For a limited time we are posting Dr. Adams’ first lecture from our first course. Enjoy!
For a limited time we are posting Dr. Adams’ first lecture from our first course. Enjoy!
Two institutions with a strong history of teaching the sufficiency of Scripture are combining forces to create one of the nation’s most comprehensive educational programs for biblical counseling.
Dr. Michael R. Spradlin, President of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, along with Dr. Jay E. Adams, Founder of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, and Donn Arms, Executive Director of the Institute for Nouthetic Studies, have announced that the Institute for Nouthetic Studies will become a ministry of Mid-America Seminary. The agreement becomes effective on July 1, 2015.
The agreement combines the strengths of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (MABTS) and the Institute for Nouthetic Studies (INS) in training men and women to serve Christ through the sufficiency of the Word of God.
MABTS, a SACSCOC-accredited institution, is currently a leading force in providing undergraduate and graduate training for effective service in church-related and missions vocations through its main campus in Memphis, Tennessee, and branch campus in Schenectady, New York. The Seminary guides students into a thorough understanding of the Bible and its relevance for today, preparing those, called of God, to preach and teach the Word of God.
MABTS President, Dr. Spradlin comments, “I am blessed and thrilled that MABTS and INS can minister together to strengthen the Lord’s call to train ministers of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is sufficient; our ministries will continue to stand on the Word and Its power.”
Likewise, Dr. Jay E. Adams, Donn Arms, and the ministry of INS is at the forefront of a movement calling pastors and other Christian workers back to the Scriptures in their counseling ministry. Beginning with the publication of his book Competent to Counsel in 1970, Dr. Adams has been demonstrating the importance of understanding the sufficiency of the Word to bring about the kind of change that pleases God and genuinely helps the counselee. Both institutions, therefore, are enthusiastic about the agreement for continuing the stand upon the sufficiency of God’s Word in ministry and in giving Christ the preeminence in all things.
INS Founder, Dr. Adams explains, “I am delighted that MABTS has asked us to contribute to their furtherance of biblical counseling in the preparation of ministers. I can think of nothing better than such an alliance to bring the joint resources of our two institutions together to effect such an unexpected but joyous opportunity. I have found the administration and faculty of MABTS not only friendly but also deeply committed to biblical ministry to people in need. I look forward with large anticipation to the days ahead in the spreading of biblical ministries throughout the land.”
Combining the strengths of each institution in training men and women to counsel from God’s Word, the agreement now allows students the opportunity to earn an accredited MDIV degree in biblical (nouthetic) counseling residentially through MABTS or via their Connected Campus, the MABTS online degree program. If students do not desire to seek an accredited degree, however, they can take the present INS courses that are available online at www.nouthetic.org and earn a certificate of nouthetic counseling from MABTS. In addition, plans are in the works for students who have already taken courses through INS to receive credit for those courses toward a degree in nouthetic counseling from MABTS beginning in 2016.
When introduced to my wife and me for the first time people often conclude I must be rich. Any woman this gorgeous, they often think, who would marry a lump like Arms must be after his money. While it is true that I am rich, it is not in this world’s goods. Were I as rich as Croesus, I could not afford to purchase what God has given to me freely. My greatest treasure is the most the most beautiful woman ever to grace the campus of Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa whom I somehow persuaded to marry me. It was 40 years ago today that I sealed the deal in a little Baptist church in Seymour, Iowa where her dad served as pastor.
Now, forty years later, I continue to live joyfully with the wife of my youth. Our four children, along with our seven grandchildren, rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her saying, “Many daughters have done well, but you are the greatest!”
I love you, Babe. Happy Anniversary!
A 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.
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.
A popular cop show in the eighties began each episode with the officers assembled in the briefing room where the Sargent would give out assignments for the day. At the end of each briefing the officer in charge would exhort his officers with the admonition, “Let’s be careful out there!”
Biblical counselors would do well to embrace that exhortation as well. Today’s biblical counselor is blessed with training opportunities and resources we could not have imagined 30 years ago. The first NANC conference I attended was held in a church Sunday School room. At the first February conference I attended in Lafayette I was one of 35 students. The books available to me that dealt with biblical counseling fit on less than two feet of bookshelf.
Today, thousands attend these conferences every year, the books I own on biblical counseling fill an entire wall, most people can find training in biblical counseling within one or two hours of driving time, dozens of theological seminaries now have courses in biblical counseling, and our Institute has hundreds of students studying under Dr. Adams on every continent around the world. We have much for which to be thankful as God’s people have come to embrace the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Scriptures.
