Category Archives: Books

Pastoral Care: The Art of Arts

The quotation below is an excerpt from the late David Powlison’s new book, ‘The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care.’ Use my referral link to receive $5 off your order at Westminster Books.

It is hard to shepherd souls, to combat intricate moral evil, to help people walk through pain and anguish. Gregory the Great called it the “art of arts” in his great treatise on pastoral care. He thought the task of guiding souls far more difficult than the tasks performed by a mere medical doctor. Think about that. The body is relatively accessible. It is often explicable by cause-and-effect reasoning, and treatable by medication or surgery. But the “more delicate art deals with what is unseen,” the irrational madness in our hearts (Eccles. 9:3; Jer. 17:9). When you consider the challenge, how is it that most churchly counseling seems slapdash, pat answer, and quick fix? A good medical doctor spends a lifetime in acquiring case-wise acumen. A mature psychotherapist pursues continuing education. Can a pastor be content with one-size-fits-all boilerplate? Kyrie eleison. People are not served when the Christian life is portrayed as if some easy answer will do—a pet doctrine, religious strategy, involvement in a program, spiritual experience—and presto!—case solved. Again, hear Gregory’s words:

One and the same exhortation is not suited to all, because they are not compassed by the same quality of character… In exhorting individuals great exertion is required to be of service to each individual’s particular needs.

A pastor’s work is the art of arts.

A Good Counselor

The quotation below is an excerpt from the late David Powlison’s new book, ‘The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care.’ Use my referral link to receive $5 off your order at Westminster Books.

If you are a good counselor, then you’re learning how to sustain with a word the one who is weary (Isa. 50:4). This is wonderful, nothing less than your Redeemer’s skillful love expressed in and through you. You’ve learned to speak truth in love, conversing in honest, nutritious, constructive, timely, grace-giving ways (Eph. 4:15, 25, 29). You deal gently with the ignorant and wayward because you know you are more like them than different (Heb. 5:2–3). You don’t only do what comes naturally but have gained the flexibility to be patient with all, to help the weak, to comfort the fainthearted, to admonish the unruly (1 Thess. 5:14). You bring back those who wander (James 5:19–20), just as God brings you back time and again. You’re engaged in meeting the most fundamental human need, both giving and receiving encouragement every day (Heb. 3:13). In becoming a better counselor, you are growing into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Pastor, You Are a Counselor

The quotation below is an excerpt from the late David Powlison’s new book, ‘The Pastor as Counselor: The Call for Soul Care.’ Use my referral link to receive $5 off your order at Westminster Books.

“Pastor you are a counselor.

Perhaps you don’t think of yourself that way. Perhaps you don’t want to be a counselor. But you are one.

Perhaps preaching, leadership, and administration keep you preoccupied, an you do not do much hands-on pastoral work. You don’t take time for serious talking with people. In effect, you are counseling your people to think that most of us don’t need the give-and-take of candid, constructive conversation. Apparently, the care and cure of wayward, distractible, battered, immature souls—people like us—can be handle by public ministry and private devotion. The explicit wisdom of both Scripture and church history argues to the contrary.

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Complex Intensifications of the Utterly Ordinary

Below is an excerpt from the late David Powlison’s foreword to The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams by Heath Lambert.

What problems impel or compel a person to seek counseling help? The answer is simple, though the problems are complex. Emotions play in darkly minor keys: anxious, embittered, guilty, despairing, ashamed. Actions run in self-destructive ruts of compulsion and addiction. Thoughts proliferate internal chaos, obsessing fruitlessly. Sufferings hammer a person down until the experience seems unspeakable.

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Favorite Books A.D. 2020

This year I read a lot less than usual with only about 30~ books read. Between it being the busiest and most exciting year of my life (our first son was born), and also having completed all of my assigned reading for Greyfriars Hall the previous year, I didn’t read as much as I had hoped. Here’s to reading more in 2021. I’d like to read some Homer this coming year for the first time.

And so here are my favorites from 2020:

1. The Reformation in England (2 Vol.) by J.H. Merle D’Aubigné
2. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer
4. Holiness by J.C. Ryle
5. Biblical Authority After Babel by Kevin Vanhoozer
6. Bishop J.C. Ryle’s Autobiography by J.C. Ryle
7. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
8. Ploductivity by Douglas Wilson
9. Introduction to the Tyndale House Greek New Testament by Dirk Jongkind
10. Rediscovering Catechism by Donald van Dyken

Honorable mention: Dominion or Ruin by Douglas Wilson. This is the first book I’ve created with Pastor Doug, and he was kind enough to dedicate it to our son, Ryle. Also Tara designed the cover.

