A Higher Life?

J.I. Packer, in his interesting book, Keep in Step with the SpiritPacker, tells about his experience with Keswick Higher Life teaching when he was a new Christian back in the 40s. He then takes it apart piece by piece in what is one of the most devastating attacks one could bring against an erroneous viewpoint. He shows its origins in the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification, and how it used some of those tenets in new ways to form the instantaneous sanctification views of Keswick.

If you are having difficulty with quietistic teaching, please take a gander at this book. It will enlighten you. Not only will it expose the fallacies of the view, it will also explain how it can destroy vital Christian living. This latter point seems to be Packer’s major concern, as indeed it should be.

In addition, sprinkled about the book—and focused upon in a couple of places—you will discover some of the finest explanations of the process of sanctification as it involves the acquisition of new “habits of holiness.” Packer draws this teaching from a number of sources, but in particular from Romans 7 which, in the debated verses, he quite rightly affirms can only be describing Paul’s struggle as a believer.

All in all, you will find this book not only worth its cost, but one that you will refer to again and again in order to remind yourself of what a true walk with the Spirit is like. It will become a valuable asset to your library. If you don’t have it—get it, NOW!

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.

Book Review

Gospel Treason
by Brad Bigney
P & R Publishing, 2012

So what’s new? Combining what most of the recent writers who have left Nouthetic Counseling for a mystical view of sanctification finding man’s problem to be idols that he has set up in his heart, Bigney adds nothing to the discussion.

Indeed, following Tim Keller and others who have misinterpreted Ezekiel 14, he tells us that man manufactures these idols for himself.  The fact of the matter is that Ezekiel speaks of carrying mental images of the idols that they were leaving behind in the exile to Babylon. They now held them in their minds in spite of the fact that it was expressly to rid them of idolatry that they were being exiled.

Though not so explicit as others about the cure for idolatry, Bigney falls into the camp that sees contemplation of the Gospel as what sanctifies a person. Many of the people who endorse the volume are of that stripe as well.

This book, by comparison with what has already been written is thin soup, as I suggested above—having little new to offer. I would suggest, however, that if you are flipping through it, pause at page 32, where a counseling technique used by Randy Patton is mentioned. You’ll probably want to use it yourself sometime, but I wouldn’t buy the book just to read that one page.

Book Review

The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams
by Heath Lambert
Wheaton: Crossway, 2011
Reviewed by Donn R Arms

Most biblical counselors would dismiss the term schizophrenia as an unhelpful and confusing label. Heath Lambert has demonstrated, however, that the term has validity as a literary genre. The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams is a number of contradictory things. It is a respectful recounting of the contributions of Jay Adams and a collection of harsh and unkind epithets about the man and his followers. It is both a carefully researched Ph. D. thesis and grievous academic malpractice. It identifies important issues within the biblical counseling movement and embraces as authoritative shoddily constructed straw men. Lambert praises concepts he himself finds questionable, and confuses movement with maturity, differences with development, and provocation with progress. Upon a careful reading of this book, biblical counselors who are familiar with the issues reported here will be made both thankful and appalled.

Lambert has a genuine respect and appreciation for Jay Adams. It is evident in his first chapter in which he surveys Adams’ early writings and places them in the context of the times they were written. It is a careful and complete survey and serves as a great introduction to the man and his writings. In his conclusion, Lambert correctly points out that Adams has always welcomed a careful examination of what he has written and invited others to build on what Adams himself admitted was preliminary (although not tentative). Lambert does just that. He seeks to identify specific areas where, in his view, Adams’ work was deficient—even erroneous—and marshals support for his conclusions by quoting as authoritative those who do not share his deep respect for Adams—many of whom have misrepresented Adams, and questioned his integrity, character, and scholarship.

