Monday, March 03, 2008

Book review

One of many books that I have purchased with intent to read is "Pastoral Care Under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering" written by Richard C. Eyer. So far, I love what I am reading as it is written from the theological context of chaplaincy. I have found it a rare publication that is written specifically from the pastoral care/chaplaincy perspective.

In the first paragraph of this book, I defined pastoral care as the "uninvited spiritual nurturing" that a pastor provides. It is uninvited in the sense that the person needing pastoral care often does not request it. ... need to understand in the context of 'helplessness or loss of control over one's life'. Someone has said that the willingness to live with our own helpless may well turn out to be called faith. That does not make living with helplessness any easier, but it does put helplessness into holy perspective, a useful beginning for both pastor and parishioner. ... the challenge for pastoral care is to move the sufferer from feelings of helplessness to a holy perspective. Holy perspective is that interpretation arrive at by pastor and suffering parishioner which is both sensitive to feelings and looks beyond feelings to Truth. Truth is not merely what pastor or parishioner feels personally but what God says to us in Jesus Christ, the meaning of which is revealed in the written Word. "
"Pastoral care consists not in removing some one's suffering but in helping the sufferer understand his or her suffering in the light of the cross. Apart from the cross, the sufferer experiences a meaningless and out-of-control world that offers no hope.. " Basically, Eyer differentiates the message of the cross as rooted in self-exploration with the purpose of the individual to define the weakness within and to confess and grow from learning of one's weakness, to root it out, whereas pop psychology elevates the self-exploration with the propose of celebrating our weaknesses. Eyer goes on to distinguish the difference of what he calls "theology of the cross" and "theology of glory" using the Lord's prayer as example. One line of the Lord's Prayer is "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Eyer argues that many people hold to the thinking of "theology of glory"
when it comes to this line, stating that while "thy will be done" refers to our acknowledgement of our individual weakness and acknowledging that God walks with us in our suffering, versus trying to bend God's will to our desires.
" The theology of the cross says that God comes to us through our weakness and suffering, on the cross and in our own sufferings. The theology of the cross says, 'My grace is sufficient for you,..' the theology of glory on the other hand says that God is to be found, not in the weakness but in power and strength, and therefore we should look for him in signs of health, success, and outward victory over life's ills. .. If we do not understand the distinction, we will gravitate towards a theology of glory in which our culture believes God works through the self-affirmation of pop psychology and instant gratification. We will begin to demand that God justify himself to us in our sufferings by giving us healing and success."

That is quite the statement and it rings true. How often have I had patients tell me that God will fix it because "I told him to". I do agree that God does heal and that miracles occur, but sometimes people hold too rigid to the "theology of glory" stance and aren't willing to see that sometimes, God is saying "I'm here , walking with you." or that the answer to their demand is "no, there will be healing, just not that way".

I look forward to seeing how this book continues and what other challenges to perspective will arise.

No comments: