A Biblical Perspective to Counseling
Note from Randy: Jay Adams is the author of Competent to Counsel and many other biblically-oriented works on Christian counseling. Over the years his writings have been a source of controversy because he has held to the belief that Christian counseling should be solidly based on the Scriptures, and that modern psychology has no authoritative basis on which to guide people. I heard C. J. Mahaney refer to this brief “acceptance speech,” which was Dr. Adam’s response to being awarded a plaque for pioneering in Christian counseling on November 10, 1988 in Atlanta, Georgia. It merits being reprinted, I think, because it brings a biblical perspective to counseling, which has become largely dominated by secular and ungodly perspectives.
Addressing this body strikes me as an anomaly, nearly as extraordinary as the time many years ago in Korea (which was yet a backward nation) the famous dog story writer, Jack London, was told that an entire city had gathered to see him. As he viewed the vast crowd from the top of a platform erected especially for him, he couldn’t help congratulating himself that his fame had reached so many in this far-off region. But when he opened his mouth to speak, the official in charge stopped him, saying, “Please, Sir, remove your teeth.” Somewhat taken back by the request, he nevertheless did so. The crowd applauded. Then, amidst continuous applause, for the next half hour he stood there removing and replacing his artificial teeth.
I want you to know that tonight I’m not so foolish as to congratulate myself over this appearance. As the coordinator rightly indicated when he invited me, I have been a source of irritation to many of you. I know also that I can’t consider myself one of you, except as we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, I came not knowing why you asked me. I do know, however, as London’s experience so vividly shows, there can be any number of curious reasons for inviting someone to participate in such a gathering.
Why, it even occurred to me that you might have brought me here to induce me to remove my teeth! Of course, that’s not so easy to do; you see, only false teeth can be removed. On the other hand, my presence here may only prove what I’ve been saying all along: most Christian counselors are eclectic, so eclectic, indeed, that I could be included tonight.
So, since I can’t occupy the remainder of the five minutes allotted to me as London did, I want to take advantage of this occasion to do two things: give you an explanation and extend you an initiation.
First, the explanation. Contrary to what you may think, I have not spent the last fifteen to twenty years trying to refute (or even irritate) so-called Christian professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists) like yourselves. Had I intended to do so, I assure you I would have done a better job of it! No, I have not had you in mind. My efforts solely have been to help pastors who, according to 2 Timothy 3:17, are God’s professionals. That’s why the approaches and arguments in my writings are not tailored to you. Rather, I designed them to expose to pastors the futility and dangers of attempting to integrate pagan thought and biblical truth.
Moreover, while these negative measures are necessary to alert and inform pastors, my work is fundamentally positive. I am more at home with the construction gang than with the wrecking crew. Even a superficial survey of my books reveals that my greatest efforts are positive. In them I endeavor not only to provide concrete help in specific areas but also to set forth a biblically-based system of theory and practice in a usable form that may be communicated easily to any pastor out there on the front line.
Finally, whenever I mention names of those who publicly propagate views I believe detrimental to pastoral counseling and the welfare of Christ’s church, I want you to know that it’s their opinions I am assailing, not their persons. Anyone who puts forth ideas in order to influence the church (including me) should be ready to stand the criticism of the church. The important thing for you to recognize is that there is nothing personal in my critique.
So much for the explanation; now, the invitation. With all that is within me, I urge you to give up the fruitless task to which I alluded: the attempt to integrate pagan thought and biblical truth. In his latest book, Gary Collins admits, “It’s too early to answer decisively if psychology and Christianity can be integrated.” Too early? Think of the millions of hours, the more than one generation of lives, already spent on this hopeless task! Why are there no results? I’ll tell you why: because it just can’t be done.
Remember God’s words: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8)? What does God tell us to do to resolve this radical antithesis? Integrate? No! In that passage He commands us to forsake our thoughts and our ways and turn to His Word, which He promises will not return void.
Counseling has to do with changing people. But, you see, that’s God’s business. There are only two ways to change people: God’s way and all others.
You simply can’t build a Christian counseling system on a pagan base; nor can you incorporate pagan teachings and methods into Christian counseling. Pagan thoughts and ways are at odds with God’s. God proposes to produce fruit (love, joy, peace, self-control, etc.) by means of His Spirit through His Word. Then others come along and claim they can produce love, joy, peace apart from the Spirit and the Word. The two proposals and the methods that go with them are essentially competitive. That’s why they can’t be integrated. If the Old Testament teaches anything, it’s this: God doesn’t bless His competition. That’s why integration won’t work.
I invite you to abandon this useless endeavor. Instead, come, join the growing number of those who are discovering that the way to construct a truly Christian counseling system is to begin with biblical blueprints, use biblical brick and mortar and find Christian workmen to construct it from the ground up. Steer clear of the ‘me too’ approaches of those Christians who emulate the world. Rather get out in the front pack, showing that world what God by biblical counseling can do!
At the conclusion of one of Sam Jones’ evangelistic messages an irate woman said to him, “I’ll never listen to you again. You’ve insulted me. You stroked the fur the wrong way!” “No,” Jones replied, “I stroked the fur the right way; the cat was facing the wrong direction.” Tonight I, too, have been stroking fur.