As a credible scholarly work The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams was doomed from the beginning. It began as a Ph.D. project at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville where Lambert teaches. His purpose was to chronicle what he perceived to be the “development” of the biblical counseling movement in its “second generation” iteration. In Lambert’s mind, it was to be a continuation—a volume two—of a dissertation written by David Powlison in 1996 and later published in book form in 2009.[1] Powlison figures prominently in Lambert’s thesis as a molder and promoter of counseling theory in this “second generation” and is a focus of Lambert’s analysis—it is more a book about David Powlison and his friends at CCEF than it is about Adams. Because the only person Southern Seminary had on faculty with the academic credentials to supervise Lambert’s Ph. D. project was an avowed integrationist the powers that be at the Seminary sought out and hired an outside authority to oversee Lambert’s Ph.D. project—David Powlison! According to Lambert, Powlison

. . . has walked with me every step of the way through this project. Without his wisdom and care, this project would never have been written. Without his living example of Christlikeness, I would be much less that what I am. One of the greatest honors of my life was doing my doctoral work under his leadership. I am repeatedly thankful for his friendship, wisdom, and input (page 20).

So, to clear the academic hurdles for his Ph. D. Lambert was writing a paper that was largely about the man whose approval he had to have to earn his degree! Academically, this is incestuous and the powers that be at Southern Seminary should be ashamed. As a result, while Lambert is willing to critique, criticize, and at times condemn Adams and his “first generation” writings, there is only praise and commendation for Powlison and his “second generation” colleagues. In most of the book, Adams serves as a foil, a warden from whom the “second generation” has been able to free the movement. Lambert quotes some outrageous things these “second generation” men have written about Adams and his followers as though they are authoritative and gives them a pass.

Lambert divides his critiques into three basic categories, how his “second generation” of counselors think about counseling, how they do counseling, and how they talk about counseling. In each area Lambert identifies specific issues on which his “second generation” subjects differ from Adams. Difference does not necessarily mean progress, however. While Lambert believes these differences are the result of growth and maturity in the movement, a careful examination of Lambert’s evidence often reveals a departure from what is biblical and helpful and is a retreat back to the mindset of the pre-nouthetic Rogerian practices of our forefathers which Adams inveighed against over 40 years ago.

How Counselors Think About Counseling

Here Lambert identifies two areas where he believed Adams was deficient and lauds the “second generation” for correcting them. First is the issue of suffering. While Lambert admits that Adams did indeed address the issue in his early writings he concludes Adams did not say enough. This is a most curious criticism. While I have read countless articles from those critical of what Adams has said or written, this is the first case I can recall of someone criticizing Adams for what he did not say—complaining that Adams should have said more!

Lambert then instructs Adams that “the problems and struggles of people are not limited to sin alone” (page 57) as though this is what Adams taught. He quotes Ed Welch who makes a false dichotomy between those who are “pain counselors” and those who are “sin counselors.” Adams, according to Lambert, is one such “sin counselor” (page 60) whose perspective necessitated this correction from Welch:

Those who lean in the direction of minimizing pain, or calling for a stoic acceptance of it, are often more precise in their theological formations. But they may be guilty of ignoring important biblical themes and thus do not offer the full counsel of God to those who suffer.

So for Welch, “more precise theological formations” often hinders the counselor’s ability to “offer the full counsel of God.”

Adams, of course, believed no such thing. For Adams, every counseling problem is, at its core, a theological problem. For this reason, he included a lengthy discussion of the issue of misery, pain, and suffering in his book on Theology (More Than Redemption, pp.152-159). Adams also published a host of small books and pamphlets to use as handouts to counselee’s who were suffering (How to Handle Trouble, How to Overcome Evil, What to do When . . . series, Christ and Your Problems). He also produced a brief homiletical commentary on the book of 1 Peter (Trust and Obey) designed to help the Pastor teach his people about suffering.

Lambert quotes Lane and Tripp and commends their “effort to understand carefully the context in which the counselee exists” (page 62) as though Adams had been silent about such things. Adams’ lengthy sections about data gathering in his Manual do just that.

“It is wrong to approach a struggling brother or sister with a condemning, self-righteous spirit,” chides Paul Tripp (page 63). Jesus rebukes “the problem of ignoring suffering” scolds Ed Welch (page 63). “We do not want to communicate truths in ways that are cheap and platitudinous” (Tripp again). Over and over again these straw men about Jay Adams and his followers are served up and Lambert cites them as authoritative. He questions none of it. Instead, their observations are cited as “progress” within the biblical counseling movement rather than condemned as the slander that they are.

