I was raised in a mainline evangelical church,1 but it wasn’t until I became an adult that I made a personal and strong commitment to God. The church of my childhood years was associated with a traditional and reserved Calvinistic heritage. However, the church of my young adult years, in the 1970’s, was strongly influenced by the more demonstrative and charismatic orientation of the Jesus People movement on the West Coast of the United States. Later, in my middle adult years, I found myself drawn to yet another church within a traditionally Wesleyan context. Even though the specific sequence of changes varies, friends and colleagues who have followed parallel paths usually agree that our respective theologies are much fuller and richer because of the spiritual journeys we have taken over our lifetimes.
Recently, I had the pleasure of teaching at a small international Christian college framed in the Wesleyan tradition and located in Switzerland. This college draws students from countries throughout Western and Eastern Europe and Asia. Many of the students are from religious traditions other than Wesleyan, and some from non-Christian traditions. As I interacted with these students and recalled my own spiritual journey, I tried to understand what might motivate people to move toward a faith very different from their background—especially in an area like Western Europe that has such strong ties to reformers as Luther and Calvin.
The practice of changing from one belief system or point of view to another throughout the adult stage of life can be seen in examples from various disciplines of thought, such as politics, psychology, and religion.2 A dramatic example within the history of Christianity is seen in the conversion of the Apostle Paul. In Paul’s early adult life he acted passionately on the common hatred toward the upstart faction of Christianity.3 Yet his life became especially noteworthy after he switched to the other side, becoming one of Christianity’s most significant devotees and writing major sections of the New Testament.
Perhaps not as remarkable as the conversion of Paul, current day situations still involve individuals changing from one major world religion to another—from Christianity to Judaism, or Muslim, or to Buddhism. And smaller less dramatic changes can frequently be seen as individuals change denominations within Christianity—from Baptist to Methodist, or Presbyterian to Catholic or Episcopalian, or from church to church in the same denomination.4 Some changing may serve utilitarian purposes, such as the desire to gain social standing and influence, or it may allow one to continue on with a life’s calling or enjoyable profession, or it may be a matter of convenience. While 57 percent of new members in United States churches have moved from a congregation of the same faith tradition, 18 percent have moved from a congregation of a different faith.5 The thesis of this essay is based on an assumption, drawn from research by Kosmin, Mayer, and Keysar, that some individuals within these significant percentages of worshipers have shifted spiritual loyalties as a form of spiritual seeking.6 This appears to be due to ideological shifts that have been, or are, taking place in the individual’s thinking. Kosmin, et.al. also suggests that shifting loyalties may be part of the process of dropping out of religion altogether.7 I would add that the dropping out all together may be the result of not finding what was being sought.
The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First, I offer one explanation, in the form of a developmental model, for understanding the potential motivation of those individuals who find their spiritual journey including the changing of religious affiliations and loyalties. The second purpose is to come to an understanding of the motivation of those who make changes in their religious affiliations and fit the definition of a seeker. Knowing that some changers are actually seeking spiritual fulfillment demands a better understanding, as well as different responses and guidance, than that which would be relevant for those who are changing for utilitarian purposes. That we need more than just a single simple response is obvious when we realize that we are considering a behavior that occurs at a rate of sixteen percent in the general population and at a significantly higher rate of current congregation attendees.8 Responses based on assumptions that changing religious affiliations is odd, or only occurs within sub-groups of immature believers or malcontents is simply too naïve.
