Andrew Purves has given us a marvelous little book on pastoral theology. His approach is based on three assumptions. The first is that every pastor needs also to be a theologian--that is, needs to be in a reflective and prayerful dialogue with the doctrine that grounds Christian ministry. But pastoral training in recent years--and this is the second assumption--has focused so heavily on psychological theory that traditional theological underpinnings have been underemphasized. (This isn't to say that psychological training isn't good--of course it is!--but merely that the temptation is for it to overshadow anything of theological substance.) Happily, however (here's the third assumption) noncontemporary theological sources have a great deal to teach us about pastoring. Purves follows C.S. Lewis' assumption that books from the past are helpful because they challenge the frameworked assumptions that we just naturally take for granted--hence Lewis' rule-of-thumb that every reading of a new book should be complemented by the reading of an old one.
In keeping with his three assumptions, Purvis seeks to reinvigorate pastoral theology by reexamining the thought of five "traditional" theologians--Gregory Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Martin Bucer, and Richard Baxter--who offer refreshing insights into pastoral roles, responsibilities, and identities. Purves admits that other theologians could've been selected (Luther on religious doubt, for example, or Augustine on marriage), but he thinks the five he focuses on are both representative of the tradition and instructive.
Purves' book is a wonderful combination of theory and application, and it reawakens in the reader (or at least in this reader) an appreciation of just how pertinent ancient, medieval, and early reformation theologians are to the nitty-gritty of daily pastoral care. A valuable resource, and highly recommended for every clergyperson who could use a refresher on what it means to be an ordained servant of God.