Previous years: 2019 / 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015

John Frith: A True Catholic

A sincere, decided, and yet moderate Christian, preaching the gospel with great purity and love, this man of thirty seemed destined to become one of the most influential reformers of England. Nothing could have prevented his playing the foremost part, if he had had Luther’s enthusiastic energy or Calvin’s indomitable will. There were less strong, but perhaps more amiable features in his character; he taught with gentleness those who were opposed to the truth, and while many, as Foxe says, ‘take the bellows in hand to blow the fire, but few there are that will seek to quench it’, Fryth sought after peace. Controversies between Protestants distressed him. ‘The opinions for which men go to war’, he said, ‘do not deserve those great tragedies of which they make us spectators. Let there be no longer any question among us of Zwinglians or Lutherans, for neither Zwingli nor Luther died for us, and we must be one in Christ Jesus.’ This servant of Christ, meek and lowly of heart like his Master, never disputed even with papists, unless obliged to do so.

A true catholicism which embraced all Christians was Fryth’s distinctive feature as a reformer. He was not one of those who imagine that a national church ought to think only of its own nation; but of those who believe that if a church is the depositary of the truth, she is so for all the earth; and that a religion is not good, if it has no longing to extend itself to all the races of mankind… No one is the sixteenth century represented this truly catholic element better than Fryth. ‘I understand the church of God in a wide sense’, he said. ‘It contains all those whom we regard as members of Christ. It is a net thrown into the sea.’ This principle, sown at that time as a seed in the English reformation, was one day to cover the world in missionaries.

J.H. Merle D’Aubigne, The Reformation in England Vol. II, 131–132.

True Catholicity

J.H. Merle d’Aubigné:

The residence of Tyndale and his friends in foreign countries, and the connections there formed with pious Christians, testify to the fraternal spirit which the reformation then restored to the church. It is in Protestantism that true catholicity is to be found. The Romish Church is not a catholic church. Separated from the churches of the East, which are the oldest in Christendom, and from the reformed churches, which are the purest, it is nothing but a sect, and that a degenerate one. A church which should profess to believe in an episcopal unity, but which kept itself separate from the episcopacy of Rome and of the East; and from the evangelical churches, would be no longer a catholic church; it would be a sect more sectarian still than that of the Vatican, a fragment of a fragment. The church of the Saviour requires a truer, a diviner unity than that of priests, who condemn one another. It was the reformers, and particularly Tyndale, who proclaimed throughout Christendom the existence of a body of Christ, of which all the children of God are members. The disciples of the reformation are the true Catholics (The Reformation in England, Vol. I, p. 367).

Favorite Books A.D. 2019

This is the fifth year that I have tracked my reading, both recording my favorite books and also my overall reading on Goodreads. Previous years: 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

  1. Institutes of the Christian ReligionJohn Calvin (Beveridge trans.)
  2. Principle of ProtestantismPhilip Schaff
  3. Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vols. I, II, III (particularly Vol. III)
  4. Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s SupperKeith Mathison
  5. Andrew and the FiredrakeDouglas Wilson
  6. Reformed DogmaticsHeinrich Heppe
  7. Can We Trust the Gospels? Peter J. Williams
  8. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American WestStephen Ambrose
  9. A Failure of NerveEdwin Friedman
  10. The Theopolitan VisionPeter Leithart
  11. The Virtue of NationalismYoram Hazony

Excerpts from Vol. III of the Collected Letters of Lewis

Thankful for Kindle highlights. Enjoy.

“We cd. read the whole Aeneid together.”

“But fan mail from children is delightful. They don’t gas. They want to know whether Aslan repaired Tumnus’s furniture for him. They take no interest in oneself and all in the story. Lovely.”

“Unredeemably savage religion goes on in the village: the Hermit philosophises in the forest: and neither really interferes with the other. It is only Xtianity wh. compels a high brow like me to partake in a ritual blood feast, and also compels a central African convert to attempt an enlightened universal code of ethics.”

“…though California must be a very attractive state, I confess I prefer New England. It is more my sort of country.”

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Favorite Books of 2018

This is now the fourth year that I have kept track of my favorite books of the past year. This list is merely based on personal enjoyment, and all of them I have read for the first time this year. According to Goodreads, I read 100 books this year—but that number is a little deceiving given a number of booklets and smaller works included.

As always, this is somewhat in order, but I didn’t agonize over it. You can see last year’s list here, 2016, and 2015.

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