Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Disappointed in Critique of Jay Adams
Paul Leiffer
4756 Skyline Drive
Mission, Kansas 66205

From: JASA 29 (September 1977): 137.
I was disappointed to read "An Analysis and Critique of Jay Adams' Theory of Counseling" in the Journal ASA, September, 1976. While James Oakland's summary was quite accurate, the evaluations appear to be mere pot-shots at individual aspects of Adams' theory while avoiding the balance of all the aspects within the system. (I am indebted to Rev. Roy Wescher for help in sorting through the critiques.)

Brent Stenberg objects primarily to Adams' "interpretation" of Scripture. This interpretation is apparently sufficiently general for Adams' material to be endorsed and reprinted by Reformed (his own background), Evangelical, and Charismatic bodies. There is an agreed "historical-grammatic" hermeneutic. Is Adams the one who is barring Christians from the ranks of professional psychology (which Stenberg suggests is an implication of his interpretation)? Consider the case of Dr. Rich Gantz (now an associate of Adams) who was effectively barred by his own colleagues in psychology when he became a Christian mid-way into his career.

George Venable is on spiritual quicksand when he makes empiricism his first presupposition and attempts to separate "revelational" from "non-revelational" material in the Bible ... Venable asks whether Adams would make "mind" a mere physical-chemical entity. Adams is a dichotomist, linking soul and spirit, and thus would say that "mind" is moral. How does Venable define "mind"? Adams infers that the Holy Spirit is neither "helpless" nor limited, but that He always uses God's Word (not man's techniques) as means. Nouthetic counseling is basically for Christians. Adams' point is that believers should not be running to non-Christian therapists, since their reference-point, values, and concepts of man differ from those of Christian truth.

Kenneth Bowers argues that the moriss of sin is so great that nouthetic counseling is a "dead-end street. " Adams agrees that we can deal only with the exposed part of the iceberg. But by God's grace, we can discover sinful behavior, we can be forgiven, and we can try to obey. This is a very optimistic approach.

Adams' system is not as rigid as Gerald North would make it seem. His primary criticism of other Christian authors is their willingness to build a system for some humanistic framework (Freudian, Skinnerian, Rogerian), rather than from a specifically biblical base. If one cannot communicate the essence of psychoanalysis (and Freud suggests one cannot), he has moved into the area of total subjectivity and existentialism. Adams would suggest that we are best off to know the new birth by experience (which we can communicate) and the blame-shifting and introspection of analysis only by hearsay.

Rosemary Camilleri has oversimplified Adams' position. Some problems are physical. Confession is a first step, not a "panacea." Camilleri misses the point of the Prodical Son parable: the son had already repented.

Nouthetic counseling will have its difficulties (and its failures) but it rests on the biblical view of man and the problem of man. It is also meant to function in an atmosphere of love and trust between two forgiven sinners, which can be far more healing than a therapist-client relationship.