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Psychology is the Devil: A Critique of Jay Adams’ Counseling Paradigm

Jay Adams and The Biblical Counseling Movement

The so-called “Biblical Counseling” model has replaced the “old” model of integrative counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where I am currently working on my masters degree. This replacement is representative on a large scale of the most conservative (some would say “fundamental”) agenda in the evangelical church. As the story goes, because the church in general was highly influenced by secular models, the seminary eventually embodied a compromised approach. Secular psychology tended to undermine responsibility, replace biblical doctrine with Freudian nonsense, and replace instruction with alternative “therapy,” practices which never dealt with sin seriously. Eventually, some rugged evangelicals in the church stepped forward to call for a holy war against much of the so-called “Christian Counseling” that had virtually surrendered the biblical worldview by embracing secular counseling models, and had become an unhealthy alternative to real discipleship.The chief on the front lines in this reform was Jay Adams. His book Competent to Counsel (1970) was intended to be somewhat of a bombshell on the playground of the so-called “Christian” Counseling scene. Below, I have cut and pasted excerpts from my review of his book. It includes only a summary of his introduction, and then a brief critique of the books key idea(s).
Adams, Jay E. Competent to Counsel: Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1970. 287pp. $13.99.
Note: “Nouthetic” comes from the Greek word noutheo mostly translated “admonish.”
Several principles are defended hot and heavy in Adams’ attempt to introduce us to nouthetic counseling. Our author makes it easy on us to see where he is coming from by showing all his cards up front (i.e. in the introduction). Nouthetic counseling demands the counselor to recognize that the counselee’s ultimate and all-pervading problem is not mental illness but sin (xi). To say that Adams is suspicious about “the common practice” of referral (or “bifurcation,” of duties) in poimenics (the art of pastoral ministry) is an understatement (12, xii). He believes that the secular methods of counselors, psychiatrists and mental institutions are in fierce competition with a biblical approach to counseling. They seek to remove guilt from the counselee by “misclassifying” sin problems (xiv). Freud goes beyond science to teach “the art of living,” and secular modes have long become an alternative religion for a world that finds itself “in a mess” (xxii, 1). Adams seems to have been inspired by O. Hobard Mowrer’s Moral Model of responsibility to stand against the anti-responsibility models (xvi-xvii). Psychotherapy has become little more than a search through one’s past for someone else to blame (xvii).
Though Adams has been inspired by Mowrer, he is not satisfied with Mowrer’s Model, for Mowrer cannot ground morality objectively (xix). It is presuppositionally deficient (xviii). Our author is burdened by “the same old eclecticism with a Christian coating,” which, for Adams, amounts to nothing more than “accommodation” (xx). Perhaps the most revealing statement in the whole book, which typifies the nouthetic approach, is in the following unabashed confession: “The conclusions in this book are not based upon scientific findings. My method is presuppositional” (xxi). Although Adams does not wish to “disregard” science, he demands that scientific input only be accepted inasmuch as it illustrates and clarifies the biblical teaching (xxi). Even when science is used to illustrate or clarify the scriptures, it must not be thought of as somehow confirming or verifying the biblical teaching (xxi). “God’s Word does not need human support” (xxi).
A Brief, Suggestive Critique
Adams’ dogmatic presuppositional approach is both his greatest asset as well as his greatest limitation. On the one hand, his VanTillian approach brings a heightened awareness of holistic comparisons between different counseling philosophies and this in turn brings a greater discerning ability of what “fits” with the biblical teaching and what does not (and why). On the other hand, Eric L. Johnson points out that the VanTillian approach tends to undermine science as a knowledge-constructive practice (see footnote 1). Although Adams would agree that truth can be found in non-biblical systems (see footnote 2), his statements do not seem to allow for it. For example, he says: “Because non-biblical systems rest upon non-biblical presuppositions, it is impossible to reject the presuppositions and adopt the techniques which grow out of and are appropriate to those presuppositions” (102, emphasis mine). This statement not only oversimplifies the situation (many atheistic scientists have discovered marvelous aspects of God’s creation fully in accord with scripture), but it also breeds an overly pessimistic approach to science (and thus perfectly fits the fundamentalist stereotype). A biblical coherence theory of truth—defining truth in terms of worldview coherence—is different from a correspondence theory of truth—defining truth in terms of what corresponds to reality, regardless of what presuppositional context the truth is discovered in. Just because non-Christian worldviews abuse and misinterpret much of the scientific data does not mean the data in its purest form cannot be accepted just because it is not presented within a coherent Christian worldview. Only if Christians take the responsibility of empirical investigation seriously will the Christian counseling community be “increasingly comprehensive and sophisticated.”
In addition to Adams’ overly pessemistic attitude towards science and the reductionism of his theory of truth, Adams is also guilty of a methodological reductionism. By this, I do not mean that Adams does not have many methods. Rather, Adams unfortunately reduces all methods for counseling down to nouthetics. Biblical Counseling = Nouthetic Counseling. In fact, he oversimplifies the nature of real-life counseling by reducing it down to “problem solving,” and then speaking of the “problem” only in terms of sin. However, to be faithful to the biblical sources, one must include a variety of problems as well as a variety of methods. We must “admonish [noutheteite] the unruly,” but we also must “encourage [parameutheisthe] the fainthearted” (1 Thess 5:14). Adams could have just as easily reduced all counseling down to paramouthetics and walked us through a thousand methods for paramouthetic engagement. With Adams’ reductionistic approach, it does not surprise the reader that he never mentions the biblically revealed methods of admonishing with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs sung in thankfulness to God (Col 3:16). Such a method seems out of place with Adams’ narrow, cognitively-oriented categories of problem solving.
His failure to redeem much of the secular methodology and put it in its proper place seems also to be a result of this impractical, unbiblical, and oversimplified reductionism. For example, Adams appears to associate ventilation of one’s pent-up feelings with Freudian ideology of resocialization (11), but “venting” one’s feelings—so long as it does not involve hostile transfer of sinful feelings—is sometimes just what one needs to do, and in fact, should do. We like to say it this way—”I just needed someone to talk to about it.” Sometimes, we just need to talk to someone about our frustrations in life or our disappointments. In those times, we need someone to simply “be there” for us and sympathize with our situation (which may or may not be a sin-rooted problem).  Weep with those who weep.
Furthermore, since not all troubles are sin problems, not all methods include nouthetics. Most counseling relationships might inevitably involve a need for varying degrees of nouthetic confrontation (as do most real friendships). However, sometimes I have the “problem” of indecisiveness in an important decision. I get counsel from my mentor all the time because he is older than me and sometimes provides a different, more informed perspective on life which enables me to make a better decision. When I go to him for counsel on life’s big decisions, he does not probe my life looking to confront me for some sin (although if he did, he might surely find I am a sinner). Rather, he simply offers his advice, encouragement, prayer, and support. This is right and biblical.
Although Biblical Counseling would have a friendly place for nouthetic confrontation, to be true to the biblical text and to real life situations, we must admit that counseling is more than identifying and confronting sin. Adam’s narrow approach simply does not do justice to the full range of human “problems” and situations the way scripture does. Unfortunately, his book sparked a reform which has used his teaching as the basic approach to counseling to this day (the “Biblical Counseling” movement). Of course, I would rather have a narrow approach of nouthetics than a compromised approach which undermines a biblical worldview—if you forced me to choose. But with people who seem to have done a great job in integrating the best of the sciences with the rock-solid biblical worldview (e.g. Johnson), why should we choose Adams’ overly narrow approach which pontificates so many false antithesis and ranks of an unhelpful “psychology is the devil” sort of mentality? While Adams’ work is a breath of fresh air to many evangelicals who have been burdened by the influence of secular models which undermine biblical truth, and although he has swung the pendulum in the right direction, I (and several other evangelicals) am afraid that he has swung the pendulum a bit too far.

______________________________

Footnote # 1: Eric L. Johnson, Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2007), 614. This seems to be the reason why Adams is always trying to ground everything he says—even when he is giving extra-biblical wisdom—in some verse or biblical doctrine (even when it is not in the text).

Footnote # 2: Ibid., 615.

Footnote #3: “This approach to secular and other non-Christian thought is best explained by his adherence to a biblical coherence theory of truth [as opposed to a correspondence theory of truth], just like VanTil’s.” Ibid.

Footnote #4: Ibid, 616.

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66 Comments

  1. Stephen Newell says:

    Thanks for this, it is well-argued and right on. As one of the last people to graduate with the Pastoral Counseling M.Div., I thought that there is much to be learned from Adams and much raise an eyebrow at as well. I’d be interested in reading the whole critique, if you’re willing!

    I see you’re also reading Dr. Johnson’s new book. Isn’t it great?

  2. Bradley says:

    Stephen: Glad you enjoyed and agree with my critique. I’m kinda hopin’ that someone who doesn’t agree with me will bite on the title and engage my thoughts. I guess I’m a minority here now as far as my counseling views go. I’m not so confident the model for “biblical” counseling now is as “biblical” as Johnson’s model. It’s a shame the way the debates get carried out (“Biblical” counseling VS. integrationist counseling—–as if one is biblical and one is not). Anyhow…

    What I’ve read so far in Johnson’s book seems so much more perceptive than the Biblical Counseling liturature. If I were a counseling major I would have to make reading the whole thing a priority; but I’m not (and don’t have the luxury right now with all the other stuff goin’ on).

  3. Mary Mc says:

    I think your concerns about Jay Adams’ paradigm make sense. (This coming from someone who is not an expert in “Biblical” counseling ala Adams nor in “Christian” counseling.) I laud Adams’ emphasis on dealing with the sin involved in a person’s “psychological” issues, but I think you’re right to point out that sin is often not the only problem. Adam took pastoral counseling with Johnson and found it completely biblical. At the same time, Johnson also challenged Adam’s (my husband not Jay) presuppositions AGAINST science and demonstrated in a convincing and biblical way the things science can teach us.

  4. Bradley says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Mary. Wow. I sooooo wish I could take Johnson for a class, but it wouldn’t make any sense given my area of Ph.D. hopes. I would love to talk to Adam about it. Remind me to talk to him about it next time I come over.

  5. Teresa says:

    I was one of the first people to take RCT with Dr. Johnson. It was the best experience I ever had! I think it made me a better counselor.

  6. Bradley says:

    Thanks Teresa; I would soooo love to take one of his classes! I’ve heard they are life-changing (and after all, shouldn’t they be?)!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Bradley,

    Forgive my vanity, but I think the pic of me in a trash bag makes your blog really smashing.
    ricardo

  8. Sara says:

    Hey Bradley,
    I am writing a paper on Ellison’s psychospiritual model and using nothetic as a comparison point. I really liked your critique and was wondering if I could use it in my paper.

  9. Bradley says:

    Sara,

    By all means; use it. Glad to be of help.

    Bradley

  10. Sara says:

    Thanks. just in case my professor asks about your expertise,
    which college are you/have you attending/attended?

  11. Bradley says:

    I’m currently working on an M.Div (Masters of Divinity) at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where the “Biblical” counseling movement reigns supreme).

  12. Bradley says:

    Oh, and I got a Bach.of.Science in Religion at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.

  13. nina says:

    i thought that there is much to be learned from Adams and much raise an eyebrow at as well. I’d be interested in reading the whole critique, if you’re willing!
    _________________________________________
    nina
    http://www.christian-drug-rehab.org
    “Christian Drug Rehab

  14. […] Johnson is an intellectual beast.  His approach to biblical counseling is more biblical than the “Biblical” Counseling approach.  It’s also more scientifically informed and thoroughly thought through.  (wow … look […]

  15. […] 10:32:31 EST—– P.s. here is a critique of Jay Adams’ book, which many reformed Christians like: Psychology is the Devil: A Critique of Jay Adams’ Counseling Paradigm T h e o ? p h i l o g u … Most of these anti-psychology groups have similar traits: (1) they find dangerous trends in even […]

  16. Sathish says:

    Thanks Bradley for that critique and would enjoy reading the whole content. I am from India and I did find -exasperated/ crushed- reading Jay Adams fundamentalist attitude-your response does throw more light. But over here in India we need to move slowly from the west oriented edu to a more contextualized Counseling approach.

  17. theophilogue says:

    Thanks Sathish!

    Glad you found this helpful. I went back a looked and there isn’t actually much more of my critique left, but I might post it soon if I have time (i’ve been real busy lately).

    I hope you will be able to provide more contextualized paradigms for your Counseling endeavors in India!

