Psychology, Psychiatry and the Pastor: Part II: Maturity in the Pastor and Parishioner -- By: Basil Jackson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 132:526 (Apr 1975)
Article: Psychology, Psychiatry and the Pastor: Part II: Maturity in the Pastor and Parishioner
Author: Basil Jackson


Psychology, Psychiatry and the Pastor:
Part II:
Maturity in the Pastor and Parishioner

Basil Jackson

[Basil Jackson, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Lutheran Hospital of Milwaukee, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.]

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles entitled “Psychology, Psychiatry, and the Pastor,” which were the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures given by Dr. Basil Jackson at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 5–8, 1974.]

One of the most important issues the pastor eventually must face, with regard to both himself and the members of his congregation, is the question of psychological and spiritual maturity.

The question of the evaluation of an individual’s maturity, whether psychological or spiritual, is most complex since maturity per se must be described rather than objectively measured. Another difficulty is that when we begin to make such an attempt to describe the indications of maturity versus immaturity, we of necessity are not merely describing but are making either covert or overt value judgments. Even in the purely psychological realm, such as in evaluating ego strengths and weaknesses, this is not an easy task, although in this area one can rely heavily on relatively well-accepted ranges of normality and particularly on consensual validation.

In the spiritual realm, however, such validation is much more difficult, and in many areas little in the way of adequate consensual validation is available as a guide. When one raises questions relative to the spiritual realm and begins to make observations and value judgments of another individual’s maturity—whether conative, cognitive, or affective—the evaluator is much more liable to be responding out of the matrix of his own personal conditioned experience than to be responding as an impartial observer or investigator. Consider, for example, the difficulty of making judgments

relative to the maturity of another individual’s doctrinal position when that position differs significantly from one’s own in some sensitive area.

Unfortunately, many people in evangelical Christianity still feel that a critical self-observation and examination is, in some way, anathema, taboo, and dangerous. They seem to feel that any attempt to look at a Christian’s life or beliefs from a psychological perspective is somewhat akin to sacrilege and may actually be subversive to his whole faith. For the spiritually healthy and mature, nothing could be further from the truth. A faith which cannot stand up against honest scrutiny is but, at best, mythical and, at worst, ps...

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