At the core of the triangle model (see figures below) is the idea that some individuals who are considering the process of changing fellowship groups, churches, or even denominations are involved in the dynamic process of growth, where growth represents seeking completeness or balance within a more diverse world. The conceptual model is illustrated as a large triangle that is made up of three smaller triangles held together by a dynamic pull from each other. Each of the smaller triangles in this model represents different religious dogmas upon which its doctrine is founded. Within these smaller triangles emphasis is placed on various themes that are consistent with that doctrine. For example, Triangle A, in the model illustrated below and labeled pietism, places emphasis on pietistic behaviors and thoughts such as heart-felt relationship, participation in small groups and compassion. Triangles B and C represent different, but not necessarily opposite points of view. Moreover, the doctrine in Triangle B may be in partial agreement in principle with certain points of importance in Triangle A, but not necessarily of primary importance. At the same time, there might be strong points of disagreement. For example, Triangle B, labeled creedal/orthodoxy, places strong emphasis on doctrine, prayer life, daily reading of the Bible and so on whereas Triangle C, labeled charismatic, places the majority of its emphasis on divine inspiration through intense prayer, a more demonstrative style of worship, intuitive communication including visions, speaking in tongues, and miracles.9 Assuming that no single individual or single perspective can be all things to all people, when pulled together these three smaller triangles make up a more holistic or complete expression of the body of Christ.
Most commonly an individual becomes a Christian through a particular doctrinal or denominational perspective represented by one of the triangles. The particular perspective one finds available when becoming a Christian is typically not thought through logically ahead of time, as one might select a specific university to attend or geographical location in which to live. The selection is most likely the one that was available during a personal crisis, or other point of need, or even that one was born into.
Taking the model a step further, we can think of the triangles as representing religious behaviors and actions rather than general theological perspectives. For example, in the model below, triangle A emphasizes evangelism with strong emphasis on recruitment, triangle B represents a strong emphasis on intellectual and deep understanding of scripture, and triangle C emphasizes the importance of attending to the social needs of individuals and families such as food banks, housing, financial aid, family counseling, and the like.
The idea here is that the pattern of combined geometric figures represents a holistic religious picture. Each of the small triangles contributes a critical component to the larger whole and are, by necessity, related to, or dependent on the other triangles. Since all three aspects are various expressions of the nature of God and the triangles pull together to form a single large triangle, a synergistic strength is created and can be considered a more compete and balanced shape. Thus, strength is created analogous to that of the various muscle groups in the human body, which constantly contract and relax to produce balance and movement.
Some denomination changers may very well be seeking a more holistic or broader experience. While the attraction of one of the triangles over another may be partially dependent on the personality of the seeker, this should also be considered a form of seeking, looking for a better fit between one’s inherent and developed sense of self and the setting in which they connect more completely with God. For instance, Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger, & Gorsuch, (2003) cite studies that suggest questioning and doubting religious issues seem to be linked with personality characteristics such as being more open to experience, lower right-winged authoritarianism, less dogmatism, some level of social activism, increased complexity of thought, and some aspects of ego identity development.10 And, depending on the cultural setting and perceived needs at a particular point in development, the beliefs and practices associated with one triangle may just fit better than it does in other cultures and places in an individual’s history. For example, the strength of a particular religious culture seems to influence the level of complexity a person uses to think about religion in general. Batson and Raynor-Prince found that the more orthodox an individual’s religious background, the more simply one tends to think about religious issues.11 This may well be a bit of a vicious cycle, since the more orthodox one’s roots are, the more likely it is that they have invested more into the belief system, and the more they would stand to loose if they began to question some of the core beliefs. Thus, there is an internal reward system of avoiding discomfort by avoiding thinking critically about certain issues.
