Podcast thoughts on the life and legacy of Rush Liimbaugh.
Thoughts on theology, politics, and culture.
Published in the December 2020 edition of the Charleston Mercury
by Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Although an Anglican for the past two decades by studied conviction I was raised a Presbyterian – first in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the old “Southern Presbyterian Church”), later in the Presbyterian Church (USA) when the PCUS ceased to exist by merger in 1983, and later when I realized the the PC (USA) would not be a practical place for an Evangelical to minister, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was as an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, then, that I entered their seminary in the mid-1990s, a time that Providentially afforded me the opportunity to get to know and learn from the Rev'd Dr. Jay E Adams, who died on November 14 at the age of 91 as his family surrounded him singing hymns.
Jay Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, as the son of a police officer father and secretary mother, neither of whom were Christians (although he later had the opportunity to lead them both in making professions of faith) or took their son to church. He was a very intelligent child and graduated from high school at the age of 15. Also at the age of 15 a neighborhood friend – Milton Fisher, who was himself to later serve as a missionary to Ethiopia, Old Testament scholar, and seminary dean – was very concerned about an author who denied the Scriptures. Wondering what so unsettled his friend, Jay found a Gideon New Testament that his father had been given as a soldier in World War I and after reading the Gospel of John his heart was opened by God and he believed what he was reading.
He began attending church with his his friend and began to grow in his faith. After his early graduation from high school he asked his minister where he could study Scripture in greater detail; his minister pointed him to the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where an exception had to be made to allow a 15 year-old with no undergraduate degree to enroll. Following his time there he attended Johns Hopkins University and in 1952 at the age of 23 he received the Bachelor of Arts in Classics from Johns Hopkins and the Bachelor of Divinity from Reformed Episcopal Seminary on the same day.
He was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church and served several churches while completing the Master of Theology at Temple University and later earned the Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, writing his dissertation on the noted preacher and scholar Andrew Blackwood, under whom he'd studied at Temple University.
By the early 1960s he'd become minister at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in New Jersey and was teaching homiletics (preaching) at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He was also assigned to teach pastoral care which included a section on pastoral counseling. With few resources from which to draw he began examining the various materials that were available on Christian Counseling and was less than impressed, discovering that many of them were written from the perspective of Sigmund Freud or Carl Rogers. He later had the opportunity to spend six weeks observing Dr. O. Hobart Mowrer, a former President of the American Psychological Association and atheist who had written a book that Jay had found provoking as it posed the question, “Has evangelical Christianity sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?” While not certainly not agreeing with Mowrer's presuppositions nor his methods he found the time stimulating.
In 1970 Dr. Adams published Competent to Counsel, in which he critiqued the then-standard psychological systems of Freud, Rogers, and John B. Rogers/B.F. Skinner and called for their rejection by pastors and encouraged them to counsel out of the Word of God. His work was revolutionary and his output – more than 100 books on counseling, pastoral care, preaching and ethics, followed. Though them and the Nouthetic Counseling (now more commonly known as Biblical Counseling) movement of which he was the acknowledged father as well as his teaching at several seminaries and numerous conferences he has influenced countless clergy and laity of various churches. Through that corpus of work he will continue to have influence for years to come.
In 1990 Jay had left Westminster Theological Seminary in California, where he had established an innovative Doctor of Ministry program in preaching, and moved to upstate South Carolina where he planted Harrison Bridge Road Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville. It was primarily as minister of that church that I came to know him, not well, but well enough to have spent time talking to him and seeing him from time to time. Harrison Bridge Road Church had a church bookstore (as an aside, I am a huge fan of churches having bookstores that can offer sound material) where many of his books and tapes were available.
Despite his impressive credentials Dr. Adams was an unassuming man. His infrequent wearing of neckties was a running joke (although he showed up at a church banquet in black tie on at least one occasion in response) and he could take good natured ribbing in the spirit in which it was intended, not taking himself too seriously because he took his Lord so seriously. He also had an abiding love for God's Word, producing his own translation of the New Testament in large part because he wanted to force himself to focus on each verse in detail in the original Greek. One time I stopped by the church to do some shopping in the book room and he was teaching a group of middle school youth in the congregation New Testament Greek.
I am very thankful for the life and work of Jay Edward Adams and exceedingly grateful that I had the opportunity to interact with him. Servant, well done.
The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest and graduate of Erskine Theological Seminary, where he is currently pursing doctoral work. He serves as chaplain for a local hospice and may be contacted at drew.collins [at]gmail.com Much of the biographical details for this article came from a reflection on Dr. Adams' life by the Rev'd Donn R. Arms that may be found at https://nouthetic.blog/2020/11/14/jay-e-adams-1929-2020/ and is gratefully acknowledged.
A Review by Charles A. Collins. Jr.
