Saturday, February 12, 2011

Luther's Counsel to the Man who Thought he was a Rooster

A good friend of mine just called me up and asked me if I had ever heard about Luther giving psychological counsel to a man who thought he was a rooster. My friend had just returned from a week-long conference for Christian counselors. One of the speakers apparently was fond of Luther and did a study on Luther as a counselor. If I recall correctly from our conversation, "Luther and the rooster-man" was said to be an early instance of pastoral counseling done on someone with an organic disorder, that is, according to the lecturer.

I did locate this story. Luther's famous biographer Roland Bainton states,

A melancholic claimed to be a rooster and strutted about crowing. The doctor said he, too, was a rooster and for several days crowed with him. Then he said, "I am not a rooster any more, and you are changed too." It worked [Here I Stand, p. 231].

Bainton took this from Luther's Table Talk (2889a-b). If anyone wants to work through the Latin, it can be found here.

I haven't heard the lecture, so It's hard to comment on someone using this to prove an early instance of pastoral counselling done on someone with an organic disorder. I will say, Luther lived in a time period that was prone to see the devil behind such behavior rather than organic psychological maladies. Then of course, there's the problem of this being from the Table Talk. But the most important fact to remember is that Luther did indeed give counsel, particularly spiritual counsel, and one can read a number of examples of this in his letters. If it were me, I'd go for information from Luther's pen rather than the Table Talk.


John Bugay said...

I have listened to a large number of seminary courses from RTS, Covenant Seminary, and also Dallas Theological Seminary (and I would heartily recommend virtually every course I've audited) -- in areas of Biblical Studies (both OT and NT), church history, Calvin's institutes, and John Frame's courses on philosophy and apologetics.

But one that truly scared me off was the "Pastoral Counseling" course.

The story was told of a pastor telling a man to get rid of his pornography. "Burn it, get rid of all of it," he said.

That pastor went home to see a fire on the six o'clock news, and the house of the man he'd counseled going up in flames on the six o'clock news.

The short answer about that is, you never know what you're going to encounter.

Lvka said...

Luther and the Rooster-Man

Well,... you never see them at the same time, do you? :-)

James Swan said...

But one that truly scared me off was the "Pastoral Counseling" course.

My friend who called me up is fond of (and part of) the Biblical Counseling movement that comes out of WTS (PA). Look up CCEF and NANC.

from our conversations, I'm quite excited about the work and ideals of those in this movement.