Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pastoral Theological Question

The Kingston General Hospital provides spiritual care services to a variety of patients, including Roman Catholics.  I wonder how I might effectively meet some of these patients’ spiritual needs through a ministry of Christ’s presence, in conjunction with the spiritual care team.  Specifically, how might I bring a compassionate presence to patients who are experiencing illness at the KGH, including those who are visiting the clinic of the Palliative Care Centre?
    In order to address the pastoral theological question, I volunteered with the hospital’s spiritual care team, led by Rev. Bob Hunt.  The Roman Catholic arm of this team was led by Fr. David Collins and his able staff of devoted retirees.  Fr. David’s volunteers met each morning for prayer and discussion, then received assignments of patients who wished to receive holy communion.  After two weeks’ training, I was given my own daily list of patients to visit and to celebrate communion with.  Concurrently and complementarily, I was working in the Palliative Care Department with Dr. Joshua Shadd on a medical research project which hoped to delineate the tasks of dying.  For this project, I also spent time in the outpatient clinic meeting with oncology patients.
Background on the Experience
    What follows here is a small sample of my experiences at the KGH, which should serve to locate my reflections in their empirical base.  Samples from both the Palliative Care clinic and the Eucharistic volunteer service are included.
June 27, 2008
8:30 AM – 3:30 PM
    Today I accompanied Dr. Schroder to visit 3 patients in the morning.  All of these were near the final stages of life.  The first was alone, and seemed to be in quiet prayer when we arrived.  The doctor thought he was asleep, but he opened his eyes without trouble once he sensed our presence.  A feeling of peace was in the room.  The doctor talked with him for a few minutes to find out how he was doing.  As most rooms in the hospital have more than one patient I felt somewhat torn upon passing others by, as though my cursory glance or nod of greeting were insufficient for these poor suffering souls. Our second patient was asleep, but his wife was present.  She seemed to have faced the reality of her spouse’s impending death with calm and reserve.  When asked whether the family had any church affiliations, or whether they would wish a referral to spiritual care, she responded ‘no’.  In my heart I said a prayer for the patient. Our third patient revealed a human touch.  There was a slight smell in the room, which I associated with the commode which had not yet been emptied by staff.  The patient’s wife asked if someone could come by and clip his toenails, as she was not able to.  I sensed at once the frailty and dignity of this family.  The wife stated with some nostalgia how just a short time ago, her husband had been such a strong and vibrant man.  She noted how his multitude of problems had come all at once, as though unbidden. During lunch the Palliative Care team had a seminar on how to care for vulnerable patients who wished to travel.  A nurse expressed dismay at those who acted in a manner she thought irresponsible for those with a terminal illness.   A patient of hers, upon seeing a magazine fall open to a page on the silk road, had flown overseas and climbed Asian mountains to her heart’s content, bringing home silk from which she made a purse for the nurse.  She died shortly thereafter.  Someone remarked about how dying wishes often included extravagant travel plans.  It seems that some of those with families overseas made long and arduous treks to say farewell, while others struggled to perform pilgrimage rites. In the afternoon I accompanied a nurse, Cathy, to see a new referral to Palliative Care.  Although it was felt that the patient was not immediately at death’s door, her attending physician thought that she lacked the supports she needed to make decisions about impending end-of-life care.   Cathy, on the other hand, thought the patient had sufficient assistance from the family to help her through.  One point which troubled me somewhat during this encounter was the patient’s denial of any religious affiliation.  She did not appear to be far from the Lord’s peace, however, a point of grace which reminds me of Lonergan’s exposition on implicit versus explicit faith.  Perhaps for many, God is, after all, a private affair. I returned home to my wife, exhausted physically and drained emotionally.  Paradoxically I am full of hope and wonder at our child, who is to be born in the Fall.  To see the stages of life so juxtaposed makes one sit up a little, in contemplation of God’s ongoing work in the world and in His children.

July 8, 2008
1 – 4:30 PM
    ...Many palliative patients are taking morphine, often in very high doses.  I remembered the verse, “Give drink to those who are perishing”.  Afterwards, I went in to see Mrs. W., who also needed an increase in her morphine.  She seemed a little depressed, so I asked her how she was handling the emotional part of her illness.  She said that she was trying a Vietnamese meditation technique which helped one focus on one’s breathing.  I mentioned prayer but she did not respond.  It seems, on one level, that many people were turning with ‘itching ears’ to teachers who did not follow Christ.  I was sorry that perhaps Mrs. W. had left or reduced the importance of church in dealing with her illness. The last patient we visited was Mr. H., who I had seen previously.  I remember he and his wife had indicated earlier that they did not wish for us to discuss spiritual matters.  On the one hand, I wondered if they belonged to another church, and perhaps my crucifix had deterred them from opening up to me on this front, being associated with what might be for them, an alien rite.  On the other hand, I had been discussing with Dr. Shadd through a conversation about faith and medicine, what one would do if a patient refused to believe in Jesus.  I had explained that on the one hand, we might ‘kick the dust off our feet’- a tender mercy which often leads others to repentance.  On the other hand, I wondered if one ought not to plough even deeper, but with prayer and kindness, to soften the earth a little more.  I wondered at the tension in Scripture around this topic, and suppose that one often needs wisdom to guide.

July 9, 2008
8:30 – 11 AM
    Today I went on rounds with Mike, who is a retired hospital administrator.  Mike’s cheery and outgoing personality helped make patients more willing to talk about their day.  I found that each Eucharistic ministerial volunteer has a unique approach to visits with individual strengths and advice, as well.  One patient thought that the two of us were priests.  “Father,” she said to me, to which I replied, “I am going to be a father, but I am not a priest”, referring to the baby my wife and I are expecting.  I think she did not understand, and when we were leaving, again she called me Father.  Yesterday Pat explained that many patients will not take communion unless it is from the priest.  Religious traditions are slow to change sometimes.

Describing the Experience – The Feelings
Wonder:  This was my first experience as a Eucharistic minister; never before had I been so aware of the power and presence of God in this holy sacrament.
Responsibility:  The daily routine of visitation according to an assigned schedule was an adjustment for me.
Existential Angst:  Meeting with dying patients was a sobering experience, which edged in on my plans for living.
Anxiety:  At times presenting my faith was a battle, mostly with staff, not so often with patients, although when some were unwilling to discuss God, it stuck in my heart like a dagger.
Joy:  Seeing patients who radiated love and peace was a welcome part of my routine.  Some of those who were dying in the context of a strong faith also gave the sense of impending fulfillment rather than of doom.

    As my wife was expecting at the time, a good image which captures the feelings of this placement is that of a foetus:  those who were frail and elderly in long-term care and receiving daily communion were as infants in the womb, their struggles giving refinement to their spiritual being, while those actually on the point of dying were as those about to be born, with all of its blood-and-guts soon forgotten with the appearance of new life.
The Heart of the Matter
    In working with sick and dying patients at the KGH I was confronted with two intertwined realities:  that of physical and emotional suffering and that of God’s loving presence in the midst of such apparent tragedies.  Within myself, I found a mix of emotions when seeing this dynamic:  from anxiety over the pain and abruptness of death, to fascination over faith’s power to carry, to wonder at God’s intimate connection with His children in their time of need.
Lessons from Tradition
1 Corinthians 11:25-26 (NKJV):  “In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
    In celebrating communion with patients, we had a point of common reference which served to prepare the way for deeper conversation and fellowship than would have otherwise been possible in a regular hospital visit.  One often wishes for a way to reach a person’s heart when working with patients, and in the Eucharist, God is the touchstone.  The presence of the divine is made clearly manifest when we share in communion.  By remembering the Lord’s death we are also healed of many ills and given strength for the voyage ahead, knowing that the suffering we feel was also felt by love made flesh.
    Much of my anxiety over ministering in the KGH setting was allayed by the presence of God in others.  Part of my own spiritual growth took place when I realized that the burden was not solely on my shoulders – God was immanently real in the suffering of the sick and dying.  It was also a revelation to me, particularly from the perspective as a Catholic medical student, that the celebration of the Eucharist and of Mass on Sundays goes on ‘in the background’ amidst the regular scientific and administrative machinery of a modern hospital, providing a much-needed salve to the souls of patients.  It seems now that the volunteers buffer the patients from the rigors of tests and from the loneliness of a sick bed. 
    Since completing my hours for the placement I have become more sensitive to patients’ needs while visiting as a medical student.  The training I received with Rev. Bob Hunt and with Fr. David and the volunteers has taught me to be sensitive to the social and spiritual context of medical care.  By participating in both the joys and the pain of sick and dying patients, I have grown in my faith, as well, seeing light and becoming more aware of God and His mysterious workings in seemingly desperate circumstances.