  18. […] Since I posted a book review on Jay Adams’ book Competent to Counsel entitled Psychology is the Devil: A Critique of Jay Adams’ Counseling Paradigm, it has been the most viewed post here at  T h e o • p h i l g u e.  On the one hand, I think […]

  19. Holly says:

    I’ve just started a blog that so far has been a critique of nouthetic counseling. (I have had and witnessed the ramifications of counselors adhering solely to “nouthetics.” I’m just starting to look deeper into different types of Christian counseling available and have really enjoyed and learned a lot from your post. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  20. theophilogue says:

    Holly,

    I’m so glad to hear that you have been helped by my post!

    I visited your blog also and read your “About me,” section and glanced through the posts. Sorry to hear about what happened at your last church. So long as the BCM controls the counseling programs in seminaries, I’m afraid there will always be pastors like that. I don’t think that everyone who is associated with BCM is necessarily a bad counselor, but they have a tendency to be judgmental, oversimplify the experience of those in need of help for a quick and easy diagnosis, and unconcerned with how gently and thoughtfully they communicate their understanding to those who come to them for help. But my perspective is very limited, so I pray that I’m wrong.

    I would recommend Eric L. Johnson’s book cited in this post (see footnotes). I am a friend of his, and he is not only a very well-balanced, caring, and loving counselor, but also a more seasoned and sophisticated biblical interpreter. Not to mention he is a genius. If you read five chapters of his book you will see what I mean.

    He covers the history and development of the Biblical Counseling Movement in his book with a critical eye. It’s very stimulating reading. Not overly polemical but fair-handedly critical.

    Hope you will check it out.

    In Christ,

    Bradley

  21. Great thoughts and truly helpful counter-points and concerns you raise about the Nouthetic approach from Adams and others. Just a few key articles from Jay Adam’s blog:

    The Nouthetic movement does not reject the use of medicine: http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=3940

    Jay’s response to the claim that the Nouthetic movement is over-critical of others: http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=3842

    Jay’s response to the claim that the Nouthetic movement talks too much of sin: http://www.nouthetic.org/blog/?p=3816

    One helpful summary thought from Jay in response to criticism:

    “Indeed, from some of the criticism that is leveled against Nouthetic Counseling in general, and me in particular, I wonder if many critics even bother to read what I have written. And if they read only Competent to Counsel, and nothing else (when there has been a spate of books following it that fill out the system), that too is evidence of irresponsible criticism.”

    I’m only trying to keep the discussion going by bringing Jay’s “voice” into this blog. Good stuff, keep it up. We all get sharpened by it.

  22. Paul / Jen,

    Thanks for your interjections! Eric Johnson’s book points out that most Biblical Counselors now distance themselves significantly from Jay Adams in one way or another (he calls this “progressive biblical counseling,” and I hope to post about it one day on my blog).

    I regularly listen to “HELP AND HOPE PODCAST” (a Biblical Counseling podcast). There is a podcast where David Powlison answers the question: “What is the Biblical Counseling movement’s relationship to Jay Adams.” The response was very interesting. The question is answered in a round about way. Elsewhere Powlison has explicitly distinguished his approach to Biblical Counseling from Jay Adams’ nouthetic approach (see Johnson’s book).

    I think David Powlison, Paul David Tripp, and other “progressive” Biblical Counselors have taken the best from Adams and developed a more biblically balanced approach to Biblical Counseling.

    Thanks for your links!

    Bradley

  23. I read Dr. Adams writings back in the 70s and was moved by some of them and appreciated much of what he had to say. However, his approach was too confrontational and did not recognize the profundity in and of simplicity that belongs to scriptural counseling. His was a one size fits all, and his dependence on Mowrer, despite his critique, was a turn off. There is more, much more, to the biblical approach than Adams thinks. In addition, while biblical reality is not dependent upon human support and the scientific method, it is not solipsistic of such. Indeed, Whitehead suggested, for example, that the origin of thescientific method was due to the Christian teaching of the immanence of God (if my memory serves correctly after a hiatus of 40 years)(which teaching means that there is something there, that is repeatable, dependable, and which can be formulated into formulas and theories of explanation which can be verified). Early development of the scientific method is to be found among Christian thinkers in the 15th-19th century, and one will find Protestant and Puritan thinkers were among the early supporters and developers of the scientific method. The problem today is that the method is flawed from being too analytic; it apparently needs a synthetical (my term for an approach that involves analysis and more, a two-sided formulation). A science educator in a school system who was working on her Ph.D. in the field at a major university was shocked to find that I, a mere preacher, could be aware of the problem. Of course, it helped to have an M.A, in American Intellectual History. Even so, there is a more vital connection of science and the Christian Faith than most people (including scholars and scientists) imagine. Adams evident lack of awareness of the relationship between the two is one of the most serious and severe flaws in his approach, and the writer of this blog is to be commended for his insights about Adams along with his willingness to present them in the arena of public discussion.

  24. Dr. Willingham,

    I appreciate your contribution to this discussion. The “synthetical” (as you call it) is exactly what Eric Johnson is trying to develop. His book “Foundations for Soul Care” is an attempt to simply lay the ground work for such a synthetical. He wants Christians to reappropriate the scientific method while guiding it with distinctively Christian/biblical presuppositions. You really should check out his book. It’s an exemplary attempt to bring together two methods of knowing, a sort of epistemological synthesis that gives the Scripture it’s rightful place of authority while critically integrating scientific findings/experiments/data, etc.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and compliments.

    Bradley

  25. Tom Parrott says:

    I agree with almost all said in your review. It reminds me of the GEICO ad where the Marine Drill Sgt is the Counselor.

    I always hold the fact that the Truth is ALL GOD’s truth regardless of the source.

    I sens a bit of counselor superiority and with terms such as, “My People”, and Counseling is all about “Good Advice”

    The Holy Spirit knows the heart of each person and He knows the approach that will best bring about His plan for sanctification.

    The counselor is a physical representation – in tangible form – of Christ on earth.

    The counselor is NOT the healer – he is probably closer to facilitator.

    I think this form of counseling (although the goal being noble, will attract those who enjoy the presupposition of hard line confrontation being the ONLY way to behavioral change.

    Also how does a counselor really know if a person is saved? If not the Scriptures my be hidden and the counselee may be shepherded by the counselor.

    I noticed a twinge of Shepherding mentality in his book.

  26. The one shot approach fails to take into account the help that other methods often provide. Perhaps no single technique, formulation or theoretical therapy is sufficient in itself to meet every situation. Family systems therapy sometimes works. Just rearrange the seating of a family and the relationships began to alter. Paradoxical interventions are strangely effective in seemingly hopeless cases, Eye Desensitization Movement therapy is notable helpful in traumatic cases. And then there are the physiological, neurological, medicinal, and many other modalities of treatment. When I took my M.A. in Marriage and Family therapy 25 years ago, there were then over 450 schools/movements, etc. in counseling. One of the techniques mentioned above was developed in the past two years and has become one of the leading therapies for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, especially helpful, so I understand, in treating veterans suffering from the shock of the battlefields. While I cannot speak to that matter, I had the privilege of trying the technique with a person suffering from a traumatic situation. The effect was anazing. Someday, hopefully, I will get access to Dr., Johnson’s work, but the works being published these days are overwhelming in sheer numbers.

  27. I finally saw that GEICO commercial you were talking about Tom. Great illustration!

  28. David Bonnet says:

    I have some major issues with Adams presuppositions and applications of what he calls “biblical counseling.” In order to receive anything in the way of biblical admonition, a person must be open to correction and input. If they are not, counseling must target the resistances against change in the person before anything can happen. Using Scripture in this case would only make things worse. Scripture is not primarily a work (outside of some verses in Proverbs) that addresses mental health, which can reside even in the unsaved person. It is a person’s experiences that make them who they are, not what they read or what some one else tells them to do. For example, most marriage problems are not related to knowing what the bible says about divorce, but complex dynamic forces working within and between each person. Reducing this to a failure to adhere to a Scripture or two is gross oversimplification.

  29. David,

    You make a great point. I find that much of the Biblical counseling (not all), in seeking to “stand up” for the truth and reveal sin as sin, will often shortcut genuine anthropological inquiry (whether scientific or otherwise) beyond what some verse in the Bible says, or presume that some biblical truth contradicts some psychological theory or secular insight without exploring in what senses these theories or insight might be true and relevant.

    Thanks for your comments,

    Bradley

  30. Robert Topartzer says:

    Thank you for this blog post and the responses. As a Pastor who also has a law degree and historical education, I was a Fundamentalist who was very adverse to Psychology and greeted Jay Adams books with glee. However, I soon found my joy was due to lack of objective analysis. I have come to reject both Adams and the second generation of exclusive Biblical counselors such as Powlison. They all are too prejudice against Psychiatry, the medical model of mental illness, and even have a wrong understanding of the definition of mental illness. They are dangerous to the 3% to 4% of the population who have “brain disease” mental process illness and their caretakers. The most ignorant and prejudice book I have read is the popular book “Biblical Counseling” with John MacArthur as the editor. It has references that are 30 and 40 years old from magazines and others who give a very prejudicial view of mental illness and causes. Many Pastors and theologians are totally ignorant of contemporary Psychiatric practices which involve big changes in the last thirty years. Psychologists today talk (therapy) and Psychiatrists diagnose and prescribe based on the mental process illness medical model (treatment). The Biblical counseling view that will actually listen to science needs to bring itself up to date on good Psychiatry and learn to and not hinder the truly mentally ill. The absolute truth of scripture does not exclude the science truth of discovery. Scripture is the final word on all that it speaks to. However, I still do not open it for directions on car repair. I have found that quite a bit in car repair manuals does not contradict scripture.

  31. Robert,

    I am delighted you have found this post affirming or helpful. Have you read Eric Johnson’s book? If so, what do you think of it? I find it exceptionally illuminating (compared to the “biblical counseling” literature).

    LoL! I do not find it surprising at all that you found MacArthur’s edited book especially narrow minded. I’m laughing because I know what you mean (LoL!).

    Bradley

  32. Wilma Linhart says:

    We just started “biblical counseling” for our marriage issues. I’m a bit troubled by my counselors idea that scripture does not allow us to self preserve or self protect. Instead we should offer ourselves to our husbands even when they are verbally abusive and even if they continually lie. He leaves no room for caring for myself and having limits. If I can’t take my husband’s emotional abuse it’s because I’m selfish and the reason I am with him is to get not to give. My argument is that I did not marry him to get, but I sure did not marry to GET ABUSE. Isn’t there a difference? Our counselor uses scripture such as turn the other cheek, be perfect because God is perfect and many more I can’t remember. I’m finding myself feeling like he is putting a yoke around my neck. Like the passage that talks about don’t go back and let them place rules on you=slavery.I think its Romans? Anyway, what is your idea about caring for ourselves vs. turn the other cheek. Do I get to have limits and care for myself if I feel I have reached my limit?

  33. Wilma,

    I don’t know what exactly to advise you in a situation of spousal abuse. Everyone’s situation is different. Moderate verbal abuse is one thing. Extreme verbal abuse and constant intimidation tactics are another. The spectrum is so wide for the word we call “abuse,” it makes giving advise impractical for anyone other than the people in your community who know your situation best and have a loving, caring and compassionate spirit to help you. Those people may or may not be the biblical counselors you are seeing. I will pray for you in your struggle, and I sent you a much longer e-mail sharing my own story and some encouragement and general advise.

    Thanks for reaching out.

    Bradley

  34. Jim Golding says:

    I applaud your article. Excuse this oversimplicity but i belive it to be disturbingly accurate after 15 years of research and running a peer counsleing program among others at a large church in California. As ‘progress’ became the mandate for the church through the last 50-60 years, the church has given the caretaking of the sould over to the “professionals”. As Adams is keenly aware, much of our distress and problems are rooted in sin. The problem? People have been handed over to counselors who are largely trained to not talk about sin or make value judgements. I vetted counselors that we worked with as a church, and loved to throw hypotheticals out to even our ‘A’ list therapists to get a response. The responses were beyond shocking. They often aided and abetted hideos acts in their complicity or unwillingness to address sin. So -the great book, Whatever Became of Sin, written what 40+ years ago is very very pertinant. With you I would much rather err to the side of nouthetic counsleing than a more psychological model. it’s always sad when people become polarized about such topics and begin to throw the baby. Lastly – it’s my strong conviction, that pschology needs noughtetic insights more than the other way around.

