The Puritans on Soul Care and Counseling
Here’s a new book from Christian Focus that I think a number of readers will find interesting and helpful: Helpful Truth in Past Places: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Counseling, by Mark Deckard.
You can read the introduction, “New Is Not Necessarily Better,” online for free.
He takes six questions that people struggle with, and uses a classic Puritan work to help us answer it:
- Why is this happening to me? (John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence)
- Why am I so anxious and dissatisfied? (Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment)
- What does sin have to do with my problem? (John Owen, On the Mortification of Sin in Believers)
- Why doesn’t anyone understand my problems? (John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress)
- Don’t I need just to stop feeling? (Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections)
- How can I find joy again? (William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast)
I’m also grateful that our friends at CCEF have made available online Tim Keller’s classic article, Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling.
Keller offers six reasons that Puritan works are a rich resource for biblical counselors:
- The Puritans were committed to the functional authority of the Scripture. For them it was the comprehensive manual for dealing with all problems of the heart.
- The Puritans developed a sophisticated and sensitive system of diagnosis for personal problems, distinguishing a variety of physical, spiritual, tempermental, and demonic causes.
- The Puritans developed a remarkable balance in their treatment because they were not invested in any one “personality theory” other than biblical teaching about the heart.
- The Puritans were realistic about difficulties of the Christian life, especially conflicts with remaining, indwelling sin.
- The Puritans looked not just at behavior but at underlying root motives and desires. Man is a worshiper; all problems grow out of “sinful imagination” or idol manufacturing.
- The Puritans considered the essential spiritual remedy to be belief in the gospel, used in both repentance and the development of proper self-understanding.