The Puritans - Soul Doctors

I have for many years appreciated the Puritans for their sound exposition of the Scriptures and their keen application of biblical truth to the lives/souls of individuals. In fact, I will often explain that pastors are “soul doctors,” an expression I picked up from the Puritans.

Tim Keller wrote an article a number of years ago about how the Puritans have served as an invaluable resource for his own biblical counseling. His six reasons are the following:

  1. The Puritans were committed to the functional authority of the Scripture. For them it was the comprehensive manual for dealing with all problems of the heart.
  2. The Puritans developed a sophisticated and sensitive system of diagnosis for personal problems, distinguishing a variety of physical, spiritual, tempermental and demonic causes.
  3. The Puritans developed a remarkable balance in their treatment because they were not invested in any one ‘personality theory’ other than biblical teaching about the heart.
  4. The Puritans were realistic about difficulties of the Christian life, especially conflicts with remaining, indwelling sin.
  5. The Puritans looked not just at behavior but at underlying root motives and desires. Man is a worshipper; all problems grow out of ‘sinful imagination’ or idol manufacturing.
  6. The Puritans considered the essential spiritual remedy to be belief in the gospel, used in both repentance and the development of proper self-understanding.

Cf. Tim Keller, “Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling,” The Journal of Pastoral Practice 9/3 (1988): 11-44. (The journal is now named The Journal for Biblical Counseling.)

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