With all these successes and opportunities for learning, however, we will quickly find ourselves disqualified and our ministries impotent if we do not embrace the words of Sargent Esterhaus to “be careful out there.” The august responsibility of the ministry of the Word to hurting people should fill us with a sober desire to minister the Word carefully, accurately, and skillfully. God’s Word is not magic. We do not simply tell counselees to “read God’s Word and He will bless you.” Before the counselor can minister the Word to his counselee he must first be a student and exegete of the Scriptures and become skilled at using them as God intended them to be used.
I was reminded of this again as I read a blog recently at a biblical counseling website. The author’s purpose was worthy—he was seeking to show how counselees can be encouraged in their suffering by understanding that our Lord Himself endured suffering. Sadly, his use of the Scriptures to make his point served only to confuse and, even worse, taught some very bad theology which, if understood rightly, would discourage a counselee about the ability of Christ to meet the need of the hour.
The author began by asserting, in spite of the clear teaching of Philippians 4:6, that anxiety is “not necessarily” sinful. He made his case by quoting a bizarre translation of Mark 14:33 (the Amplified Bible) and concluded that Jesus had a “panic attack” in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The author then moved to Hebrews 2:10 which he claimed teaches that Jesus’ sufferings were “part of His maturing and perfecting for our sake.” He later added that “as Jesus was perfected through various sufferings, including anxiety, so are we.”
The biblical counselor should be careful to understand that the word translated “perfect” here is used in the sense of “complete” as it is in Hebrew 10:14. Christ’s sufferings completed His task as the “Author of their salvation.” They did not serve to mature Him in a sanctifying process as they do for us. The idea of a Christ who is just like us and in need of “maturing” is, well, sub-orthodox.
The task of exegesis is of primary importance. Do not neglect it. Handle God’s Word with care and sobriety. From behind my podium in our briefing room here in our little corner of the internet I plead with my fellow counselors—let’s be careful out there!
During the latter part of the 19th century a handful of seminary professors took a summer sabbatical together to tour England and hear as many of the great English preachers as possible. During that summer these men were able to hear Henry Parry Liddon, Alexander Maclaren, J C Ryle, R W Dale, Robert S Candlish, and Alexander Whyte. After hearing each preacher the men would gather outside the church and discuss what they had heard.
They spent the final Sunday of their tour in London where, in the morning, they attended the City Temple and heard Joseph Parker preach. In the evening they crossed the Thames to Elephant and Castle where they heard C H Spurgeon preach at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. That morning in London they assembled on the front steps of the City Temple and all concurred with the first man to speak who proclaimed excitedly, “Joseph Parker is a wonderful preacher.” Upon exiting the Metropolitan Tabernacle that evening the entire group fell to their knees on the church steps as the same spokesman quietly said, “Jesus Christ is a wonderful Savior.”
Of course, Spurgeon was indeed a wonderful preacher—probably the greatest English speaking preacher in history. But Spurgeon understood that it was his responsibility to point his listeners to Christ and not allow himself to become the focus of attention. Sure, he used illustrations from his own life and had a delightful, self-deprecating sense of humor in the pulpit, but these were employed only to illustrate truth and were a means to the end of preaching Christ.
Biblical counselors would do well to take a similar stance in the counseling room. There has arisen a school of thought these days that teaches counselors to focus first on relationship building with counselees and to hold off offering any sort of directive counsel until the counselor has brought his counselee to the place where he is “ready to receive” instruction and help from his counselor.
Now, of course nouthetic counselors understand the importance of building involvement with counselees. In Competent to Counsel Jay Adams confronted the prevalent notion of the day that counselors should take a stoic, detached stance toward counselees. He pointed out that Paul counseled “with tears” (Acts 20:31) and “intense concern” (2 Cor. 11:29) (CTC pp. 52-54). But involvement or relationship building is never a prerequisite to biblical counseling, it is the result!
I recently heard a “biblical” counselor describe one of his cases in which a young woman had come to him seeking help with a problem. After several sessions of relationship building and “getting to know her” the woman finally asked her counselor, “Don’t you have any guidance for me?” The counselor replied, “Yes, I have some thoughts about your problem but I am not sure you are ready to hear them yet.”
Nouthetic counselors are horrified upon hearing such things. When believers come to us for help we believe in helping them—as quickly as possible. This woman had come seeking help in session one but the counselor had decided to assume the Holy Spirit’s role and decide himself whether or not she was ready to hear.
Another counselor once told me that many of his counseling cases go on for over a year and that he has counselees he has been working with for several years. As he waxed eloquent about the need for relationship building he informed me that often counseling is simply building a friendship with people. He was not as amused as I was when I asked him how much he charged people to be their friend (in his case it was $95 per session).
