In both the July 21 and August 4, 1995 issues of the Christian Observer Kevin Backus reviews our book Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible. Because of our busy schedule and lack of staff, we generally do not respond to criticisms about our work. However, Dr. Ralph Colas, Executive Secretary of the American Council of Christian Churches, requested that we respond. Therefore, in this issue of the PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter we respond to Backus’s July 21 review, and in a future issue we will respond to Backus’s August 4 review.
In his July 21 review, Backus asserts that there is a “qualitative difference between this current work [Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible] and others in their past.” To what “qualitative difference” is Backus referring? He tells us: “In criticizing the Biblical Counseling movement their customary research is not apparent.” And, how does Backus support his contention? He does this by indicating that in one of our books we present numerous footnotes related to our criticisms of Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier. He announces that, in contrast to those 904 footnotes in that earlier book, our current book “contains only 148 footnotes.”
Backus’s argument from number of footnotes is specious. The intelligent reader will not buy it because it would condemn the very people Backus is trying to defend. For example, two Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation staff members, David Powlison and Ed Welch, have each written a chapter in a book titled Power Religion. Powlison’s Chapter 8 has 32 footnotes, whereas Welch’s Chapter 9 has only 16. According to the “Backus Footnote Standard” (BFS), Powlison’s chapter (to use Backus’s term) would be qualitatively superior to Welch’s. Or, to use a further example, Powlison has a chapter in another book titled Introduction to Biblical Counseling. That chapter has 30 footnotes. Therefore, according to the BFS, Powlison’s two chapters are qualitatively about the same and are both superior to Welch’s. One last example, using the BFS. Our earlier book to which Backus refers has 904 footnotes, but Jay Adams’ book Competent to Counsel has less than 300 footnotes. The “Backus Footnote Standard” to determine the “qualitative difference” in writing would make our book three times better. Sound ridiculous? Yes, but that is the very type of standard Backus has concocted to devalue the arguments, conclusions, and Scriptural evidence presented in Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible.
One advantage of using the BFS method of evaluating a book, however, is that one does not have to read through the entire book, follow the logic, consider the serious nature of the concerns, or discuss the issues. One simply has to count footnotes. That shouldn’t take long, especially if one can add rapidly.
Another problem with the BFS is—to reverse an old adage—to make Backus so earthly minded that he is of no heavenly good. Let us explain. While Backus occupied himself with counting footnotes, he missed all the Bible references in the book. Has Backus so little regard for Scripture that he disregarded our arguments from Scripture? If we had footnoted our Bible references he would have reached a far greater total for his BFS. Either Backus has more confidence in footnotes than in the Bible or he overlooked the references to God’s Word. Is Backus so footnote-minded that he is of no Scriptural good?
Backus goes on to accuse us falsely by saying that “the documentation Against . . . does present is often flawed by faulty assumptions” (ellipsis in original). While he says, “is often flawed,” he gives only one example. He says:
One example relates to John Bettler. Martin refers to Bettler’s relationship to the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology [NASAP] and to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy [AAMFT]. He says, “We question the wisdom of anyone who is committed to Biblical Counseling, instead of psychological counseling being interested in belonging to those two organizations, meeting their requirements for membership or even attending their conferences?” Still, he leaves one with the impression that Bettler approves of their teaching. This is different from agreeing with it.
When Backus says that we leave “one with the impression that Bettler approves of their [NASAP and AAMFT] teaching,” he is making a false accusation. We say it very clearly. Read again what Backus just quoted from us: “We question the wisdom of anyone who is committed to Biblical Counseling, instead of psychological counseling, being interested in belonging to those two organizations, meeting their requirements for membership or even attending their conferences” (p. 105). We definitely question Bettler’s wisdom in belonging to those two organizations as well as “meeting their requirements for membership or even attending their conferences.” But we have never accused Bettler of being in total agreement with them.
Think about it. Both NASAP and AAMFT are quintessential psychological associations promoting psychological theories and therapies to the hilt! NASAP is known as “the home of the Adlerians.” Also, NASAP is interested in “fulfilling human potential.” Their goal is “to promote the growth and understanding of Adlerian psychology.”
AAMFT requirements for clinical membership are extensive and cover four pages in their brochure. Why did Bettler fulfill the four pages of requirements for the clinical rather than associate membership? And, why oh why, has Bettler proudly listed his memberships in these two organizations in the CCEF catalog over the years? These are the kinds of questions Backus avoids confronting.
Backus reveals in this criticism that, instead of reading our entire book and then reviewing it, he evidently had read only parts of it. On the other hand, Backus demonstrated in his booklet titled More “Tossed Salad”: A Critique of Dr. Larry Crabb’s Model of Counseling or Adler Revisited: Another “Need” Based Therapy that he had read and somewhat understood our critique of Crabb in Prophets of PsychoHeresy I, as well as Jim Owen’s critique titled “Inside and Back Out with Dr. Larry Crabb.”
Either Backus did not read or did not comprehend Chapter Six of Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible, regarding the extent of Bettler’s clear use of Adlerian ideas. Check Chapter Six with any Adlerian therapist and see whether or not Bettler is—to use his word—recycling (integrating) Adlerian theory with the Bible. Anyone who has studied Adler will tell you he has. And, our documentation proves it! Our greatest disappointment with Backus’s review is that he apparently neglected to read the entire book or else simply ignored its contents.