The second issue Lambert cites is that of motivation and he begins the discussion with the claim that “Adams’ view of the dynamics of sin is unusual.” In fact, he claims “it is a theological innovation” (page 67). Lambert cites two articles that were published in the Journal of Biblical Counseling about ten years ago in which Ed Welch challenged Adams’ view of the “flesh” and sought to put forward an “alternative” view, an alternative view that was even more “unusual” and “innovative” than Adams’! Adams responded to the article in a letter to the editor in which he refuted Welch point by point. David Powlison, the editor of the Journal, refused to publish most of Adams’ response opting to run only a quarter of it and leaving out entirely each of Adams’ point by point arguments. On the page following the heavily redacted letter from Adams, the Journal ran an article which accused Adams of being a closet behaviorist and of himself deriving his model from secular psychologists—and Lambert agrees!

So then Schwab and Welch each agree that Adams’ model of habituation is unbiblical. In addition to this, Schwab establishes that the origins of Adams’ thinking were found in secular psychological theories, not in specific texts of Scripture. In other words, Schwab shows that the problem—cited by Welch—of Adams’ understanding of the term “flesh” was imposed by Adams on the biblical text and actually derived from the influence of unbelieving people (page 72).

This “second generation” view of motivation is hardly progress. It is a view of the heart that Adams has been criticizing and opposing for the last 20 years. This is not building on Adams’ work, it is a rejection of it.

Lambert continues this section by citing Powlison’s “Idols of the Heart” construct as a further “development” or maturation in the area of motivation only to challenge Powlison’s understanding later in chapter six.[3]

How Biblical Counselors Do Counseling

Here Lambert seeks to make the case that “second generation” counselors have advanced in their methodology by rejecting Adams’ tendency “to obscure the importance of building loving relationships with counselees” (page 88). Here again Lambert quotes as authoritative those who paint Adams as a harsh, uncaring, authoritarian counselor.

Our service must not have an “I stand above you as one who as arrived” character (Tripp, page 96).

Tripp is also quoted as advocating “sacrificial” counseling.

Tripp goes so far as to say that people who do not invest sacrificially in those to whom they minister are ‘selfish’ and ‘thieves’ (page 93).

Lambert misses entirely the irony of a lecture about sacrifice from someone who charged $85 per session for such “sacrificial” counseling when he worked at CCEF while scolding others who have never charged a dime for counseling.

Lambert correctly points out that “Adams believed that his counseling approach was fundamentally loving. He believed it was loving to confront people with their sin and give them resources to change” (page 92). Still, Lambert concludes the chapter by comparing Adams to Job’s counselors

. . . who had a monolithic view of Job as a sinner. They ministered to Job in a static and ultimately unhelpful way. Their counsel failed because they did not identify with Job as a sufferer or seek to minister to him accordingly.

Lambert has demonstrated here that there is a stark difference between Adams and the CCEF orb. The difference isn’t one of development or maturity as Lambert postulates. The “second generation” approach is a retreat, a throwback to pre-nouthetic times when relationship trumped truth and commiseration with a counselee was called “counseling.” Adams often likened the difference to encountering a friend who was working under the hood of his car. Someone comes along and upon sizing up the situation leans on the fender and tells the shade tree mechanic he understands how difficult his task is. Indeed, he once had a starter motor go bad and understands the frustration. He tells the mechanic how sad he is about the motor, affirms him in his efforts, and tells him he will check on him again next week. The nouthetic guy, however, takes off his coat, rolls up his sleeves, crawls under the car, and helps guide the socket onto the nut while the mechanic turns the wrench.

Suffering counselees do not need a new friend, nor do they need a hug. They need someone who will offer them solid help in dealing with their situation. Commiserating is not counseling.

How Biblical Counselors Talk about Counseling

In this chapter Lambert seeks to make the case that Adams drew the wrong conclusions from his failed attempts to interact with secular counselors and integrationists. He recounts several events in Adams’ life when Adams did interact with his critics and rightly points out that Adams concluded it was a waste of time. It was not Adams’ tone nor his demeanor that alienated the integrationist, however, it was his message! For Lambert “the biblical counseling movement has a responsibility to engage an atheistic society and the surrounding culture” though he does not explain why. For Adams, the believer has a responsibility to evangelize, not engage—proclaim, not dialog. The theologian has nothing to learn from a Mormon. An astronomer has nothing to gain from the astrologer. Biblical counselors can hope to find no help from the secular psychologist. Those who seek to influence their integrationist friends find they become influenced instead.

