The Opinions of men

Recently, I saw that someone posted the following quote from Dr. Jay Adams:

In my opinion, advocating, allowing and practicing psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas within the church is every bit as pagan and heretical, and therefore perilous as propagating the teachings of some of the most bizarre cults. The only vital difference is that the cults are less dangerous because their errors are more identifiable.

I am sharing my response to this here – not because I have any wish to be controversial, but because I really think that it is time we as conservative, Reformed Christians, started to compare the words of our heroes to the scriptures and to the creeds. It is supposed to be what we do.

So here is my response:

Statements like these from Dr. Adams have caused more harm to the body of Christ than anything I can think of in the last 30 years.

“In my opinion” – the opinion of Dr. Adams has been elevated to creedal status, woe be to anyone who may question it.

Those who have dedicated their lives to the study of the human soul and to the easing of the suffering of so many millions are dismissed if they use “heretical” words like trauma, narcissist, abuser, pedophile…
Victims are cast out of the church and wolves are given safety within because we look for quick proof-texts, and refuse to do any soul-searching.
Those who have suffered unspeakable trauma and suffering are given 8 sessions with their pastor, not allowed to speak their story, given a few proof-texts and then cast out of the church for “bitterness”.

All because Dr. Adams had an opinion. This opinion is not backed up with any scripture, which is odd (since it is purportedly based on Sola Scriptura) but simply declared so to be.

So I would ask here – what scripture is used to cast everything with the title “psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas” into the bowels of hell? By what authority does Dr. Adams’ opinion supersede the creeds of the church?

Why is it, that in the ancient Heidelberg Catechism, which we all revere, we learn that good works are “not such as rest on our own opinions or the commandments of men” but are based upon the law of God, which is further defined as the Ten Commandments, – why is it now that Dr. Adams’ self-declared opinion is the criterion by which thousands and thousands of sufferers are allowed no relief, no second opinion, no question, and no other answers?

Some serious things that we should perhaps think about…

To back up my whole point, I am well aware that I am now going to be branded a dangerous heretic and anything I might say will be suspect from henceforth – because I dared to question Dr. Adams opinion.

How many of those suffering from real mental illness are allowed no relief because of this man?

How many have been beaten and abused and raped by their husbands and sent back home because of this man?

Those who follow Adams would have rebuked Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus for bawling like a baby.

I’m sick of it.

Yes, he said some good things, and some of his critiques were valid.

But he was just a guy. His opinion isn’t a creed. Speaking of trauma and narcissism and abuse and PTSD and depression isn’t heresy. It is naming what most of the Psalms are all about. We are created in the image of God, and naming things is what we do.

I would add a few things here:

When God created the heavens and the earth, he gave names to some of the things that he created. When he created man, he gave man the task of naming the animals. Men and women exercise their dominion as image-bearers of God by naming. Any study, any discipline, and lessons, first begin with learning the names of things.

The scripture gives us the outlines, the framework, the first principles. But because we are image-bearers of God, we are called to use wisdom and give things names as we study them.

Classifying biblical concepts is not being “worldly”. It’s called wisdom, and it is what we are called to do. I thank God for those who have spent their lives studying and classifying human behavior. The bible says that Jesus knew the hearts of men, and answered accordingly. We don’t have that ability, because we are finite. So we are called to listen, to classify, to stop our mouths, to hear what others might have to say.

But that takes work. It is a lot easier to simply classify all opposition as heretical, cult-like and evil and be done with it. But this keeps us steadfastly bound to our ignorance and happily immune from loving our neighbor.

God would have us reach outside our little bubbles and see that there is a huge world out there that cannot be explained by Christianized behaviorialism. Skinner is not the gospel, no matter how you baptize him.

Think about it.


Filed under Pastoral ministry

11 responses to “The Opinions of men

  1. Gany T.

    YES!! Thank you for saying this so forcefully.

  2. Janet


    Nouthetic counselors have told me that my problem always stems from my heart. So, when a wolf is gnawing on my leg, ripping off my skin, pulling out muscles and tendons, my problem is my heart reaction to my circumstances? NO! A thousand times no. My problem is that there’s an evil wolf gnawing on my leg. It hurts like the dickens. And I want to get away, to flee, to find safety.

    I stayed with the wolf for decades because I wasn’t heard. The counselor didn’t understand or appreciate the heaviness of living with a self-absorbed, self-centered person who cast enough crumbs my way to keep me wanting more. Because I stayed, because I forgave and loved and ministered to and “understood”, many others were devastated. Jay Adams certainly does not take the place of God. I’m glad you are saying so publicly, Sam.

