The Puritans – Soul Doctors

Greg Strand – October 19, 2012 Leave a comment

I have for many years appreciated the Puritans for their sound exposition of the Scriptures and their keen application of biblical truth to the lives/souls of individuals. In fact, I will often explain that pastors are “soul doctors,” an expression I picked up from the Puritans.

Tim Keller wrote an article a number of years ago about how the Puritans have served as an invaluable resource for his own biblical counseling. His six reasons are the following:

  1. 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.
  2. The Puritans developed a sophisticated and sensitive system of diagnosis for personal problems, distinguishing a variety of physical, spiritual, tempermental and demonic causes.
  3. 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.
  4. The Puritans were realistic about difficulties of the Christian life, especially conflicts with remaining, indwelling sin.
  5. The Puritans looked not just at behavior but at underlying root motives and desires. Man is a worshipper; all problems grow out of ‘sinful imagination’ or idol manufacturing.
  6. The Puritans considered the essential spiritual remedy to be belief in the gospel, used in both repentance and the development of proper self-understanding.

Cf. Tim Keller, “Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling,” The Journal of Pastoral Practice 9/3 (1988): 11-44. (The journal is now named The Journal for Biblical Counseling.)

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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