That cultural environment is a powerful mediator is illustrated further in work done by Hilgard.12 One third of study participants that were from religious cultures described as being high in right-wing authoritarianism admitted to having secret doubts about God’s existence, but had never shared [those doubts] with anyone else.13 Given that dialogue is an important tool in learning how to think more complex and abstract thoughts, it could be assumed that these individuals may not have developed the necessary skills to think critically about their culture or their personally held systems of beliefs. Within the context of James Marcia’s identity achievement literature, individuals who have made strong commitments to a set of beliefs and ideals primarily because of particular family and culture forces in which they live would be described as being in a state of foreclosure.14
Considering the triangle model, if an individual’s spiritual seeking and growth has included leaving one religious perspective to join another, it is possible that continued growth might include at least considering other leavings and joinings in the future. The doctrine represented by the small triangle that eventually pulls the person to the new system of beliefs initially feels like they have found a home because it is satisfying a need or filling a long felt void. However, over time living in the newer camp may well begin to feel too lopsided—lacking the balance from the previous perspective. (That is unless one finds a religious community that views things broadly enough to permit growth and stretching within its parameters.) Since finding the perfectly balanced environment is unlikely, Fowler’s contention that growth in faith requires the ability to tolerate certain levels of ambiguity, [and inconsistency] seems appropriate.15 It also seems logical from a God-centered perspective that no human system is able to meet all of human needs.
Given that perfectly balanced religious environments do not really exist, seekers who are being pulled by the perceived Godly characteristics they see in other points of view might consider the following. First, if one is already searching it seems worth hoping and praying for a context that permits and encourages a broader and more comfortable view. That is, holding at least two of the broader perspectives in balance. Oswald Chambers proposes that living in the true presence of God should be like living on a broad plateau with lots of room to move around, not on a narrow cliff that requires an anxious hyper-vigilance always worrying about this and that.16 Secondly, for those who are living in a context that fits with relative comfort they can watch for opportunities to facilitate a broad God-centered environment that allows and encourages various expressions of the Kingdom of God. Thirdly, we need to accept the reality that balance is not a static state, but is the ability to hold competing tensions in place so that neither one becomes over-powering.
C. S. Lewis in The Business of Heaven cites Luther as saying that a problem with humanity is that [we] are often like a drunkard, who after falling off his horse on the right, falls off the next time on the left.17 Physical therapists learn early in their training that the physical activity of walking initially includes learning how to sequence and control a series of imbalances. When an individual begins to walk they shift their weight forward just a bit and then put one foot under them to keep from falling on their face. Then they shift their weight forward again and move their other foot under them and so on. So walking is learning how to control the necessary imbalance that is created in motion. The desired place to be in the triangle model proposed above is some distance from the outward side toward the middle where we are able to benefit from the influence of other perspectives and a broader world-view. Understanding that balance is not static, it should be expected that we will at times be pulled one way then the other, and even value other perspectives that we are unable to accept in total, and yet value that perspective’s contribution to the larger whole. Lastly, for those religious traditions that are more single-sided, while they can expect more unity of ideas and single-mindedness among their membership, they may well lack some of the desired checks and balances, and find it difficult to benefit from a broader world view.
In his book, Your God is Too Small, J. B. Phillips asserts that because of the way we think about God we often put him into a box that limits His ability to influence the areas of our lives outside of that box, such as the societies and communities in which we live.18 This compartmentalization of God runs counter to His intent and design to permeate all aspects of who we are. And, that by putting God in a box we significantly limit how much God can actually impact us. Gestalt psychology proposes that the desire for wholeness, completeness and consistency in life is an innate quality in human beings.19 So when parts of our lives become too compartmentalized or fractured the result is often mental dysfunction of sorts. I believe that the innate desire for wholeness moves across the compartmental boundaries we build, or that society builds for us. As humans we possess the desire for a more holistic/complete spiritual relationship with God, as well as wholeness in our social relationships, life callings, and so on. And depending on the particular aspects of our individual personalities, as well as the social environmental contexts in which we live, it is not uncommon for us to sense a drawing or developing throughout life for this completeness.
Although some ability to compartmentalize various aspects of our lives is necessary,20 my intention is to point out the limiting aspects of allowing the compartmentalization of our beliefs in God to go too far. Early in our development as a Christian this compartmentalization is an unconscious process. We may become Christian because of a specific crisis or because it appears logical to follow in our family’s heritage. However, as time passes continued acceptance of a religious system’s importance in our life is validated because of the status it has come to occupy, and its endorsement from the societal order in which we live. By this time we have also developed some pretty significant feelings of sentimentality regarding the system or God-box we have adopted. The result is that we often fail to think about these sentimental structures (or boxes) very critically until a later point in our lives. Often it is a crisis or turning point that forces us to look more closely and when we do we may find the sentimental box grossly inadequate for this new situation. Further, to the degree that the compartment has been constructed to be quite distinct from other religious boxes we may find our God of personal and small boxes inadequate.
