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Obituary: Dr Jay E. Adams (1929–2020)

February 2021 | by John Tredgett

Paul Dr Jay E. Adams, the ‘father of Christian counselling’ has died aged 91.

Adams came to prominence after publication of his ground-breaking book Competent to Counsel in 1970. He championed the cause of biblical sufficiency and spoke out against the encroachment of secular psychology into the counselling rooms of Christian leaders.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Adams developed an interest in Christianity after reading a Gideon’s New Testament belonging to his father.

Among other institutions, he studied at Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

In 1963, Adams moved to New Jersey to pastor an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He also began teaching pastoral theology and counselling at Westminster Theological Seminary.

While researching counselling, Adams found little from a Christian perspective but much in the way of secular ideas about human behaviour and psychology. He saw the need for a new, Bible-based approach to counselling, which he termed ‘nouthetic’.

In 1970, Adams published Competent to Counsel. He demonstrated how the prominent secular psychological systems – those of Freud, Rogers, and Watson/Skinner – stood opposed to Scripture and should be rejected. The years following saw Adams defend and elaborate his views both on the lecture circuit and through further publications.

In 1990, Adams returned to pastoral ministry via a church plant in South Carolina before finally retiring in 1997.

A wag once introduced Adams as ‘a man who has never had an unpublished thought’. He died with over 100 books to his name on topics as diverse as hermeneutics, commentary, preaching, fiction, aging, guidance, eschatology, and church conflict.

John Tredgett

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