The Problems with Jay Adams’ Nouthetic Counseling Works-Sanctification Doctrine

Before 2008 I was vaguely aware of Jay Adams’ nouthetic counseling. But in 2008 I read his little booklet Godliness Through Discipline, and I was incensed.

At that time my understanding about abuse and abuse enablers was microscopic, but I had been studying the Scriptures, and I knew this teaching was wrong and would lead people away from Jesus instead of toward Him.

(Only later did I understand the dynamics of how this wrong teaching could lead to abuse enabling and blaming and shaming of victims.)

So I wrote a passionate refutation of the booklet. But I didn’t know what to do with that refutation. I didn’t have any place to publish it. I didn’t even have a blog yet. And when I did start my blog the following year, it was a devotional blog, and this passionate critique didn’t quite fit there.

Finally, in 2013, I realized I could post it as a book review on Amazon. (It is by far the book’s longest review.) In 2014 when I and some friends started the BJUGrace blog, I posted it there in 3 parts.

Since Here’s the Joy took a turn to speak out for the oppressed in 2016 or so, I’ve written to refute Jay Adams Nouthetic Counseling (often called “Biblical counseling”) many times. Many others are also speaking out about it, for which I’m very thankful. Mostly the conversation centers around the abysmal and utterly destructive counseling that is given to abuse victims and abusers about repentance, forgiveness, bitterness, etc, which certainly does merit much discussion.

But the Jay Adams presentation of sanctification merits discussion as well. It is also destructive in its way.

Here is my 2008 critique in its entirety (with only a few small edits), for anyone who wants to better understand what Jay Adams teaches about sanctification and why I believe his teachings are deeply detrimental to our Christian lives.

Because this critique is from 2008, it doesn’t mention abuse and trauma. Perhaps in the comments we can discuss how it applies to the current discussion.

Here is my review of Godliness Through Discipline. Continue reading “The Problems with Jay Adams’ Nouthetic Counseling Works-Sanctification Doctrine”

“(Don’t) Save the Body”: A Response to John MacArthur’s Head of Counseling

I enjoy irony when it’s in the context of literature.

When it’s in the context of a Bible teacher who seems to be completely oblivious about the contradictions of his statements, it makes me feel like I need to practice my breathing techniques.

Apparently, according to professor John Street, head of counseling at John MacArthur’s Masters College and Seminary, counselors who do not follow the Jay-Adams style of nouthetic counseling (now labelled “Biblical counseling”) want only to “save the body” of an abused wife. Here is the quote:

We don’t agree [with Minirth-Meier, the “integrationist” counselors] that the primary goal of the counselor in working in an abuse situation is to make personal escape and protection the essential object of their counsel.

Continue reading ““(Don’t) Save the Body”: A Response to John MacArthur’s Head of Counseling”

The Parable of Wavering and Confident

In working on my book Untwisting Scriptures #4, which addresses sin-leveling (treating all sins as equal) among other things, I came across a parable I had written for this book years ago. Ultimately I’ve decided not to use it in the book, but I would love to have your thoughtful input about it here. What answers would you give?

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Two men, Wavering and Confident, walked together up a road, the High Way to God, which was bounded on both sides by a fence. The fence was low and easy to step over, but the signs along the way very clearly proclaimed “No trespassing.” On the other side of the fences lay the life they had left, full of interesting-looking and sometimes beautiful fruit with the peculiar quality of making a person sick sooner or later. Continue reading “The Parable of Wavering and Confident”

Why “Metanoia” Is So Much Greater Than “Repentance”—And Why That’s Important

Long ago Martin Luther read the Latin translation of the Greek New Testament called the Vulgate. He saw that John that Baptist and Jesus called out to their hearers, “Do penance! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Really? he thought. Did they really call for their hearers to do acts of self-mortification, contrition, confession to a priest, and other acts involved in trying to achieve absolution for sin?

But Luther found that the meaning of the original Greek word metanoia didn’t involve doing any acts of piety. Rather, he found, it meant “change your mind.”

Unfortunately, at least in English versions, the Latin Vulgate has exerted far more influence than it should have. The original Greek word got translated “penitence” or “repentance,” which some would argue wasn’t as far off from “penance” as it needed to be.

What does the “change of mind” mean? And why would I agree with some great thinkers that repentance is not an acceptable translation?

And why do I believe this truth is vitally important for all of us? Continue reading “Why “Metanoia” Is So Much Greater Than “Repentance”—And Why That’s Important”

I Don’t Deserve God’s Love (or Maybe I Do?) A Thought for Advent

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I’m thinking about Him . . . and us.

What does it mean to be deserving/worthy?

This concept refers to things being equitable and appropriate and right. For example, when the Scripture says “A workman is worthy of his wages,” it means a person should be paid according to his work.

If you say, “I am worthy,” it’s important to answer the question, “Worthy of what?”

Continue reading “I Don’t Deserve God’s Love (or Maybe I Do?) A Thought for Advent”

Here’s How You Can Tell When You Should Listen to Your Feelings

Heads up: Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind: Book 3 Your Words, Your Emotions will be free on Kindle until November 9th, 2021. Download your copy here.

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Perhaps you’ve been taught that your feelings lie to you. That they will lead you astray, away from God and down Satan’s path, so you shouldn’t believe them.

That really never made sense to me (even in the days before I understood trauma), because feelings are just expressing feelings. They’re not making a statement of truth or falsehood.

You can say, “I feel like God doesn’t love me. That’s a lie, right?” Continue reading “Here’s How You Can Tell When You Should Listen to Your Feelings”

Let’s Compare Potiphar’s Wife with Tamar, Shall We?

Last week, when Paul Kingsbury (who I referenced in regard to “bitterness” in my first Untwisting Scriptures book) preached the sermon I’m critiquing today, I was busy putting the finishing touches on my third Untwisting Scriptures book and sending it out to the readers who will help me with my Book Launch when it comes out November 1st. Needless to say, I’m excited about this!

But now I’m able to turn my attention back to where it so often ends up going: Bad Sermons.

Paul Kingsbury is a former Chicago-area pastor who was the co-founder of Reformers Unanimous, the addiction recovery program that Josh Duggar attended a few years ago. Kingsbury has been named before and was recently named again in a news article about what appeared to be covering for someone who a missionary who had sexually assaulted a woman.

Continue reading “Let’s Compare Potiphar’s Wife with Tamar, Shall We?”

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “Turn the Other Cheek”?

Last week I took a writing retreat to work on my third Untwisting Scriptures book,  tentatively subtitled “Your Words, Your Emotions.” It will address  good stuff like gossip and slander, and anger and fear and shame. My hope is for it to be out before the end of 2021!

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One of the “Untwisting Scriptures” topics I’m known for tackling is the topic of giving up or yielding your rights. That’s the discussion in the first few chapters of the first Untwisting Scriptures book, and it was the topic the first time I was invited to speak at an abuse conference.

One of the apparently audacious assertions I make about rights—besides the assertion that it’s basically impossible for us to give up our rights—is that Jesus never gave up His rights. Continue reading “What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “Turn the Other Cheek”?”