It should be noted, however, that Adams did seek to understand secular psychology and during the middle ‘60s devoured the psychological literature of the day—genuinely hoping to find some help. He found none. We have those books in our library here at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies and Adams’ careful interaction with them can be seen in the copious notes and arguments found in the margins. Still, his heart was inclined toward winning the integrationist, not condemning him.

In 1972 Adams reviewed a book written by an integrationist by the name of James Hamilton in which he tried to show how pastors could incorporate the conclusions of psychology into ministry. That book has descended into well-deserved obscurity but the final paragraph of Adams’ review is classic.

Sad, sad it is to read a book like this—Hamilton is so close, yet so far. If the basic problem stems from the fact that he is yet in transition, let us pray that it will not be long before the waters part and he crosses over to the promised land. Dr. Hamilton, please believe me, the crossing is neither wet nor muddy, and the grapes on the other side are sweet.

Several observations about Lambert’s book are in order. First, this is not a book about “the biblical counseling movement after Adams” at all. It is a book about CCEF. For Lambert, the “second generation” of biblical counselors consists solely of those who travel in the CCEF orb. The only counselor quoted outside that orb (though, like Adams, he once served on the CCEF board) is Wayne Mack—who should more accurately be categorized as a “first generation” counselor. There is nothing here but passing references to NANC, the Master’s College, Faith Baptist Church, Adams’ own Institute for Nouthetic Studies, or any number of other biblical counseling institutions. Other authors and teachers including George Scipione, Lou Priolo, Stuart Scott, Martha Peace, Mark Shaw, Jim Berg, and the Journal of Modern Ministry do not seem to be a part of Lambert’s “second generation.”

Second, the post-Adams era has not yet begun! Jay Adams did not die in 1988. During this time frame Adams has continued to write, often opposing the same “developments” or “progress” Lambert cites as positive.

Third, where is the scholarly examination of CCEF and the important issues related to their counseling paradigm? Wouldn’t the reasons for Adams’ and his nouthetic co-workers’ wholesale resignation from the CCEF board in the ‘90s be an important topic for examination? What about the rejection of Adams’ view of progressive sanctification, the embrace of Jack Miller’s Sonship theology, and the resultant sub-orthodox view of sanctification? There is no evaluation of the impact of CCEF’s embrace of an Historical/Redemptive hermeneutic on their counseling model. How about the influence secular training in psychology has had and the perceived need for counselors to understand all that the psychological world has to offer? The last CCEF annual conference was devoted to exegeting the DSM-IV, not the Scriptures. For Lambert, “second generation” CCEF has had only a salutatory impact on the biblical counseling movement.

Forth, Lambert has, probably unwittingly, demonstrated the distain many in the CCEF orb have for their founder. In one place or another in his book Lambert quotes them referring to Adams and his nouthetic model as “stoic,” “bombastic,” “indifferent to suffering,” “insensitive,” “harsh,” “ignores clear themes of Scripture,” “approaches counselees with a condemning, self-righteous spirit,” “cheap and platitudinous,” “unbalanced,” “legalistic,” “moralistic,” “behavioristic,” “immature,” “sees counselees in a monolithic way as sinners,” has a “stand above you as one who has arrived” character, and is “less than biblical.”

Finally, to demonstrate how heavily the influence of David Powlison weighs on this book, note the tone Powlison sets in his Foreword. Referring to the biblical counseling scene today Powlison claims that

We should be good at counseling—caring, skillful, thoughtful . . . But more often than not, we have been poor and foolish, rigid or inept. The pat answer, snap judgment, brisk answer and quick fix are too often characteristic. Where is the patient kindness? Where is the probing concern and hard thought? Where is the luminous, pertinent truthfulness? Where is the flexibility of well-tailored wisdom? Where is the unfolding process? Where is the humanity of Jesus enfleshed in humane, humble, sensible people (page 13)?

This is a breathtaking perspective. After 40 years of teaching, writing, and counseling this is the view from the CCEF tower of the biblical counseling world today. Unskilled, inept, uncaring counselors populate the landscape. What is the antecedent of his pronoun “we?” Is it simply a literary device? Hyperbole? If this is an honest assessment of his own counseling should he really be teaching others? Does Powlison really have this kind of condescending view of the majority of counselors today? Is it any surprise then, that Lambert would pick up and embrace his mentor’s jaundiced view in this book?

