I have been reading through Jay Adam’s 1975 The Use of the Scriptures in Counseling. I have interviewed him at Trinity Talk (See interviews here), and beyond that, I have also sought his counsel in a few counseling situations in my flock. In discussing a section on assurance, Adams offers a sharp critique of pastors that use I John to destroy what they perceive to be false assurance (28). Adams sees a new kind of legalistic Gnosticism that teaches that “only a small group of persons has a right to assurance.” He elaborates:
” Characteristically, such preachers use I John not to bring assurance but to destroy what they believe to be false assurance. God’s purpose in the book is positive, theirs negative(28).”
This is probably at the heart of Jay Adams’ critique of the Puritans in the book, and in the interview (though, I find much to commend in Puritan literature). For Adams, preaching that is continually tempting parishioners to doubt their salvation is actually offering a message rarely stressed in the Scriptures. Of course, doubting occurs, and we are called to examine ourselves, but when this becomes the overarching theme of our preaching and counseling, then Christians lose their joy. They enter the abyss of introspection; an introspection that is largely unhelpful.