  35. Tom P says:

    Good response. But it is still an error. We all know only the Holy Spirit led counselor will be truly helpful. Experience helps, in almost anything, and in this case, experience in knowing it is all the Holy Spirit leading – its awesome.

  36. Jim G,

    Thanks for your reflections and kind words! I have always said there are probably many churches that have uncritically imported unbiblical psychology in their counseling program and have insufficient biblical training. On the other hand, I would say there are many churches (fundamentalist churches, conservative evangelical churches, especially the ones affiliated with the different strands of the biblical counseling movement) that need their biblicism tempered with an open mind to science and psychology.

    For example, Is dementia a sin according to the Bible? I could make a great case for it by biblical exhortations not to “forget” God’s laws or not to “forget” the wife of your youth, etc. But if you know science, you don’t even try to go there. Instead, you accept dementia simply as a reality that has to be reckoned with; your approach to counseling starts with the scientific assumption of this reality and seeks to place the phenomena within the greater context of a Christian worldview. You bring your doctrine to bear on reality instead of using it to oversimplify reality.

    If a pastor was ignorant of his congregants dementia, could we blame him for rebuking him with biblical exhortations to “remember” God’s word and not “forget” the wife of his youth? Indeed, would our proverbial grandpa have any Bible verses to excuse his forgetting the wife of his youth or God’s laws? (Even if he once knew such a verse, he would soon forget it!) There are no verses that excuse such a “sin.” Herein lies the oversimplification of the human condition, but surely the pastor means well and just wants to be biblical; excusing such a “sin” would violate the most fundamental principles of his Christian worldview (sin is sin, can be forgiven but must be rebuked, must be repented of rather than excused, etc.). It’s unfortunate ignorance, but what can really be done about it? Answer: counselors could critically engage in appropriating science to the ends of biblical counseling. This is what Eric Johnson (and others) are trying to do. I think this is right.

    Bradley

  37. Tess says:

    I find ur write up very good because adam though well read but must know that human problems are not all rooted in sin and some need scence to deal with and we must use d right method to handle different problems so as to get good result. tx

  38. Shawna says:

    Personally this form of “Biblical Counseling” was used by my church when I needed professional help. A pastor’s wife sat me down and tried to “dig out my sin”. The guilt and dispair of not getting it right caused me to loose hope and doubt my faith. After getting help from a professional, I found out that the pastors wife was using this method. It did great harm and I believe it was spiritual abuse. I googled the nouthic counseling and found your information. The holy spirit has done a greater work in my life after the professional counseling and the Biblical counseling only pushed me away from God.

  39. Dear Bradley, Thank you for this! I have been considering a nouthetic counseling program, but I’m really glad to have stumbled upon your article because it helped me realize how naive my idea of it was. Myself, I have experienced both the biblical and the secular sides of counseling, and I agree with one of the commenters when they say, “it is sad when people become so polarized”. It does tend to be that between 2 extremes, a mixture of both would be ideal. Thanks again!

  40. Fred Daniel says:

    If you have only read “Competent To Counsel”, you do not have much of a grasp on Adams or his Nouthetic approach. It is, after all, an introduction per the subtitle.

  41. Fred,

    Just because a book is introductory doesn’t mean you can’t learn much from it about the author’s perspective. As for Adams, I’ve read enough in his one book to accurately construe his basic approach, which is all I critique in this post. You seem to assume that if a book is self-labeled as “introductory,” one cannot expect to have much of a grasp about the author’s assumptions or basic approach.

    If you think I’ve said something inaccurate about his position or approach based on your own further reading, pray tell.

    Pax,

    Bradley

  42. Gaby says:

    Hi Guys,
    Enjoyed the whole thing, I wish I could move my thoughts and be able to compare and not eating everything I reed like: “Wow this is awesome”. I felt like teaandtestimony said: “Naive”.

    I enjoyed every post but most of all the smooth and gentle answers from Bradley.

    Bradley I need “Psychospiritual” material I read what you wrote :”Ellison’s psychospiritual” is there a book, anything helps. Also I am looking about “Temperaments” something “Christian” any ideas?

    Thanks, God bless you

    Gaby

  43. Hey Gaby!

    Glad you have joined the discussion! I’m glad you appreciate the dialogue.

    I’m not sure what you are referencing when you talk about “psychospiritual”? What kind of temperaments do you want to know about?

    Let me know,

    Bradley

  44. Fred says:

    While sin is not the only problem when it comes to counseling, to be fair, I think Falleness is. In this we still must depend on the Word of God for sole guidance, which seems to me to take me back to Adams. I believe that the debates between Van Till and Clark would be conducive to understanding the whole issue of the sufficiency and the perpescuity of Scripture to which I believe Adams seems to adhere to nj his counseling thesis. Adams says that secularists may have truth, but then why take the candy that has sugar when it also (may also) contains arsenic? We know God’s Word is not tainted.

  45. Fred, aging unto death is a result of falenness, along with heart failure, infections, viruses, and (the example we have mentioned especially) Alzheimer’s (a deterioration of the brain). Would you say sufficient council comes from God’s word about Alzheimer’s? If so, where in the Bible does it speak of this and what counsel does it give? Would you recommend those suffering from the disease need not see a doctor, but only need the counsel of God’s word? ****Bradley

  46. fred.pursley@facebook.com says:

    Bradley, of course I would recommend a doctor and so would have Adams. Scripture speaks to it in that it acknowledges medical problems. Scripture also prescribes wisdom to know the difference between “illnesses caused by sin and illnesses solely related to the Fall of nature because of Man. Do you deny the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life?

  47. Fred, thanks for your prompt response. I though you would say that. That the Bible “acknowledges” medical problems is a very generic way indeed of addressing this devastating medical issue and likewise does not address Alzheimer’s directly. But have you considered that Alzheimer’s may cause a man to “forget the wife of his youth,” as Scripture says, and mistake his nurse for his wife and even come on to her? (or do you not know that this sort of thing happens as a result of Alzheimer’s?) So here we have a biblical sin, so to speak, being induced by a non-sin related medical problem. A pastor today looking only to Scripture for a good “neuthetic” rebuke would indeed fall short of his duty (I would say). But the problem gets worse, for if a pastor looking for answers to all problems in Scripture only in the 1700s witnessed a man going through something like this before medical knowledge of Alzheimer’s had developed, how would he be obliged to correct his problem from Scripture only? I only use this as an example of the complexity of reality that comes into view once you have access to extra-biblical knowledge (in this case, the knowledge of the medical condition now labeled as Alzheimer’s). Married couples with one or the other spouse struggling with Alzheimer’s will indeed need counseling (e.g. extra-biblical education on the problem since the Bible says absolutely nothing about it, options for medical treatments, encouragement sensitive to the common marital struggles closely associated with the problem, etc.), but the root of the problem will be a medical condition and not a sin that needs rebuked (although certainly they will need to be encouraged not to respond sinfully to their non-sin rooted problem) . But Adams’ model for biblical counseling is “nouthetics,” and this is much too narrow a category to describe the sort of counseling needed for this type of problem. Would Jay Adams excuse a man for coming on to the nurse while his wife is gone to the grocery store? When you ask “Is the Bible sufficient for all of life” I must ask: sufficient for what? “All of life” is far too encompassing, given that you yourself have already admitted that Jay Adams would not use Scripture only to help with Alzheimer’s. I would say a visit to the doctor to get a medical diagnosis for a problem and following an unbelieving doctor on how to treat it would be “part of life,” so if Scripture is supposed to be sufficient for “all of life” including this “part of life,” why then would Jay Adams need to refer anyone to anything but Scripture in such a case? Something has to give here. You must narrow the scope of the Bible’s sufficiency or else show how any “part of life” is sufficiently addressed by Scripture. If the Bible itself can be understood to teach the legitimacy of medical problems and the need to have them treated by doctors (whether the doctors be Christians or not), then the Bible itself would be admitting to it’s own insufficiency, taken in an absolute sense. As I see it, the Bible is not absolutely sufficient for “all of life,” but itself (in ways I won’t fully get into here) actually admits of its own insufficiency. Why do we need pastors, elders, and deacons, for example? What need do we have for them if Scripture only is “sufficient” for “all of life” (including all of church life)? Somehow your statement about the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life, if it is not significantly qualified, ironically ends up being itself unbiblical. I’m not trying to start a fight here, just trying to help you see where I’m coming from. Your thoughts? ********Bradley

  48. […] Psychology is the Devil: A Critique of Jay Adams’ Counseling Paradigm […]

  49. Shawn McCloskey says:

    Deeply offended by Nouthetics. Pastors are trained to be therapists? Treat severe emotions disorders pastor? If a person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or addiction, schizophrenia or organic brain disfunction. borderline personality disorder would not be helped. This is approach is extremely offensive as a minister, missionary and evangelic pastor and hurtful to a lost and dying world.

  50. bev says:

    woah – seriously…you think Adams is questionable because he does not address the use of songs, hymns and spiritual songs to be part of a counseling method? that’s pretty weird sounding to me…huh…songs hymns and spiritual songs as part of counseling…who’d have thunk? Clearly that is then for someone else to do as Jay ain’t usin music…
    and he leaves out or minimizes perfectly good non-Biblical methods? and
    Counseling is more than identifying and confronting sin? you say as another reason Adams is too far out…
    Well he may not cover all the bases you are interested in but in my life I see that there are many handy excuses for calling things unsolvable problems by naming them so many other things. Looking elsewhere besides scripture can corroborate Biblical answers but the Bible is to be the rule of life and faith from which all else is measured.
    thanks for listening’

  51. @bev,

    Thanks for visiting this blog Bev. Your comments are always welcome here. I sincerely hope you will not perceive any of my response as harsh, for this is not my intent. You are, however, after not reading my post very carefully (or at least not summarizing what I said very carefully), chiming in a voice of disagreement, and therefore can expect the same.

    woah – seriously…you think Adams is questionable because he does not address the use of songs, hymns and spiritual songs to be part of a counseling method?

    I mentioned several reasons why Adams’ approach is narrow-minded and problematic, but that was not one of them. Here is one of my arguments to help readers grasp just how narrow minded his approach is: In the Bible counseling consist of more than mere admonishment. Yet even if one were going to base her entire counseling philosophy on a non-scientific, literal interpretation of the Bible in the name of biblical faithfulness, then ignore all the Bible has to say about counseling and focus only on the wordnoutheo (admonishment), one would still have an abundance of passages (like the one about admonishing with songs) to help give a well-balanced emphasis to different aspects of admonishment so that it doesn’t reduce itself down to persuading the patient that all his problems are rooted in sin only to then meticulously specify that persons process of repentance. In other words, if we are going to Bible thump, we cannot do so selectively, ignoring anything that doesn’t fit our narrow agenda. So my bit about the psalms was really just an example used in one of my many arguments, not my reason for rejecting Adam’s counseling philosophy.

    Well he may not cover all the bases you are interested in but in my life I see that there are many handy excuses for calling things unsolvable problems by naming them so many other things.

    Sometimes the main problem with a philosophy (such as Adams’ counseling philosophy) is not that the chief insight cannot be construed as a valid insight (such as “Humans use psychological labels as excuses”), but that dogmatism gets in the way of a genuine synthesis of other valid insights (such as “Science has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that real psychological disorders exist which cause relational, emotional, and various other forms of dysfunctionality and devaluing the importance of psychology or reducing them all to personal sin is absurd”). Side-stepping this challenge for synthesis in favor of demonizing it instead is a characteristic example of how religion can be anti-science, narrow-minded, and uncharitable (to put it mildly) to those brave enough to take on the challenge.

    Looking elsewhere besides scripture can corroborate Biblical answers but the Bible is to be the rule of life and faith from which all else is measured.

    If the Bible is to be the rule of life and faith from which all else is measured many absurdities follow. For example, the science of linguistics makes possible the reconstruction of ancient texts and their translations from ancient languages. However you are interpreting the Bible, your interpretation can only be as trustworthy as the science of linguistics that brought you the translation you read and interpret. Another example: the Bible nowhere explicitly or implicitly delineates the biblical canon. Thus, since which books are inspired is not actually taught in the Bible, whatever group of books which make up what you consider to be the Bible must be justified on grounds outside of the Bible. Next we could talk about the science of interpretation, and how this decisively determines what should be understood as “biblical” in the first place. Without interpretation, the Bible is mute, and without valid interpretation the Bible speaks falsely. The science of interpretation has a structural priority over the symbols it seeks to interpret (by symbols here I include the symbols of language). Language about the Bible being the sole rule of life and faith masks these realities and ensure they go unappreciated.

