It Would Be Amusing . . .

. . . If it weren’t so shockingly sad!

These days a spate of books and/or articles declaring that we are in the second generation of biblical (nouthetic) counseling has been appearing. These, typically, declare that we have moved on from earlier concepts and approaches and now have opted for more kindly and thoughtful views. What would be amusing, if it were not so sad, is that those who are labeled with “first generation” thinking have, themselves, moved beyond their earlier works while their critics have not.

The “sad” part about this is that they so severely misrepresent the situation for people who are just now awakening to the existence of a biblical counseling movement.

Take one example. There is in more than one place a decrying of the supposed “fact “ that no notice is taken of the idea that truth may be received from other sources than the Bible. Yet, some time ago, for instance, I wrote a book entitled Is All Truth God’s Truth? based on Gaebelein’s famous statement. This is but one instance of failure to use all the sources available.

This sad sort of scholarship that avoids sources and then complains about the lack of attention given to subjects that have definitely been covered is typical. Complaints about lack of concern about suffering, for instance, neglect to refer to the series of pamphlets I wrote that are widely used by funeral parlors to help people in all sorts of grief situations, a homiletical commentary I wrote on 1 Peter to help pastors preach on the subject of suffering, my little book How to Handle Trouble which shows from the book of Philippians how to deal with problems that are not of the counselee’s own making, and many others. There is a book on the importance of faith in counseling—never referred to by those who like stress its importance. And so it goes!

These are but some of the areas in which “scholarship” has been seriously lacking. I am not saying that all of these writings (and many more not mentioned) are the best materials that could be made available, but simply that they exist!

So, be warned when you are told that a second generation has set forth more advance teachings that modifies previous ones that were neglected before. The neglect is on the other side! The fact is, some of those criticized who were of the first generation are also of the second and have continued to think and write about counseling. They lived too long, I guess! Others, failing to recognize this phenomenon, have too often neglected these writings and confined their comments to a very few earlier books.

Truly, this is sad! Don’t buy into it. Unless you have read the many more recent materials available you will not have the whole picture!

There is a Reason Why

Everywhere there is a growing consensus that Christianity in America is on the wane. Is that a true picture of things?

The answer, of course, is that no one knows.

The reason I say this is because of how the data are gathered–and then reported. Increasingly, all who profess to be Christians, are lumped together. Even some cultists—let alone weird and liberal groups who pretend to be Christians—are labeled and then counted as such. If these are diminishing, then supposedly true Christianity is too. Even if it isn’t.

But if they are not—and there is little reason to believe that they are—then are true Christian churches on the way down.?

The fact is , although the groups counted as Christian, groups which are of all colors and stripes, that sort of grouping has been true to some extent for quite some time—at least for a century, so that faulty criteria for determining who is a believer can’t really be the reason for this seeming situation.

What is, then? Nothing. As I said, we have no idea how many genuine Christians there are in America. For that matter, you can’t even be sure about the Christianity of all of those in your solid, Bible-believing church! Only God really knows.

Then why even discuss the matter?

Good question. Because we ought not even be trying to count (how about it Barna!). There is no way you can get a DNA sample of a person, put it into a test tube together with the right substance, shake it four times. and have it turn out true BLUE (if the person being examined is genuine).

Besides, were we able to count, it wouldn’t really matter. Jesus Christ is conducting the course of His church throughout history, and we don’t know what He is planning for the future. There could be another dark age ahead. If so, Christians are the light of the world—i.e., people with lives designed to shine so as to lead the way. If it means He will bring about glorious revival, then we can all sing His praises with greater intensity since there will be more of us to do so!

So, there is a reason why it doesn’t really matter whether we can know if the church ls growing or not, even though it is our task to attempt by evangelization to help increase its numbers. That is what we should concentrate on.


Thump the Tub!

It’s time for some to begin to thump the tub!

“What on earth are you talking about?”

Well, in the 17th Century the pulpit of nonconformist preachers was called a “tub.” And, so, preachers were designated “tub thumpers!” The problem is that we don’t have enough tub thumpers today.

