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             18 January, 2022

Category:  Articles » Religion & Faith


A Book Review & Critique Of Jay Adams' Book Competent To Counsel

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2006-10-04 03:09:27     
Article by Johnny Kicklighter

It wasn't until the early 1970's when I was introduced to Jay Adams that I begin to see a great distinction between generic counseling and genuine biblical counseling. I was 21 years old at the time when the pastor of our new formed church bought and read Adam's book "Competent to Counsel." My pastor raved on the significance of the book and proceeded to indoctrinate our small flock with its contents. I didn't fully understand his zeal at the time, and it wasn't until I was older that I came to appreciate his feelings.

Our pastor served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force who was coming to the end of his career. Most of our congregation was young military Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). The day came when I was eventually transferred and left that church. As I progressed in my military career, it was expected that NCOs would be counselors to their subordinates. Our profession military education devoted entire chapters and lectures on non-directive or eclectic counseling techniques. Maslow's hierarchy of needs was drilled into our heads. We were warned to avoid any mention of religion, but instead to make plentiful use of psychological techniques. As I continued my military education it finally occurred to me why my old pastor was so jubilant over Adams' nouthetic approach. He had been inundated his entire career with same stuff I was now getting, i.e., worldly psychology. When "Competent to Counsel" hit the book shelves, it offered my pastor a refreshing and innovative biblical approach that replaced the unscriptural psychology. "Competent to Counsel" was a defining moment not only in psychology, but also in Christian ministry. Adams' pioneering work earned him the unofficial title of "the father of biblical counseling."

Jay Adams begins his book by detailing his experiences as a young minister trying to counsel members of his congregation. He speaks of his utter frustration and the lack of biblical material to assist him. Alas, there wasn't any. Everything he had been taught was from a secular perspective leaving him completely unprepared for what lay before him. Hence, he began the journey to develop a better way to deal with "mental illness." Adams provides a brief history of psychiatry and quickly shows how it is bankrupt, not only biblically but effectually. He explores the various theories and discusses the results of following the teachings of Sigmund Freud. Adams attempts to demonstrate that the "mentally ill" are not ill at all, but simply sinners trying to run or hide from their sins. He introduces the Holy Spirit as the effectual change agent in a Christian's life, and focuses on three factors: The Holy Spirit is sovereign, the Holy Spirit works through means, and those means are the Word of God. This forms the foundation of Adams' argument that Christians are "competent to counsel."

Adams introduces us to the two Greek words that form the apex of biblical counseling: nouthesis and noutheteo. He explains how these words used in the New Testament give us the authority to confront believers with their problems and sin. Thus he terms it "nouthetic counseling" consisting of three elements: 1. It implies there is a problem. 2. Problems are solved by verbal means. 3. Change the problem that is hurting the counselee. Adams continues to highlight the key concepts of nouthetic counseling by explaining the role of the pastor in counseling and contrasts nouthetic confrontation with Rogerian counseling.

After laying a foundation and defining nouthetic counseling, Adams provides the reader with practical application, i.e., techniques and a methodology. He expounds on James 5:14, "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" This verses allows Adams to explore the thorny issue of, is sin the cause of sickness. He details man's basic problem, how man covers up his sin, and how the counselor has to be both extensive and intensive with his or her questioning. Adams affords the counselor with some principles such as leading the client to self-discipline, how to record a client's progress, and using the option of team counseling.

Adams devotes a large chapter on the topic of communication. Here he emphasizes that "the basis for the restoration of communication is reconciliation with God." Actually, reconciliation with God through Christ is an absolute necessity prior to the resolution of any and all problems. He acquaints us the idea of using the conference table as a tool to ensure families use biblical communication in conflict resolution. Adams uses the final chapter of his book to show how Christian school teachers can act as nouthetic counselors and how God uses the school teacher to develop structure and discipline in students' lives.

Finally, Adams closes his book by exhorting ministers, Christian workers, and every Christian, that they are all competent to counsel. Some Christians are more competent than others but with discipline and study, more can be. To assist the counselor Adams includes a personal data inventory example for counselors to use and gather preliminary data on their client.

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