    Any thoughts?

    Bradley

  52. […] Greek word noutheteo, meaning “to admonish.” But as the writer at Theo.Philogue points out, that’s not the only type of counseling addressed in […]

  53. I am now much of an outsider, but spent much of my early life around dogmatists and answer men in bible circles. Many of these men to me are severely pharisaical and have never been broken with no other place to go but to a Christ who alone is glorified in bearing not just sin but all our burdens to His glory. With that said, I also think Adams generates highly legalistic forms of behavior. Sometimes, are only answer is waiting on the Lord, while we are being transformed by learning more of the graces and goodness of our Lord Redeemer. Has anyone read Timothy Rogers, a Puritan who wrote a book on Melancholy, titled i believe Melancholy and Mental Trouble? It has carried me through DARK days. God alone heals, redeems and does so to glorify Himself and not a system of counseling. Thank you if you read this far.

  54. Shawn McCloskey says:

    This movement away from classical psychoanalysis is neither Biblically fundamental, nor evangelical, in any way. It is fear of the unknown, fear of pastors not trained in that field. It is classic religious prejudice and bigotry based on personal fear and pride. I attended a Southern Baptist seminary and I have never witnessd a display of poor manners and vitriolic words spoken to an accomplished member of a faculity by the students themselves to a phiolosophy professor. Believe me. It is just plain ignorance, fear and pride, thinking pastors and pastoral counseling will be replaced by a much better prepared and very well trained mental health professional. I have a pyschology degree from a Baptist university and we had plenty of very Godly, Ph.D. level professors, even at the undergraduate level. So the shame and the blame is on the Seminary and trustees themselves. Until we get a handle on the mental health field in our Seminaries, our churches and in the Convention, we will continue to see mental health issues among our pastors and members. The answer, Ph.D. level instructors in mental health at our Seminaries and a mental health facilities run by Psychologists. Psychology is not a dirty or unGodly word. Do you want to be the pastors who blocked the usage and growth of the medical field for centuries? This is the same issue of professional jealousy and bigotry.

  55. Paul Dakin says:

    I’m really curious to know Bradley, where does your authority come from.., science or God? Do you believe in the supernatural? Is sin something we do or is it something we are? Do you think that mental illness is merely a physical problem of the brain or are there spiritual issues involved? When Jesus met the demoniac who lived among the tombs, was his problem merely physical? Would you have applied the science of psychology to address the problem? Or are you one of the academics who would say that Jesus was ignorant of the real problem and only addressed it as he knew how? Jesus knew that the problem with the man was the ‘legion’ of spirits that possessed and controlled him. Although our minds are intrinsically tied to our brains, I believe that that connection is not all there is. When I die my brain ceases to function but my mind goes on. There is more that impacts on our mind than what is merely physical.

    I am certainly no luddite when it comes to science. I appreciate all that we have discovered about the universe we live in. But I don’t hold science as my highest authority. You say you believe in God but then cast doubt on his ability to speak and in a way we can understand Him. I believe in a God who has not only spoken, but has spoken clearly, being able to be understood. I’ve read some of your comments above and wonder how you can know God at all, if you think that we can’t truly understand what he has actually said.

  56. Deborah says:

    I appreciate what J.Adams teachs. I personally know after years of counseling believers with worldly methods that it would go so far and leave them still in position of needing God direction not world view. I strongly support Jay Adams and am grateful that he has tried to bring freedom and correct direction to believers.The Word of God is sufficient..2 Timothy. I will choose to stay with God and His Holy Word and J.Adams.A true believer in Jesus will find true freedom and meaning for life.Thank you for your opinion but I see no proof and I personally will no longer be double minded.. Praying you. ..

  57. Fred says:

    I agree Deborah. As a Biblical counselor student (nearing certification) I have seen this method work great things in Christian lives. It is suggested that not all problems are caused by sin. I agree. Then they are organic which is another story completely. But any problem that is consisting of us making moral-ethical decisions, which is most, the Bible and the Spirit are sufficient. Adams book, Is All Truth God’s Truth is excellent at dissecting the dilemma presented by this review—that truth can be found elsewhere.

  58. @Paul,

    I’m really curious to know Bradley, where does your authority come from… science or God?

    I’m afraid I must now repeat myself (see my response to this type of criticism from earlier in this thread).

    I may not be articulating this perfectly, so I am willing to clarify or restate anything I said if I have not chosen the right way to say it, but I don’t think Christians with a historical interpretation of Scripture who view it as divinely inspired and inerrant have thought through this binary approach to authority expressed in your comment above. If such a Christian shoots down science, she will be unwittingly shooting herself in the foot if she fancies herself to have good reasons for trusting what we call “Scripture” or “The Bible” or “God’s Word,” etc. What I mean by this I hope will become progressively clear as I restate it in various ways and provide some examples.

    The options you are forcing me to choose between here—either the authority of science or the authority of God—appear influenced by a false dichotomy that is ultimately self-referentially absurd. Your stance seems to imply the assumption that human sciences are not somehow organically related to what Christians understand as God’s authority in such a way as to be necessary in establishing such authority. This does not need to be seen as a zero-sum game, where a victory for the authority of science means a defeat for the authority of Scripture. For if the reliability of science is questioned, this poses a reasonable and rational threat to what is considered God’s authority where such divine authority must be understood through the mediation of, or in terms of, inspired human words. If God has communicated his authoritative truth through the inspired human words of the Bible or Christian canon for all the world to access, suddenly science must also be reliable to establish both the words inspired and their true meaning. *Likewise, where science can be trusted to be reliable, so can the sciences that aim to establish the existence of such inspired human words and their intended meanings.*

    This is because without the reliability of the science of archeology, interpretation, and linguistics we have no more assurance of the reliability of that which is rationally established by their methods. Christians take for granted the reliability of the findings or conclusions the fields of human science produce that I have in mind so instinctively, it rarely dawns on anyone to question it. Yet when a relationship of dependency is uncovered I find Christians get uncomfortable, perceiving it as a threat to divine authority. The relationship of dependency is between the reliability of human science and the reliability of the claim that we can know exactly what God actually said and meant by the use of those human words that Christians believe were originally written and compiled progressively across a span of ancient times by various human authors living in various contexts.

    Some examples of the areas of human sciences related to establishing the reliability of today’s translations of what is believed to be the very words God used to convey a message that makes clear his supremely authoritative will for humans:

    ==============

    1) the accuracy of any translations of any ancient texts–especially “dead” languages no longer in use today

    2) which books belong properly to those considered inspired by God

    3) what it means for ancient texts to be considered “Christian”

    4) whether “Christian” describes anyone who is fond of the person they imagine Jesus to have been

    5) how to determine a criterion for establishing the plausibility of any interpretation of any text

    6) how to interpret ancient literature based on the common uses of comparable literature from the times in which each biblical author wrote

    7) how to choose which words one should translate as original “Scripture” when discrepancies exist or are widespread among the families of discovered manuscripts

    8) whether it’s reliable to use critical methods to reconstruct an “original” based on available manuscript evidence or whether one should decide which manuscript or family of manuscripts is most accurate and simply translate only that manuscript or rely only on that family of manuscripts

    9) how to decide between two possible, but different, intended meanings in any given book of the real Christian canon — assuming the original words can be confidently established — when both possible meanings fit within the semantic range of the original linguistic construct of that ancient language

    10) whether or not its even true that manuscripts on which today’s translations are based actually do exist, one’s that are as ancient as required to have been the one’s that Christians believe them to be

    11) whether all extant manuscripts are significantly corrupted versions of the originals that were written by a divinely inspired author

    12) how to know whether or not the manuscripts of Christian Scriptures were invented just 400 years ago in Dallas, Texas

    13) how to determine the criterion for originality in general with respect to ancient texts

    14) the “true” meanings of such ancient texts: once criterion for originality can be established, if it can be established what words were originally used by the author, there remains the task of relying on the known semantic ranges of each word and each construction to determine the most plausible meaning intended by the author

    15) how to know if any words or linguistic structures available in the repertoire of any given language in use today convey clearly the “original” meaning of the words translated, once it can be determined they were indeed “original” and their clear meaning can be reliably established based on all we know about the use of that ancient language in that same time period and its use within the genre of the sacred literature in question

    =========

    Most Christians take for granted the methods we use to reasonably conclude that in ancient times certain inspired humans wrote down God’s words for humankind, and to reasonably conclude that they were “such and such” words, “such and such” books, with “such and such” meanings, and that “such and such” modern words used in today’s translations convey “such and such” divinely inspired meanings clearly that were originally communicated in ancient times. It just so happens that as the human methods found in science are called into question that are used to rationally establish the reliability of today’s Scripture translations, so by extension does it call into question whatever we thought was communicated by humans in God’s authority.

    Some Christians believe an objectively discernible message is thought to have been clearly intended by God through human words in ancient languages. In order to establish the very existence, meaning, and universally intended message of such ancient human words, it just so happens that we need to believe that science and its method have some kind of reliable authority, otherwise we might as well be talking about copies we have of the Bibles originally written in Dallas by those in power who wanted to control the masses by faking a variety of archeological discoveries of manuscript evidence from which to construct a false history of human civilization and make plausible a religion that believes such texts are ancient and divinely inspired and tell us to worship human authorities as gods.

    No Christian who relies on proper interpretation of Scripture to know God also believes the Bible’s books to be corrupted or to have originated as a part of a recent conspiracy in Dallas, Texas that teaches us that God wants us to worship human authorities as gods. But if the science of archeology, linguistics, and interpretation cannot be trusted, we have no reason to believe the Bibles we use today and our interpretation of them are any more reliable in principle. If science establishes what Christians call “Scripture,” its methods cannot be called into question by Christians without calling into question what is even meant by “Scripture,” and any hopes for rationally defending why it’s believed today’s translations clearly communicate the original inspired meanings intended by God in ancient times. In other words, whether one would have no reliable reasons to believe God has communicated clearly to humans in ancient societies certain messages that were carefully passed on through the use of written language and preserved uncorrupted and perspicuous for later generations. One can’t argue that one trusts that the Bible is reliable using unreliable principles of interpretation from poorly translated corruptions of such ancient messages to establish that such messages ought to be trusted because they come from God. At least not without the embarrassing feedback of circular reasoning. We know they aren’t corrupted because they say so – we know they don’t deceive us because they tell us they don’t deceive us.

    If this did not happen as Christians take for granted, and today we have only corrupted versions of the original that mislead, even if God communicated in ancient times, Christians today would have no reason to trust the evidence we use today to accurately understand what God communicated in ancient times. On the other hand, if science is reliable, then the sciences that establish criterion for what is considered “original” in the text, and how to reliably translate and interpret the original meaning of that text, may likewise be treated as reliable. Bible-based Christians need science to be authoritative in order to trust today’s Bible. Setting God’s authority against the authority of science is therefore problematic to human reason and rationality—that is, it places in jeopardy our reasons for trusting we have the right message today that was inspired and written in ancient times.

    Your thoughts?

    Bradley

  59. Paul says:

    I’m sorry (in many ways) that I’ve forced you to repeat yourself Bradley, but in other ways I’m glad that you did. You have shown me to what lengths some people will go to avoid the principal meaning of a question. You say that you, “don’t think Christians with a historical interpretation of Scripture who view it as divinely inspired and inerrant have thought through this binary approach to authority expressed in your comment above” and that “If such a Christian shoots down science, she will be unwittingly shooting herself in the foot if she fancies herself to have good reasons for trusting what we call ‘Scripture’ or ‘The Bible’ or ‘God’s Word’,” but if you start out by misrepresenting what I’ve asked, how can I ever be sure that you will ever answer my original question honestly? I never said that I was “shooting down science”; I have a real love for science and what it can tell us about the world we live in. There is no shooting down; there is merely the question of authority. Don’t assume that I have to disregard one to ask the question concerning authority.