Consider this from a recent blog over at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website:
In counseling, I have found building relationships for the long-haul is key if any person, regardless of sexual orientation, is to experience true, biblical change. In the instances I have had the joy to observe, change in the area of sexuality has been slow, incremental, and at times painful; yet through all of it, our God is faithful and true.
For this author, “Relationships Are Key.” For the nouthetic counselor, the ministry of the Word is key and relationships, while important, are secondary—perhaps even tertiary. Counselees do not change as a result of a relationship with the counselor, they change because of a relationship to Christ and through obedience to His Word.
It is especially tragic to hear this author’s expectation that “true, biblical change” is “slow” and “incremental.” If change is dependent upon a relationship with the counselor perhaps that expectation is justified. Nouthetic counselors do not seek to wean counselees from their sin. Because counselees draw on the power of the Holy Spirit Who wields the Word of God as His sword we expect significant change from week to week and victory over sin in a relatively short period of time as old habits are put off and new ones are put on.
Picture a man working under the hood of his car in his driveway. Along comes a relationship guy who stops and engages the shade tree mechanic with questions about the car, the problem, his job, his family, his health, his lawn, his pets, his longings and desires. The relationship guy shares stories of his own struggles with dysfunctional automobiles and communicates how sorry he is that this car has broken down and that his friend has to deal with the problem. Finally, he promises to return later to check on his new mechanic friend and encourage him in his journey toward resolution.
The nouthetic guy, however, upon encountering this mechanic takes off his coat, rolls up his sleeves, and crawls under the car.
“I see the problem,” he calls up to his neighbor. “The starter is not aligned properly. Raise it up a bit and I will put the bolt in from here.”
From under the car the nouthetic guy guides the socket onto the nut and holds it in place while the mechanic turns the wrench above until it is tight.
Now, which one has built involvement with his neighbor?
Several days ago we published an article by Dr. Adams on the subject of Forgiveness. It is the rare counseling situation, involving two people, where the subject of forgiveness does not arise early in the process. That blog is a brief summary of the information found in Jay’s book From Forgiven to Forgiving. When I was a pastor I had that article printed up as a tri-fold brochure and used it as a homework handout to counselees after I had taught them about forgiveness during the counseling session. You may copy the article and do the same if you reference Jay and the Institute as your source.
The main thesis of both the book and Jay’s blog is that believers are to forgive in the same way God forgave us in Christ (Ephesians 4:32). Nouthetic counselors understand this and are clear about some implications:
While Nouthetic counselors are clear about these things it seems the broader “Biblical” counseling world is not. Recently the Biblical Counseling Coalition published a blog, which they later promoted in their monthly newsletter, that began with this:
Human forgiveness does not depend on the attitudes or actions of the offender. When in conflict, an offended person can (and must) forgive the offender, even if the offender fails to repent or confess their sins.
When the author received push-back from an interlocutor she rightly pointed out that “biblical writers are confused on the topic of forgiveness in part because of a lack of clarity about how God forgives.” Then, as though to further contribute to the confusion, she points her readers to a book by John MacArthur, an article in the aggressively integrationist Journal of Psychology and Christianity, and “anything Don Carson has written about forgiveness.”
Nouthetic counselors do not share the author’s confusion on the subject of forgiveness. Jesus clearly taught His disciples to forgive someone “if he repents” (Luke 17:3). We are not sure why an author would write a blog dealing with an issue about which she is confused, but we are disappointed that the Biblical Counseling Coalition would contribute to the confusion by publishing and promoting it.
I recently had lunch with a great friend from out of town who is both a pastor and an experienced counselor. After lunch we drove out to visit Dr. Adams and on our drive home he said, “I wish I could visit South Carolina more often. It is the only time I get to hear what God is doing through Jay and the Institute. How often do you communicate with your students and friends of the ministry?”
I rehearsed for him my typical thoughts on the subject—I am very busy, our friends and students are busy, I don’t want to annoy people with unwanted email, folks will think I am trying to get money from them, Jay does not like to promote himself, if people are interested they can read the website . . .
At that point my friend cut me off. “Donn, shame on you! For over 50 years Dr. Adams has had an important ministry in the lives of thousands of people and for the past 12 years you and the Institute have had a life changing ministry to hundreds of students and, through them, thousands of counselees. These people love Jay, and they love this ministry. You simply must do a better job of communicating with them. Hundreds would love to help you if only they knew how!”
Well, of course I was chastened. It has been several weeks since that conversation and this letter is the fruit of my thinking since then. It is longer letter than anything I plan to publish in the future but I have some catching up to do. Please indulge me while I share with you, in some detail, what has been happening at the Institute and some plans for the future.
God is Prospering the Institute
Compiling exact statistics would require expending more time than the principle of good stewardship allows but the Institute now has thousands of students who have enrolled in at least one of our courses and hundreds of graduates who have completed our entire curriculum. These students and graduates are having important ministries in their local churches and are offering the hope only the Scriptures can give to hurting counselees on every continent around the world.