Transcendentalism – Summary of Research #1

After reading module 1, I searched for some basic information about Transcendentalism.  Beginning with The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I found an article on Thoreau which only mentions in a single paragraph some rudimentary thoughts on Kant and the Romantic revival of passion.  This source did not contain a full article on the topic of this course, which prompted me (perhaps like many others) to turn to Wikipedia, which at least gives a good overview and some leads for further research.  Their article, entitled “Transcendentalism,” describes the movement in terms of time and place (New England, early to middle nineteenth c.), as well as shaping influences, including the protest against Unitarian and intellectual voices at Harvard.  The article names some key Transcendentalists (which, given the hyperlinked text, is quite handy), providing Emerson’s 1836 publication of Nature as the “watershed moment” for the movement.  It goes on to describe the Transcendentalist Club and to make a distinction between the various aims of some of its members, in terms of ideology and praxis.  The origins of the creed are also described, with mention being made of Kant and the German Idealists, along with their English and French interpreters, in addition to the Hindu Vedas.  The article ends with some notable criticism of the movement, along with a description of its influence on other movements, including Romanticism, New Thought and Divine Science.  As much as Wikipedia is scorned in academia for lack of rigor, I must confess it does a good job of providing both a basic overview and some useful links on the topic. 
Wondering if more “respectable” resources could be as complete and accessible, I checked The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, which offered two articles, one general, and one specific to the American movement.  This was more useful, but presented only very limited hyperlinking.  I then looked into the Catholic Encyclopedia at, and was delighted to find a thorough, well-researched article with excellent links.  Their explanation of Kant and the a priori of intuitive knowledge is superior, giving clarity to this difficult concept.  A useful description of the succession of theorists in the field, including Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, leads to a critique of Transcendentalist thought from a Catholic perspective, based in Kant`s “epistemological error” – namely, that of undermining the value of physical experience and common-sense.  Finally, the American movement, characterised as being less philosophical and more cultural and social is briefly mentioned in a single paragraph.  This source appears to be more useful than some other Encyclopedias, more accessible by virtue of its hyperlinks and yet quite well-researched, though one must keep the Catholic bias in mind.
Desiring to pursue some specific ideas in the module, and having heard of Rousseau’s “noble savage” idea some years ago, I decided to read John Darling’s "Understanding and Religion in Rousseau's Emile" in the British Journal of Educational Studies Vol. 33 (1985):  20-34.  Darling presents Rousseau as being less obstructed by the value of a religious education than an objector to its appropriateness in youth incapable of abstraction in thought, an idea which anticipates Piaget.  The thought which plagued me as I read of Rousseau’s underlying theology was with regards to his low conception of Christ, whom he saw as “someone to admire rather than worship” (ibid, 20).  This led me back to seeking a broader overview of our topic, to Edwin Berry Burgum’s "Romanticism," in The Kenyon Review Vol. 3 (1941):  479-490.  The author gives an excellent presentation of Romanticism in the context of its various political, economic and social forces.  Here, one learns that a reaction against the establishment underlay much of the drive for the ideal, allowing for understanding, if not sympathy, with Transcendentalist sages who rejected church dogma.  Where Burgum stands out is in providing insight into the different manifestations of Romanticism in diverse nations, owing to a variety of historical parameters, including the French and Industrial Revolutions.

After reading module 2, I decided to check for information on Wordsworth and Coleridge on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Both of these searches led back to a single article on Transcendentalism.  The article appears very well-researched and informative, although most of the ideas will be discussed later on in the course, so I decided to return to this afterward.  A discussion of the influence of Hume and Schleiermacher did help to clarify the theology of the American movement, however.  Getting back to England, I decided to read Hoxie N. Fairchild’s "The Romantic Movement in England," in PMLA Vol. 55 (1940):  20-26.  The author presents the religious influences which shaped the English Romantics, namely nonconformity, latitudinarianism, sentimentalism, and finally, pantheism (p. 21), as well as the historicopolitical, experiential and personal genius which characterized their writings (p. 22).  The mystical tone of poetry such as Kubla Khan as well as a question posed by a classmate led me to read from the first few pages from Clarence L.F. Gohdes’, Periodicals of American Transcendentalism, Whitefish, 2003 (available online via Google Books preview).  The work focuses mainly, as the title suggests, on the Americans, but a suggestion of the brotherhood between Eastern religious traditions and the Western Romantics is helpful.  I felt something of a gap in my personal knowledge of the English poets, and think it best to read some of their primary works, if possible, in the future.
Module 3 prompted me to read George R. Havens’  "Romanticism in France," in PMLA Vol. 55 (1940):  10-20.  The author presents a range of forces in play on the movement, from the stifling classical influence of Napoleon to Mme. de Staël’s bridge to German Idealism, De L’Allemagne.  His conclusion that the power of Romanticism in France flourished most enthusiastically in the field of literature is captured in his emphasis on Hugo’s parallel between “the Sublime and the Grotesque” (p.17).  The French Revolutionary theme of removing the shackles of the old aristocracy in favor of elevating the humble is especially reminiscent of Isaiah’s vision of the Messiah filling the valleys and bringing low the hills (Is. 40:3-4).  With so much upheaval and vision for change in mind, a classmate’s question on Fourier led me to Jonathan Beecher’s “Parody and Liberation in The New Amorous World by Charles Fourier,” in the History Workshop Journal 1985 20(1): 125-133.  In it, Beecher explains that Fourier’s utopia is not necessarily prescription so much as parody, specifically designed to mock institutions such as the Catholic church.  The article is useful to understand the motivating force behind Fourier’s writing, as well as providing background information to the establishment of communes in America.
The topic of module 4 led me to three articles.  The first, Arthur I. Ladu’s "Channing and Transcendentalism," in American Literature Vol. 11 (1939):  129-137, gave insight into Channing’s progression of thought, from Unitarianism to Transcendentalism.  Ladu argues that while Channing accepted the latter’s “free inquiry of thought”, he could not digest their rejection of Christ’s divinity and miracles.  The preacher is clearly presented, as the title to the module suggests, as a bridge linking two worlds.  The tension between the reality of a young nation bustling with materialist values and the hope of a society where individual conscience is developed enough to allow for idealist liberality is presented well in John E. Reinhardt’s “The Evolution of William Ellery Channing's Sociopolitical Ideas," in American Literature, Vol. 26 (May 1954):  154-165.  From here, prompted by a classmate’s posting, I read D. H. Meyer’s "The Saint as Hero: William Ellery Channing and the Nineteenth-Century Mind," in The Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 8, (1973), pp. 171-185.  Meyer posits that the minister was not an innovator, nor a great thinker, but rather, “Channing summed up well what many people were thinking and wanted to hear” (p. 173) – in other words, he represented American thought in his day.  Here was “the best of the Puritan past” moving towards “intelligent adaptability to change and a spirit of sensible optimism concerning the future of the still new nation” (ibid).  This module seems to be key in bringing together various threads of thought from previous modules and in demonstrating the dynamics of change in a young America as symbolized in Channing.
The progression to module 5 seemed natural enough - after reading of Channing, Marsh and Hedge completed the migration in American thought towards Idealism.  Recalling the importance of primary sources, I decided for this module to read two of Hedge’s tracts, “Progress of Society” (1834) and “Coleridge” (1833).  In “Progress”, Hedge sets out a theory in which successive “pulsations” of mind send out “into the world some new sentiment or principle, some discovery or invention, which, like small portions of leaven, have successively communicated their quickening energy to the whole mass of society.”  Many questions arose from this idea, but it seemed clear that Hedge was voicing a passionate optimism in the human intellect, beyond the confines of institutions, which are merely temporal, and accessory to the greater project of ascension.  In “Coleridge”, Hedge expounds on the virtues of interiority, as given by Coleridge, pointing out that its impenetrability of method is due only to want of depths in its critics.  To the charge that no discernible good is produced by mimicking the Germans’ philosophy, Hedge answers, “More than metaphysics ever before accomplished, these men have done for the advancement of the human intellect.”  These echoes of Kantian Idealist thought, carried forth over the waters by Coleridge, appear, in Hedge, to have found a place among nineteenth century Boston literati.  As a matter of critique, I found that reading the source materials for oneself affords a taste of the writing/thinking style of the day, calling one to look about and share in the sheer sweep of the vision which Transcendentalists aspired to.  It would have been helpful, I must confess, to have also read some contemporary articles on Marsh and Hedge, to see with the lens which retrospective offers, what outcomes their ideas wrought.

Natural Theology and Evolutionary Theory in the Nineteenth Century – Summary Paper 3

