A critique of Jay E. Adams' theology from a pneumatological viewpoint within Calvinistic theology.
Jay E Adams, who is Dean of the institute of Pastoral Studies and Director of Advanced Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, has developed what he regards to be a distinctly biblical model of counselling. He calls his method nouthetic counselling. This term is derived from the Greek verb noutheteo, to admonish and the related noun, nouthesia, admonition. Adams has developed his counselling model against a background of a move to return the task of counselling and care to the church. Although it was traditionally accepted that the task of helping people with their personal problems, and particularly behaviour change, was the ministry of the church, through the increasing influence of the psychological sciences, this role was steadily usurped. Instead of turning to the church with their personal problems, people began to look even more to secular psychologists for assistance. In response to this, there was an attempt, from the late nineteen twenties, to integrate the findings of the psychological sciences with theology. These first attempts came from the more theologically liberal sectors of the church. Evangelicals, initially viewed this move with scepticism. However, over the past twenty to twenty-five years, there has been a substantial move towards an interfacing of theology and psychology among evangelicals. One evangelical who has been an opponent of any sort of integration has been Jay Adams. He is vehemently opposed to integrating psychology and theology. Adams rejects the findings of the psychological sciences. What sets nouthetic counselling apart is Adams' insistence that counselling is the distinct domain of Christians. On this basis he insists that counselling be the work of ordained pastors and not the work of psychologists and psychiatrists. Adams maintains that his theory of counselling is biblical. However, in this dissertation we attempt to show that nouthetic counselling is inadequate in two important respects. In the first place, it is maintained that Adams has an unbiblical understanding of human nature. We will show that Adams has ignored the inner, the deeper aspects of human nature, and in particular the serious effects of sin on the will of man. Because Adams has not understood human nature and human pathology, we believe the solution he proposes is inadequate in that he concentrates on outward behaviour. He assumes that outward behaviour change leads to deeper, inward change. In the second place, it will be argued that Adams has a limited understanding of the Holy Spirit's role in the process of behaviour change. Central to nouthetic counselling, is the place Adams claims to give to the Holy Spirit. He insists that the Holy Spirit is the counsellor, par excellence. He is adamant that nouthetic counselling focuses on radical behaviour change and that is what the Holy Spirit is concerned with. Adams equates nouthetic counselling with the application of the process of sanctification. It is Adams' understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in counselling and behaviour change that is the main focus of this dissertation. In this connection we examine and evaluate Adams' theory of counselling from a pneumatological viewpoint within the context of Calvinistic theology. Nouthetic counselling is analysed with reference to Adams' understanding of the place of the Holy Spirit in the process of behaviour change. We have attempted to prove that Adams is inadequate because his counselling lacks a pneumatological dimension. What we mean is that Adams has a very limited understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. Adams insists that the holy Spirit play the central role in the process of behaviour change. However, from a practical point of view, it is the Bible that has the central place. Adams believes that the Holy Spirit works through the Bible to bring a person to faith and to change that person. For Adams, then, the Bible is absolutely crucial. The Holy Spirit is mediated to the individual through the Bible. In other words, Adams places the Bible between the individual and the Holy Spirit. We will show that Adams imprisons the holy spirit in the Bible. He ignores the direct working of the Holy Spirit in the individual and the important part played by other means of grace in the process of change. We have attempted to show that as a result, Adams' counselling is individualistic and problem centred. What Adams needs is a corrective. This corrective is to understand that the Holy Spirit is not limited to the Bible. Although it is accepted that the Holy Spirit works through the Bible, an important means of grace to cause change is the community of believers. It is as people are brought by the Holy Spirit into community they experience radical change. This change comes through the mutual ministry of caring and love in that community. We believe this is the dimension that is missing not only from nouthetic counselling, but, largely, from most other models of counselling. It is argued that a truly biblical model of counselling takes seriously the place of the community of believers in the process of behaviour change. We have built on insights of Reformed theologians like Hendrikus Berkhof and George Hendry to develop a pneumatological corrective looking at the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the church, the individual and the kingdom. This is a corrective that we believe Adams needs to be truly biblical.