Sunday, August 02, 2009

Theological nutters

I've recently been busying studying the psychological areas of Transactional Analysis (TA) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) mainly because I'm a bit mad and thought I could do with a decent psychological thrashing to sort out the 'frothing mouth' aspects of my psyche. Fascinating stuff, actually, and in my humble opinion more so even than the psychoanalysis schools of Freud, Lacan and others who have managed to get some modern continental philosophers so excited.

But in my own general inclinations to lunacy, I am apparently in good company. For on the way, I read the plausible hypothesis that Luther, Teresa of Avila, John Bunyan, Ignatius of Loyola and others suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and that this influenced many of their theological decisions. Of course, obvious to all, it occurs to me that many other theologians and biblical scholars were just plain simple bonkers, having fallen right out of the crazy tree onto the rabid-brain farm: Zwingli, for example. He had 'please lobotomise me' written all over him.

In TA there are three basic ego states: Parent, Adult and Child, and I can't help but reflect a little on such verses as these.

  • 'When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways' (1 Corinthians 13:11)
  • 'For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel' (1 Corinthians 4:15)

Is this Paul evidencing Adult and Parent ego states? I don't think we will ever know.


At 8/03/2009 9:23 AM, Anonymous Nick said...

Well, God makes use of the humble, so as to exalt them and humble the exalted, so I guess Paul would have a little OCD in him.

At 8/03/2009 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello chris,

it ist always intresting to see that paul described many modern psycholocigal concepts. In Romans we see Freuds "Über-Ich, Ich und Es"!
Many Greetings from Basel!

At 8/03/2009 10:22 AM, Anonymous John H said...

Have you read "Counselling for Toads"? It's a fun and illuminating introduction to TA concepts based on a series of therapy sessions with Mr Toad from The Wind in the Willows.

The child/parent/adult delineation is one I find helpful. If I was looking for a parallel in Paul, I'd go for his exhortation in Romans 12:3 that we "think [of ourselves] with sober judgement", which seems to sum up the essence of the "adult" state.

At 8/03/2009 11:44 AM, Anonymous steph said...

OCD is prerequisite to PHD. Haven't you been diagnosed yet? Just don't let them medicate - they'll try and stick you on Prosac - dreadful mind numbing stuff :-)

At 8/03/2009 12:23 PM, Anonymous Ed said...

Hi Chris,
I've just started reading a bit about TA and think the church should talk much more about psychology and emotional health. Do you recommend any books in particular?

At 8/04/2009 9:26 AM, Anonymous Will said...

Methodists often jokes that John Wesley would not have been able to pass the psychological evaluations that ministers are put through today. He was a bit paranoid!

At 8/05/2009 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of children and the mommy-daddy deity they inevitably create (project) in their own image, this set of essays has a lot to say.

Plus a related reference on growing beyond the childish emotional patterning that creates such religion.

At 8/06/2009 8:26 PM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Paul's anathema on "other gospels" sounds OCD-ish.

As well as his belief that God was so particular as to make many ill and even kill some members of the Corinthians for not celebrating the Lord's supper the right way.

As well as his attempts to keep so many people and churches in line with his letters and visits.

Paul would probably be appalled today at all the Christianities and groups claiming to speak for the N.T., and the various uses made of his own words and phrases.

But then, even the Western world grew to accept such diversity only over centuries and after arguments and conflicts, divisions and schisms that could not be stopped.

At 8/07/2009 7:12 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking of theological nutters, was the author of the Gospel of Mark one?

Ever reach "The Myth of Innocence" by Mack?

Nice synopsis of it over at "The Golden Rule" blog:

Mack thinks the Markan legacy came at too high of a price. Instead of the social experimentation and constructive visions of Jesus groups and Christ cults, he believes Mark gave way to a sectarian mentality (331). Followers of Jesus are innocent in a hostile world and outsiders (the Other) must either join the group or face apocalyptic judgment.

Mack argues Mark was written in the 7os in southern Syria, close enough to feel the vibrations from the Jewish War but without direct involvement (see Mark 13) (315). The Markan community was made up of synagogue reformers that lost the battle in the synagogue and became an apocalyptic sect.

At 8/07/2009 4:44 PM, Anonymous love said...

humans are soooo analytical - myself included

At 8/08/2009 1:31 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hey Alex! Yea, I'm reading a bit of Freud at the moment actually. Crikey! And people say theologians run on wild unbased theories!

Hi John H, not read the Toads book, will check it out. Thanks.

Thanks, Steph, I'll avoid the prosac!

Ed, thanks for the question. Honestly I don't know what to recommend. You may like Osborn's book on OCD and Christianity. Beyond that, I get the feeling much work needs to be done, epecially for an engagement between psychology/psychoanalysis and evangelicalism.

Thanks for the smile, Will!!

Hi Ed, I'm not sure those things make Paul OCDish.

At 8/08/2009 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

on the intersection of faith/evangelicalism and pyschology check out the blog of Richard Beck, Associate Professor and experimental psychologist at Abilene Christian University - fascinating stuff!

Not to worry - as they say there's a fine line for all of us between genius and madness :-)


Rob from Down Under

At 8/08/2009 11:07 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for that link, Rob!


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