After reading Module 10, I read the book review cited by Dr. Clarke:  D.R. Baines.  "Before Scopes:  Evangelicalism, Education, and Evolution in Tennessee, 1870-1925", Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75 (2007):  150-153.  Baines’ digest of Charles Israel’s Before Scopes helped me understand the historical response of evangelicalism in America to the perceived threat upon the morality and integrity of society which Darwin’s ideas presented.  The author highlights Israel’s thesis that a “home rule” reflecting the character and values of society allowed evangelicals in the South to mold school curricula to the precepts of their faith during the 1870s (p. 151).  Moving on from the creation of evangelical institutions of higher learning (Vanderbilt and South Union Baptist) to prohibition, Baines shows how Israel successfully traces the modification of church leaders’ antebellum position of non-involvement in the political sphere to one where participation therein became a safeguard against the erosion of values.  A connection to materialist Germany established in the minds of policymakers a just reason to promote religious education in the school system.  Baines’ review of Israel’s work is succinct and yet generates sufficient interest to stimulate further research on the topic.
As I was stirred by the focus of the module on the Catholic response to Darwin, I elected to read another paper cited by Dr. Clarke:  Barry Brundell.  "Catholic Church Politics and Evolution Theory, 1894-1902," British Journal for the History of Science 34 (2001):  81-95.  Brundell’s use of recently-opened archives from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sheds much light on the complex relation of the Vatican with Darwin’s ideas.  The examples he cites of Père Leroy and Fr. Zahm bring to the fore a number of factors at play between the church and society during the late nineteenth century.  Brundell suggests that Jesuit influence established by Pius IX  (of the Syllabus of Errors fame) within the offices of the Vatican  ran somewhat counter to Leo XIII’s own more modern approach, which allowed for freedom of conscience and for “engage(ment) with the secular world, especially the world of the sciences” (p. 83).  A Jesuit Cardinal, Mazella, is shown to have represented the resistance of the church to modernism, whose theories challenged the primacy of man in the order of things (p. 84).  The tension between the official position of the Vatican and those expressed by La Civilta Cattolica (CC) is wonderfully explored by Brundell.  The eventual (internal) censorship against Leroy and Zahm reflects a backward step for the church, though restraint in public denunciation suggests that the Vatican had perhaps become more restrained in its condemnations (after Galileo?).  The author explores the progress of the Catholic Church in its relation with science and its move towards freedom and eventually acceptance:  “...views that were officially censured at the end of the nineteenth century were officially adopted at the end of the twentieth by the highest teaching authority in the Catholic Church” (p. 95).
The final paper which I read for this module was:  Ignas K. Skrupskelis.  “Evolution and Pragmatism: An
Unpublished Letter of William James,” Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society 43 (2007): 746-752. 
Skrupskelis presents an unpublished letter (1883) from William James to William Erasmus Darwin, in which James’ own theories are shown to be reflective of the concrete organism-centred framework in C. Darwin’s ideas.  Also under consideration in the paper is the interplay between James’ own relativistic views on morality and those of a PhD student, Francis Abbot, a Unitarian minister who suggested that there existed between all creatures a “mutual moral obligation” – a thesis which C. Darwin had difficulty in accepting (p. 748).  James’ letter to E. Darwin harps on this “error” in Abbot and sublimates value-judgments to a more relativistic, Darwinian level, naming as a rational basis for ethics an organism’s “passion for survival” (p. 751).  Skrupskelis provides an appealing glimpse at source material which establishes James’ relativistic thought as being linked with Charles Darwin’s organism-centered approach to some degree.
After reading Module 11 I read an article cited by Dr. Clarke:  David H. Burton.  "Theodore Roosevelt's Social Darwinism and Views on Imperialism", Journal of the History of Ideas 26 (1965):  103-118.  In this paper, the author explores the tension within the former American president between Social Darwinism, which informed and justified to some extent his agenda of imperialism and the dynamic influence of “the Western tradition, an American sense of practicality (and) the Social Gospel of XIXth-century Protestantism”.  Burton traces the early Roosevelt’s thought as being a product of its time, a milieu where might was the right of the ‘superior’ races, and the ‘white man’s burden’ was the justification for policies of forced intervention in foreign affairs.  The author presents as a redeeming grace in the statesman’s progression of thought a notion of character which supersedes the physical and material struggles (p. 105).  This concept is presented as being “vital to social progress” (p. 107) and as being of more import than intellect.  That the then-president adopted somewhat Lamarckian views in his social theory foreshadowed, to a certain degree, the modern concepts in memetics.  Yet the exposition of imperialist rhetoric serves to remind of the ideological base from which actions such as the invasion of the Philippines arose.  Burton quotes Roosevelt as claiming “in ‘Expansion and Peace’ (1899): ‘in the long run civilized man finds he can keep the peace only by subduing his barbarian neighbors; for the barbarian will yield only to force.’”  Burton’s consideration of the variety of forces at work in Roosevelt’s person, writing and politics demonstrates the complexity of the American zeitgeist at the time. 
Following this I read:  Randy Moore.  “The Lingering Impact of the Scopes Trial on High School
Biology Textbooks”, BioScience 51 (2001): 790-796.  Moore traces the impact of Darwin’s ideas on the American school system, taking consideration of religious elements in the South, from the late nineteenth century, up to the present.  The author’s consideration of fundamentalism and its reach highlights the tension between Darwin’s revolution in the scientific community and the reluctance of the school system, the government and of textbook publishers to run contrary to public opinion and special interest groups.  Moore explores various laws which were enacted during the battle of ideologies, from the Butler Law in Tennessee, which formed the basis for the prosecution of teacher John Scopes, to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which supported, through the NSF, the funding and development of up-to-date science textbooks (a response to the Soviet Union’s progress in space exploration, p. 793).  The decision of the Supreme Court of the U.S. in 1968 to render unconstitutional a ban on the teaching of evolution (Epperson v. Arkansas) is shown to have led creationists to adopt conciliatory tactics, which sought to provide for the equal airing of literalist biblical accounts in the classroom.  Moore’s paper provides a useful account of the effects of fundamentalist philosophy on the American educational system.
The final paper I read for the module was:  Richard Weikart.  “A Recently Discovered Darwin Letter on Social Darwinism”, Isis 86 (1995): 609-611.  Weikart examines a letter from Darwin to Heinrich Fick in which some of the biologist’s views on social and economic issues are made clearer.  In the author’s own words:  “It is the strongest piece of evidence of which I am aware that Darwin himself believed that his biological theory lent support to individualist economic competition and laissez-faire economics” (p. 609).  Fick, a professor of Law in Zurich, wrote a paper titled, “On the Influence of Natural Science on Law" in which he argued against conscription for healthy young men, which, he proposed, would allow the ‘weaker’ members of society to stay at home and breed.  He also suggested that legislation to prevent marriages for these ‘weaker’ persons would arrest the potential ‘degeneration’ of society (p. 610).  Darwin’s response, which Weikart includes in full, focuses on his concern that Trade Unions, which provided equality in both wages and hours, were actually preventing healthy competition.  Darwin says, “This seems to me a great evil for the future progress of mankind” (p. 611).  Weikart concludes with the definitive statement: 

“Darwin's response to Fick demonstrates conclusively that Darwin was not averse to making social and economic applications of his theory. He clearly linked economic success with selective fitness and thought his theory supported individualist economic competition” (Ibid).

The final two modules provided a more concentrated focus on some of the particulars presented in earlier ‘lectures’.  I feel, through the exercise of conducting research on topics related to this course, far better-equipped to understand the people and ideas addressed here, and inspired to go on reading both within the topic and in related areas. 

Natural Theology and Evolutionary Theory in the Nineteenth Century – Summary Paper 2

After reading Module 7, I reviewed briefly a paper Professor Clarke cited, which I had found while doing research for an earlier module:  Frank M. Turner.  “The Victorian Conflict between Science and Religion: A Professional Dimension”, Isis, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Sep., 1978): 356-376.  This helped to refresh in my mind the dynamic environment of the mid-nineteenth century, establishing a proper context for the emerging ascendancy of science as profession. 
Following this, I turned to another paper cited by Dr. Clarke:  Joseph L. Altholz.  "A Tale of Two Controversies:  Darwinism in the Debate over Essays and Reviews", Church History 63 (1994):  50-59.  Altholz’s work helped to demonstrate the struggle within religious institutions, highlighting the Broad Church in particular- where liberal theologians expressed ideas concurrent with, and parallel to the Theory of Natural Evolution.  The author verbalizes this trend towards a new, anthropological view of religion:  “Throughout the book runs an unplanned common theme of development in religion, cognate to evolution in biology” (Ibid, p. 51).  Of note is Altholz’s thesis that critics of Essays and Reviews did not use direct scientific rebuttals to that work, but only claimed to do so while referring to the comments of “anti-rationalist” authors, whose own ideas, when examined, proved to be mainly mere opinion.  What is made clear in this paper is that, despite the threat of censure, more and more men of religion (in addition to men of science) were voicing dissent to orthodoxy, a shift which may be properly characterized as being part of the Victorian crisis of faith.
In order to gain more familiarity with said crisis, I turned to the following paper:  D. H. Meyer.  “American Intellectuals and the Victorian Crisis of Faith”, American Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 5, Special Issue: Victorian Culture in America (Dec., 1975): 585-603.  Meyer posits that William James rightly characterized the struggle of the age as being more than simply a matter of domestic harmony- rather it was an inward struggle, one “within one’s own mind”.  And, Meyer says, though the struggle in the late nineteenth century was mostly limited to intellectuals, it prefaced a wider crisis within society in general which was to follow decades later.  The author examines the crisis within the American context, considering a range of thought from positivism and agnosticism to “uncritical faith”.  One delightful quote Meyer shares is from Robert Ingersoll, an American sympathetic to Huxley:  “The agnostic does not simply say ‘I do not know’.  He goes another step, and he says with great emphasis that you do not know...”, making doubt “a badge of intellectual honesty” for some (Ibid, p. 589) but a matter of existential angst for others.  Meyer’s is an engaging narrative which moves from wider themes (such as the American desire for cognitive unity) to the particulars of individual thinkers (e.g., James, Fiske, Bowne) who formed the milieu of the crisis and filled the niches of the varied shades of opinion therein.
After reading Module 8, I was intrigued by the figure of Asa Gray, and found the following article helpful as a primer to the life and thought of that great man:  Sara Joan Miles, “Charles Darwin and Asa Gray Discuss Teleology and Design”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 53 (September 2001): 196-201.  Describing Gray as “Darwin’s dove”, Miles gives account of the American botanist’s legacy and demonstrates the connection between his thought and that of Darwin.  She highlights the fact that while Gray considered himself a Christian, he was not a biblical literalist; rather the dialogue pertained more properly to teleology.  Miles’s article provides some depth to the conversation between the two thinkers, noting where the two agreed, on the nature of a mechanism, yet diverged on the question of design.
Following this, I chose to read an article cited by Professor Clarke:  Paul Jerome Croce.  "Probabilistic Darwinism:  Louis Agassiz v. Asa Gray on Science, Religion and Certainty", Journal of Religious History 22 (1998):  35-58.  In this paper, Croce plays on the nuances in American opinion towards Darwin’s theories, showing how Asa Gray’s tolerance of uncertainty separated him from his contemporary, Agassiz.  This, Croce points out, was a difficult methodological move given the desire for absolutes which had characterized intellectual thought in the preceding centuries.  The author aptly describes the social and intellectual contexts in which the two men taught.  He notes that while Agassiz rightly discovered the action of glaciers on the topography of the land, his adherence to religious orthodoxy did not permit him to admit to the (general) mutability of species.  Gray appears in this struggle as the defender of induction against Agassiz’s “unscientific” idealism, while maintaining a role for God as the shaper of ends.  Croce’s thesis is a useful lens for understanding the general nature of the religious-scientific dialogue taking place at centers of higher learning in America at the time.
Having read so much about Asa Gray, and finding his thought entirely reasonable as a middle ground in the debate, I thought it worthwhile to read some of his own work, and decided on the first chapter of the following:  Asa Gray.  Natural Selection not Inconsistent with Natural Theology, a Free Examination of Darwin’s Treatise on the Origin of Species, and of Its American Reviewers.  London: Trubner & Co., 1861.  One phrase in particular shows Gray’s retention of an idea of design:  “Variation and natural selection may play their part, and so may specific creation also. Why not?... The beginning of things must needs lie in obscurity, beyond the bounds of proof...”  (Ibid, p. 7)  As to the place of man, Dr. Gray states that without evidence to the contrary: “We must needs believe in the separate and special creation of man, however it may have been with the lower animals and wild plants” (Ibid, p. 6).  While natural selection provides for Gray an adequate model for the gradual formation of humans from a primordial being, for the sake of his more religious audience, he adds that this need not be so, only that it may be so, without negating the role of God as the Prime Mover.  In defence of Darwin, Gray reminds us astutely that the reductionist principles discovered by men such as Galileo, whom he refers to as “the great pioneer of inductive research”, formulated in physical laws, were not well-received at first, likening them to “a (hard-fitting) new pair of breeches” (Ibid, p. 3).  Gray’s engaging style and open-mindedness make this an interesting foray into source material.
After reading Module 9, I read an article cited by Dr. Clarke:  William R. Patterson.  "The Greatest Good for the Most Fit?  John Stuart Mill, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Social Darwinism", Journal of Social Philosophy 36 (2005):  72-84.  Patterson’s consideration of the extension of the principles of evolution into Social Darwinism is fascinating, and he adequately defends Mill against Huxley’s charges of selfish pursuit as a goal of utilitarianism, pointing out that proper utilitarian thinking holds of highest value not the baser pleasures of the flesh, but those of the mind, the esthetic.  Huxley attempted, Patterson shows, to prevent Darwin’s ideas from degenerating into an ethical system which would justify the mistreatment of particular segments of society.  Mill’s theory is guarded from Huxley’s projections when Patterson points out that Mill would have wanted a consideration of the pleasure of the greatest number of persons, not just of the individual, thus elevating the utilitarian ethic to a consideration of other.  This paper served the purpose of separating Mill from Social Darwinism and established that Huxley had been mistaken to confound the two, due to his misunderstanding of Mill.
Pursuing the idea of Social Darwinism, I found the following article helpful:  James Allen Rogers. “Darwinism and Social Darwinism”, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 33, No. 2, (Apr. - Jun., 1972): 265-280.  Rogers examines the connection between Darwin and Social Darwinism, showing that while Darwin may not be held directly responsible for the ideas which followed his own, his use of “highly metaphorical concepts” related to Malthus and Spencer permitted the exploitation.  Nonetheless, Rogers leads on, in the Descent of Man (1871), Darwin makes comments which might give one pause:  “Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”  The author goes on to investigate how Darwin and Malthus wrongly assumed demographic calculations which might underwrite a program of Social Darwinism.  After exploring Darwin’s association with Spencer, Rogers concludes by offering a cautioning remark:  “For those who could not distinguish between biological and social evolution, Darwin's theory offered the public authority of science by which they could attempt to legitimatize their private vision of human progress.”
In response to a fellow classmate’s question on Social Darwinism in Germany, I read portions of the following:  Richard Weikart.  “The Origins of Social Darwinism in Germany, 1859-1895”, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 54, No. 3, (Jul., 1993): 469-488.  Weikart explores in one place David Strauss, considered to have been a major advocate for aristocracy and bourgeoisie in Germany during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Weikart shows how Strauss formed part of a conservative shift among liberal intellectuals, his 1872 The Old Faith and the New reflecting a materialist paradigm linked with Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection.  Strauss, though trained in theology, is shown to take a stand for inequality of resources and the legitimization of war as a progressive force in the struggle to ascendancy.  With regards to the question of faith, it appeared that Strauss, in this work, published after the Origin, was attempting to replace Christianity with the tenets of scientific materialism.  Weikart’s paper appears to cover a range of ideas which merit further consideration.
I might offer that Modules 7-9 both carry the ideas presented earlier forward and provide a depth of historical investigation which cause much anticipation for events yet to be examined, such as the Scopes Trial, among others.