Twenty years ago one could read and hear countless secular and eclectic counselors scorch Adams for his views and the caricatured portraits they painted of him. One does not hear so much of it from that camp today. Today, they have been replaced by Adams’ “friends.”

Hear then, Lambert’s conclusion to the whole matter. Comparing Adams and his “first generation” counselors to the CCEF “second generation” Lambert concludes that

The movement is more thoughtful; it is more caring; it is learning to speak more wisely and loving to outsiders—the movement is more biblical (page 159).

Does any of this really sound wise, or caring, or more loving? Indeed, is this more biblical than Jay Adams?

Heath Lambert is a promising young man whom I count as a friend. I like him. I don’t like his book. His seminary failed him in this project by placing him under, requiring him to have the approval of, and permitting him to function far too close to an influential figure whose close proximity to the project has obscured Lambert’s view of the entire landscape. I expect, that as more years and further experience gives him better perspective, we will see some helpful things from his pen. I will be looking forward to reviewing them.

My advice to the reader? Buy this book and see for yourself. Just be careful not to read it too close to an open flame. Straw men are easily combustible.

[1] See my review in the Journal of Modern Ministry, Volume 7, Issue 2.

[3] A chapter which I have to admit I was too obtuse to follow. Does he believe Powlison is right or wrong? I couldn’t tell.

Complaints? Not About These!

For some time, off and on, I’ve occasionally complained about the sort of commentaries that are coming off Christian presses these days. They spend their time with technical matters which they rarely resolve, go hunting for novel ways of finding Christ in the OT, etc., etc. They simply don’t help pastors–or other Bible students—obtain much truth from a passage.

But now! I have come across two volumes that I want to recommend and commend in the strongest way possible.  They are by Dale Ralph Davis, pastor of the Woodland Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was former professor of Old Testament in Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.

What is different about his work? Almost everything!. I have completed reading the volume on Joshua, and am well into its sequel on Judges (he has written more, but I don’t have them—yet!). There is racy (never objectionable) language throughout, enlivening otherwise material that is difficult to continue to study because it seems dull. One of his achievements is to show how, rightly interpreted, the Scriptures of these books is anything but dull! No one could help enjoy reading difficult to discuss data the way in which he has presented it!

But, of importance—Davis has shown that what seems dull and matter-of-fact actually has vital and interesting purposes.  He has brought the text of these books of the Bible to life as few commentators ever have.

But, there’s more.  These are commentaries that will delight preachers. Davis is writing primarily for them, and the way in which he comes at portions of Scripture is exactly what preachers need commentators to do. These aren’t line for line commentaries.  Largely, they stress how the writer of the Bible book intended to be understood, what he had in mind in writing as he did, how he goes about attempting to change his reader, and the way a preacher today can go about doing the same in his sermons. And he doesn’t spirituralize away the original intention of the text in doing so!

Thankfully, the books are not all tangled up in biblical-theological jargon, in which there is an attempt to locate some new Gospel type or other. Indeed, they are theocentric, in which God’s three-Person Nature is rightly acknowledged. The Father and the Spirit are not neglected, as they are in so much theological writing today.

The deeply-interested Bible student, as well as the pastor, will find these books helpful, but the novice and the casual student probably will discover that the going is too difficult for him.

Christian Focus is to be highly commended for encouraging such theological writing, and Dr. Davis is to be applauded for writing it!


Book Review

How People Change
by Paul David Tripp and Timothy S. Lane
Punch Press: Winston-Salem (2006, 2008)
Reviewed by Donn R Arms

The traditional view of the gospel’s relationship to change is that salvation is foundational to change. Once a person is justified before God by believing in Christ’s saving work on the cross, and made a new creature, he then begins the work of co-laboring with God in the growth process, also known as sanctification. The traditional view sees our role, after being made a new creature (born again), as many-faceted in regard to biblical instruction—the primary role being the learning of God’s Word and the application of it to life via obedience in how we think and behave (Matthew 7:24).

