Three Diagnostic Models of Pastoral Care (2/3)

Donald Capps very helpfully outlines models and schemata for effective pastoral action, that I think are very helpful for getting pastor’s to think about the what and why of what they do in a community over which they exercise pastoral oversight.  This post is the second of three that will develop this scheme to show how pastoral care is multi-layered and complex, requiring self-understanding, and avoiding the over-simplification of a one-dimensional approach that can be seen in self-promoting and self-serving distortions of ministry.

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In Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (a book I discovered by reading Anthony Thiselton’s A Lifetime in the Church and University), Capps first provides six Diagnostic Types for pastoral care approaches (pg. 61-65) and then, what concerns this post, he locates them on three axes, with each axis viewed as a model of theological diagnosis (pg. 65-66).  He uses the content analysis of published sermons in six well known preachers, showing that each preacher had a characteristic approach that was common to most if not all the their published sermons:

  1.  The Contextual Model.  This model includes two diagnostic approaches:  identifying potential causes of the problem (#2 Wesley) and identifying untapped personal and spiritual resources (#4 Brooks).  This model is primarily concerned with placing the problem in a meaningful context so that it may be dealt with more effectively.  This is the “look around you” model of diagnosis, because as with Wesley, we look for potential causes of the problem; and with Brooks, we look for the resources that are available to deal with it.  This is a hopeful view, based on the working assumption that for every cause there is a diagnosis to dealing with it, and with the further assumption that God is on the side of coping, hope and eventual victory.
  2. The Experiential Model.  Also includes two diagnostic approaches:  exposing inadequate formulations of the problem (#3 Tillich) and viewing the problem in light of our capacity for deeply shared experience (#6 Schleiermacher).  It is called experiential because it takes the view that problems need to be understood in terms of how we experience them.  As the previous model encourages “look around you,” this model encourages us to “look more deeply into ourselves and others.”  Discerning how problems are experienced is more important here than looking to ourselves and our resources in dealing with them.  Tillich wants to develop deeper self-understanding, while Schleiermacher draws our attention to what is profoundly human in all of us.  This model invites deeper engagement with ourselves and others, even if is painful and not immediately satisfying, yet ultimately it results in the even deeper experience of the grace and love of God.
  3. The Revisionist Model.  Two remaining diagnostic styles present themselves:  Identifying underlying personal motivations (#1 Newman) and bringing new clarity to a problem (#5 Farrar).  This is called revisionist because it seeks to look at the problem in a new way.  The reason we do not see them clearly or accurately is that we are looking at them in ways that allow us to remain opaque.  If the contextual model encourages us to look around us, and the experiential model encourages us to look more deeply into ourselves and others,  then the revisionist model encourages us to look from a new perspective.  Newman says the source of the problem is not what we have perceived it to be, while Farrar says that our angle of vision on the problem is wrong.  And both agree the problem needs to be viewed, ultimately, from God’s angle of vision.  This new perspective may turn out to be humbling and chastening because our sins and stupidity are brought to light, but it overcomes deception and illusion, and the goal of the Christian life is to leave deception and follow after truth.


The next post, the final one, will then develop our Types and Models into Three Pastoral Models:

  1.  The Shepherd
  2. The Wounded Healer
  3. The Wise Fool

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