One of the many mandatory courses we must take in fulfilling the requirements for the Masters of Divinity degree here at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a class in Pastoral Care. Many of those whose silence was deafening in classes focused upon Church History and Theology have sprung anew in their willingness to speak and discuss in section. I recently heard Dr. Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary bemoan the fact that at his Seminary nearly half of his Church History classes are filled with students who are seeking degrees for Pastoral and Biblical Counseling, not to be Gospel preachers. Now this should be no surprise to those with any interaction with the American church whose movement into seeker-friendly and ego-smoothing churches over the past 30 years has provided us a generation of people looking to God not for salvation from eternal death but salvation from eternal unhappiness. Christ no longer is sought for his life changing death on the cross but for his ability to bring us out of the valleys and onto the mountain top in our emotional and mental health. This not only brings to us a false definition of who Christ is but also presents an untrue concept of what the Christian life looks like. While their are many reasons for why the protestant Church itself has devolved back into a Roman Catholic understanding of Grace one of the main reasons has been the movement of the seminary education of Pastors away from its former focus upon systematic theological formulations to a renewed centering on the sanctifying health of the human soul. One of the most telling consequences of this shift has been the change in the way we see ourselves approaching death. My sister, currently engaged in a Clinical Pastoral Education course at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, WV, is prevented by her supervisors from sharing the Gospel with those with which she is given to engage. Her task is to make people feel comfortable and help them to be content given their surroundings. She is of course supposed to do this in an “ecumenical and non-sectarian” way. Which according to her means that she is not allowed to speak in a Christocentric manner but only in a generic way about God and his presence.
The obvious question to be asked is can a Christian minister be a chaplain in this circumstance and still be truthful to the Gospel? The easy answer for any who pay attention to the question is a flat out no. Of course if Christ is supposed to be nothing more than a therapist why then should we focus upon the reality of the gospel message? Seminaries need to ask the question whether they exist to fill pulpits with preachers who seek to to preach about the saving Grace of Jesus Christ or staff Hospitals with smooth talkers and flatterers?