    You also state that in “forcing me to choose between here—either the authority of science or the authority of God—appear influenced by a false dichotomy that is ultimately self-referentially absurd.” I can assure that I don’t think it is self referentially absurd. Only if you believe that I have some distrust of science can that premise be true, and I assure you that I don’t. What the intent of my original question was is what is your ultimate authority on a matter? It seems obvious to me that to you, to question where our ultimate authority lies, means that I must disregard what science has to say altogether! A bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater I would think. I won’t bother to comment on what you say about what role the sciences play in the translation, preservation or interpretation of Scripture, because quite frankly, I don’t have a problem with science as you so presumptively assume. In stating “But if the science of archeology, linguistics, and interpretation cannot be trusted, we have no reason to believe the Bibles we use today and our interpretation of them are any more reliable in principle” you present a red herring and I’m not buying into it. As I stated above, the question isn’t do I trust science, it is what is my ultimate authority and that is the question that you seem to have ignored in your response.

    Let me put it another way. Science tells us about our origins, both for humanity and for the universe as a whole. Scripture tells a different story than what science does. When I read Genesis I have no qualms in saying that what it says is diametrically opposed to what evolutionary science has to say. Jesus, in the New Testament, speaks of the Genesis account in a literal way, and speaks of Adam and Eve as historical persons who were created from the dust of the earth. Now the question I am asking you is, do you take as authoritative what science tells us, or what scripture tells us? That is a pretty simple question and I would think it would be able to be answered in a fairly simple way. Yes or no would probably suffice. The reasons as to why you answer yes or no would require much further discussion I would suppose, but at least we would then have a starting point.

    I’ll be honest Bradley, by the length of your response, and how quickly you got off topic, I’m under the impression that you don’t hold to Biblical Inerrancy, or the divine inspiration of scripture, yet you seem to want to have some sort of ability to turn to it in some authoritative manner. I would propose that that is being dishonest and surreptitious. If the Scriptures are not divinely inspired, then they are certainly not inerrant, and if they are not inerrant, then they certainly cannot be trusted, and if they cannot be trusted then they would certainly have no authority in what they say or teach.

    You conclude by repeating your false dichotomy, “Setting God’s authority against the authority of science is therefore problematic to human reason and rationality—that is, it places in jeopardy our reasons for trusting we have the right message today that was inspired and written in ancient times.” I don’t set God’s authority “against” science; I place it above science, which is a completely different thing.

  60. @Paul,

    (i) I appreciate the time you have taken to reply to my thoughts with your own. Before I respond, a brief summary is in order:

    After concluding in my book review of Jay Adams’ position as stated in one of his books is both unbiblical and problematic, you asked to choose the source of my authority, and gave me only two options: Science or God. I responded that the question bears an assumption I do not hold, then I explained my reasons for not sharing the assumption of the question. In your response, you argued that I had intentionally avoided your original question, and instead attacked a position that you don’t actually hold.

    You protested loudly that you love and trust science, do not have a problem with it, admitted it as a source of authority, and most importantly, that you never were or will be asking me to choose between the two authorities of God and science as I made you out to have done.

    You contrast my “misrepresentation” to your actual view, where God’s authority is “above” science’s and is “ultimate” in comparison, even though both authorities are trustworthy.

    You call my motives and character into question for the length of my response and it’s hastening to digression from the real issue.

    In my rejoinder below, I will show that you have failed to take responsibility for your own word choice, and instead shifted the blame on me, making judgments about my moral character and motives (wow… you went way too far here) on the basis that I had intentionally distorted your original question to avoid answering it and hide something shameful.

    (ii) PLEASE NOTE: The aim of https://theophilogue.com is openly stated to be critical research and open-minded exploration of philosophy and theology rather than the propagation or defense of religious dogmas. It’s the wrong forum for calling the motives and character of strangers into question. You don’t know me. If you did, we would be having this discussion over the phone, because I would’ve deleted your comments and called you at my earliest convenience. If you are sensitive to the purpose of online forums, you would understand that a face to face talk in private would be the best venue for you to offer—unsolicited—judgements about my moral character and motives in love and with gentleness, believing the best about me in principle unless evidence seems to demand otherwise—not when you happen to be stricken with a hunch or “impression.” Your attention and respect for the purpose of this venue is appreciated, and I’ve never blocked comments of a critical nature aimed at me or my writing. Only spam. I don’t run from confrontation, but the type of confrontation I’m willing to face here spelled out in my description of this forum—see my section “Three things you should know about this site” on my home page.

    =============

    I’m really curious to know Bradley, where does your authority come from.., science or God?

    (A1) It is one thing to ask someone the source of their authority (SOA), it is quite another to ask which of two authorities they see as “ultimate” (WO2U)
    (A2) It is one thing to ask someone which of two authorities they see as “ultimate” (WO2U) and which of two authorities should be seen as “ultimate” (WO2S)
    (A2) In the question quoted above from your 1st response, you did not ask WO2U or WO2S, but rather SOA
    (A3) My response was to SOA

    (A4) Now in your 2nd response, a rejoinder, depicted your question as follows:

    …the question isn’t do I trust science, it is what is my ultimate authority and that is the question that you seem to have ignored in your response

    (A5) I will refer below to the expression and word choice we find in your original question as “OE1” (original expression #1)
    (A6) I will refer below to the expression and word choice we find in your re-wording of the question as “E2” (original expression #2)
    (A7) I will refer to your position that I misrepresented question OE1 in my response as “ORP1” (original response problem #1)
    (A8) I will refer to the intended meaning of your original question as IMOE1 (intended meaning of expression 1)

    (B) Now that you have the convenience of comparing the difference in wording from the way you asked your question originally, to the way you represented your original question in your 2nd response, I have hope to get more sympathy from you in your next reply (and more humility too honestly)

    (B1) in the wording of your original question (hereafter OE1), you chose to ask about the source (“from where”) of my authority
    (B2) in your 2nd response, you re-worded your original question (OE2) as a principle of binary discrimination (“between which two”)
    (B3) the binary discrimination question concerns which among two possible authorities is my “ultimate” authority
    (B4) in your 2nd response, you did not take any responsibility for having worded OE1 in a way that mis-communicated your actual meaning or intent
    (B5) in your 2nd response, you blamed me for failing to correctly interpret OE1 as you intended it
    (B6) in your 2nd response, you claim you intended OE1 as OE2
    (B7) OQ1 is really a different question than OE2
    (B8) therefore, the charges you have leveled against me, do not hold
    (B9) the charge of red herring does not hold
    (B10) the charge of dishonesty does not hold
    (B11) the charge of ill intentionality does not hold
    (B12) the charge of mis-representing your question (as you originally worded it) does not hold
    (B13) the charge that I am being surreptitious does not hold
    (B14) the charge of ignoring your question (as originally worded) does not hold

    (B15) Now although you made many other mistakes in your 2nd response, it was this one that seems to drive your confidence, shape your posturing, provide the foundation for your critiques, and takes up the majority of your attention judging by the amount of space you gave to discussing it.

    (C) Below I have teased out a number of what I see to be the meaning of some of your words to make it easy for you to read through and clarify if I have properly understood the intention behind the word choices of your expressions:

    (C1) that in my response, I’ve committed the red herring fallacy: http://preview.tinyurl.com/hs6aoqc
    (C2) that in my response, I fail to respond to your question as you originally intended it
    (C3) that in my response, I avoid the principle meaning of your question
    (C4) that in my response, I got off topic “quickly”
    (C5) that in my response, I was at some point on topic
    (C6) that in my response, I have taken extreme measures in ignoring and misrepresenting your question
    (C7) that in my response, I illustrate what “lengths some people will go” to avoid the principle meaning of a question
    (C8) that in my response, my motive for going to “great lengths” was “to avoid the principle meaning of a question”
    (C9) that in my response, I’ve misrepresented your question
    (C10) that in my response, I’ve ignored your question
    (C11) that in my response, I was lengthy
    (C12) that in my response, the speed in which I digressed and the length of my digression gives me an appearance of not holding to biblical inerrancy
    (C13) that in my response, I “seem” to want to “turn to” biblical inerrancy
    (C14) that in my response, I “seem” to want to “turn to” divine inspiration
    (C15) that in my response, the way in which I “seem” to want to “turn to” biblical inerrancy can be described as “authoritative”
    (C16) that in response, that the way in which I “seem” to want to “turn to” divine inspiration can be described as “authoritative”
    (C17) that seeming to “turn to” as “authoritative” divine inspiration and biblical inerrancy while not holding to them is dishonest
    (C18) that seeming to “turn to” as “authoritative” divine inspiration and biblical inerrancy while not holding to them is surreptitious
    (C19) that in my response, I was dishonest

    (C20) Before our discussion ever got started, in my first reply to your question, I made an apology *just in case* I had poorly expressed myself and thereby had been the one responsible for any misunderstandings of my own position that provoked your confrontational tone and barrage of questions. You see Paul, we don’t always know what the best word choice for our intentions will be until we see the aims, assumptions, misperceptions, and unshared meanings for those same words that belong to those who end up interpreting them. So re-wordings of one’s understanding are often the result of poor word choice, careless thinking, and hasty writing. But they don’t always result due to a deficiency in one’s capacity for proper word choice, critical thinking, and careful writing. No. Sometimes they are just the bane of language’s existence—reminding us of it’s painful limitations and shortcomings as the creation of finite creatures with imperfect skills.

    (C21) Upon further examination of the wording of your original question, I conclude that you never gave me sufficient reason to interpret the question as you had actually intended it, but sufficient reason to interpret it the manner I instinctively chose. Therefore, even though you were the one who hasten to judge me, I believe you now owe me an apology. I’m not holding my breath, but I am optimistic about others until they give me a reason not to be or pose an immediate threat to my family’s well being so as to require caution in keeping them safe.

    (C22) Now that I’ve established whose paying closer attention to whom, and who is being more careful with their word choices, I hope our dialogue does not continue to devolve into the basic meaning of basic words anymore, where poor word choice is blamed on me instead of simply clarified, or the harsh premature judgments of my motives and character.

    (C23) If you find yourself still opposed to me on this, the only way I would know how to move forward would be take each word of OE1 and OE2, parse each according to normative meanings, and challenge you find shared meanings matching your intentions anywhere in any other source. Or I could simply ask you this: Since it’s one thing to ask another what the source of her authority is, and another still to ask which authority between God and science she chooses to give ultimacy, please provide quotations from your original wording of the question, or any later articulation of it where that articulation is clearly indicated as the same question. Only evidence please. Make your case.

    ____——____—___—_-SHEEESH!!!!!!

    (D) Below I have teased out a number of what I see to be the meaning of some of your words to make it easy for you to read through and clarify if I have properly understood the intention behind the word choices of your expressions:

    (D1) that my argument included falsely depicting you as “shooting down science” which is not what you want to do
    (D2) that I’ve represented your argument as presenting a “false dichotomy” of choosing either the authority of science or choosing the authority of God
    (D3) that you never presented the issue as which authority (God or science) to choose between so I misunderstood the word choice in your expressions
    (D4) that you never intended to force me to choose between the authority of science and the authority of scripture as I had accused you of doing by the word choice found in your expressions
    (D5) that in what you have said, you do not set God’s authority “against” science
    (D6) you don’t have a problem with science
    (D7) you, on the contrary, love science
    (D8) you do not distrust science
    (D9) that the “only” issue was the question of which authority (science or God) I view as ultimate
    (D10) that your position places God’s authority above science
    (D11) that in placing God’s authority above science, you do not do so in a way that sets them contrary to, or against, one another

    (D12) Now the above leads me to logically conclude you could never see a scenario where one authority would actually contradict another in such a way as to force anyone committed to one to reject the other.
    (D13) Yet strangely, this is exactly what you continue to do in the choice of words found in your expressions where you present the question.
    (D14) I have provided examples below:

    I am curious to know Bradley, where does your authority come from… science or God?

    Now the question I am asking you is, do you take as authoritative what science tells us, or what scripture tells us?

    …science tells us about our origins, both for humanity and for the universe as a whole. Scripture tells a different story than what science does…

    When I read Genesis I have no qualms in saying that what it says is diametrically opposed to what evolutionary science has to say.

    (D15) Nowhere is it more clear that you do actually have a problem with science; that you do actually distrust science; that you do actually intend to make me choose between these two authorities in a zero-sum fashion; that the authority of one is contradicting the authority of another; that science is “against” God’s authority.

    (D16) The clarity of this reaches a peak when state the two are “diametrically opposed.” This statement was ironically followed by one of the rewordings of your question, which goes to prove that the intention of your original question is to have me choose between the two:

    Science tells us about our origins, both for humanity and for the universe as a whole. Scripture tells a different story than what science does. When I read Genesis I have no qualms in saying that what it says is diametrically opposed to what evolutionary science has to say. Jesus, in the New Testament, speaks of the Genesis account in a literal way, and speaks of Adam and Eve as historical persons who were created from the dust of the earth. Now the question I am asking you is, do you take as authoritative what science tells us, or what scripture tells us?

