Care of Souls in the Classic Tradition

by Thomas C. Oden

Thomas C. Oden teaches at Drew University Theological School, Madison, New Jersey.

Care of Souls in the Classic Tradition was published in 1984 by Fortress Press. This book was prepared for Religion-Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams.


(ENTIRE BOOK) Prof. Oden offers a critique of contemporary pastoral counseling that notes the advantages of modern clinical psychotherapy while pointing out its limitations for pastoral counseling which he asserts has all but ignored the classical Christian pastoral tradition exemplified in the work of Gregory of Nazianzus.


  • Introduction

    In relating therapeutic counseling to the classical Christian pastoral tradition, the author draws upon his own personal psychological journey and offers the theological assertion that psychotherapeutic empathy is analogous to and reflective of God’s unconditional love.

  • Chapter 1: Recovering Lost Identity

    The task that lies ahead is the development of a postmodern, post-Freudian, neoclassical approach to Christian pastoral care that takes seriously the resources of modernity while also penetrating its allusions and, having found the best of modern psychotherapy still problematic, has turned again to the classical tradition for its bearings, yet without disowning what it has learned from modern clinical experience.

  • Chapter 2: Why Gregory?

    Building on a brief summary of Gregory’s life and career, the author outlines the Pope’s distinctive approach to pastoral guidance that integrates the pastoral and the theological with an astuteness that anticipates modern psychological developments.

  • Chapter 3: Case Studies in Pastoral Theology

    The interpersonal dynamics of pastoral counseling focus on a principle of variability that is based on empathetic listening to the specific situation of the counselee in order to communicate God’s corrective love. This is demonstrated in a selection of examples from paradoxical case studies of the diversities of pastoral counsel.

  • Chapter 4: Ironies of Pastoral Counsel

    This chapter continues the exploration of Gregory’s dipolar method of counseling by focusing in detail on several prototype cases in order to reveal his theological method of pastoral practice.

  • Conclusion: Preaching and Pastoral Care

    Even though the pastor in preaching must deal simultaneously with persons of widely different needs, pastoral care can and must be attempted through preaching. Gregory offers direction in this complex and difficult task.