The traditional view makes a significant distinction between justification (redemption), sanctification (growing into Christ-likeness), and glorification (complete transformation). It sees justification and glorification as acts of God alone apart from human participation or monergistic, but sees sanctification as synergistic or a cooperative (but none the less dependent) work with God. Obviously, an accurate view and description of our participation is vital to affecting real and lasting change.

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Winning the War Within

Our regular readers have noticed by now that we have added a column on the left side of this page where we are promoting various books that Dr. Adams has written over the years. I want to urge you to take special notice of the volume we have posted this week. While it was first published in 1989 it speaks to issues that have become widely misunderstood and erroneously taught in biblical counseling circles in recent days. There are some who claim that the church “forgets things” and we are to be grateful for those teachers who “rediscover” and promote “new important truths.” When you hear such things your antennae should go up and you should take a defensive stance.

In this book Jay examines the great old doctrine of sanctification as taught in the New Testament and clearly explained over the years by men like J. C. Ryle and Horatious Bonar. It is the foundational doctrine of all that transpires in the counseling room and the biblical counselor must not be confused by the current crop of teachers who would confuse and conflate justification with sanctification.

Invest in this book. Read it, understand it, and use it.


Commentaries of two sorts are available today:

1. Those that spend more than half the space allotted to them discussing introductory matters rather than commentating on the text of the Bible itself. These contain long (usually non-conclusive) discussions of various authors who, themselves, have written commentaries on the same order. To try to obtain helpful material from these introductions is like looking for a broken needle in the proverbial haystack. If you could find a broomstick—forget the half of the needle—you’re doing good. Then, in what little space is left there is commentary on the text. This material mostly states the obvious—not the help that the reader is searching for—or, similar to the introduction, lengthy discussions of learned nonsense by the author concerning the views of others, most of whom you have met in the introductory material. A good sprinkling of liberal, neo-orthodox or postmodern writers has been made to establish the commentator’s familiarity with the “learned scholarship” of the day! This practice also establishes him as a “learned scholar.”

2. The other sort of commentary is like the older sort—it spends most of the time commentating on the text. The introductory materials are slim, to the point and helpful. The material in the text actually attempts to solve many of the problems that a preacher picked it up in order to help him do so. There aren’t many of new type 2 commentaries available today. That is one reason why I was startled to find a 1154 page type 2 commentary by Grant Osborne, published by Zondervan, and have been enjoying reading through it. Granted, he has a minimum of so-called scholarly “sprinklings” here and there, but they are mainly in footnotes, and he doesn’t waste the reader’s time with having to plow through them in the text itself. This is a big book; so far (I’m about half-way through), it has been useful, informative and a pleasure to use. I predict that I will turn to it again and again in the future. He actually attacks most of the difficult matters! He isn’t a preterist of any sort, so he misinterprets much of the Olivet Discourse and kindred passages on the kingdom, but not so much so that there is nothing worthwhile there. Much of what he says about the kingdom can be helpfully adapted to a proper view of the events surrounding 70AD. I hope that the rest of the volumes in this new series will be on the same order. I look forward to them. Hurray for Zondervan and Osborne!


Catching Up

Well, I suppose I haven’t been quite as communicative as I might have been about what is going on here in South Carolina. Let’s catch up!

Recently, I was given several books to review for the Journal of Modern Ministry. Most of them are tomes! It is taking quite a while to wade through them. One is Stein’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark—the one I’m currently going through. What’s a tome? Well, this commentary is over 800 pages long. So, you get the idea. So far, I have two observations to make:

  1. It seems thoroughly conservative
  2. It seems verbose in places, often making a point of the obvious.

Continue reading

A Classic Jay Adams Review

I recently came across this book review written by Dr. Adams in 1974. The book Jay reviews has long since passed into well deserved obscurity. The review, however, could easily have been written of scores of similar books written since then—books that seek to straddle the fence between biblical counseling and psychology. Enjoy!

James D. Hamilton: The Ministry of Pastoral Counseling. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids: 1972.
Reviewed by Jay E Adams.

Hamilton’s book is disappointing not because he is unaware of the current vital issues in pastoral counseling (e.g., whether there is such a thing as non-somatic mental illness; the problems connected with referral to psychiatrists and clinical psychologists), but precisely because in full knowledge of these he tries to straddle the fence, never taking a firm position with reference to them. As a result, his book will please neither the establishment nor its critics. Continue reading