Venable's emphasis upon the fact that both Scripture interpretation and the interpretation of natural science data is a historical investigation, subject to the rubrics and constraints of scientific method is absolutely crucial. It is, moreover, a point that enthusiastic and devoted Christians frequently overlook in their scholarship. He made a weighty point in a telling way when Venable pointed out that some statements are in Scripture ."in order to enable revelational truth to be communicated, but they are part of that revelational truth. "

Gerald North's contention that Adams' treatment of traditional schools of psychotherapy is a very judgmental and uninformed one is a matter of great moment. The negativism and hostility in Adams at that point reflects his own anxiety about his scholarship, his inflexibility, and likely his own peculiar personality pathologies. He should be more self-reflective and less dogmatic.

The tragedy latent in Adams' posture is that his assertive, inflexible, and peculiarly religious approach so consistently plays into precisely those pathologies peculiar to intense, conservative, evangelical Christians which Adams is most likely to see in his practice and which are likely to be seen mainly by the kind of counsellor who is likely to read Adams' books.

Rosemary Camilleri put her finger on the really central issue. Adams has no joy in human discovery, no acknowledgement that all truth is God's, that general revelation in science and psychological research is as surely revelation into God and God's way with us as is Scriptural exegesis, and that the Spirit may be encountered in our humanness and even our pathology as well as in special revelation. "This is the handbook of the frightened evangelical: frightened of psychological study, and psychiatric practice, and - Christ or no Christ - frightened of sin."

Rosemary hit the nail on the head. I commend you for this astoundingly effective presentation.