    (D17) May I remind you that you told me that you have no mistrust of science?

    I can assure that I don’t think it is self referentially absurd. Only if you believe that I have some distrust of science can that premise be true, and I assure you that I don’t.

    (E1) I would suspect there is a problem with your interpretation before I would call science into question.

    (E2) After all, a text can be “infallible” and “inerrant” in the most supreme way and to the furthest possible extent. The superiority of an authority and the method of exercising that authority are two different things. When it comes to the Bible, Christians believe God exercises his authority primarily through the true meaning of the Bible. But if its interpreters are so beset with human depravity, interpreting with an sinful heart, and prone to mistakes without any last “stronghold” or aspect of human nature to trust in, that I find good reason to not trust in myself or my own abilities, transcendency or supremacy of authority provides no more assurance that I can attain to a proper understanding of the meaning of such an authoritative and inerrant words. In fact, it actually creates a defeater, since whereas science does not and cannot provide prescriptive morality so as to make demands that address human depravity head on, we would have less reason to be prejudiced against it, seeing no threat or demand is necessarily placed on our moral lives. But with Scripture, humans have plenty of reason to be bias and prejudice in their interpretations of it.

    (E3) So long as it depends on one’s own ability to prevent any influence of the deeply troubling imperfections, depravities, and limitations of my heart and mind on my interpretation of such an inspired, authoritative, and inerrant message, there is no hope such doctrines offer her towards that end. If in fact we did not have to rely on ourselves, because correct interpretation of God’s words depended on God alone and was therefore most certain, we would not only be guaranteed an infallible message, but an infallible interpretation of it. Oh how wonderful such a scenario would be, and how our past in the West would’ve developed so differently, and how many mothers and their small children, for example, would’ve never had to be publicly disgraced and killed on account of heresy, since God’s protection would’ve prevented different interpretations, making human interpretation of God’s intended message and the message itself virtually impossible to distinguish!

    (E4) Now if my interpretation of an infallible and inerrant message fails to square with what we already know from some other authority that we trust, does it make sense for me to take for granted that my own interpretation is not to blame? Is it most faithful to what I already believe to instead mistrust science? Would we really trust in our own abilities as individual persons knowing we are prone to unpredictable and extensive error in our human interpretation, refusing to even consider favoring another authority we already have good reason to trust, an authority we already consider so trustworthy that in principle it can never be set “against” God’s authority, such as … say … science? I am arguing the more humble (and consistent) thing to do would be call into question one’s own fallible, imperfect, limited, and bias interpretation ability as applied in this case.

    (E5) I have constructed a rough-draft of an argument in attempts to analyze the components involved in thinking this way, and give you the opportunity to be very specific if you want to challenge any step of the argument:

    (E6.1) Messages using human words require interpretation to be understood properly
    (E6.2) The Bible is a message from God using human words
    (E6.3) Therefore, the Bible requires interpretation to be understood properly
    (E6.4) Human interpretation of messages communicated with human language has no protection from endless erring
    (E6.5) The Bible requires human interpretation of messages communicated with human language to be understood properly
    (E6.6) Therefore, nothing protects humans from endless erring in biblical interpretation
    (E6.7) Human interpretation cannot be trusted in principle
    (E6.8) Science can be trusted in principle
    (E6.9) Therefore, science can be trusted more than the human interpretation of Scripture
    (E6.10) Human interpretation of passage X in the Bible contradicts science
    (E6.11) Science should be trusted in principle, but human interpretation should not
    (E6.12) Therefore, human interpretation of passage X is in err

    (E7) Now Paul, if you believe (1) through (11) above, I can’t see why you ended up stuck with a war between God and science? If you do not agree with (1) through (11), please point out where it goes wrong—and don’t forget to distinguish between whether you think my conclusions are not following from the premises or whether the premises themselves are unsound, referring to them specifically using the numbers assigned above.

    (F1) I have also made a rough draft (you can help make it better) of an element of your argument, as best I understand it, below in parallel fashion:

    (F2.1a) The Bible is more inspired, inerrant, and authoritative than even science,
    (F3.1b) or transcends the authority of science
    (F3.2) Human interpretation of passage X in the Bible contradicts science
    (F3.3) Therefore, with respect to passage X in the Bible, one must choose between God’s authority and that of science
    (F3.4) Bradley chooses science over human interpretation of passage X
    (F3.5) Passage X has divine authority
    (F3.6) Therefore, Bradley’s action betrays God’s authority

    (F4) There are really unspoken premises needed to complete this argument in order for (6) to be a valid conclusion. You would have to establish, it seems to me, that the ultimacy of authority assigned to Scripture had some ability to make human interpretation more reliable in interpreting it. Or better yet – that when I chose science over human interpretation, I am really choosing human authority over God’s authority. Then I could see how I might be accused by you of failing to give ultimacy of authority it’s proper place in a divine-human hierarchy.

    (F5) I don’t want to address your example of Genesis, since you and I clearly have a vastly different appreciation for the science of hermeneutics, and the role of science in the art of interpretation—especially where the knowledge of the use of ancient languages, literary influences, known writing genres and their corresponding language practices, and historical and socio-political contexts becomes necessary for a responsible interpretation. Although your arguments sometimes seem to require beliefs about hermeneutics that I do not think are most advantageous to interpretive accuracy, it would seem this would entangle us in the question of interpretation instead of authority. But I don’t want to have that discussion because it’s not necessary at this point. Nevertheless …

    (G1) I will grant you your wish.

    (G2) I will answer your question, in spite of what appears to be a confused expression on your part about what you really mean, since you deny that you are forcing me to choose between the authority of science and the authority of God because you trust science’s authority in such a way that such a dilemma should not occur. And yet, I’ll answer your question anyway. For the sake of clarity, however, I want to place your question as close to my answer as possible so you see another irony:

    Now the question I am asking you is, do you take as authoritative what science tells us, or what scripture tells us? That is a pretty simple question and I would think it would be able to be answered in a fairly simple way. Yes or no would probably suffice. The reasons as to why you answer yes or no would require much further discussion I would suppose, but at least we would then have a starting point.

    (G3) Yes.

    (G4) Was that direct enough? I’ve answered your question. The one I was supposedly avoiding—thought I faced it head on. Not only this, but I have even accommodated myself for your convenience to answer your question in the exact fashion you suggested: with a “yes” or a “no.” My guess, however, is that you will still have some sort of hermeneutic of suspicion to apply to all this still, even when I’m bending over backwards to do as you ask, not only in answering your question directly, but using the limited choice of words you suggested for such a “simple” question. I have not only met your challenge, but I have done so in a manner I allowed you to chose, and after you have had the privilege of re-wording your question in attempts to clear up any doubts about its meaning. Are you happy about that?

    (G5) Can you stop accusing me of not answering your question? I would appreciate it.

    (H1) Now, irony of ironies. Although I am the one who was put on the stand and judged harshly by you as misrepresenting the word choice found in your expressions, it is actually you who are guilty of this. Below do not understand my argument to be that asking OE1 entails an dubious assumption in such a way that answering it with a “yes” or “no” would entail taking on that assumption. That is my position, but below you will see that you have recklessly misconstrued my position without even offering any reasons for why the wording in my expressions would require the meaning you are assigning to it, much less did you offer sufficient reasons for the same.

    It seems obvious to me that to you, to question where our ultimate authority lies, means that I must disregard what science has to say altogether!

    (H2) Here you claim not only that I have argued asking OE1 entails disregarding any truth claims reached on the basis of sciences’ authority, but that such a rendering of my position “seems obvious” (to you anyways). But after investigating again the words I used in expressing my position, I have failed to find any place in my reply where I make this argument or imply it logically. If you are going to advance this kind of careless interpretation, you need to quote me. Where do claim this? I am eager to discover in which place you see me making this argument. It is a stew man if I ever saw one.

    (H3) Now in my discourse with you, I assumed at the outset the inevitability that both of us ought to be humble enough to consider the possibility that defects exist in our communication and that we will at times choose words that in retrospect have to be clarified when their intended meaning fails to get through to the intended reader. Therefore, I open my own reply as follows:

    I may not be articulating this perfectly, so I am willing to clarify or restate anything I said if I have not chosen the right way to say it, but…

    (H4) In contrast to this, you not only blame me for the shortcoming of your own communication, but you go on to misrepresent my position—the very thing you seemed so indignant about when you perceived me to be the one guilty of doing this to you. This makes you guilty here of a kind of hypocrisy, being the aggressor who challenged me with a barrage of questions under suspicion of my impiety in the thread of my post. When I did not answer your question because I argued that doing so would entail sharing the assumption inherent in the words of it’s expression, you not only openly judged my motives and character, you then falsely accused me of being the one misrepresenting arguments when upon scrutiny it was you who were guilty of this. Understanding the intended meaning and analyzing the logic of the meaning of someone who decides to explain why she differs in opinion from yourself requires sufficient mental energy and attention in and of itself. I don’t see need to spend extra time and energy speculating about unspoken motives in the heart of the person who disagrees with you. After all, isn’t there supposed to be only one who can see the heart?

    (H5) It is a difficult enough task judging the secret, unspoken motives behind the words of persons you love most, persons you are close to you and see every day. With such loved persons you will have the deepest level of familiarity with the way they use language, how to place things they say in the larger context of what things you know about them and their character; you will become accustomed to their mannerisms and quirks. Yet, it is often difficult even with this we love most and care for most, to read properly the secret motives behind their words and actions. Much less, therefore, is it appropriate or wise for you to judge me so extensively, thinking of your hunches about my motives and character as somehow clever in spotting something “bad” in me, slandering me as purposefully avoiding your question because of my hidden motives.

    (H6) The fact that you would fail to think the best of me (whatever that would mean for you) is violation enough, but to make it part of the structure of your argument or message to me (being all too quick to judge) certainly appears to say more about you than it does about me. It is appropriate to the form of love to assume the best of others until they give you good reason not to assume the best of them. This is especially needed when you don’t see eye to eye with someone else, because everyone knows we be vulnerable to demonizing others with whom we find ourselves in sharp disagreement. I have no control over your imaginative suspicions of me as your interlocutor; I can’t help it if in your imagination you are unable to conceive of my motives as being being good, even if you think my arguments are flawed. It’s neither fair to me nor appropriate to the form of love and respectable, civil engagement in a forum such as this.

    (H7) I want to make one last argument in as a draw to a close. You used a certain kind of logic in your argument below that I want to borrow for my own argument:

    (H7.1) If the Scriptures are not divinely inspired
    (H7.2) then they are certainly not inerrant,
    (H7.3) and if they are not inerrant,
    (H7.4) then they certainly cannot be trusted,
    (H7.5) if they cannot be trusted
    (H7.6) they would certainly have no authority in what they say or teach.

    (H8) Below I have construed two arguments that appears to make the logic of own position problematic.

    (H8.1) If science is not divinely inspired
    (H8.2) then science is certainly not inerrant,
    (H8.3) and if science is not inerrant,
    (H8.4) then science certainly cannot be trusted,
    (H8.5) if science cannot be trusted
    (H8.6) science would certainly have no authority in what it says or teaches

    (H9.1) If human interpretation is not divinely inspired
    (H9.2) then human interpretation is certainly not inerrant,
    (H9.3) and if human interpretation is not inerrant,
    (H9.4) then human interpretation certainly cannot be trusted,
    (H9.5) if human interpretation cannot be trusted
    (H9.6) human interpretation would certainly have no authority in what it says or teaches
    (H9.7) what we understand as “God’s Word” depends on a correct interpretation of God’s Word
    (H9.8) therefore, the method we use to construe what is “God’s Word” cannot be trusted
    (H9.9) if “God’s Word” can be trusted in theory, but in practice amounts to human interpretation of it
    (H9.10) then anything concrete we intend to mean when we say “God’s Word” will amount to a particular human interpretation
    (H9.11) therefore, practically speaking, “God’s Word” cannot be trusted and has no authority in what it says or teaches

    (H10) If your own position is not problematic in this way, I have provided the numbering system for you to specify which parts of it to find fault. Be sure distinguish between soundness and validity of argument so it will be clear in what way you plan to make uncertain it’s conclusion—that is, by arguing my conclusion does not follow from the premises, or by arguing that one or more of the premises is unsound.

