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A Letter from the NPH Professional Books Editor on Doctor of Souls

Dear shepherds of God’s people,

How many of you remember what we were taught on the first day in Dogmatics class as Middlers at the seminary? We learned that theology is a “habitus practicus,” that all (scriptural) theology is practical—it is for people (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15,16). Perhaps at the time we did not always appreciate every fine dogmatical definition and distinction—in Latin terms and phrases—made by Quenstedt and Gerhard. Such was not the case, however, in our courses in pastoral theology. In “PT” it always seemed obvious that we were learning the very “practical” nuts-and-bolts aspects of the ministry—how to “be a pastor,” how to bring God’s Word of law and gospel, properly distinguished, to the hearts and minds and lives of God’s people. In our PT classes we became very familiar with the book The Shepherd Under Christ by A. Schuetze and I. Habeck. And I’m guessing that everyone reading this letter has a copy of that book on his library shelf.

Today I’d like to talk to you briefly about a new book on pastoral theology, authored by the senior Schuetze’s son, Professor John Schuetze. The book is Doctor of Souls: The Art of Pastoral Theology. I will let Professor Schuetze explain in his own words the reason and need for the new PT book:

A century ago a pastor visited homebound members, administered private Communion, searched out straying members, applied the ministry of the keys, offered spiritual counsel and guidance on a variety of issues, consoled families at the deaths of loved ones, and taught and preached the Word of God. These activities are still a part of gospel-centered pastoral care today. So we see that The Shepherd Under Christ, which outlines the best practices in these practical areas, is still a helpful pastoral theology text for the seminary student and veteran pastor alike. The purpose of this book is not to update or replace The Shepherd Under Christ. That book stands for what it is, a helpful tool for pastoral ministry, even in the new millennium.

However, some aspects of pastoral ministry have changed since the 1970s when The Shepherd Under Christ was published. . . . For example, some of the ethical medical dilemmas that a pastor can face in 21st-century ministry were unheard of 40 or 50 years ago. Or we think of the many challenging situations the counseling pastor confronts as he ministers to Christian singles and families.

Doctor of Souls contains chapters on a pastor’s character, qualifications, and call; on administering Word and Sacrament; on visiting members, dealing with medical decisions and dilemmas, comforting the bereaved, seeking the straying, proclaiming the truth about God’s gift of sexual intimacy and marriage, counseling members, and teaching Christian stewardship.

I think even veteran pastors with many years of rich experience will find Doctor of Souls an edifying read that will help sharpen their pastoral skills. Doctor of Souls deserves an honored place on the pastor’s bookshelf, right alongside The Shepherd Under Christ.

Wishing you the Lord’s continued blessings on your always-practical gospel ministries!

In Christ,
Curtis Jahn
Professional Books Editor