Bonhoeffer on Christian pastoral care and secular psychology

I’m posting a few quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US which I recently reviewed (here).

In my final quote, Bonhoeffer contrasts what Christian pastoral care and secular psychology have to offer.

‘Only another Christian who is under the cross can hear my confession. It is not experience with life but experience of the cross that makes one suited to hear confession. The most experienced judge of character knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability and experience cannot comprehend this one thing: what sin is. Psychological wisdom knows what need and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the ungodliness of the human being. And so it also does not know that human beings are ruined only by their sin and are healed only by forgiveness. The Christian alone knows this. In the presence of a psychologist I can only be sick; in the presence of another Christian I can be a sinner. The psychologist must first search my heart, and yet can never probe its innermost recesses. Another Christian recognizes just this: here comes a sinner like myself, a godless person who wants to confess and longs for God’s forgiveness. The psychologist views me as if there were no God. Another believer views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the cross of Jesus Christ. When we are so pitiful and incapable of hearing the confession of one another, it is not due to a lack of psychological knowledge, but a lack of love for the crucified Jesus Christ.’ (115)
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One thought on “Bonhoeffer on Christian pastoral care and secular psychology

  1. Wow. That is profound.
    And I think true too.
    I find it easier to “confess sin” – to people I know know their own sin.
    My parents, whilst they have many more years of experience on this planet, and I REALLY value and have a high opinion of their wisdom. Do not know their own sin.

    Confessing sin is easiest to an old Christian, but easier to a young Christian than an old-unrepenting sinner.

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