Natural Theology and Evolutionary Theory in the Nineteenth Century – Summary 1

After reading Module 1, I was prompted to do some background reading on the people and especially the ideas presented in this opening ‘lecture’.  While some have expressed publicly their disdain for Wikipedia, I suspect the majority of students find it a valuable and accessible source for basic information.  Nonetheless, after brief surfing through its well-linked pages, I navigated to a more ‘reputable’ source: MacDONALD, SCOTT (1998). Natural theology. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.  This article was very basic, and did not convey specific information relating to issues surrounding the nineteenth century.
I also read two of the articles cited by Dr. Clarke:  Wells (1967) and Wilkie (1956).  In Wells’ article, Goethe is shown to have elucidated, or at least highlighted, the concept of morphology as relates to “unity in diversity” in the study of nature- an idea likely related to Plato’s forms.  The reliance on classical ideas during this period is suggested with Wells’ mention of Lovejoy’s ‘chain of being’, or scala naturae, which prompted further study on the topic.
A search for this term on the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy pointed to Buffon, providing some basic groundwork for later reading on this thinker.  Here it was suggested that while Buffon did not subscribe to a broad vision of transmutability whereby inferior or primitive species could lead to more and more complex ones, he had a kind of pre-Darwinian thought that the environment could exert an influence on an organism, allowing for variations within the ‘archetype’.  Wilkie’s article on Buffon showed how difficult it was for natural philosophers in those days to write about their innovative ideas in a climate ridden with orthodox religious hostility.  Familiarity with the French language proved useful as the author quotes extensively from the original works of Buffon.
One scientist’s name in particular piqued my interest in this module, familiar as he was to me through high school physics – Sir Isaac Newton.  The following article provided some insight into Newton’s natural philosophy:  J. E. McGuire.  “Newton's ‘Principles of Philosophy’: An Intended Preface for the 1704 ‘Opticks’ and a Related Draft Fragment”, The British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Dec., 1970), pp. 178-186.  McGuire notes that in Principles Newton was responding to a need he perceived to address the philosophical implications of his innovations in cosmology.  He further establishes Newton as a leader in the application of a posteriori reasoning.  Religious scepticism as expressed by natural philosophers in the age to follow is not shown by the one who has ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’ -  McGuire quotes Newton as having espoused a view very much akin to Intelligent Design:  “ first formation of every species of creatures must be ascribed to an intelligent being...”
After reading Module 2, I decided to look up biographical information on Paley from Wikipedia.  Their article was useful for a quick overview of Paley’s thought and relevance during and after his time.  I also found a good article at:  BROWN, CHARLOTTE R. (1998). Paley, William. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.  Here, besides presenting good biographical data, Paley’s natural theology is viewed in the context of his contemporaries, including Hume.  Paley’s utilitarian ideas are also given consideration, and it is shown that though the force of his thought was in defence, to a large part, of conservatism and the establishment, Paley nonetheless gave evidence to a deeper philosophy in that he desired to see slavery abolished.
I also read the article by Eddy (2004).  I found the style easy and Eddy’s consideration of Paley’s socio-historical context valuable.  His exposition of Paley’s rhetorical devices reminded me of Plato’s critique of sophistry in the Republic and of Augustine’s in the Confessions.  Eddy shows disdain for Paley’s approach to establishing his Argument from Design by appealing to the emotions, and seats the archdeacon’s popularity within the context of soothing “the fears of those who stood to lose the most if ‘Old Boney’ successfully crossed the English Channel.”  The praise-and-blame format of Paley’s rhetoric is shown be an effective minister of his teleological designs, and a somewhat enduring reference point for others who followed in this line in the nineteenth century.
My final reading related to this module was:  Wilson Smith.  “William Paley's Theological Utilitarianism in America.”  The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 11, No. 3, 402-424. Jul., 1954.  Smith, a (former) lecturer from Princeton, examines the scope of Paley’s teachings on morality in America from the nineteenth century and onwards.  According to Smith, the utility of Paley’s social science (rudimentary as it was) was proportional to the needs of evangelical professors in the Atlantic to promote good Christian values amongst students.  Bentham’s ‘raw’ secularized approach to utilitarianism found little place in the pews of the new nation, as eager as it was for clarion moral leadership, the author says.  Smith advocates that the simplicity of Paley’s style further appealed to Americans, suggesting that his audience of laymen and students could not latch onto more sophisticated thinkers like Bishops Law and Butler.  Paley’s pleasure-pain ethic seems to underlay the pragmatic American pursuit of ‘life, liberty and (especially) happiness’.  Smith goes on to show that the individualism of Paley’s utilitarianism struck a chord with America - it was not a morality that needed to be legislated, as with Bentham, but one which relied on ‘Reason’ being ‘seated on the throne’ of every man’s heart.  The author points out that Locke’s influence on Paley’s writings gave pause to educators in America during the 1830’s but his natural theology, especially his watchmaker analogy, ensured that he would continue to be read for decades.  Smith’s article considers Paley’s influence from many views - theological, academic and especially historical, making it a useful source of insight for the researcher.

After reading Module 3, I checked Wikipedia for an explanation of ‘uniformitarianism’, and it was mentioned that although this idea was expounded on by Hutton and Lyell, Avicenna had written about it as early as 1027.  Far more detailed was the article at:  LAUDAN, RACHEL (1998). Geology, philosophy of. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.  In this piece, the theory of uniformitarianism is shown to have developed out of the methodological foundation laid down by Newton through his rules of reasoning in the Principia Mathematica.  Dialogue with the competing theory of catastrophism is characterized in this article as being one that still goes on today.
As well, I read the piece by Porter (1976), in which the author shows how Lyell overcame historical obstacles to the advancement of geology, such as the church, classical philosophy and anthropocentrism.  One idea of Porter’s which I found appealing was that he does not a priori dismiss the church as being a dead weight to scientific inquiry, rather he successfully identifies the ongoing dialogue and interdependency of science with the other institutions of society.
In response to a fellow classmate’s question on the definition of ‘system-building’, I found an article which mentions it briefly:  Elisha Greifer.  Joseph de Maistre and the Reaction Against the Eighteenth Century.  The American Political Science Review, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Sep., 1961), pp. 591-598.   Using some undergrad philosophy, I explained how rationalism and empiricism differ in the epistemological context.

