After six university degrees between us, with one being a doctorate in educational psychology, the two of us concluded that psychotherapy was a hoax being perpetrated on the American public. The doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Colorado qualified one of us for the Clinical Psychologist license in California, which was never applied for. Some years later the president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, Dr. Lawrence LeShan, said: “Psychotherapy may be known in the future as the greatest hoax of the twentieth century.”1 It may eventually be recognized as one of the greatest heresies of modern-day Christianity.
Biblical Counseling Movement
One of the key reasons we left the biblical counseling movement (BCM) years ago is its problem-centeredness, which often involves sinful talk about problems in a manner similar to those in the psychological counseling movement.2 In fact, biblical counseling as conducted today is nowhere found in Scripture. According to David Powlison, a leader in the BCM, biblical counseling as conducted in the BCM is newly arrived in the church.3
We reveal how the modern-day BCM came to be what it is by referring to Dr. Jay Adams, who developed the established biblical counseling format in his 1970 book, Competent to Counsel, and thereby founded the movement. Adams set forth his methodology of counseling in his book. Adams later wrote: “Over the past 12 years I have worked assiduously to produce a body of literature in a field that, prior to that time, virtually did not exist: the field of biblical counseling”4 (bold added). Since the day Adams birthed the BCM it has grown phenomenally. Fifty years ago there were no formalized biblical counseling programs and no formalized biblical counseling movement. Now there is a burgeoning biblical counseling movement with numerous and varied biblical counselors offering their services to Christians spread throughout much of the church — with its sinful problem-centered copycatting of the psychological counseling movement’s sinful problem-centeredness.
The Case of the “Hopeless” Marriage (hereafter, The Case) is authored by Dr. Jay E. Adams.7 The Case is the ne plus ultra of nouthetic counseling. It is a perfect example of the nouthetic counseling approach originated by Adams. Therefore, all who are trained to counsel nouthetically should desire to emulate this example, and all who train others in the nouthetic approach should hold up The Case as the epitome of what to copy.
The back cover of The Case describes the book as follows:
Here it is!
You’ve heard about Nouthetic Counseling, and wondered what it’s like. People have told you all sorts of things—were they correct? Now you have the opportunity to judge for yourself. What you couldn’t do before, you now can do—peek behind the closed door to see how a typical counseling case—from beginning to end—is conducted….
Written by Dr. Jay E. Adams (a pastor, counselor, and author of many books), this book is a practical illustration of God’s solutions to our problems.8 (Bold added).
The subtitle of The Case explains the contents: A Nouthetic Counseling Case from Beginning to End.
Our critique of The Case of the “Hopeless” Marriage: A Nouthetic Counseling Case from Beginning to End in our book Biblical Counseling Reviews9 demonstrates that nouthetic counseling is not truly biblical “at every point.” The Case has a biblical façade and some biblical content, but, with the amount of sinful, unscriptural conversations, it is not truly biblical “at every point” and is therefore seriously flawed.
In Biblical Counseling Reviews we clearly show that Adams’s ideal portrait of a counselor counseling a contrived couple to prove the success of nouthetic counseling fails to meet basic biblical standards of communication. The counselor does not protect the couple from violating Scripture and even encourages the kind of transparency that militates against biblical restraints. The counselee couple thoughtlessly and recklessly disobeys Scripture.
We conclude our review of The Case, which demonstrates the conversational standard that Adams set for the modern-day biblical counseling movement, by saying:
Love should be the goal of all personal ministry: loving God and one another. Those who minister to couples need to protect them from the sin-saturated counseling conversations as revealed in The Case! which are tremendously unloving and unkind. With all the sinful speaking enabled in The Case, it is apparent that The Case of the “Hopeless” Marriage is actually a case of hopeless counseling.10
“Hidden in Plain Sight”
We all know the expression “hidden in plain sight.” The idiomatic definition is “seemingly hidden, but actually not hidden and easy to find.” In our recent book, Biblical Counseling Reviews (BCR), we discuss the sin-saturated, “in plain sight” nature of biblical counseling, which applies even more so to psychological counseling. Over the years we have named and exposed the sin-saturated counseling of both psychological and biblical counselors.
As we have said many times: The best way to recognize the unbiblical nature of psychological and biblical counseling is to read or hear and evaluate available literal, live (not simply playacted) counseling by using biblical standards. There one can see and hear how the counseling problems are discussed and what sinful conversations are actually involved.
In our writings over the years we have taken all the literal live counseling sessions of the leaders of the BCM that we could find and examined every word, every sentence, every expression, every emotion in the light of Scripture. We conclude that their counseling is contrary to the admonitions, prohibitions, and restrictions of the Word of God and is therefore sinful.
To Christians who support, promote, or practice either psychological or biblical counseling, we continue to offer the following challenge: “Provide one live, literal (not enacted) psychological or biblical counseling session that does not violate Scripture.” To date no one has been able to provide one for us!
PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, March-April 2019, Vol. 27, No.2)
1 Lawrence LeShan, Association for Humanistic Psychology, October, 1984, p. 4.
2 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Person to Person Ministry: Soul Care in the Body of Christ. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers , 2009; Stop Counseling! Start Ministering! Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 2011.
3 David Powlison, “Cure of Souls (and the Modern Psychotherapies),” www.ccef.org/cure-souls-and-modern-psychotherapies.
4 Jay E. Adams. Update on Christian Counseling, Vol. 1 and 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977, 1979, 1981, Introduction to Vol. 2
5 Jay E. Adams. Competent to Counsel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970, p. xv.
6 “Counseling,” google.com.
7 Jay E. Adams. The Case of the “Hopeless” Marriage: A Nouthetic Counseling Case from Beginning to End. Stanley, NC: Timeless Texts, 2006.
8 Adams. The Case of the “Hopeless” Marriage, op. cit., back cover.
9 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Biblical Counseling Reviews. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers , 2018.
10 Ibid., p. 64.