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So as a lead-in to the chapter-by-chapter reviews I’m going to do on the two books I recommended this weekend, let me ask you to consider something: what do we mean when we call something “pastoral”?

For example, a lot of people are hot for teaching the word because they are “gifted by God” (a phrase which, let me say plainly, I love and hate). What’s the difference between someone who is a “gifted teacher” and someone who is a “pastoral teacher”?

Or what about discernment — a lot of people claim to have “discernment”, to which I say, “bully for you”. What’s the difference between having “discernment” and “a pastoral discernment”?

Now remember: these last two questions are examples of the primary question, which is, “what do we mean when we call something ‘pastoral’?”

This is one of those question which will either lead to a very vigorous 200-comment thread, or it will fizzle because the topic is extraordinarily-mundane. It is, however, at the core of the two books in question.

Let’s see what happens.

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