Original Research

Contextual pastoral counselling: Paradigm shifts in practical theological development since the middle 20th century

Amanda L. du Plessis
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 55, No 2 | a2696 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v55i2.2696 | © 2021 Amanda L. du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 October 2020 | Published: 18 March 2021

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Amanda L. du Plessis, Unit of Reformed Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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There have been many changes in pastoral care and counselling and pastoral theology since the middle 20th century. At first, the changes were viewed as an evolutionary process as the discipline evolved into an authoritative science. Although it seems as if pastoral care and counselling followed the footsteps of psychology, there were important paradigm shifts towards contextual pastoral counselling based on the Word of God. The major question of this article is, what important paradigm shifts in the development of practical theology since the middle 20th century can be distinguished that are in line with the requirements for contextual pastoral counselling? In an attempt to answer this question, a thorough subject-specific literature study was conducted by looking at prominent scholars’ view on the development of pastoral theology. The article is divided into five main parts. The first part focused on the development of practical (and the subdivision, pastoral) theology, with emphases on important paradigm shifts and the work of prominent scholars. The second part focused on the current challenges facing pastoral theology. The third part focused on paradigmatic positions, scientific research markers and approaches, and different layers of meaning unique to pastoral theology. The fourth part focused on diakonia with a religious consciousness of transformative moral or ethical orientation. The article concluded with a reflection on how the paradigm shifts are in line with the requirements of contextual pastoral counselling. The conclusion of the article is that together with the normative deductive aspects of pastoral theology, the inclusion of context-specific empirical experiences is an aspect that must be taken into consideration.

Contribution: The primary contribution of this article is that a systematic description of the important paradigm shifts in the development of practical theology since the middle 20th century was given and brought in evaluation against the requirements for contextual pastoral counselling. The objective was to enhance appropriate theory formation with the aim to focus on the distinctive character of pastoral counselling, and its connectedness to the broader field of practical theological science. These insights link to the focus and scope of the journal, because it contributes to the epistemological dialogue of practical theology.


pastoral developments; diakonia; pastoral challenges; pastoral research design; contextual pastoral counselling


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