After reading Module 4, I ‘googled’ Vestiges and found a decent Wikipedia article, which explained the history of its publication, general theory, reception and criticism (e.g., Darwin).  Following this, I read Hough (1947), in which he describes Tennyson’s In Memoriam as a synthesis of Lyell’s geology, Coleridge’s influence and Tennyson’s own mysticism.  The poem is remarkable in that Queen Victoria is said to have considered it her greatest consolation (after the Bible) during her mourning for Prince Albert, according to a Wikipedia article.
Through various discussions online for the course, I was led to examine an online article at:, entitled “Nietzsche, Darwin & Evolution” by James Birx, a visiting professor at Harvard.  Birx asserts that Nietzsche desired to take Darwin’s theories to their theological and philosophical limits.  He shows that the assumed collapse of all traditional value systems based on a belief in God required, for Nietzsche, a reformulation of humanity’s freedoms and purposes.  This led the German philosopher, Birx says,  to formulate a vitalist ‘will to power’, a quasi-anarchist automotivational energy for the emergence of the ‘noble overman’.  Birx’s consideration of Darwin’s ideas as seen in Nietzsche makes this a valuable way to gauge the profound effect the ‘creator’ of evolutionary theory was to have in non-biological spheres of inquiry.
In response to a fellow student’s question on parson-naturalists, I also read:  Frank M. Turner.  The Victorian Conflict between Science and Religion: A Professional Dimension.  Isis, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Sep., 1978), pp. 356-376.  Turner traces the shift in authority in Europe from the religious to the naturalistic, underscoring that the apprehension many researchers felt in the shadow of tradition remained problematic for a time.  Then a reversal of sorts began to make itself felt, Turner relates, as parson-naturalists found themselves displaced by the institutions of professional men of science, such as the Royal Society, whose progressive ideas successfully delivered material prosperity to the nation.

After reading Module 5, which I found useful for tying together and making relevant a lot of the ideas presented in previous modules, I looked up Malthus on Wikipedia, which helped explain his theory of population and the influence he would exert, including the response of his critics (e.g., Marx).  I could not find an entry on Malthus in any of the following:  The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or  Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which seems odd, given that his theories had such a profound impact on later thinkers, including Darwin.  A very brief description was given of Malthus in:  "Malthus, Thomas Robert"  The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Simon Blackburn. Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.
From Dr. Clarke’s list, I read Elliot (2003), where I was satisfied to acquire some fundamentals on Spencer and Erasmus Darwin, as well as the socio-historical context which helped produce the later Darwin’s ideas.  Elliot highlights E. Darwin’s concept of competition and places it within a framework of Enlightenment progress, allowing for Spencer’s ‘survival of the fittest’.  Interestingly, the article also seems to provide, through the ideas of C. Darwin’s forerunners, an answer to the problem of evil in deistic scaffolding – namely, that of the economy of nature.
Also of note was the article:  Robert M. Young. "Malthus on Man – In Animals no Moral Restraint.”  Clio Medica/The Wellcome Series in the History of Medicine, “Malthus, Medicine, & Morality", edited by Brian Dolan , pp. 73-91(19).  Rodopi.  Young does an excellent job of covering the basics – historical context, critiques, and especially touching on Malthus’ influence on Darwin.  The author goes on to expose ‘straw men’ in the writing of people like Dawkins and Wolpert, who set up false dichotomies like ‘science – arts’, ‘mechanism – purpose’ and ‘rational – emotional’ (I was tickled a little when he called the philistines).  In the main, Young provides an excellent bridge between Malthus and Darwin.
Module 6 made for a kind of a gala affair, the main course, as it were, after so many savoury appetizers.  I began by reading Lennox (1993) who does a fair job at drawing out the teleology in Darwin, emphasizing that it was of a sort that did not fit into variants found in his own day.  It is not God, Lennox shows, but the good of each individual, that proves teleological in the Origin.  Not that a particular morphological end predestines its selection, the author shows Darwin to believe, but that conscious design need no longer underwrite what plain utility finds out from interplay with chance.  This article made for an interesting read, and pointed out that the controversy Darwin began is still far from ending.
In response to a fellow student’s question on Mendel’s obscurity, I read:  Elizabeth B. Gasking.  “Why was Mendel's Work Ignored?”  Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Jan., 1959), pp. 60-84.  While Mendel's purpose was to elicit knowledge about inheritance of traits, Gaskin says, his choice of subjects (e.g., hybrids) made it difficult for evolutionists at the time to make use of his work.  Namely, the problem with hybrids was that they were not considered 'true' species; they were not wild, having been produced through artificial 'meddling', and could shed little light on 'natural' processes.  Gaskin also suggests that Darwin's publication itself obscured work in horticulture, as scientists were drawn away immensely by his work, leading to a 'general re-orientation' of scientific endeavour.  An interesting thought on the likelihood of dialogue between the two thinkers follows: "it would perhaps have been embarrassing at this period for Mendel, a monk, to start up a correspondence with the notorious Darwin."  Here, Gaskin is pointing out that alignments had been established to some degree, characterizing Darwin as an enemy of religious orthodoxy.  Gaskin ends her analysis by pointing out that Mendel's work could only more properly be applied to the general theory of evolution with advances in cytology and the understanding of cell division which took place in the 1880's and 1890's. 
My final reading was of:  Michael Ruse.  “The Origin of Life: Philosophical Perspectives”.  Journal of Theoretical Biology.  Volume 187, Issue 4, 21 August 1997, Pages 473-482.  Ruse, a Canadian researcher from Guelph, sets out to examine the topic of origins over the last 100 years.  He begins by pointing out that Darwin downplayed the possibility of spontaneous generation, in part due to Pasteur’s work.  Working around the publication of the Origins, Ruse provides a good general overview of the progression in ideas, from the Great Chain of Being, through the Enlightenment desire for progress, tempered as it was by a belief in Providence, past German Idealism, pausing briefly at Haeckel and his consideration of crystals, on to the 20th century with thinkers such as Haldane and Oparin.  Referring back to Darwin’s ‘warm little pond’, Ruse shows how these more modern evolutionary biologists held to an idea of inorganics organizing into complex chains of organic molecules, a fact established in the light of the Miller-Urey experiments.  The author also considers the context in which these men wrote, noting especially how the Russian Oparin was forced to view biology through the communistic lens of Marx’s dialectic (inherited from Hegel).  Ruse shows how the Great Depression caused a shift in the emotional framework of science, making it more pessimistic about the human equation and its potential than the progressive optimism which had characterized Victorian endeavour.  He ends by showing that Darwin’s ideas occur not just at the macro, but also at the micro, molecular level.


One must question the theology underlying the concept of God’s 'benevolence', as
defined by the primitive mind.   That is, we ought not suppose that God is
not at work if we find proof of 'abandoned' lines in species development, nor
yet if there exists competition in Nature- rather, we ought to
remember that 'all things work together for good for those who love
God'.  That is, if we cannot understand the grand design, and if it
does not conform to our anthropocentric desire for a tidy, painless
existence, we ought to remember that whatever chastening exists,
exists for our own good.  Thus we may collapse the argument not to
whether God exists or not in the face of evidence for a mechanism of  selection, but to the problem of evil (theodicy) which leads us to reexamine how we are defining our
basis for accepting or rejecting God's existence.
It seems the question also relates to whether God is necessary as a prime cause for the universe, and whether natural selection is sufficient for the same.
As a scientist, I cannot refute the direction in which geological evidence points - that of a long, slow process of transmutation.  But as one who also believes in, and has personally been the recipient of divine revelation (, I would say it is not permissible to reject God as the one who, as with other laws of the universe, is the motive agent behind the mechanism.  To those who question the value of testimony, I say, life is the lab, if you are in doubt, seek God with all your heart, and you will receive irrefutable (for you, in any case) proofs, empirical evidence to put a monkey wrench into all your philosophical musings.
I would even, if I doubted my own senses which may indeed drink in God’s glory, take Descartes' cogito and say, with all sincerity, "I think (or more aptly, I contemplate), therefore God is".  That is, while some may believe in the mechanism of emergent properties, I propose that this does not entail atheism, for no proof of such can ever exist, being something so completely exhaustive that no one could ever begin to approach it.
As for Darwin, I cannot understand how atheism can be seen as the logical consequence of it, especially as an examination of the concept of 'random' mutations will reveal.  I believe that there is much ambiguity in this facet of selection- it requires faith, in essence, in a mechanism which cannot be completely validated save by attendant phenomena which might be adequately explained by alternative theories.  For one thing, quantum physics suggests a 'stochastic' distribution of electrons about a nucleus, but in fact, when one 'steps outside time', to see the cloud in its various logical permutations, there is structure, on the whole.  This structure, being that it exists outside of time, suggests it lies entirely in that domain where God resides- eternity.  Or, our inability to see patterns does not imply the absence of a pattern, only a pattern of such a type which we do not yet recognize, either for its simplicity or for its complexity.
It is folly for us to presume to tell God just how to establish the reality of a theistic universe.  The desire for uniformity in nature is read into the scripture, which seems inappropriate given that Jesus established that God speaks in parables

Unit 6b

As much as it has become in some circles commonplace to reject the faith of one's parents, perhaps in favour of a more synthetic-conventional Jesus-for-me super-church, I cannot help, as one who came to Christ 'unnaturally' (from a muslim heritage), but envy those who had any kind of Christian upbringing.

