Faith or Fear: A Reader in Pastoral Counselling

Written by Michael Jacobs Reviewed By Jack Ramsbottom

One of the fastest growing areas in the world of Christian literature is that of pastoral care. Apart from a spate of books dealing with specific issues we have recently seen the publication of A Dictionary of Pastoral Careand it seemed inevitable that someone would soon publish a ‘Readers Digest’. Who better to do this than Michael Jacobs, lecturer in the Department of Adult Education in the University of Leicester and author of one of the best modern introductions to pastoral counselling: Still Small Voice. The author asked forty people engaged in pastoral work to send suggestions for a Reader in Pastoral Care. There was little overlap, thus indicating the difficult problems of choice. In the end the author opted for his own ‘top ten’ and although they may not be your choice they do at least introduce us to a wide spectrum of literature on the subject. Each of the thirty-seven authors ranging from Freud to Fowler is introduced by Jacobs.

The general title of the book addresses the question ‘Is religious faith a defence against the tragedies of life or is it a healthy transcending attitude to a troubled world?’ This theme is developed in different ways in the six sections of the book: The tradition; The psychological critique of faith and religion; The validation of religion and faith; The nature of pastoral ministry; Faith and personality; The critique of pastoral counselling.

We are challenged to look closely at the church’s involvement in pastoral care and to ask along with H. W. Mowrer, ‘Has the church sold itself for a mess of psychological pottage?’ Is pastoral care the sole province of the ordained minister? Is theology the Cinderella of pastoral care? Should we not pay more attention to the world in which the client lives? Are not social issues as important as personal problems? Are not some forms of Christian education the cause of rather than the answer to man’s predicament?

Perhaps the real test of any ‘Reader’ is that it not only reminds you of classic passages read long ago, of familiar friends, but it encourages you to reach out for authors unknown before or just mere names and begin to read them with profit. I believe this book will do just that.

Jack Ramsbottom

London Bible College