Monday, August 3, 2009

Beginning Oden's "Classical Pastoral Care" v. 3

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Running Time: 6 min./7 sec.

I have completed reading the first chapter of Thomas Oden's "Classical Pastoral Care, v. 3: "Pastoral Counsel." Thomas Oden's three volume systematic theology is the primary text for the two semester Systematic Theology class at Wesley Biblical Seminary. Oden was the professor of some of the WBS faculty.

The introduction makes the point that from the very beginnings of the Church, pastors have required wisdom to struggle for the health and life of the souls entrusted to their care. The methods employed in soul care throughout the centuries anticipated many of elements of contemporary psychotherapy. Oden quotes from Church leaders from the ancient Church to the Reformation to answer these nine questions:

1. How do sources of the classical pastoral tradition describe the necessary and sufficient conditions of the helping relationship, the essential elements of the therapeutic relationship and how do these descriptions correspond with recent accounts?
2. What constitutes counsel, what should one expect from it, and how is an apt counselor found?
3. How does God's own emphatic caring and providential guidance shape the process of human care-giving?
4. Why is the timing of seasonable wisdom such a crucial prudential element of pastoral counsel?
5. How did the classic Christian psychologists understand the language of the body, and its relation to the struggle for language in self-disclosure, as well as the significance of silence?
6. Why are admonition and discipline such distinctive features of constructive behavioral change?
7. Can responsible freedom be rightly nurtured without moral guidance?
8. How do classic therapeutic understandings and procedures anticipate contemporary psycotheraputic assumptions and procedures?
9. Finally, what patterns recur in classic analyses of the psychological dynamics of the will that have been rediscovered by modern behavioral science? (Oden, p. 5)

The title of chapter one is called "Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of a Helping Relationship." Oden lists five conditions and quotes from historical Church figures in expounding upon them. These five conditions are:
1. Accurate emphatic listening.
2. Congruent, open awareness of one's own experiencing process, trusting one's own soul, one's most inward experiencing, enabling full disclosure.
3. Unconditional accepting love.
4. Rigorous self-examination.
5. Narrative comic insight.

Oden explains that the Greek word for a helping, healing relationship is theripea. The Greek noun therapon describes one who helps, serves and heals others. The Latin word for therapon is ministerium, where we derive our English word minister. The pastoral office, Oden states, as been historically seen as a therapeutic one.

A sample of quotations from the book are included in the audio portion of this post above to give you a flavor of the wisdom available to the contemporary Church from the wisdom of Classical Pastoral Tradition.

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