The importance of family in the transmission of the Gospel is utmost, as even the Scriptures show... nowadays we like to think of faith as 'personal', but in the NT, whole households were baptised, and the value of generational faith was key (Timothy, his mother and grandmother).

With this preface, I would think, despite modern cynicism with regards to the transmission of faith from parent to child, if I were to preach a sermon on the value of nurturing faith in children, some of the key concepts I would use might include:

1.  Secure attachment:  Erikson's first challenge is key in the foundation of a positive God-concept, that is trust.  Parents must respond to their children's needs, not spoil them, mind you, but they must give basic and timely care towards food, clothing, education and health.  To provide these would be to ensure children felt safe, which is necessary to allow for positive interaction in the environment and future growth and progress.

2.  Respect for Intrinsic Dynamics:  Kahlil Gibran, a great and wonderful poet-mystic, said of children that parents were not to hold to them too closely, as they belonged to the future, a place where we could not go.  Our job is to serve as the bow, to strech and aim as high and as far as we are able, to see that the arrow reached its proper summit.  Thus we recognize that children have their own inner drives, including emotions, and thoughts.  They are people in their own right.  Thus the decision to serve God must eventually become their own (although we must teach and pray nonetheless).

3.  Encouraging Interaction:  Despite St. John of the Cross' introverted saint, to be fully human one must learn to interact with others, to respect others and to cherish others as God's children.  In this respect, we are reminded of St. Francis of Assisi, who returned to preach and to serve the townspeople despite his hunger for the freedom of the wilderness.

4.  Patterning/Modelling:  If you smoke, don't be surprised if, despite all your hypocritical advice for your children not to, they eventually do.  I have of late, become keenly aware of my vices owing to the fact that I now have a baby watching my every move and registering with that deep trust of hers that this behavious of dad's is normative.  As Feldmeier suggests, we must provide positive experiences for the children by ourselves attanding worship services and by realizing that the home is a mini-church, a sacred space where our attitues about God and communication with Deity are soaked in, by osmotic processes within our kids.

5.  Conjunctive Growth:  While thinking about the challenge teenagers present and about midlife crises, I began to wonder if the presentation of one's own weaknesses in one's children is what causes one to revisit one's deeper or younger self in this age.  So perhaps Erikson's idea that old problems can be healed when revisited later on is useful, in the setting of mutual, or parallel growth.  Rather than despair or act out one's fantasies, healing may come by walking our teens through their angst, Bible in one hand and a salve for emotional wounds in the other.  With regards to young children, as this is our topic, perhaps one can attempt to monitor one's own weaknesses as they appear in our young kids' behaviours, and rather than punish the children for manifesting our own vices, we could minister in forgiveness in order that they and we, too, may overcome inherited sin.


Regression is understood in Freudian parlance as a defense mechanism;  if an individual experiences a stressful event or circumstance, they may revert to an earlier stage of behaviour.  If, for example, someone was fixated at an oral stage, they may chew their nails when studying for an exam.  Or, if they were having emotional difficulties, stemming from relational issues, they may display anal expulsive behaviour, by keeping their apartment messy for a few weeks. 

As a student of medicine, I cannot help but draw a parallel to the physiological principle of sympathetic activation of the nervous system when danger (or stress) is experienced.  Normally this results in what is known as the fight or flight response.  For example, when confronted by a wild boar, the nerves are steeled and the senses activated - either one is about to be eaten by a predator and must needs run away to live, or one takes an aggressive stance, placing oneself at risk for the possibility of a meal.

In the spiritual context, the idea of defense mechanism finds its noblest example in sublimation.  Losing one's job, or a loved one, rather than causing regression, may result in the sublimation of angst into positive activities, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter, or visiting the sick.  Thus we recognize that, along with negative defense mechanisms, such as regression, denial and passive agression, which stem from the flesh and its desires (or, in psychosocial parlance, immaturity), there are a host of positive mechanisms for dealing with stress, including sublimation, altruism and suppression, which may be understood in the Scriptural context as being fruits of the spirit (or, again, in theories of human development, as maturity).

Psychosocial Moratorium

In Erikson, one of the challenges of the fifth stage, namely identity versus role confusion, is to establish one's place in the context of society and its structures.  The positive outcome of this stage results in an ego which is capable of fidelity to those associations opted for.  Along the road to choosing what structures merit fealty, many adolescents experience hesitance.  Some of these may choose to act on the difficulty of committment by taking leave from regular projects, and end up dropping out of school, or quitting work, in order to explore.  My generation called this 'finding yourself', but the idea is not new, and for Eriksonians, this hiatus is known as a psychosocial moratorium.

The decision to forestall making definite identifications to traditional structures is one which Crain normalizes in Erikson's own journey, pointing out that for people in the society in which the theorist grew up, this was an acceptable means of coming to grips with life.  It is sometimes thought of as a luxury afforded the youths of Western-style civilization, as those in other regions of the world are often pressed by family needs to commit early to work or school.

In my own journey, I experienced a very similar thing in 1992, when I dropped out of medical school to 'find myself'.  It was a powerful catalyst for spiritual exploration, freeing me from the bonds of my parents' materialist dreams.  I am amused that, while I became a Christian as a result of this 'time out' in 1994, I found that the realignment of my persona which this new reality required was so fundamental, I did not return to studies (or to serious work) until 2002.  The application of the principle of the moratorium was, for me, in any case, clearly positive from a spiritual perspective.  Being skeptical of my native religion and of the values of my family of origin permitted me the freedom and motive force to seek and to find the wholeness of Christ's love.


Piaget describes three types of speech in children, namely echolalia, in which what is heard is simply repeated; monologues, in which children speak out loud but mainly through the egocentrism that context and referents are understood by listeners; collective monologues, in which more than one child speak in what appear to be conversation with each member taking turns, yet where listening with comprehension is minimal.  In the last category, one might theorize that the structure of conventional speech, as occurs in social units apparent to the child, is being adopted and internalized.  Recognition of pause (as a function of prosody) provides the necessary clue to initiate or continue one’s own verbal trafficking.  Content and appropriate response will come later, as challenges to the egocentric viewpoint arise, as Crain points out, with a shift from contact with the adult world to the peer-group, in which case, Piaget’s model holds, adoption of the other’s viewpoint is essential to eliciting appropriate responses.  An example of this may proceed as follows: Laura (5 years):  My pop took me to the store. Andrew (4 years):  I got a new shirt. Laura:  I saw some new dolls. Andrew:  It has stripes. Laura:  Pop bought me a doll. Andrew:  It got dirty when I was playing. Laura:  I want a doll house. Andrew:  Mum’s washing it.  On a personal note, we were amused when our daughter began showing interest in the voices coming from our cell phone.  To our delight, although only a few months old and mostly babbling, she was able to wait until her grandmother, on the other end, asked her a question, before saying something.  This went on for awhile before we understood she had recognized the stress and intonations correctly which required, by convention, a response.  Piaget’s practice of studying his own children’s growth is a model for us, too.

My Unfolding Story

My name is Paul.  I was born under a different name, Kashif, to a Pakistani family.  From a young age I had a close relationship with the supernatural.  At the age of three or four, in my grandmother’s courtyard in Karachi, I saw a brilliant light in the sky, brighter than the sun.  It pierced my soul like a laser, and I was as helpless as a rag doll before who I now know was God.  But, surrendering to this power filled me with incomprehensible ecstasy.
Later as I grew to be five, in my room God visited me once again.  He asked me a question, "Would you die for somebody?"  I didn’t know the answer, so I turned it around to Him.  He told me the right answer was yes.  I accepted His word, and immediately sensed a deep peace and joy.  Then He asked me, "Would you die for anyone?"  Again, I didn’t know, and then He told me the right answer was yes.  After a thought, I accepted this advice.  Then, it was as if time disappeared and I entered eternity.  I went through the wall of my bedroom and found myself walking with Jesus in a green hilly field.  Afterwards he returned me to my bed.

When I was older, the reality of sin was made known to me in my own misdeeds.  I was often sent to the basement to await my father’s sentencing.  In these lonely times, I would say to God, "God, if I could be born a second time, I would not be so mean to others."  I had never read the Bible or been to church, but somehow the desire for renewal had been made clear to my young soul.
Later, as a young man, I moved to Edmonton.  In 1991, while attending medical school, I lost all sense of right and wrong, plunging into a web of drunkenness, drugs and pornography.  From this I descended into addiction and the occult, as I tried, as many young people do, to "find myself".  I dropped out of medical school and moved to Toronto.  During this time, many people offered me direction.  Seeking answers, I met with a drug-pusher, a Buddhist new-age group, satanists, Hare-Krishnas, and finally my cousin, who wanted me to see an Islamic mullah.  At this stage of my life, I realized the need for guidance, but lacked discernment.
At the Jazz nightclub/restaurant where I worked, there was a Christian, Paul, who told me about his faith in Jesus.  Being hot-blooded and proud at that crucial age, I didn’t hear his preaching- I had all the answers, at 22.  Angrily, I refuted his testimony that Jesus had helped him to stop smoking and drinking, and to start a new life.  One day, at work, I even went so far as to climb up onto a table and publicly denounce him.  But God was merciful, perhaps due to my ignorance, and Paul continued showing me kindness.  Even though I attended a church meeting and received a New Testament, at that stage in my life, my thoughts were too guarded, too turbulent for the message of Christ’s love.  I still had to explore.

One day, I thought to myself, "Mohammed had a greater revelation than Jesus, but then came Joseph Smith and Baha'ullah.  So the pattern is a new revelation as the situation requires.”  I decided to find out what new spiritual message I could offer the world, imagining myself a prophet.  I sat down in my little room and, meditating on some writings from one of the religious groups I had explored, after smoking some marijuana and opium, I sensed a presence at my right shoulder.  It asked me permission to use my arm to write down a message.