    (H11) If I have mistakenly chosen words that are ambiguous I will be glad to restate my meaning and clarify. Making logical blunders is not beyond me, but you’ll need to take advantage of my numbering system above to make a case. The lengths I have gone to in using them are intended for easy reference, which makes communication more efficient and makes it easier for you spot the exact error in my thinking and refer to it shorthand. If my arguments hold, your position is shockingly vulnerable again in a self-referentially absurd way. If nothing human interpretation or science says can be trusted based on your own logic, we have indeed arrived at an unintended absurdity as the byproduct of a misstep somewhere.

    (H12) Why do you trust human interpretation? Why do you trust science and assign to it authority? This brings me to my last point.

    …I can assure you that I don’t think it is self referentially absurd.

    (I) I’m not sure why you would respond to me as though I were misperceiving you in this way. Usually the people who believe an argument is self referentially absurd are not the one’s that are themselves also seeking to advance the absurd argument; as though you actually thought the argument that you were yourself advancing, was at the same time perceived by you to be self referentially absurd. And I’m not really interested in discussing so much which positions we find persuasive personally vs. which one’s we find unpersuasive, but rather on focusing attention on the logical consequences of adapting one view vs. another, and the demand for the totality of our adopted positions to be coherent once properly understood. When one person claims that another person has misunderstood their words, they get the chance to then clarify what their true position actually is on a matter. This is almost always progress.

    (I1) Unless of course, the person is confused about what position he or she actually holds, or has difficulty in choosing his or her words carefully enough to be sufficiently understood by those they accost with accusations, for whom the words are intended. We can neither hold to claims that themselves are problematic when there appear to be good reasons to believe the one claim is internally incompatible with another we also hold, so that without further tweaking or clarification, they do not appear rationally coherent together.

    And now I await your thoughts, and hope for a more gracious interaction from you.

    Bradley

  61. Paul says:

    I seem to have struck a nerve Bradley. There are just a couple of things I’d like to say before I reply. You’ve spent a lot of time over the wording of my original question. And to a point I’ll agree that I could have stated it better at the start, but I was under a couple of assumptions when I stated the original question. Assumptions I might add you’ve gone a long way towards reaffirming. I assumed that you were an intelligent man, and would have understood the context of my original question, that having to do with ‘ultimate’ authority, and apologize that you didn’t see that

    What bothers me more than just a little in your response is the condescending attitude you have in your replies. Was this unintentional Bradley or do you really think me a fool and that somehow I’ve overstepped my level of education and understanding and that you’re going to set me straight and put me back in my place? If it was unintentional then I suppose I’ll be a little more forgiving in my response. Another thing that disappointed me was your ad hominem attack on my character. In C21 you state that you believe I “now owe (you) an apology. I’m not holding my breath, but I am optimistic about others until they give me a reason not to be or pose an immediate threat to my family’s well being so as to require caution in keeping them safe.” What a horrible point to make in a discussion about authority. Insinuating that I could possibly be a threat to the safety of your family Bradley? Why on earth would you include that in your comment except to try and besmirch my character in the eyes of your readers? What a disgusting association to try and make. I really would have thought you would have avoided that sort of attack in this sort of discussion.

    In reply I will say this Bradley, although I have read your response from beginning to end, there is so much in there that is off target that I find it difficult to piece together a measured, response. It seems to me that it is best if I reword my question in such a way that the meaning will be more than clear to you. As I stated above, I made an assumption that you would have understood my intent in the context of the discussion (my use of the word ‘ultimate’ further down in my original comment), something I now understand to have been too presumptuous of me.

    I think that what you stated in your reply to Stephen Newell’s initial comment to your blog sheds a bit of light as to why you have responded so vigorously to my question. You said in that initial reply that you were “..kinda hopin’ that someone who doesn’t agree with me will bite on the title and engage my thoughts.” You see it seems you were itching for a fight from the very start and then decided that I was going to be your target. Your desire to engage in a discussion with someone who disagreed with you has clouded your thinking. What you did in the process is grossly overstate what I said or didn’t say. You spent far too much time critiquing the initial part of my question, you know, the “where does your authority come from” bit, when all you really needed to do was continue reading until you came to the part where I said that “I don’t hold science as my highest authority.” That should have provided you with the information (and the context) required to avoid your initial misunderstanding. I’m not going to try and wade through your reply because quite frankly, it goes so far off topic that I really don’t want to bore your readers with a discussion that is so far removed from my original questions. You’ve fixated on that one initial point, and completely disregarded the rest of my original post. Here it is again, with one amendment, as a reminder to you and your readers as to what I was originally asking.

    “I’m really curious to know Bradley, where does your ultimate authority come from, science or God? Do you believe in the supernatural? Is sin something we do or is it something we are? Do you think that mental illness is merely a physical problem of the brain or are there spiritual issues involved? When Jesus met the demoniac who lived among the tombs, was his problem merely physical? Would you have applied the science of psychology to address the problem, or are you one of the academics who would say that Jesus was ignorant of the real problem and only addressed it, as he knew how? Jesus knew that the problem with the man was the ‘legion’ of spirits that possessed and controlled him. Although our minds are intrinsically tied to our brains, I believe that that connection in not all there is. When I die my brain ceases to function but my mind goes on. There is more that impacts on our mind than what is merely physical. I am certainly no Luddite when it comes to science. I appreciate all that we have discovered about the universe we live in, but I don’t hold science as my highest authority. You say you believe in God, but then cast doubt on his ability to speak; and in a way we can understand him. I believe in a God who has not only spoken, but has spoken clearly, being able to be understood. I’ve read some of your comments above and wonder how you can know God at all if you think that we can’t truly understand what he has actually said.”

    I truly hope that you deal with the questions I’ve asked above and don’t get bogged down in issues such as the role of science in Biblical hermeneutics, languages and ancient manuscripts. I have a good grasp on these issues and don’t need to be schooled by you on them.

    For a little bit of clarity on what I mean by ultimate authority let me give you one small example. Scripture records that Jesus miraculously fed at least 5000 people on more than one occasion (Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Jn 6:1-15). It is also clear by the amount of leftovers there were (12 baskets full in one story) that Jesus created bread and fish by fiat, that is, by the power of his word. Now suppose you were able to get one of those loaves of bread or one of those fish into the hands of today’s scientists and ask them to answer the question, “what were the origins of the loaf of bread and the fish?” What do you suppose those scientists would say in answer to that question? I reckon what it would probably be something along the lines of the loaf of bread coming to be through a process of mixing certain ingredients like flour, water and oil, and then baking those mixed ingredients for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature. The fish would have started out as fertilized eggs and then through a long process would have grown into the adult fish they now had in their possession. Would the scientists have been right in their assessment of that loaf of bread and that fish? No, they wouldn’t have. The reason being is that scripture records a different reality, that being the supernatural power of Christ. This is what I mean when talking about ‘ultimate’ authority. Science would still have a role to play in our understanding of the bread and the fish ‘after’ they were created, but as to their supernatural origins only scripture can tell us the truth of it. The same would be true of creation of the universe itself, only on a grander scale.

    If I could offer one more word of advice to you it would be this; you would a far better communicator if you didn’t try to come across as so learned. Your points and counterpoints came across as far too condescending in a discussion such as this. Your argument turned to bluster and lost all significance. Less verbiage might mean more understanding of the points being discussed.

  62. Paul,

    Thank you for admitting to sloppy communication.

    I’ll agree that I could have stated it better at the start.

    This is an understatement. I went to lengths to label every line of my thoughts, one of them was about how you worded your question initially vs. how you worded it when making the case that I had intentionally ignored the intent of your question, and then how you equivocated on your meaning during our dialogue at different places, then how you blamed and shamed me for failing to understand you.

    You’ve spent a lot of time over the wording of my original question. …

    Because you challenged my interpretation of it without even checking how you worded your own question, failing to realize the great difference in meaning in your own choice of words when you tried to “clarify” (read: scratch and start over) your question. If I’m wrong, show me where my analysis breaks down.

    … Your points and counterpoints came across as far too condescending in a discussion such as this. Your argument turned to bluster and lost all significance. Less verbiage might mean more understanding of the points being discussed.

    I can’t control how my points “come across” when I’m showing why I think your argument is absurd. That responsibility is on you. You *should* simply take it as me saying “I don’t understand why he doesn’t get it? Seems straightforward to me.” That’s a judgement about your argument, not your intelligence or integrity as a person.

    In reply I will say this Bradley, although I have read your response from beginning to end, there is so much in there that is off target that I find it difficult to piece together a measured, response. It seems to me that it is best if I reword my question

    First, this is the kind of response that ends a discussion. It’s like saying “I won’t address your arguments. I’m just going to spend lots of effort rewording my question and expanding on it.” What makes it worse, is that I’ve already answered both the question you actually asked, and the question you claimed to you intended to ask. I not only answered it, but I answered in the exact manner (“Yes” or “no”) you expected me to answer it. So rewording your question is a step backwards in the progress of our dialogue. It does not seem to me you are (for whatever reason) up to the task of a true dialectic. In spite of my careful labeling of each part of my analysis to make your own analysis more easy to communicate, you have avoided responding to my analysis and returned like a broken record to repeating yourself instead of engaging my analysis.

    … I truly hope that you deal with the questions I’ve asked above and don’t get bogged down in issues such as the role of science in Biblical hermeneutics, languages and ancient manuscripts. I have a good grasp on these issues and don’t need to be schooled by you on them.

    So after failing to engage my own analysis, you repeat the question even though I’ve already answered it (see above), you now wish to rule out my use of evidence we both agree exists? This is like saying “I truly hope you don’t get bogged down showing why you disagree with me using the evidence you think is relevant. I already know about the evidence.” But you never engaged my use of these fields of study. Your response does not reckon with the difference between regurgitating knowledge vs. showing its relevance to our discussion using careful analysis.

    What bothers me more than just a little in your response is the condescending attitude you have in your replies. Was this unintentional Bradley or do you really think me a fool and that somehow I’ve overstepped my level of education and understanding and that you’re going to set me straight and put me back in my place?

    The irony here is that not only am I confident that my readers will be better judges than yourself about who is being condescending to whom here, but in your own accusation, where you try to shame me for being condescending, you yourself are the one being condescending. How am I supposed to respond to something like that? I’m at a loss. Pointing out ironies in your logic is not condescending; you don’t have to take it that way, but if you are going to take it that way and shame me for it, you would think you would yourself be careful not to be guilty of the same in the very context in which you are hurling your accusations. It’s a major blind spot in your response.

    … If I could offer one more word of advice to you it would be this; you would a far better communicator if you didn’t try to come across as so learned.

    And again you are not only assuming that my choice of words were motived by a desire to be seen as “learned” instead of seeing my choice of words as motivated by my desire to be as clear and persuasive as possible. This feeds more into the irony I mentioned above because this is itself condescending, since you are basically saying that while your motives are more pure, my own motives are clearly degenerate. You didn’t even try to make the case that my choice of words was not actually to be as clear and persuasive as possible, or point to a single place where there is no other way to plausibly interpret them. It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat but pretending it’s not magic and responding with indignation if someone asks where it came from. You are putting me in a lose-lose situation.

    What a horrible point to make in a discussion about authority. Insinuating that I could possibly be a threat to the safety of your family Bradley? … I really would have thought you would have avoided that sort of attack in this sort of discussion.

    Here your response again is pregnant with assumptions about my motives that are not warranted by actual choice of words. Where in my actual words do I ever “insinuate” that I was presently concerned at all for the safety of my family, or what is more–that you were the cause of my present concern? I never said, it. You are being negligent in being so careless not to carefully reckon with my choice of words, but restating them very differently than the way I actually state them, putting into them meanings that were neither necessary nor kind.

    I think that what you stated in your reply to Stephen Newell’s initial comment to your blog sheds a bit of light as to why you have responded so vigorously to my question.

    That comment was made in September of the year 2007, approximately a decade ago. Again, why would you make the implausible assumption that approximately 10 years later, the status of my own expectations would be no different, or that the reason I was hoping someone would disagree to engage my thoughts was only to scorn them rather than open up a dialogue?

    Your points and counterpoints came across as far too condescending in a discussion such as this. Your argument turned to bluster and lost all significance. Less verbiage might mean more understanding of the points being discussed.