Our website is visited by hundreds of people every day. It not only provides information about the Institute and the training we offer but visitors can also find:
Our opportunities continue to grow. One of the most exciting partnerships we have developed recently is with Mid-America Baptist Seminary in Memphis where we are helping establish PhD, DMin, and MA programs in Nouthetic counseling. I taught for two weeks in January and will be returning to teach again in June. Next month (April 7-9) Jay and I will be speaking at their first conference on biblical counseling along with Martha Peace and Lou Priolo. More information can be found at their website.
Dr. Adams’ health continues to concern us. While God has given him a degree of improved strength he still deals with a number of challenges every day. Jay continues to write blog articles, Jay and I recently contributed an article to the new Theological Journal to be published by Mid-America Baptist Seminary, and recently R. C. Sproul’s Tabletalk magazine published an interview with Dr. Adams. When I am asked about Jay’s health I like to report that he is “full of sap and very green” (Ps. 92:14). I stopped by his home unannounced several weeks ago and found him reading Basil of Caesarea in the original Greek!
Our training continues to be the single most comprehensive, foundational, and convenient place to study Nouthetic counseling. That may sound like self-serving bluster but please hear me out. We have many friends, and we know of scores of others, who do a fine job of teaching biblical counseling in a number of venues—formal academic institutions, well-structured conferences and seminars, and local church training centers. Each of these, however, owes their existence to the foundational work done by Dr. Adams. Our advice to those seeking training in biblical counseling is to study under Dr. Adams first and establish a firm foundation studying under a teacher they can trust before navigating the wealth of good training (and the plague of poor training and exegesis) available in other places.
But We Have Challenges
Our growth and opportunities have required that we try to do more and more with the same amount of resources. The day to day operation of the Institute is handled almost exclusively by our Executive Director. His daily responsibilities include bookkeeping, taping and editing video lectures, writing and editing curriculum notes, maintaining our websites, interacting with students by phone, recruiting students, teaching, counseling, and answering email. In addition to these daily responsibilities he is working on several writing projects, speaking at counseling conferences, and teaching in an adjunct role in Seminary.
All of that to say, “We need help!” Our most pressing need is to hire an administrative assistant to handle some of the day to day operations. Coupled with that is the need to find better office space from which to function. Almost two years ago the wonderful office space we were renting in Greenville was sold requiring us to move out. Since then we have been working out of two spare bedrooms and an over the garage bonus room in the Arms home. I still have over 4,000 volumes of books packed away in boxes in the garage. Hiring an administrative assistant will require that we have more functional office space somewhere.
Meeting these needs will require more income for the Institute. Since our founding more than twelve years ago we have been largely funded by tuition paid by our students. We have discovered, however, what every other educational institution has learned—tuition income alone cannot cover the cost of training.
Our tuition is exactly the same as it was twelve years ago. We have never raised it—nor do we plan to. We want to keep training in biblical counseling under Dr. Adams accessible to as many students as possible. We believe raising tuition would keep many from students studying with us and as a result, reduce our income, not increase it. No, we believe the first solution is more students, not higher tuition.
Second, we have been lousy fundraisers. We used to wear this as a badge of honor partly because we do not want to be perceived to be focused on money. While Dr. Adams has had an important ministry to thousands over the years he has never cultivated donors. When he was once asked to become the president of a Seminary he turned them down, in part because he believed his lack of fund raising skills would doom the school financially.
As I said at the beginning of this letter, we have been challenged in recent days by several friends to do a better job of asking friends to help us. They have made the case that there are thousands of people helped by Dr. Adams over the years who would love to see others helped in the same way, and would want to help us if only they were asked.
How Can You Help?
Those are some of our current needs, now we want to boldly ask you to do FOUR things for us.
4. Finally, would you help us by sharing your testimony with prospective students? Sometime today or in the week to come would you write a thoughtfully worded paragraph describing your experience as a student or graduate of the Institute? How has Dr. Adams impacted your life personally, and how have you used what you have learned to minister to others? We would like to share your testimony on our website. We can tell prospective students what we think and what we are seeking to accomplish but your testimony and endorsement would have a far more effective impact. Would you take perhaps a half hour to write up and share your experience with us? You can send it to us at email@example.com.
Thank you for staying with me through this longer than usual email. We treasure your partnership with us in this ministry. May God bless you as you consider how you can help us promote the ministry of the Word of God to hurting people.
Yesterday we published Dr. Adams’ list. Here is mine. What would you add?
God bless you Jay! May this day be full of joy as you celebrate with your family.
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green.