Jon Harris, Social Justice Goes to Church: The New Left in Modern Evangelicalism (Greenville: Ambassador International, 2020)
Several years ago I and others began to notice a perceptible shift in Evangelical circles. While earlier generations when engaging in civic engagement as people of faith generally limited themselves to a few issues such as (preeminently) the sanctity of human life and the defense of traditional marriage – especially when speaking as the Church – a new breed of Evangelicals increasingly spoke out on a whole host of issues heretofore untouched and previously championed by the left. Critical Race Theory is hailed as an analytical tool and in some cases promoted. Despite the Democrat Party's championing of abortion and their 2020 Presidential ticket's support of the same this election season saw the rise of a group known as Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden.
Jon Harris received the Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and I first became aware of him through his YouTube broadcast, Conversations That Matter ( https://www.youtube.com/user/RoarNoMore ) . Soical Justice Goes to Church: The New Left in Modern Evangelicalism is an adaptation of his thesis for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Liberty University. Harris contends that in order to understand why so many Evangelicals support left-leaning political causes one needs to understand that a number of earlier members of what has been termed the Evangelical Left --- some of whom are now viewed as elder statesmen – frequently were raised in Christian homes but flirted with neo-Marxism in college (the 60s and 70s were a heady time, after all) only to become disillusioned with those ideas in a secular context and bring them back into the Church.
Harris traces the lives and development of Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners and spiritual advisor to President Barrack Obama, Wesley Granburg-Michaelson, also associated with Sojourners and longtime General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, Sharon Gallagher, Professor of Christianity and the Media at New College, Berkeley, and leader in the Christian World Liberation Front, John F. Alexander, editor of The Other Side, Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Theological Seminary, and Ron Sider, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry, and Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary and founder of Evangelicals for Social Action.
Those figures were major players in the production of the 1973 Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern, which called for a rejection of racism, economic materialism, economic inequality, militarism, and sexism. While no doubt making some valid points – one would be hard pressed to defend racism, for instance – the Chicago Declaration had a radical edge from the beginning. Wheaton College professor Robert Webber recalled being appalled at an incident in the economic responsibility workgroup when a successful businessman asked if it were possible to be rich and a Christian and the consensus was that “if he really wanted to follow after Jesus he would need to give up his job, sell his belongings, and give the proceeds to the poor. Then he would be in a position to follow after Christ.”
Carl F.H. Henry, one of the elder statesmen of Evangelicalism who had in his 1947 book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, rejected modern liberalism but had also abandoned some of the disengagement of Fundamentalism, was a signer of the Declaration, but he also criticized it, noting that while it “called for a bold attack on the 'maldistribution of the nation's wealth and services,'” it “remained silent about Marxism's inability to produce wealth.” Fundamentalist Bob Jones, Jr., didn't sign it but claimed that it “followed the socialist-communist line” and was “a half-way house between Biblical orthodoxy and apostasy.”
Three years later the progressive Evangelicals definitely seemed to be on the ascent. Jimmy Carter, both a progressive and the first President of an identifiably Evangelical background – at least in recent memory and in the sense that the term was used in the late twentieth century – was preparing to enter the White House and Christianity Today declared 1976 the “Year of the Evangelical” and the attention came from the “secular” press as well – the December 1977 issue of Time featured a cover story entitled “The Evangelicals New Empire of Faith.” Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
Jimmy Carter's Presidency was a disappointment to Evangelicals on many fronts and prior to the 1980 election a coalition of various Christian Conservatives began organizing at the grassroots level. On August 22, 1980 former California Governor Ronald Reagan stood before the National Affairs Briefing and said:
You know, a few days ago I addressed a group in Chicago and received their endorsement for my candidacy. Now, I know that this is a non-partisan gathering, and soI know that you can't endorse me, but I only brought that up because I want you to knowthat I endorse you and what you're doing.
While that group did not officially endorse Ronald Reagan, large numbers of Conservative Evangelicals backed him, leading to his victories in 1980 and 1984. The public perception of Evangelical Christianity shifted decidedly to the right.
But there was a stark contrast between the Evangelical Right and the Evangelical Left. The Evangelical Right was strong in the South but also attracted some blue-collar Democrats in the Northeast (a good number of whom, being Roman Catholics among others, weren't technically Evangelicals) drawn by Reagan's pro-life stance. In contrast, as Harris notes, the Evangelical Left lacked broad appeal – well over two-thirds of the Evangelical Left held education, religious, or social- service jobs; 86% of Sojourners readers held a college degree and the median educational level of readers of The Other Side was two years of graduate work. Impressive credentials, no doubt, but not the kind of numbers with which one wins elections.
Over the ensuing decades the tenets of progressive Evangelicalism continued to appeal to many of the elite – the professors, editors, and a good number of clergy. Many of those influenced by it made their way into positions of leadership in various churches that one would assume would veer toward the right, among the the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Anglican Church in North America. The last chapter of Harris' book concludes with an examination of Tim Keller, a PCA minister whose influence is felt far beyond that jurisdiction and who has echoed much of the progressive outlook.
Harris' work is very readable and extensively footnoted. It was a informative and engaging read and I commend it to any who wish to understand the contemporary Church.
The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is an Anglican priest and graduate of Erskine Theological Seminary, where he is currently pursuing doctoral studies. He serves as Chaplain for a local hospice and may be contacted at drew.collins [at] gmail.com