“Oh . . . but why do you want them to “pound the pulpit” as the expression seems to be today?”

There is too little preaching with conviction. So many preachers have lost all the authority of the office. No wonder people see no urgency in doing what God says. I know there are some who overdo the matter of hitting the pulpit with their fists. I’m not talking about that. What I have in mind is more preachers who will unequivocally state biblical truth with all of the authority of the Scriptures themselves.

“I see. But what do they do instead?”

All sorts of other things.

“Such as?”

Using weak words like “share.” When you share, you only give people a part of what is shared. If I share my pie, you only get a slice, not the whole thing. So, too, weak preachers convey the idea that it is not only they who have e something to say, but that the members of the congregation will also have something to contribute (share) as well.

“Is that bad?”

Yes, when it comes to preaching. In the pulpit a man is to set forth God’s truth—the whole truth—and not add either his ideas or those of others. People today are getting thin, watered down, stuff instead of the thick beef noodle soup that they deserve. Listen to Paul: “I didn’t hold back in declaring anything that was beneficial to you” (Acts 20:20). Some preachers need to get an Acts 20/20 vision of preaching!

“Are you talking about the lack of authority in preaching?’”

Yes. We must proclaim the truth of God as such—and when we do, we must do so with all the authority that it possesses. Nobody ever nailed a preacher to the door for “sharing.” It is when he declares, proclaims, and so on, that they go after him! Preachers are afraid to take such a stand for fear they might be criticized for doing so.

“Do you think they ought to literally . . .uh . . .thump the tub?”

Not too often—but their preaching should be powerful, and as authoritative as is the truth of God that they ought to be preaching.

“Doesn’t that mean they will always go about insisting on negative things?”

Absolutely not! They should authoritatively proclaim the wonderful, comfortable, truths of the Bible with as much vigor and conviction as they do when preaching about the need for repentance. No wonder the pulpit has lost its authority when preachers “share” instead of proclaiming. They are in the tub (I guess you could say) as God’s representatives, ordained to confront people with truth that will change their lives.

“If they stop using the word ‘share’ will that solve the problem?”

No. That’s just one example of weak preaching. It is symbolic of the larger problem.

“So, they need to change their pulpit practices across the board?’

Yes, if they are caught up in the attitude conveyed by the word “share.”

“And preach with authority what God’s Word teaches.”

Yes. It would make quite a difference in many congregations.

O Come On!

According to an article in The Christian Post, Dr. Ben Carson, 7th Day Adventist and would-be aspirant to the presidency, virtually told us that God helped him cheat while in school!

According to the article in today’s blog, when he was unprepared for a chemistry test (essential to getting into medicine) he was unprepared and in a dream God gave him all the answers that he should have had on his own!

Strange doctrine indeed!

“I Believe . . .”

Recently, I was sent (along with many others it seems) a book by an author whom I do not know that struck me as a perfect example of how not to write a book. The topic (I shall not mention it) concerns a highly questionable point of view he wants to convince others to accept. The subject is biblical and the attempt that he fails to make is to present his views of various Scriptural passages.

So far, OK. But let me tell you how he “reasons.” Throughout the book, he sets forth outlandish concepts based on historical events. His history is not bad, but his adaptation if this history to biblical passages is horrific! Yet throughout, what he does in order to support these strange ideas, is to assert the following two words:

I believe . . .

What sort of argument is that? To reiterate those words time and time again (until one becomes weary of them) hardly enhances his cause. Yet, he must think that using them over and over again will convince others of their truth.

Now I have nothing against the author (after a thorough scan, his book now resides in my trash can). I certainly don’t accept his views! But that isn’t why I’m writing. Over the years, I have noticed others who simply don’t seem to know how to reason to their conclusions in ways that are cogent and helpful to readers, trying to reinforce their thoughts by the use of those two words “I believe!” After reading them for the twentieth time in what is the early portion of the work, I can only find myself saying, “So what? So you believe it! Well, good for you—but why should that have any impact upon me?”

