Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 470–482 | Cite as

From “The Depleted Self” to “The Will to Believe”: Excavating the Hermeneutics of Donald Capps

  • Yolanda Dreyer
Original Paper


The concept of “reframing” lies at the heart of the pastoral psychology of Donald Capps. In previous articles I have argued that the process of reframing follows a circular hermeneutics. An excavation of Capps’ hermeneutics reveals foundations in the fields of philosophy and psychology. This article focuses on the legacy of Johann Gottfried von Herder, Friedrich Schleiermacher, William James and Paul Ricoeur. It explores the differences and commonalities between William James and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s understanding of religious experience as well as Paul Ricoeur’s understanding of narrativity and traces these strains to Capps’ pastoral psychology. As illustration of his pastoral approach to healing and wholeness the problem of “the depleted self,” so prevalent in “our narcissistic age,” encounters the healing narrative of Jesus that appeals to “the will to believe.”


Donald Capps Pastoral psychology Hermeneutics Religious experience 



I would like to thank the New Directions in Practical Theology Group which meets in Princeton annually, for their feedback on my work in pastoral psychology and on the oeuvre of Donald Capps that has culminated in this dedication. The article is dedicated to Donald Capps, whose gentle soul and reflective insights have been a guiding light in my life for the past 28 years. And the light shines on …

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declared that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of TheologyUniversity of PretoriaHatfield, PretoriaSouth Africa

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