    Previously less verbiage led to you accusing me of misinterpreting your question. Giving careful analysis to your accusation and it’s validity (or lack thereof) did not pay off, since you failed to engage it, choosing instead to completely distort my words and repeat your own arguments. Now the failure for us to “connect” and understand each other I have labored to show is owing to your equivocation, personal attacks on my motives, twisting of my words, and intentional avoidance of my arguments in relation to the analysis they were carefully based on.

    Our “dialogue” has failed to be a two-way street. Dialogue requires two people paying careful attention to each other and being careful to heed the other’s choice of words without making un-necessary assumptions. So far you don’t seem to be interested in engaging in dialogue as much as offering your opinions, assumptions, and accusations–and repeating them over and over without engaging my critique of them. You are even trying to rule out the possibility of me defending my argument, saying something parallel to “Even though I’m not addressing your arguments because they are so bad I don’t even know where to start, I really hope you don’t revert back to them for the remainder of our discussion because that would just be condescending.” Nice try, but I’m not going to be shamed into abandoning reason.

    As far as I can see at present, continuing to exert energy into having a fair and respectful dialogue with you is not working. All I can do is point out how more and more out of control your position is becoming as we exchange words. It’s not out of the realm of plausibility for me to wonder if you are actually a very skilled troll.

    Bradley

  63. Paul says:

    It is truly disappointing Bradley, that you choose to go down this route. This was never meant to be an academic discussion. It was simply a case of someone (me) wanting to understand your position a little clearer and therefore asked a few questions in the hopes that your answers would clarify it for me. Unfortunately you’ve done no such thing. You’ve bogged yourself down in pedantic semantics, losing sight of what my original post was all about. Has this been done purposefully on your part? I really can’t answer that, but I do think that you’re intelligent enough to understand what I was getting at in my original post, which could possibly be a reason why you have refused to answer it. What else can I do Bradley but surmise, since you have continually done this.

    You continue to try and stir things up like with this comment:

    “Thank you for admitting to sloppy communication.”

    I never admitted to any such thing. If you have a look at my reworded question you’ll find that the only significant change I made to it was adding the word ‘ultimate’ earlier in the question, hardly an admission of sloppy communication. My original question was pretty simple to understand, yet you seem to have missed it all together. You’ve gone on now for 3 or 4 responses and have failed completely to answer any of my original queries. Now you’ve gone the route of ‘the professional troll’ and have given yourself an excuse to end or delete this discussion. Good one. I’m no troll Bradley, just someone who thought you’d be able to give honest answers to a few honest questions.

    There are several reasons why I didn’t reply specifically to you’re A to I points and I’ve addressed a few of them in my previous responses.
    Let me sum up:
    Your A1 to C23 points were spent on trying to understand my original question, when as I stated in a previous reply, all you had to do was read a little further down the question and the meaning and intent should have been clear. D1 to D16 is more superfluous than informative. The problem you have here is your confusing the idea of science with certain ‘conclusions’ scientist come to. In D16 you state:

    “The clarity of this reaches a peak when (sic) state the two are “diametrically opposed.” This statement was ironically followed by one of the rewordings of your question, which goes to prove that the intention of you original question is to have me choose between the two….”

    You see Bradley, it is the ‘conclusions’ that are diametrically opposed, not science and religion per se.
    You then go on to requote my example of what science tells us about the origins of the universe and what the scriptures say. Something I commented on further in a following reply involving Jesus’ feeding of the 5000, which I might add you have again failed to address. What you still fail to understand is that there is a difference between seeing a conflict between science and scripture, and seeing a conflict between conclusions that scientists and scripture make. Not sure why you don’t see that.
    You then follow that up with D17, reminding me that I told you that I have no distrust of science. I’ll remind you (again) that I don’t have a distrust of science, merely the conclusions that some scientists come to. I would recommend reading Mitch Stokes book ‘How to be an Atheist: why many skeptics aren’t skeptical enough.’ He offers some helpful insights on this issue.
    E1: “I would suspect there is a problem with your interpretation before I would call science into question.”
    You continually confuse science itself, you know, the testing and verifying of certain hypotheses, with conclusions certain scientist come to. It’s no wonder you get lost in your own little ‘virtual world’.

    E2: You seem to be using the difficulty of exercising a good hermeneutic as an excuse to not exercise any hermeneutic at all! What an absurd thing to infer. You say that

    “if interpreters are so beset with human depravity, interpreting with an (sic) sinful heart, and prone to mistakes without any last ‘stronghold’ or aspect of human nature to trust in, that I find good reason to not trust in myself or my own abilities, transcendency or supremacy of authority and inerrant words..”

    You do realize that the same problem would apply to your hermeneutic when applied to science don’t you? And simply saying that science doesn’t make any moral demands doesn’t relieve you of that problem.

    E3: Are you saying that because of our depraved hearts we can’t know what God is saying to us in an inerrant and infallible scripture? When Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Am I not able to take any hope from that statement simply because I am sinful and have a depraved heart? How absurd to think that simply because I have a sinful heart, I now can’t trust anything God has said. Again, it’s your understanding of hermeneutics that is flawed, not my ability to apply a good hermeneutic to scripture.

    E4: Do you really mean what you seem to be saying here Bradley? Do you really thing that science can be trusted more than God can be? I mean if God has spoken, how could he not but speak inerrantly and infallibly? You seem to forget that either God has spoken or he hasn’t. If he has spoken, please explain to me how he can do so and err or make mistakes? I think you have too much faith in science and not enough faith in God. Let me rephrase your ‘rough-draft of an argument for you.
     Messages using human words require interpretation to be understood properly
     Darwins ‘Origin of the species by means of natural selection’ is a message from Darwin using human words.
     Therefore, Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species by means of natural selection’ requires human interpretation to be understood properly.
     Human interpretation of messages communicated with human language has no protection from endless erring. (There are mechanisms in place to keep us from “erring endlessly.” They involve grammar, syntax, context and such. You’ve erred here.)
     Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species by means of natural selection’ requires human interpretation of messages communicated with human language to be understood properly. (As does any text on any subject, be that science or religion.)
     Therefore, nothing protects humans from endless erring in Darwinian interpretation. (Except maybe a good hermeneutic)
     Human interpretation cannot be trusted in principle. (If human interpretation {the science of hermeneutics} cannot be trusted here, then neither can any science.)
     Science can be trusted in principle? (see above.. and maybe read some Hume.)
     Therefore, science can be trusted more than the human interpretation of Darwin’s ‘‘Origin of the species by means of natural selection’. (highly irrational. Hermeneutics is a science, how can it be trusted more than science?
     Human interpretation of passage X in Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species by means of natural selection’ contradicts science. (That would mean it contradicts itself)
     Science should be trusted in principle (I agree with you, but maybe get to reading a bit of Hume on why a bit of skepticism might be a good thing.) but human interpretation should not. (Science should be trusted in principle, except another science…?)
     Therefore, human interpretation of passage X in Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species by means of natural selection’ should not.
    You see Bradley, your whole argument is irrational and nonsense.

    E7: As you can see Bradley, I don’t believe (1) through (11) above. All I needed to do to prove it wrong was to insert Darwin’s ‘Origins of the species by natural selection’ to show you where you err. You err in thinking that it is only the Bible that is to be doubted if you use your line of reasoning. We should doubt everything we know. You then get more than a little silly when you try and give a ‘rough-draft’ of an element of my own argument. I’ll reword it for you like you asked.
     The Bible is inspired, inerrant and infallible. Science is about proving the truth of certain hypotheses. It does not, indeed cannot, make claims for itself. It is a tool. You might as well try and say a hammer can make claims for itself of inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility.
     –It certainly transcends the authority of science. (that was the point of my original question.)
     –Human interpretation of passage X of the Bible contradicts what some scientists have concluded about our origins.
     –Therefore, with respect to passage X in the Bible, one must choose between God’s authority (what God says happened) and that of science (what science says happened).
     –Bradley chooses the authority of science over the authority of what passage X clearer teaches.
     –Passage X has divine authority.
     –Therefore, Bradley’s action betrays God’s authority.

    When you get to your G1-5 points you really push the boundaries of common sense. You are aware aren’t you that when asked to give a simple yes or no answer, one is not required to simply answer “yes” or “no”. The question can be understood to be answered either in a “positive” or “negative” way. “Yes, I affirm that science holds ultimate authority over God, for such and such a reason.”or “No, I don’t believe that science holds ultimate authority over God.” But what do you do, you take the 12 year old approach and simply say “yes”. How on earth do you write this stuff and still think you are saying something of value?

    H1 through H12 were confusing at best, but it is the points H7.1 to H9.11 that I found most interesting. I’ll go through them point by point to show you where I disagree with you. You first state my line of reasoning as follows:
     If the scriptures are not divinely inspired
     then they are certainly not inerrant,
     and if they are not inerrant,
     then they certainly cannot be trusted,
     if they cannot be trusted
     they would have no authority in what they say or teach.

    This is a valid line of reasoning in light of what it is refuting, the original claim that scripture is divinely inspired. “If the scriptures are not divinely inspired, then ” refutes the proposition that “scripture is divinely inspired.”
    There have been and are an immeasurable number of people who have affirmed that the scriptures are indeed inspired, and Jesus Christ is one who I would put in that group. Where your ensuing lines of reasoning fail is in what they are trying to refute. No one (as far as I know or have heard) holds to or affirms the first line of either of your following premises. Who has ever said that science is divinely inspired? Who has ever said that human interpretation is divinely inspired? You might as well say that if a turtle in not divinely inspired, then it is certainly not inerrant, and if it is not inerrant, then it certainly cannot be trusted, if it cannot be trusted, it would have no authority in what it says or teaches. Absurd? Absolutely! Much like your attempt to use the same line of reasoning in refuting something no one else is trying to affirm.

    You say in your last post that I ..

    “have avoided responding to my analysis and returned like a broken record to repeating yourself instead of engaging my analysis.”

    I have repeated myself “like a broken record” because your analysis was a distraction. You have never given a reply to any of the questions I originally asked and so I kept going back, hoping that you would actually grant me that courtesy. All I got from you was a petulant “Yes”, and a confusing dissertation on how you completely misunderstand hermeneutics.

    “Our ‘dialogue’ has failed to be a two-way street. Dialogue requires two people paying careful attention to each other and being careful to heed the other’s choice of words without making un-necessary assumptions.”

    Our dialogue has failed because you have refused to answer my questions; questions that were asked with integrity and honesty. You have questioned that and to be honest, I don’t really care. I did care about what you had to say in response to my original questions, but unfortunately I’ve given up all hope of ever getting them from you. You seem more interested in having some sort of academic dialogue then in answering what I thought were fair questions given the position you hold.

    “As far as I can see at present, continuing to exert energy into having a fair and respectful dialogue with you is not working. All I can do is point out how more and more out of control your position is becoming as we exchange words. It’s not out of the realm of plausibility for me to wonder if you are actually a very skilled troll.”

    We both can agree that “continuing to exert energy into having a fair and respectful dialogue..is not working,” but for vastly different reasons. You can claim all you want that my position is getting “more and more out of control” yet the truth is far from the claim. I have consistently tried to get you to address the questions of the original post even offering examples from scripture in order to help you in understanding what I am asking and yet you have continually failed to address them. That is a shame.

    You say you are confident in your reader’s ability to be good judges. I am too. More than confident that they will see that you have refused to address the original questions and the examples I gave to those questions. More than confident that they will see that you have a poor understanding of hermeneutics and how it applies to all that we try to understand, not just scripture. More than confident that they too would like to know what you really think about the questions I have asked.

    Unless you actually address the questions of my initial post, this will be the last post in which I reply to you.

    Kindest regards Bradley.

  64. Paul,

    With perplexed consternation, as one who intends to climb a steep hill finds himself sliding to the bottom further from where he began, I do not recognize my own carefully nuanced position in the far-flunged mud fantasy you have imaginatively reproduced. You appear to hold an indefinite amount of assumptions in many ways out of sync with my own sense of responsible reasoning methods proper for a rational discussion, not to mention my views on authority, science, biblical interpretation.

    We are failing to connect or understand one another, as I anticipated.

    I’m glad we at least agree the exchange is not developing properly, and does not deserve our sustained attention once confirmed.

    Bradley

  65. Paul says:

    Bradley,

    You anticipated failure? That says a lot about your ineptitude as an interlocutor. Maybe you should have just got on with answering my questions.

    Paul

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