Excitedly I thought, “I am going to get the latest revelation."  A presence came over my arm and began to write, "Believe if you can believe, receive if you can receive..."  I paused, thought about it then let the spirit continue.  Other words came, but soon it degenerated into a message of hate and revenge and violence.  This was no message from God!  Scared, I dropped the pen, and immediately sensed the spirit withdraw to a corner of a room.  There, it cowered, radiating hate and fear at me.  For the first time since I was a child, I fell on my knees and prayed:  "God, if You are there, help me now!"

As I was finishing this prayer, the telephone rang.  It was Paul, my Christian associate from work.  I let down my guard and asked him what to do.  He told me to read the little red New Testament he had given to me.  Knowing then that God had answered my prayer, conviction began to set in and change my rebellion to keen interest.
The Revelation of John interested me most.  In it, the author talks of the number seven many times.  Seven eyes of God, seven spirits of God, seven judgments of wrath, and so on.  Seven, I knew, was the number of perfection in creation, since in six days God created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested.  Some idea of orderliness in the chaotic universe of my post-pubescent mind began to make itself visible.
Now, being a student of empirical science, I required proofs in my quest for truth, and God, accounting for this weakness, acquiesced.  He provided a new sign to help confirm that reading the Bible was a good step.  In October of 1991, when I sat down to write out the budget for the previous month’s spending, I was shocked to see the following set of numbers, and their mysterious sum:


Bus Pass       67
Rent     290
Phone       90
Food    120
Drugs    180
Misc       30
Total    777

Although this solidified my belief that there was a God, my earlier training in Islam made it difficult to adjust to these things, and I continued to run from the message.  Undoubtedly, the desires of youth made service to a Holy God somewhat unpalatable at that time, as well.

But the call never subsided, for if God sets His sights on you... so in August, 1994, I began to read the New Testament for leisure, as one would read the funny pages, a pastime I often indulged in as a child.  In Scripture, I sensed the character of Jesus as being wholly good.  I realized that He did so many kind things for people, and also that the things He spoke of were true.  Aiming for a viable compromise between my love of the Jesus of the Bible and my Islamic heritage, I decided to follow Jesus as my spiritual teacher.  Still, I did not really believe, at that time, in the theological imperatives of Christianity.
Then, in September of 1994, after two years’ absence from medical school, I resumed my studies, always maintaining an insatiable thirst for the Bible.  I used to take long walks in the river valley by the university, thinking about nature and God.  The Word seemed to my hungering soul like manna, and I would spend hours pondering its verses, rather than attend classes.  Even Old Testament books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy jumped off the page at me and filled me with life.  I was falling in love with the character of God.
The mind of a young man being what it is, I had many questions, like how to prove the Bible was true, but God continued blessing me with patience, providing help for the voyage.
In November of that year, I went on a camping weekend with some students from Campus Crusade for Christ. On a Saturday night, I asked many questions about the Bible and Jesus being God’s Son, but was unsatisfied with the responses I received, which were based on faith and not intellectual.  After many hours of singing and talking, the night grew warm, and I was left alone with one student, Dani, talking until three AM.
The whole camp was silent, except for the soft knocks which fell upon the cabin door:  “knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock.”
Seven knocks. My heart pounded as Dani went to answer the door.  In my mind I had the thought, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into him and sup with him and he with me."  I remembered that Jesus had spoken these words in Revelation 3:20.
"Is there anyone there?” I asked Dani.  "No one," she replied.  “It must be one of the students,” I thought, and went outside to confirm my suspicion.  In vain, I searched all around the entrance to the cabin, but found no one.
Seeing a swing nearby, I sat down on it to think.  Then, all at once, like a blanket falling over me, I felt a peace that I had not known since I was a child- a feeling that all was right.  Wanting to see what Dani was doing, I got up and walked towards the cabin.  She was standing, framed in the doorway, and a glow was shining out of her face - a soft light radiating from her very skin.  It reminded me of Moses’ appearance after spoke with the Lord on Mount Sinai.  Startled, I cried out: "Oh, God help me!"
Dani calmed me down and explained this was a sign from God to help me believe. "Jesus died for your sins," she said.  I believed, but did not want to give up control, because I was stubborn.  We sat in silence for many minutes.  Then, from outside, we heard scratching at the windowpane.  Dani went outside to see what it was.  She said, “I saw a sphere of light, hovering in the air, then it flew away.”  Later, as we stood in the cabin doorway, ready to go back to our respective sleeping quarters, she saw a figure walking across the field.  I thought, “It must be God. Everyone else is sound asleep.”  The influence of my peers, at that time and place, was positive.
Sunday night, back in the city, I lay fearfully in bed, at home.  It was around midnight.  Remembering the words, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble", I humbled myself and asked God to forgive me for ignoring all of His miraculous signs.  Suddenly a small light, like the sparkly light on the birthday cakes of children came out of thin air, two inches away from my forehead.  It entered my head: "Fizz-pop!"  I then felt a deep peace.  At once, my restless mind ceased.  My doubts were relieved, my questions answered.  I KNEW the Bible was true.  But still, I had trouble understanding the most basic Scriptures.  I had to receive a gift from God.

The next day, while hoping to join a Bible study in the morning at school, I met Kirk, from Baptist Student Ministries.  Although I missed the study, because I had not changed my clock the night before for Daylight Savings, I believe God sent Kirk to open my eyes.  He showed me prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah, which were fulfilled hundreds, even thousands of years afterwards, by Jesus.
For example, he showed me that His birthplace had been predicted to be Bethlehem, and His words, spoken in agony on the cross, "My God my God why have You forsaken me?" were written by David a thousand years before Jesus’ punishment on the cross.  Having had this revelation, I confessed my sins, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which cleansed me of the pain my soul never even knew it had and replaced it with the holy knowledge of its Creator, and more joy than can be contained in a human.  I was born again.
I was baptised in June of 1995, glory to the Lord.  In 1997, while I was in my room, a man clothed in a white robe from his head to his toes appeared in my room, out of thin air.  He had brown skin and a ring of white hair.  He asked me, "Who am I?"  I wanted to make a joke out of fear, but I felt a voice inside saying, "Answer truthfully, this is important."  Not knowing anything but his appearance, I said, "You look Pakistani."  He disappeared.  I did not know how to understand this, so I began flipping through the New Testament.  In Acts 16:9, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, begging him to go there and preach.  I thought, perhaps this was a sign that Pakistan needed the Gospel.  The idea of a purpose to my life began to take shape.
For several months I prayed for confirmation.  Then, one day, I had a vision.  I left my body, or was in the spirit, as the Bible describes it.  I heard someone call my name in my father’s voice, "Kashif".  Then I saw a great sheet of light, made up of billions of tiny lights.  It was powerful, magnetic, and from within my spirit-body, a small spark of light flew into the light, drawn irresistibly back to the source, as it were.  At that point, I knew that God had given me a deposit of eternal life, and that I was saved.  Then, in a vision, I was shown a clock and a radio.  The clock was set to 11:15 or so.  I do not remember what happened after that, perhaps it is sealed for a time, but I returned to my body.  Later that day, I was visiting a Christian counsellor with a friend.  After the appointment, we were in my friend’s car.  It just happened to be 11:15.  I asked my friend if I could put the radio on to the Christian station.  He agreed.  The message was on Esther.  Ch. 4:14 sprang to mind, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" (NASB).  I felt as if God was telling me I had been chosen to do the work of evangelism, and that it would be done, either with or without me.  To my eager young mind, it seemed I carried the responsibility of a nation.
In 1999 I traveled to Pakistan for 3 months, to preach.  When I left, I did not know what to expect, so I told my friends, "I’ll see you in heaven," thinking that I would be martyred.  Little did I know that God had prepared a way in the wilderness.  Arriving in Karachi, I went to my wealthy uncle’s house, but they were cold to my message.  On Sunday, I sat in the desert, weeping to the Lord, "Why did you bring me here?"  Then I heard a voice crying from afar, "Jesus says..." – again and again the voice was preaching the Word.  Thinking perhaps this was a vision, I decided to follow the sound.
Leaving the military compound where my uncle lived, I soon found myself in a small ramshackle villa, with goats and chickens and half-clad children running about freely.  Following the voice, I walked along a dirt road until I reached a little church.  They had a loudspeaker mounted above the entrance and the service was being broadcast for miles around.  I went inside, where the people received me gladly, and heard my testimony.  Soon I moved to the church itself, where I spent many fruitful weeks among these extraordinary Christians.  No want was left untended, every meal, someone was knocking at the church door, "My mother sent you this," they would say, and watch shyly as I ate the lovingly prepared dish.  I began to understand the meaning of community.
Sadly, the pastor, like so many in the nation, was afraid to preach to Muslims.  One day, I went to the train station to see the church elders off for a conference.  I had brought with me a little bag of tracts and my guitar.  One of the elders of the church, Mussarat, said to me, "Why don’t you come along?"  She insisted and paid my ticket, and I boarded with little provision but with great faith.  Once on board, I felt the Lord speak to me, "What do you have, in your hand?"  I said, "Lord you know, a bag of tracts."  "Why did you come here?" He asked.  "To preach," I said.  "Go," He said, "Fear not, I am with you."  I protested, "Lord this pastor will stop me."  God replied, "I am with you, don’t worry about him, I’ll take care of him."  Over and over He kept repeating, "I am with you."  This was a big step forward in faith, to trust and obey, in the face of danger.
I got up to distribute the booklets among the passengers.  The pastor grabbed me by the hand, "Where are you going?"  "Don’t try to stop me," I said, "I’m going to preach."  "No!" he cried, "They’ll make trouble."  But his wife and Mussarat assured him to let me go, and the three of them prayed while I handed out the Good News.  At first I was surprised when someone else grabbed me by the hand, a strange custom for someone from the West. "Oh no," I thought, "I’m done for."  I turned to face the man.  "Give me more of these books," he said earnestly. The rest of the trip, I gladly handed out tracts, and even gathered a crowd with my singing and music, and shared with many people.  My belief was strengthened, as I saw God had been faithful.
Once we reached the conference, which was on evangelism, I listened to many great speakers talk about witnessing.  Inspired, I asked people if they wanted to go out on the streets and preach during lunch.  No one responded.  Somewhat put off by this dichotomy, I went alone, and found a young mechanic working in his garage.  After half an hour of sharing from the prophets and the New Testament, he declared, "I am with you. I will follow you to the ends of the earth."  Excited by this, I returned to the conference and asked if anyone would help me with his discipleship, as I would be returning to Karachi in three days.  No one but a lowly young lad from the kitchen agreed (and even that perhaps just to humour me).
Later I found a Pentecostal brother to go out and witness with me.  We preached to one shopkeeper, who wanted a Bible.  As I did not bring one with me, I ran back to the compound, and began seeking a Bible.  Nobody wanted to give me one.  "It’s seventy rupees," they said.  "I have no money," I said, but assured them it was important. Finally some students managed to procure one, and I gave it to the shopkeeper.  As I was making something of an uproar, the pastor deceived me and sent me home by train early. 
On the way home, I was sitting in a bunk, playing my guitar with a small crowd of people listening.  Then a Muslim cleric began to recite the Koran, I suppose to meddle with the message I was giving.  Reminiscent of the crowds in the Book of Acts, they quickly turned against me.  "Stop singing," they told me, "the mullah is reciting the Koran." " No," I said, thinking it improper to give way to the Koran.  Then it was a rush of madness, as people uprooted me from the bunk, and began shoving me down the aisle, towards the door of the moving train.  I think they would have thrown me off, but Lord forgive me, I shut up out of fear.
Back in Karachi, I witnessed for a few more weeks.  One day, while crossing a guard post, I was stopped.  "What’s that in your pocket?" the soldier asked.  I had a Bible there, and thought he might punish me for this.  Asking the Lord to help me, and not wanting to deny Him, I told the fellow, "It’s a Bible."  "Really," he said, "What’s in it?"  I began to share with him about Abraham, Moses and the prophets, when he interrupted me. "Wait," he said, "Let me get my companions, and you can tell them also."  For almost an hour, we sat on the grass by the guard post, drinking tea while I gave witness to Christ among these servants of Pakistan.
But things were not as rosy with my relatives... my uncle confiscated my passport and forced me onto a plane, back to Canada.  "If you want to come back," he said, "Don’t come in my name."  My friends at the little church did not know what had come of me.  I did not return for several years.  Then, in June 2005, I came back.  In a few days, I made my way back to the Christian villa.  On Sunday, at church, I was delighted to see Mussarat’s smiling face again.  She invited to me to her home after the service.  We got along so well that she asked me to stay with her family.  This was to lead to a new chapter in my life...
The temperature in those days was so high that I fell ill with heat stroke.  As I lay in a cot in the middle of the road, I saw Mussarat’s daughter, Aamra.  She touched my toe and prayed, "Jesus, please heal this man."  In a single instant, I stood on my feet, completely whole!  Taken with this woman’s faith, I began spending more time with her, running errands in the market with her, and helping with the chores.  After much prayer and with our parents’ blessing, we decided to get married.  We were engaged in the summer.  I returned to Canada the next day.  I did not know that this was part of God’s plan for my journey, to have a helpmate, but I was glad.
We decided on a Christmas wedding, as I was working and had to take time off.  We got married December 26th, 2005.  My wife joined me in Canada a few months later, after which I began to attend medical school at Queen’s.  My wife is preparing for nursing, and it is our desire to serve the Lord as medical missionaries to the Muslim world after our studies are complete.  In September 2008, we were blessed to receive Sunna Esther, our daughter, who is now almost seven months old.  Seeing the world though fresh eyes is a daily reminder of life’s power.
I praise God for all of His blessings.  It is my prayer that my people, full of zeal but without knowledge, would awaken from the darkness into the marvellous light of Jesus the Christ, Saviour of all the peoples of the earth.

