Observations of a Pastoral Psychotherapist on Discipleship

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Rule, James
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Theology and Psychology , Empathy , Interpersonal relationships , Conflict between science and religion , Emergence , Limerence , Christian symbolism , Discipleship , University of the South , School of Theology thesis 2012 , School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee
This examination of the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of Thomas, and the oral traditions of ancient desert Christianity, helps us rediscover thinking and approaches to becoming authentically human that are simultaneously ancient and modern. Science, psychology, and theology are found to complement and supplement one another. Even given the often hostile atmosphere existing between theology and psychology, there are many values that are held in common including the importance of stable interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, an abiding sense of loving and being loved, the capacity for empathy, and a profound respect for the unknown. Against a background of steady decline in loyalty to specific Christian denominations and even of Christianity itself, people still search for spiritual moorings. What they often find is continuing conflict between science and religion. Scientists avoid questions of ontology while Christians locate their focus and authority on ancient texts and traditions. Yet both are dealing with human beings embedded in a largely unseen creation and this forms the basis for exploration of the considerable common ground between them. Science contributes valuable concepts like emergence and limerence, which reveal key patterns, principles, and mechanisms that describe human behavior as well as the creation as a whole. In the still-emerging science of fractals, we are gaining insight and confirmation of the creation as a repetitive, interactive whole. Psychology increasingly gravitates away from theory and towards measurable, technologically-aided methods of understanding human cognition and response. Christianity has preserved a treasure trove of symbolism, some readings of which effortlessly fit with modern science. Christianity also provides enduring templates for living both as individuals and in communities. By acting as a collection point for thought about being human in the context of a larger seen and unseen creation, and as a place of support for scholars investigating its literature, the church has earned a place that is never far removed from the accompanying considerations of commerce, science, education, and politics. The research asks questions that all people must answer. Who am I? Where am I? Am I known? Do I matter? How do I go about the business of living with myself and those around me? What makes me the way I am? What does the life have in store for me? All these are fundamental questions that are answered over and over, sometimes in words, sometimes in symbols and art, sometimes in the motivations that drive our passionate investigations into our chosen professions, but always in our actions and the way we approach living. The answers to these questions is the measure of discipleship. If we assume that as agreements are found between old and new approaches and among people who have a long history of disagreement, there will an increased chance that their findings will prove important and more reliable over the long term. Traditional Christian doctrines are neither accepted nor rejected in this thesis. Rather, they are temporarily set to one side while renewed questions are asked: how does it work, and how might this be true?