Now I write, not to say anything else about the author of this sad book, but to urge the many others who do write useful material to avoid trying to enhance their words with thee unhelpful two words! That’s all. Take it or leave it—I got it off my chest!

Conversations with Dr. Jay Adams

indexA number of years ago a young man whose educational background was in secular psychology spent four days conducting a wide ranging series of interviews with Dr. Adams. Those interviews were transcribed but the interviewer was unable to do anything more with them at the time. Now, thirteen years later, those interviews have been published and the resulting book is a fascinating look into the thinking of Dr. Adams.

Before you click on the link below to order your copy, however, let me explain what it is you will be reading.

  1. This book consists of raw and largely unedited transcripts of a conversation between two people. Little, if any, of the pleasantries of conversation have been omitted. Nothing has been edited to make it an easier read.
  2. Because it is the record of a conversation between two people it does not follow any sort of logical outline. You will not be able to go to an index and find the place in the book where Adams discusses a specific topic. He may discuss a topic in which you are interested in several different places in the book.
  3. The folk who did the transcription were obviously British. Thus you will encounter some strange spelling (counselling, neighbour, etc.).
  4. This interview took place in September 2002. The interview reflects Dr. Adams’ thoughts at that time but not necessarily this thinking today. Now Dr. Adams is not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and his thinking about fundamental issues of theology and counseling have not changed. However, the interviewer presses Adams for his opinions about various authors and organizations. Since those things do change, one should not extrapolate from this interview Dr. Adams’ opinions today.
  5. This is an unguarded interview. Dr. Adams spoke frankly with his interviewer and probably would have wished the final product had been edited. In fact, in one place, Adams expressed to the interviewer that something he had just said should probably be omitted—it was not.
  6. The interviewer wishes to remain anonymous and I will honor that here. I will tell you who it is not, however. He is almost certainly not someone you know, trust me. Today he is a businessman. He has never been a NANC/ACBC member, nor has he traveled widely in biblical counseling circles. This is the only thing he has published that has anything to do with biblical counseling or ministry in general.
  7. The Institute for Nouthetic Studies has no interest in the book. While we knew the interview had been conducted 13 years ago we were surprised that it was finally published. While the Institute receives no royalties or income from the book we do urge you to order it from this link as more of the proceeds will be used for good purposes if you do. You can also order it from Amazon or our own Amazon bookstore if you wish.

With those caveats, I urge you to purchase a copy. It is a fascinating read. I have the unusual privilege of being able to visit with Dr. Adams in his study and talk with him at length these days about whatever topic interests either of us. You do not. This is the next best thing.


In Hosea 4:6, we read, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (HCSB).” It was not because they had no access to it, but (as the rest of the verse says) because they “rejected” it.

The statement has to do with a nation. But it is just as true of those purporting to be “God’s people” as a congregation, as a household or as individuals.

Lack of Knowledge—and, in particular, the willful lack thereof, is a serious matter. Christianity is not fundamentally an emotional religion although emotion plays a secondary and derivative part in it. It is a religion propagated by teaching. It is a religion of truth. It is a religion of propositions. It is a religion that is logical. It is a religion of a Book. It is, primarily, a religion in which everything depends upon a message—the Gospel. Apart from knowledge of and belief in the vicarious death and bodily resurrection of Jesus, there is no Christianity—regardless of what may be taught in its name.

In Hosea, not only the people in general, but the prophet, the priest and the individual are singled out. God says that since they rejected Him, He will reject them.

That is a tragic fact. But how true it is of so many in this land where the message of salvation is widely spread by word of mouth, TV and radio, the printed page. There is no excuse for not knowing it; there is less excuse for rejecting it once one does know.

Knowledge has to do not merely with the communicating of facts. In the passage, as elsewhere in Scripture, it refers to facts believed, and acted upon—what some have called “experimental knowledge.” It refers to acceptance, ready compliance and dependence upon the message that is preached.

Counselor, your counselee will not be helped unless he first knows the truth—then accepts is as true and that upon which he depends for his life and eternity. Don’t assume more than you should. Be certain that he understands and trusts basic Christian knowledge of the truth.

