With the recent passing of Dr. Jay Adams this past November 14, 2020, it seems appropriate to revisit a post from some years back, here on This Day.
Competent to Counsel
by Rev. David T. Myers
You wouldn’t think that it was so, but many theological seminaries in the past which had at their calling that of training Christian workers in the church, placed little or no emphasis on pastoral counseling. As a result, so often ministers of the gospel went out into the church world with this gaping hole in their preparation. This was the case with Jay E. Adams. He had the experience of having a man approach him one Sunday in obvious distress. Adams, by his own admission, was unable to help him. When the individual died a month later, the young minister resolved in prayer to become a better counselor. A lot of pastors can empathize with Jay Adams in this case.
Jay Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 30, 1929. About fifteen years later, he was born again when a friend gave him a copy of the New Testament. After an undergraduate degree from John Hopkins University, he earned degrees from Reformed Episcopal Seminary and Temple University. A doctorate degree from the University of Missouri in Speech, not counseling, as many mistakenly think, was earned later. Adding to these educational degrees was practical experience in two congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was at his first congregation that the illustration of the distressed man, who had been told that he had a short time to live, occurred on that Sunday.
All attempts from books and course studies to find some help in counseling, failed for the young minister. The reason was simply in that they all originated in non-biblical approaches to the topic. In fact, Adams began to effectively apply the Word of God to specific situations in the congregation. That procedure began to bear fruits in people’s lives.
A turning point came in 1965 when Adams partnered with O. Hobard Mower. Though not a believer, this person differed from all modern day psychologists by emphasizing the need to confess deviant behavior and assume responsibility for one’s actions. In other words, the need to acknowledge their own failures to meet the problems of life was the issue. Now Jay Adams, as a Christian, recognized that God wasn’t in the picture in this approach of Mower. But even with that caveat, Adams watched as the majority of patients in two mental institutions were emptied by the team of counselors.
What Jay Adams did was to take the the secular methodology and put it through the sieve of biblical revelation, elevating the whole approach toward Christian counseling. All of this was encapsulated in the best selling book, “Competent to Counsel” in 1970. Readers were reminded of the Bible verse “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14 NASV) And the modern Biblical counseling movement, of which Jay Adams is the “father,” was on its way.
Words to Live By: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3 NASV)
For further reading:
The earliest published work by Rev. Jay E. Adams that we could locate was titled “Does God Disown His Children?,” a brief exploration of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which appeared in the May 1955 issue of The National Missions Reporter (vol. 8, no. 4, p. 13-14). His first major publication was Realized Millennialism, a self-published work issued from St. Louis, 87 pages in length. This was essentially a defense of the amillennial position, though it caused some controversy, as some saw it as an attack upon the premillennial position. But Dr. Adams real mark upon the world came with the 1970 publication Competent to Counsel, and it is safe to say that most know him today for his work in the field of Christian counseling, specifically for the approach which he has termed nouthetic counseling. Dr. Adams presently heads up the Institute for Nouthetic Counseling, and his ministerial credentials have been with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church since December 5, 1989.
Also on this date:
January 30, 1912 marks the birthdate of Francis A. Schaeffer. [thus making this year the 100th anniversary of his birth.]