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”

How Pedophiles Are Forgiven, From the Teachings of Jay Adams

This is Part 2 in my “Competent to Examine Jay Adams and His Teachings” series. Part 1, about counseling a pedophile, can be found here.

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Many years ago when I was a very young and very naïve teacher at a Christian high school, I caught a student blatantly cheating on a test. I talked to her about it and told her I would have to give her a zero. Wendy’s eyes filled with tears, her face contorted, and she said, “Miss Henry, I need to get saved!” Continue reading “How Pedophiles Are Forgiven, From the Teachings of Jay Adams”

How Jay Adams Would Counsel a Pedophile

Part 1 in the Series: Competent to Examine Jay Adams and His Nouthetic Counseling

I have posted about “nouthetic counseling” (later rebranded to be called “Biblical counseling”) more than any other tagged topic on this blog.

But this series will examine Jay Adams’ writings themselves, drawing from the work of Valerie Jacobsen on her Facebook page, with her permission.

Because all Christians have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit and life experience and access to the findings of brain science, so all of us can be competent to examine Jay Adams’ teachings. Continue reading “How Jay Adams Would Counsel a Pedophile”

No “Digging Up the Past” Allowed: A Response to Nouthetic (“Biblical”) Counseling

Sometimes I talk with people who want healing and help from the Lord but are hesitant to “dig up the past” or who have counselors who don’t want them to “dig up the past.” For a while now, maybe over a year, I’ve been mulling over that pejorative expression.

“Digging up the past” to me conjures a picture of going to a graveyard to dig up the bones or even the rotting corpse of something that needed to be left underground to decompose the way it’s supposed to. A perverted and possibly very harmful activity. Continue reading “No “Digging Up the Past” Allowed: A Response to Nouthetic (“Biblical”) Counseling”

Cleanse Your Guilty Conscience, Get Grace, and Other Solutions to the Noisy Soul: A Response to Jim Berg (Part 3)

Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

In Quieting a Noisy Soul, author Jim Berg declares that the cause of the noisy soul is your sin: your unbelief, your discontent, and your guilty conscience (and as it turns out, your pride and your stubbornness). Throughout his nouthetic counseling teachings (nowadays called “Biblical counseling”), he assumes that the situation or person the counselee would have thought was causing the noisy soul is not a legitimate concern, but is instead simply the catalyst for sin in the heart, “a lust for more.” Continue reading “Cleanse Your Guilty Conscience, Get Grace, and Other Solutions to the Noisy Soul: A Response to Jim Berg (Part 3)”

The Solutions to the Noisy Soul: A Response to Jim Berg (Part 2)

Jim Berg claims that this nouthetic counseling program Quieting a Noisy Soul presents the solutions to anxiety, despair, obsessive compulsive behavior, panic attacks, anorexia, bulimia, and other problems.

Part 1 of this series covered the Problem (the noisy soul) and the Cause of the problem according to Jim Berg’s nouthetic counseling: your sin, specifically, your unbelief and your guilty conscience. “Noisy souls,” says Berg, “are self-absorbed souls.”  Continue reading “The Solutions to the Noisy Soul: A Response to Jim Berg (Part 2)”