Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A History of the Cure of Souls (with reference to depression)

O My Soul:

A History of the Cure of Souls by John T. McNeill is a book I highly recommend to any Christian interested in the care and cure of souls. It is a quick overview of how the church has always been about applying God's Word to hurting and hardened souls. First, surveying the Old Testament and then moving forward through the history of the church to finally examining different confessional traditions.

Here are a few quotes from Chapter VIII: On the Cure of Souls in Lutheranism-

"The Christian life is strenuous, but Luther will not have it be gloomy. We must recognize the devil's devices in melancholy thoughts, and counter them with innocent delights. Music is a God-given means of arousing gladness...Music is the best cordial to a person in sadness, he wrote; it soothes, quickens, and gladdens the heart. And again, 'Satan is a great enemy of music. It is a good antidote against temptation and evil thoughts...

"The Lutheran confessions of faith reflect Luther's main emphasis on confession and absolution...In the Augsburg Confession (1530) three articles are devoted to these topics (xi, xii, xxv). The signers profess that they continue to practice confession and absolution, ordinarily in preparation for communion, but without requiring the enumeration of sins: for in that case consciences would never find peace.

"The private cure of souls was actively pursued and frequently discussed by Luther's early followers. Hardeland explains in this connection the work of Jerome Weller (d. 1572) and Erasmus Sarcerius (d. 1559), the former stressing the comfort of the tempted and the latter seeking to strengthen church discipline.

"The most outstanding of such works came from the pen of the Strasbourg Reformer, Martin Bucer (d.1551). His On the True Care of Souls appeared in 1538 in German and Latin versions.

"Ezekiel 34:16 furnishes the scheme for Bucer's fivefold ministry in the cure of souls: to draw to Christ those who are alienated; to lead back those who have been drawn away; to secure amendment of life to those who fall into sin; to strengthen weak and sickly Christians; to preserve Christians who are strong, and urge them forward in all good.

(an extended section on how Bucer's writings were later used to support Pietism. Spener liked Bucer but disliked confession absolution. after leading the reader through the main lines of Lutheran thought from the Reformation, Orthodoxy, Pietism, Rationalism, to the mid-20th century, the author make three generalizations:)

"The Lutheran tradition reflects a free revision of medieval methods, particularly the retention of the confessional in altered form.

"Secondly, the earnest pastor has usually devoted much time to the visitation of parishioners, holding interviews in which he has sought the healing of souls and the quickening of religious devotion.

"Finally, stress on the mutual care of souls on the part of laymen.

In my opinion, the author appreciates Pietistic theology in Lutheranism more than I do. However, he gives a great outline of the great Lutheran thinkers and practitioners of the cure of souls throughout our history. He does the same with the Reformed, Anglican, Puritan, Baptist, Roman, and Armenian church bodies. This overview is helpful and a stepping stone to other authors on this topic.

And remember:

Hope in Christ &
God bless you,


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