Monday, October 10, 2011

Why Nouthetic Counseling is Unbiblical

This post has moved to my new blog and can be read at the following link:


Teemu Phillips said...


Great quote from Powlison:

Powlison described Adam's commitments like this:

“Jay Adams sought to fence psychology in to only one social role: a descriptive science studying human functioning. He similarly sought to fence psychiatry into a strictly medical role, as doctors to the ailments of the body. Neither profession had title to the functional troubles of the soul, which belonged to the pastor by divine right. Adam’s normative sociology – couched in terms of literal, God-ordained, ‘backyard’ turf – neatly reallocated professional responsibilities in a way that many conservative pastors found appealing.”...

Adams misused the Bible in three ways [according to his evangelical critics]: [1] He treated it as a comprehensive counseling textbook, when the Bible itself never claimed to be such; [2] he thus denied that the secular psychologies might contribute to counseling wisdom by God’s common grace; [3] he misused the Bible, by treating it as a collection of proof texts and quoting selectively. His wrong view of the Bible’s purposes led him to invalidate other sources of God’s truth and to use the Bible improperly."

…Adams had overstated the scope of the Bible’s authoritative guidance by portraying and using it as a ‘textbook’ for counseling. Such an approach was ‘erroneous…narrow and indefensible’ in one of the milder coments; according to the more biting criticisms, Adams had turned the Bible into a ‘celestial problem-solving manual,’ and ‘[It] reminds me that when people used [the Bible] as a textbook of geography, they concluded that the world was flat.’

Can you tell me where it is quoted from?

Unknown said...

It's quoted from The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context. Read more about it at

Tim and Heather Allchin said...

to be fair. . Powlison was not espousing these views of Adams or fully agreeing with them.

He was summarizing Adam's critics and Powlison certainly came down closer to Adams than to the viewpoint of his critics. Powlison is not proponent of Evangelical Psychotherapy, but he just maintains a more irenic tone than Adams.

Kevin D. Johnson said...

The problem here is not so much disagreeing with secular (an artificial and unhelpful distinction imho) psychology or psychotherapy as it is the amateurish way nouthetic counseling gets applied within the life of local churches by pastors and elders who are all too eager to apply such things to counseling situations and the implementation of discipline as a result. Never mind that most church elders have had very little training at all in counseling before they apply such in their congregation. Even pastors who have had seminary training have normally had very little training in counseling sufficient to provide expertise to families in our churches.

With nouthetic counseling, everything gets seen as a problem of sin in a believer's life or that of their family and then a problem to be rooted out often with excessive discipline instead of patience and grace. The consequences can often be dramatic and spiritual abuse can occur and sometimes quite unintentionally on the part of elders (cf. Vanvonderen's book) where ecclesial and family life can be micromanaged. There has to be a better way.

rpreformer said...

Did you read this book in preparation for writing your article?

Unknown said...

No, I didn't. Should I read it?

journey said...

It finally makes sense why the "help" I have received has only caused more pain and feelings of hopelessness.

Thank you for this article. Maybe it's ok to risk hope again.


Unknown said...

Hi Robin.
firstly I would like to say a big thank you for the hard work you have obviously put into this article, I found it extremely interesting, well done.

Whilst Nouthetic is a term penned by Jay Adams the act of Noutheteo is not.
It seems to me that your objections towards, 'Nouthetic' are really objections towards Jay Adams and his application of the use of Noutheteo practice. You do allude to this deep into your article but I think that you title, 'Why Nouthetic is unbiblical' is therefore somewhat misleading especially to those who do not read your article all the way through.
For me Nouthetic counselling is a perfectly biblical and legitimate ,'type' of counselling, which I would have loved to see you make more of a mention to that, that I adopt when counselling myself. However whilst I respect Jay Adams for his work I have difficulty in embracing his interpretation, or at least his failure to emphasise more readily the compassion that Noutheteo requires to be truly effective.
When people ask me if I am a Nouthetic counsellor I find myself having to defend my approach, which is not ADAMIEN, IF THERE IS SUCH A WORD, because articles such as this do not satisfactorily separate the biblical application of Noutheteo the Adams way to that of the Bible. I find this a little frustrating as it makes my work all the harder as counselees believe they are going to be treated to an emotional roller coaster and it's the counselees that we want to benefit.
I learned a great deal from your article and will encourage others to read it.

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