You talk about nothing else but sin!

Now that is an interesting charge. I want to forestall all misunderstanding on the subject. Yes, I speak a lot about sin. So does the Bible. Others locate man’s problem in genetics, in environmental factors, in training, and so on. They limit their understanding of man’s difficulties thereby, and truncate the solutions that they might reach. They are like the blind men trying to describe the elephant.

All problems stem from Adam’s sin. Had there been no fall, there would be no remedial counseling. But Adam did sin, and if you were to trace genetic problems, environmental factors, and poor training back far enough, you would discover that it is because of the fall that these problems exist. Sin, then, rather than being a limiting concept, is the broadest of all. It covers the waterfront!

But not all of an individual counselee’s problems may be traced to some specific sin in his life. It may be that he has been injured by others, misled, and so on. While he bears responsibility for how he handles wrongdoing toward himself, nevertheless, he is certainly not responsible for everything that occurs.

In Competent to Counsel, published 40 years ago, I stated clearly that the cases of Job and the man born blind (John 9) are explicit examples of the fact that people do not always bring their problems upon themselves.* In the providence of God, who knows how many illnesses, and other untoward circumstances, may accrue from transactions that take place in the unseen world? We are not privy to such information. The only thing that is important for us to say about such matters is that God held Job (and his four counselors) responsible for interpreting and dealing with his condition so far as they were able to do so.

In cases where no causal relationship between one’s behavior and his circumstances is apparent, that usually calls for a similar tact to be taken by Nouthetic counselors. They help their counselees to understand (so far as possible) what is happening, to face it with biblical attitudes and actions, and to learn how to grow more like Christ from doing so. Often, an exposition and application of Romans 8:28-29 to the counselee’s situation is in order. We certainly would not postulate some hidden sin where there is no evidence of it. Rather, with Christ, we would declare, “Neither did this man nor his parents sin (John 9:1-2).” We would also take our stand with Job against the accusations of the first three counselors.

I hope from this explanation, the calumny that has been leveled against us will be dispelled once and for all. We do not accuse every person of sin when he comes for counseling. In addition to those who have not brought trouble upon themselves, there are those who are neither in trouble nor are seeking to overcome sin in their lives. I speak of those who simply desire counsel about whom to marry, what school to attend, how to deal with life issues biblically, and the like. So, it is just not true that we go searching for sin in every counselee’s life. Nor is it fair or accurate to charge us with doing so.

So far from believing that counseling is little more than a hunt for sin, I want to tell you how shocked I was when I heard a well-known, well respected Christian counselor say the following: “I simply listen until I hear something sinful, then I jump on that!” I whole-heartedly deplore the sentiment.** Had I said it, I guess I would never hear the end of it. But enough of that!

* Yet for over thrity years, the very same gossip had persisted!

** But it is good to know that there is somebody to the right of me!

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583




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