13 May 2014

Book Review: Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition

I am taking my final course for a certificate in biblical counseling through the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, which is entitled Counseling in the Local Church. Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition (2001) by Andrew Purves is one of the required texts.  In this short text, Purves explores pastoral care and what we might now call counseling or soul care through the works of five men separated by over a thousand years: Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Martin Bucer, and Richard Baxter. I suspect that even most well-read evangelicals have little knowledge of these men, except perhaps Richard Baxter.

In each case, Purves provides a short biographical sketch and then explores aspects of their works that contribute to pastoral care and shepherding. Although there was wisdom in each, I was particularly drawn to Gregory of Nazianzus, the earliest of them. Purves wrote, "according to Gregory, the pastor is a healer, even more so than the physician for the pastor treats a sickness that is a deeply subtle foe of healing a sickness of the soul" (p. 17).

Also, in the chapter on Gregory, Purves makes this point: "the godly pastor is not only a psychologist and rhetorician, but above all else also must be a theologian" (page 22). I would love to see this wisdom penetrate the pastoral office today.

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