Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Review: Taking on the gods: The Task of the Pastoral Counselor

As Chaplains, what all is involved in the endeavor of being a pastoral counselor to our Soldiers? Today’s pastoral counselors often integrate modern psychological thought and method with traditional religious training in an effort to address psychospiritual issues in addition to the traditional spectrum of counseling services. But, have you ever considered that our true task in pastoral counseling is taking on the gods? This is exactly what Author Merle Jordan is suggesting in his book: “Taking on the gods: The Task of the Pastoral Counselor.”

Taking on the gods explores a clinical and theological approach to the treatment of individuals, couples, and families suffering from neurotic styles of life. Merle Jordan exposes the origins of neuroses in idolatry: the substitution of false psychological gods for the true God as the center of ultimate reality. In attempting to earn the approval of these false gods and to escape their harsh judgment, one enters into a second idolatry: becoming one's own Messiah, parts of the self are sacrificed to placate the false gods. The resulting personality distortions are the source of many emotional difficulties.

Jordan discusses not only the role of pastoral counselors in helping clients confront their idols, but also the counselors’ responsibility to recognize their own false gods. Topics covered include: Pastoral Counseling as the Encounter Between Gods, The Implicit Religious Drama in Marital and Family Counseling, The Operational Theology of the “Common Cold” - Depression, and Self-justification Versus Justification by Faith Through Grace.

Jordan would say that taking on the gods is a significant responsibility of pastoral counseling. That we must confront those psychic structures, forces, and images which masquerade as God in the lives of our Soldiers, their families and in our own lives. Once these false gods have been exposed; our task then becomes bringing love, faith, and hope into the lives of our Soldiers and the family members which we serve and being an extension ministry of Jesus Christ walking in the hells of human existence. Jordan would say these are all ways of expressing the true evangelistic purposes of pastoral counseling.

According to Jordan, helping people to “take on their gods,” to free themselves and to experience the loving God; is the heart of the pastoral counselor's task. Imagine, just as Elijah did some 3000 years ago, you can take on the gods of this age and show the power of the true and living God. I confess that the thought of taking on the gods in the lives of our Soldiers and in our own lives may seem like arrogance or a very humbling and awesome challenge. Nevertheless, taking on the gods is at the heart and soul of pastoral counseling. May our prays today echo that of Elijah’s prayer on Mount Carmel: “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18:36-39).


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  2. Also...I remember as a child(being an Army brat) going on base to chapel while in France every Sunday for church.

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