HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Competent to Counsel: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling
Author: Jay E. Adams
Publisher: Zondervan, republished in 1986
ISBN-13: 978-0310511403 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0310511402 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9780801000478 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0801000475 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Adams, Jay E. Competent to Counsel: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling (originally published in 1970 by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, NJ; republished in 1986 by Ministry Resources Library, an imprint of Zondervan Publishing House, 1415 Lake Dr. S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49506). Competent to Counsel has been called “A classic in the field of Christian counseling.” It is intended to help ministers, students, “Christian” counselors, and all Bible believers in developing both a general approach to “Christian” counseling and a specific response to particular problems. Author Jay E. Adams, who has a PhD from the University of Missouri, is a former director of advanced studies and professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, CA, as well as a retired minister. Dr. Adams points out in his introduction, “I have been engrossed in the project of developing biblical counseling and have uncovered what I consider to be a number of important scriptural principles. . . . There have been dramatic results. . . . Not only have people’s immediate problems been resolved, but there have also been solutions to all sorts of long-term problems as well.”
Nouthetic counseling is defined in Wikipedia as “a form of pastoral counseling that holds that counseling should be based solely upon the Bible and focused upon sin. It repudiates mainstream psychology and psychiatry as humanistic, radically secular and fundamentally opposed to Christianity. Its viewpoint was originally articulated by Jay E. Adams, in Competent to Counsel (1970) and further books, and has led to the formation of a number of organizations and seminary courses promoting it. The viewpoint is opposed to those seeking to synthesize Christianity with secular psychological thought….. Since 1993, the movement has renamed itself Biblical counseling to emphasize its central emphasis on the Bible. The Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling states that “The aim of Nouthetic Counseling is to effect change in the counselee by encouraging greater conformity to the principles of Scripture.”
I am not a “counselor” in any kind of professional or official sense, but preachers are often called on to give “advice” to people who are experiencing personal emotional problems or difficulties in their relationships with other. While recognizing that there are times when people really do need professional help, I have my own reasons, based on personal experiences, to be skeptical of the secular mental health industry in general. Back around 1992, a gospel preacher friend of mine recommended this book as an alternative. As I recall from my reading of it then, there may be some theological presuppositions, such as total hereditary depravity, with which some believers may disagree. But my friend said that what he came away with from the book was that in most (though certainly not all) instances when people are having personal or relationship problems, the issue of sin often needs to be dealt with before a true solution can be achieved. Many people, especially humanist-saturated counselors and even some who call themselves “Christians,” violently disagree with the approach of this book. However, Bible believing couples who may be having difficulties in their marriage or families experiencing trials with rebellious children might find some useful information in it.