Critical Reflection on Freud and Erikson

After reading about defense mechanisms like regression, I have to admit that I am fixated somewhat at an oral stage of development, according to Freud.  Whenever I have exams or have to read, I cannot help but chew my nails.  It is amusing to see my 7-month-old daughter also working through this stage, as she puts nearly everything in her mouth as a way of interacting with it.  I appreciate Erikson’s suggestion that this stage represents the desire to incorporate the outside world into oneself.  Around the time of my conversion to Christ, I spent many, many hours devouring the Holy Bible, trying to incorporate the character of God into myself.
After taking the Psychosocial Development Test by Gwen Hawley, I was pleased to discover that in stages 2-4, I lacked growth but that in stages 5-7 I had clear gains; this I attribute to my conversion experience at the age of 23.  I think prior to that (besides the first stage) I was wanting in coherent structures and positive experiences.  Acceptance of Christ and identification with His body, the church, provided necessary structure and led to ego coherence in some middle Eriksonian stages.
I have hope that further challenges in the more advanced stages may allow sufficient disintegration and re-formation in terms of previously unmet tasks.  Thus the earlier unfulfilled ego strength of initiative, attained by charting the challenges of purpose versus shame, may yet be found, when further progress in other stages (e.g., stage 7, generativity versus stagnation) allows revisiting older structures.  In this respect, Erikson’s psychosocial theory serves to mitigate the despair of failing tasks earlier on.
Freud, too, in his idea of positive defense mechanisms, offers hope for those struggling with frustrated drives.  His suggestion that rather than biting one’s nails, one can sublimate one’s ‘psychosexual’ energy and choose to serve humanity, perhaps as a missionary, opens new frontiers for change.  In this scheme, even humour is a healthy way to let off steam.
In the context of spiritual journey, both theorists offer plenty of material which one may extrapolate to one’s life, bringing various challenges of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ into more distinct and well-defined terms.

Critical Reflection Paper I

Although many of the ideas in this course are relatively new and I find it challenging to apply these to my own unfolding life story, I will attempt to make use of a few key points to help me develop the faculty of reflective practice, hoping, as Fowler suggests, that in the retelling, insight may arise and provide fodder for fresh growth impetus.  As we are many students, you may not remember my particular journey, so I will revisit some of the highlights from my journey and attempt to view them through the lens of a few select stages from one or two stage theories.  The stage theories which I will use are Kohlberg’s and Fowler’s.
As I cannot remember much from my early life and childhood, we will bypass any interpretation of these.  We will begin, rather, by looking at my youth, from the ages of 13 and onwards, which coincides with entry to Junior High School.  Personally, at this age, I was becoming more aware of the opposite gender.  Being from a visible minority group, however, I was not often given opportunity to participate in dating.  At dances, I would stand by myself, and I don’t remember being invited to many parties.  According to Kohlberg, I would, at this age, have been drawing nearer Stage 3 – Good Interpersonal relationships, a subset of Level II, Conventional Morality.  Key to the young teen’s reasoning ability is identification with, or projection upon, what is understood by society in general.  In my particular dilemma, I felt that “everybody” could see that my being an outcast was unfair.  In Kohlberg’s moral hierarchy, I would have thus been going through a shift from “unquestioning obedience to a relativistic outlook and to a concern for good motives” (Crain, p. 138, 3rd ed.).  My awareness may be thought of having expanded from self, to self-in-context of society... still a bit limited in scope and application, but beginning to apprehend a sense of higher principles of order nonetheless.
Now in Fowler’s theory, at this point in life, I may have been making the move from Mythic-Literal Faith to Synthetic-Conventional.  In the latter stage, the emergence of formal operational thinking allows for abstractions to grasp pattern and meaning in the world.  My being rejected because of my skin colour would have become part of a larger experience, and I would begin to identify with other “rejected” peoples, including other visible minorities, in addition to historically-ostracized groups, such as the Jews under Hitler.  These dynamics would have helped to shape my personal mythos – a sense of becoming and emerging in identity which incorporates the past and anticipates the future.
Transition to the next stage in both theories may have taken place (if at all) when, as a man in his early twenties, I dropped out of medical school and experienced spiritual rebirth in Jesus Christ.  After a couple of years of partying and seeking out sensual fulfillment, I went through a crisis which involved placing my entire world-view into question.  In Fowler’s theory, the breakdown of my persona would have been facilitated by an awareness of conflict between competing authorities, and by experiences which were incompatible with a previously-unexamined but tacitly held belief-structure.  Specifically, I joined a Bible study and saw the love of Christian fellowship, in addition to many miracles.  This clashed with my Muslim upbringing, which had taught me that Christians were not to be trusted, because they ate swine’s flesh and drank alcohol.  Thus, with a commitment to Christ at the age of twenty-three, I may have begun the transition to Individuative-Reflective Faith, in which I saw the burden to make my own decisions with respect to conviction.  This choice to leave Islam created tension with my community of origin, and a quest to integrate into a new community, the body of Christ.  Although previously, my identity was assumed and adopted by virtue of membership via birth into one faith-tradition, I now began to hold to a different set of beliefs as a result of personal reaction and judgment upon competing world-views.  This new faculty for critical reflection encompassed self and ideology, allowing a total transformation of both, although residual tensions from the past remained, urging a more dialectical framework, and perhaps laying the groundwork for Fowler’s next stage.  Perhaps key in the move, which is often not made, is the ability to embrace what is suppressed (e.g. rituals, symbols and myths), allowing a second naiveté in which one’s past is not simply rejected outright, but reclaimed.