    • I love the way you put it, Janet. The wolf gnawing at your leg is a brilliant image.

      • Exactly. And while that wolf is gnawing, your counselors are telling you to quit struggling so much, submit more, be quiet, don’t make such a fuss…
        I am so sorry for all of it, and fed up with it.

      • anonymous

        Or better yet, the counselors are telling the victim such is merely her perception of it, and if she’d only reframe her perception, life would be so much better. Its her bad attitude that’s bringing her down, not necessarily the wolf’s bites.

        I don’t know that most counselors have anything worthy to say. Unless the counselors have been victimized themselves and fought tooth and nail to extricate themselves, rebuild themselves, heal themselves, and still wage war with the aftermath of trauma and severe victimization, I don’t see where they’d have much to offer. Wisdom usually comes from hard-won experience, not some ill-informed, opinion-elevated-into-doctrine, 50 book series. 50 books? That says money more than anything.

        The wisest people I know maybe have one or two books in them, not 50. Jay seems like a charlatan. Why do so few notice, let alone say, the emperor has no clothes?

        It’s typical man – ego – money stuff. A 50 book series. Tell me, what traumas did Jay suffer? How does Jay know anything?

  3. Amen! Bravo Sam for saying this so strongly. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Dogtired

    I stayed for decades, being told to “forgive and forget “ and “it is just sin “
    This “sinful” man abused our family with his own special dogma rooted in personality disorders while lusting after men. I finally asked him to leave and I am now pursuing divorce. I have gone toe to toe with “Christian “ ministries that held me to the “sin” models for over 10 years while I watched myself and family descend…. so if it is not sin than what is it ?
    It is mental illness ….. plain and simple.

  5. Bunkababy

    I just started reading a fantastic book right now. The title of it is called, “The Boy who was raised as a Dog” by Bruce D. PERRY, MD, PHD.
    He has studied the brain specifically and then Child Psychiatry and behavioural sciences.
    He explains what happens inside the brains of children exposed to extreme stress. Especially traumatized children.
    He says when we understand the science of the mind and the power of love and nurturing can we hope to heal the spirit of the most wounded child.

    He delves into the neurotransmitters of the brain, the synaspsis and neuropathways created in the young child, especially infants and how it wires the brain to react to stress or stimuli until adulthood.

    I myself have already discovered answers to my reactions of stress and stimuli around me based on how my brain was wired from my earliest traumas.
    The thing about that guy you quoted, is this. GOD CREATED MY BRAIN.
    He created those nearotransmittors. He created our brains to fire off, he created all aspects of the formation our brain gives and receives information, processes and assimilates.

    Everything we do, see, think, our emotions flow from this great thing we have that was created in the image of God.
    Sin can destroy that image.
    Sin against us can destroy that magnificent reflection of God.
    We are talking about the creator of the universe having given us a brain in his image!!
    The enemy seeks to destroy it. These so called christians are keeping it destroyed by their own ignorance.

    And men like this a$$, and others in the church further destroy it by not trying to educate themselves on the function of the brain, by people who use it to expose God’s reflection of himself.
    This man Bruce D, Perry is a gift to people to restore the image of Christ in those that have been completely damaged as children.
    If I had someone like that in my early life my life would be completely different.
    Does or can God restore us? Yes. But my experience has always been that restoration comes from others. God uses folks to restore us damaged ones. He gives us a brain to use. He gives us wisdom which comes from our brain.

    Do we have to weed out weird psychology? Sure. But you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    Psychiatry helped me, where the church couldn’t. It helped me understand myself. It helped me understand the zillion why’s. It gave me name’s to my conditions. It gave me peace knowing I was not crazy or demon possessed, rebellious, or unteachable. All labels slapped on me by Christian’s that further harmed me, and hurt me.

    It gave me hope. Hope that what was wrong with me was not my fault but in essence is my reaction to trauma, that it was a gift to survive. Even though I suffered so much trauma God wired my brain in a way to survive.

    Not that it was not without faults. But without that hope, survival was not worth it.
    I thank God for my Christian Dr. Back then who was open to my diagnosis and diagnosed me. He was a God send. And I thank him for my MSW christian therapist who was willing to go outside the parameters of christianity to psychiatry. They literally saved my life.
    And in my particular case advised me against all drugs that would numb, or subdue the emotions. In essence I had to stay in the moment no matter how awful it was.
    I had to stay safe. Being numbed out, in my case meant harm to me and my little family.

  6. Pingback: The Leaven of the Pharisees | My Only Comfort

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