You Can Probably Guess What the Founder of “Biblical Counseling” Said About Domestic Violence

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Jay E. Adams is the founder of the “nouthetic counseling” movement, or what has become known as “biblical counseling” (though it is unworthy of being called either “biblical” or “counseling” in my opinion). Popularized by Adams’ seminal book Competent to Counsel, nouthetic counseling is based on the assumption that counseling should be based solely upon the Bible. This movement rejects mainstream psychology and therapeutic methods as secular and atheistic and thus ungodly.

The movement also assumes that pastors and other spiritual leaders — untrained in the actual practice and science of mental health — can adequately address mental illness because mental illness in this perspective is basically another word for sin. Adams’ method is currently championed by eminent evangelical Christians such as John MacArthur, who claims “behavioral sciences…are not scientific,” psychology is an “occult religion,” and Jesus and the Bible should be “the church’s only solution” to mental illness. This is the same method and mentality that respected (and formerly respected) leaders in the Christian Homeschool Movement — most notably Voddie Baucham, Reb Bradley, Doug Phillips, and Bill Gothard — have promoted for years. They have taught thousands of families at homeschool and other religious conventions around the country — and through their books and other educational materials — that mental “illness” is fake. It’s all just “sin” and “rebellion” and can be resolved through a “right” relationship with God.

An example of Adams chalking up mental illness to sin comes from his book Helps for Counselors: A Mini-Manual for Christian Counseling, published by Baker Book House in 1980. On page 29, under his section explaining how a counselor should deal with a client’s depression, Adams says, “The counsel must recognize his responsibility for depression” (emphasis added). A client has spiritual guilt for his or her own depression because, in Adams’ worldview, “Depression results from handling a down period sinfully.” Thus “counselees may spiral up out of depression by asking God’s forgiveness” and “can stay out depression by following God’s commands” and “repenting of any sin immediately.”

If you think Adams handles depression poorly, just wait until you see how he handles domestic violence.

The following passage is also from Adams’ Helps for Counselors, pages 19-20. In these pages Adams is addressing the importance of “Listening.” He writes,

III. Listen for all of the facts (Prov. 18:17).

A. There are two or more sides to many issues:

1. This implies that all parties should be present if possible,

2. That each should hear what the other says in order to explain, modify, amplify, etc. (note “examine”),

3. And it is clear that one must not be allowed to speak negatively about another behind his back (see also James 4:11).

B. The first to speak can sound quite convincing if heard alone,

1. But the additional information that the other provides can turn the conclusion about face.

2. As, for instance, when one counselee said,

“He hit me! He slapped me in the face!”

And her husband replied:

“Sure, to bring her to her senses.”

“To bring her to her senses.” Apparently that makes it okay!

Other posts on HA about domestic violence:

Note: if you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or visit their website here. There is help available and you are worth it.