How to Diagnose an Ailing Soul

Pastors who rush in with the wrong treatment court spiritual disaster.
How to Diagnose an Ailing Soul
Image: Portrait by Joel Kimmell

The shepherd needs great wisdom and a thousand eyes, to examine the soul’s condition from every angle. As there are plenty of people who are puffed up into arrogance and then fall into heedlessness of their own salvation because they cannot stand bitter medicines; so there are others who, because they do not pay a proportionate penalty for their sins, are misled into negligence and become far worse, and are led on to commit greater sins. The priest, therefore, must not overlook any of these considerations, but examine them all with care and apply all his remedies appropriately, for fear his care should be in vain.
— John Chrysostom, from On the Priesthood

Good diagnosis leads to accurate treatment. Like any competent physician, pastors don’t know what interventions to provide for a distressed soul until they first listen to that soul. When I was teaching this classical model of the cure of souls to seminarians, I had an excellent physician whom I saw on a regular basis. ...

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