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Book Review for Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel by David Benner









A Paper

Presented to

Dr. Erik Salwen

Dallas Theological Seminary




In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Course

BC5101 Pastoral Counseling





Ken Suanjong Yeo

October 2020


response paper to care of souls

The Thesis of the Author

The thesis of the author is that the church must recover its historical understanding and role in caring for people’s souls as well as integrating modern therapeutic psychology to have a fuller ministry to people’s life.

My Personal Top Take Away

1.     Definition of Soul Care

Benner defined soul care as “The support and restoration of the well-being of persons in their depth and totality, with particular concern for their inner life”[1]. Although historically the majority of the theologians have the dichotomy view (spirit or soul and body) of humans with some minority have the trichotomy (spirit, soul, body) view, the majority of the contemporary biblical scholars view a human being as one whole person. Spirit, soul, and body are not different separable faculties of man, but they are different ways of seeing the whole person. This book focuses on the care of the whole person with the focus on his or her inner being, which is normally described as spirit or soul in the bible.

2.     The Purpose of Soul Care

The purpose of soul care is spiritual formation, that is to help the believers being cared for to grow into the image of their savior Jesus Christ.

3.     History of Soul Care in the Church

Throughout the church history, all major streams of Christianity, including but not limited to the Desert Fathers, the Romans Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, the Reformers, the Puritans, and the Anglican all practiced soul care in some shapes or forms. The church was the dominant soul caregiver in western culture from the beginning of the church to the 18th century. However, the enlightenment in the 17-18th century led to the decline of the church’s influent in society including the soul care of the people. The therapeutic culture slowly became the dominant soul caregiver in the society, replacing the church. Many churches in the western world even adopted therapeutic culture, replacing the rich historical soul care practices of the church.

4.     Psychology and Spirituality

Many leading psychologists believe that spirituality is an important aspect of the health of the soul of a person. However only some psychologists think it has to be the God of the Christians bible that can meet the needs, others believe that other religions can also meet the spiritual needs of a person. Some psychologists even think spirituality does not have to be religious at all.

5.     Christians Spirituality

Different Christian traditions tend to emphasize different aspects of the Christian faith, however, most of them agree on certain beliefs, eight of them are listed in the book, these are the distinctions of Christian Spirituality over the other religions.

6.     The Psychospiritual Focus of Soul Care

All psychological quests are spiritual quests in the core. Humans are made in the image of the triune God and long to quest for what we do not have, and these quests can only ultimately be satisfied by a relationship with the triune God.

7.     Dialogue in Soul Care

Dialogue is an intimate relational conversion between two persons who respect, care, and love each other. Its primary purpose is not for the transfer of information but is for building trust and relationships.

8.     Dreams

Dreams are gifts from God, we ought to carefully analyze our dreams to discern what God is trying to tell us about ourselves. Dreams are primarily not to tell us future events or what decision to make. Its primary purpose is to help us to ask the right questions about our life.

9.     Forms of Christian Soul Care

There are many different forms of Christian soul care, each form has its own limitations and advantages. They do not compete but complement each other.

10.  Challenges

Christian soul care has great demands on the counselor, he or she must first view this as a calling to serve God in His kingdom, rather than a job. They must take good care of their relationship with God before taking care of others.

11.  Receiving Soul Care

By giving and receiving soul care, we could become more whole and are blessed by being able to participate in the growth of others.

How The Author Will Impact Change in My Personal Ministry

The view of a person as a whole

This book advocates for the view of looking at persons as a whole, instead of dichotomy or trichotomy. I am from the tradition of trichotomy, I was aware of the dichotomy view, but before I study at DTS, I have never heard about looking at persons as a whole person. This is the second time I heard about it at DTS. This book once again brought up the benefits of looking at a person as a whole. Although I am not completely convinced of the whole view of a person, this book will certainly make me think about this topic harder as I continue to pursue to know God and to know myself.

Allocate the appropriate resources (time, energy) for soul care

I am a preacher and thus focus most of my time in preaching and teaching the word of God. The book gives me a good overview of the soul care or counseling world as it relates to the church. It alerted me to think and pay attention to the soul care of God’s people and the role a pastor can play in it. The book has helped me to think about the need to allocate some of my resources to the task of soul care.

How I will Communicate with People

This book put a lot of emphasis on the importance of dialogue in soul care. I particularly like the differences between debate, discussion, conversation, and dialogue. The author emphasized that dialogue is not primarily for information transferred, it is for building trust and relationship. It is a simple concept, I think I can use it in many situations. For example, I can see that I will need to have a dialogue with my wife, my son (family soul care), with my mentor, and with people who I provide soul care to. I see the needs of the church’s small groups to have dialogues to build trust and relationships in a safe environment.

Interpreting Dreams

I am not a believer is dream interpretation, because I think dream interpretation is a very unreliable way to know about ourselves or to know about God. This book has informed me about the possibility of using dreams to ask questions to ourselves. Although my view on dreams has not been changed by this book, I will probably pay more attention to dreams as a result of reading this book.




Benner, David G. Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1998.


[1] David G. Benner, Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1998), 23.


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