Blooming Fig Trees

Down our way the dogwoods and redbuds have nearly finished blooming and a sudden untimely hail-storm dashed their few remaining flowers to the ground. Temperatures are still up and down, and the wind is moderate. It’s truly early springtime! But my fig tree hasn’t yet put forth shoots, let alone begun leafing!

Jesus said, “When they (fig trees) put forth leaves you can see and know yourselves that summer is already near” (Luke 21: 30 CCNT/P). Was He pointing to a sign of His second coming? NO! Two verses later, He explained, “Truly, I tell you that this generation won’t pass away until all of this[1] happens” (v. 32).

Why, then, will Christians misuse the verse about the fig tree to refer to an event that is future when it already occurred in 70 AD?

Again, we hear people teaching that when Jesus warned of a sudden coming by saying not to come down from the housetop or in from the field to get any valuable items, He was referring to the rapture. If so, how foolish that warning would have been! Can you imagine believers ascending into the air to meet the Lord who are trying, instead, to get back into their houses somehow to retrieve things they want to take with them?

Much foolish talk is going on today. It is not when people are saying “wars and rumors of wars” that we should look for the bodily return of Jesus. Paul made it clear that He would return when the world is saying “peace and safety.” That is when we can expect Him—not before (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Be careful what teaching you accept—read the entire context to see what is really in view.

[1] Including the leafing of the fig trees.

How He Does It

God guides—but not by supernatural visions, hunches, whispers, hunches, etc., etc.

How then?

Listen to Psalm 73:24:

You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory.

Who counsels the counselor? God counsels us. And we have that counsel in the very book from which this verse is taken—the Scriptures!

He is the One Who guides believers throughout their lives by His wonderful truth, and this guidance is leading them through the tangled web of the present evil world-order to Himself—in a destination “above.”

Jesus said to the believing thief on the cross that, upon their deaths, they would be together in “paradise.” According the Paul the third heaven is where Paradise[1] is (2 Corinthians 12: 2, 3). But that isn’t all. According to Paul, true Christians shall eventually be resurrected and given new bodies (1 Corinthians 15). In these we will dwell for all eternity (see Revelation 21, 22). But that isn’t all either! Some day we shall live in these bodies in a new heaven and earth! How wonderful that all His saints may look forward to such a marvelous future! [These facts deserve those three exclamation marks!]

[1] A Persian loan-word for “Park.”

There are Times . . .

. . . When counselors may become so overwhelmed by a counselee’s situation that, along with Job’s wife, they want to say something like, ”Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

In such circumstances, what must they do?

Answer:  remember the many words of Scripture that make no such allowance for such bad advice (for instance, 1 Corinthians 10:13).

Now, I know that frustration because of both the counselee’s response and the problems to which he is responding badly is common. It is easy, therefore, for you (as a counselor) to conclude that you are simply “not up to it.” And, in many respects, you aren’t—you can’t seem to figure out what God would have you advise and do in a particular instance. But there are several things you can do rather than utter some sort of exasperated advice. Let me list them:

  1. You may seek further information about, or details concerning those aspects of the problem that seem fuzzy, puzzling, or unclear.
  2. You may pray and ask the counselee to pray that you will become further enlightened in the biblical advice that you don’t have at the moment.
  3. You may consult (by permission from the counselee) with another counselor—or bring him into the next counseling session.
  4. You may find a clue to where you have taken a wrong (unbiblical) turn in counseling by consulting your notes. You do take notes, don’t you?
  5. A check on past homework given—and how well it was followed—may help.
  6. More time out of session for praying, searching Scripture, and thinking about the counselee’s problem may help.
  7. Check out the fifty failure factors in the Christian Counselor’s New Testament/Proverbs to see if any of these apply.

Never hesitate (very long) to admit you are stumped. But make it clear that God isn’t—be sure he understands that the insufficiency is yours alone. But insist that there is a proper biblical answer. And it may not be the one either you or the counselee likes.

But one thing must be clear: God isn’t stumped!

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