In the triangle model, the spaces/gaps between the three smaller triangles are often emphasized as a way of pointing out the perceived important uniqueness of each and why one is preferred over the other—pointing out better from worse, good from bad, and so on. As Phillips points out, the result is a . . . version of God cramped, . . . inadequate . . . and regulated who behaves according to the man made formulas of the worshiper. Granted He is a good churchman . . .and even a party leader to a particular point of view.21 But he is a God who is limited primarily to a particular triangle and is rendered unable to be all things to all people. It is often such a theoretical construct that meets an individual’s needs for a time, but is unable to adapt as the individual’s needs change and grow.
C.S. Lewis – The Great Divorce
In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes/implies at least two crucial elements to be considered in the journey of moving toward or away from a particular point in one’s life.22 First, when leaving hell [an unfulfilling, or stagnant, or even malignant environment],23 one must let go of the things he or she has been clinging to. Some things will not get better or facilitate our growth, regardless of how long we hold on to them, or how sincerely we want them to be good for us. Thus, letting go is essential. And, even though the change in direction may seem relatively minor at first, the degree of distance from the starting point grows dramatically the further one moves away from the specific point of change. Conversely, large steps or changes that appeared almost too difficult at first are likely to appear relatively small by comparison several years down the road.
Second, the direction one is traveling may very well be more important than the specific point at which one is located. For example, two individuals may pass through the same small village at approximately the same time of year, but going in different directions. When the direction or destination is considered to be positive, or beneficial, the conclusion can be drawn that the experience of passing through the village was at the least necessary in order to reach the desirable destination. Even if making it through the village was a difficult task full of detours and ditches, the experience may well be framed within the scriptural context of knowing . . . that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”24 Conversely, the conclusion drawn about the individual traveling in the opposite direction may be that the passage through the village was another step in the wrong direction. Both individuals passed through the same village at the same point in time. For one that passage contributed to the eventual reaching the positive and even prized end, for the other, the opposite is true. Thus, the impact that passing through the village has on each traveler depends on the direction traveled. Likewise, those individuals who are genuinely seeking a closer relationship with God, and in the process find themselves attracted to various theological perspective(s), may find that the end result of their seeking is the development of a more complete and balanced spiritual identity.
The Challenge within Christian Academia
Academia within the Christian university context frequently faces a specific set of challenges relative to the nature of seeking. First, is the need to maintain and even facilitate a worldview that is either inclusive of, or at least appreciates, perspectives beyond the biases of our specific religious culture. Providing a liberal arts education involves more than students enrolling in a selected number of courses from various disciplines. Consistent with current thinking, the liberal arts portion of the degree is equivalent in importance to a separate major. Just as the major area of study equips the student to think in a sophisticated and critical manner about a chosen field, the liberal arts experience should set in motion life-long learning and thinking about important areas outside the individual’s training, history and heritage.25 However, in much of today’s Christian climate, at least in the United States, broad- or open-mindedness is often synonymous with political liberalism. Just as religious conservatism is often associated with a narrower single-mindedness. To hold to relatively conservative religious beliefs, while thinking about or viewing ideals and concepts from a broad point of view is often seen as incongruent or even hypocritical, especially to conservative university constituencies and, perhaps, even to the boards of trustees.
In order to understand where and how one fits into the bigger picture, and what role might fit best, faculty must develop a deeper understanding of the other parallel and opposite perspectives. In times of exploration it is not uncommon for individuals to develop at least an appreciation for some aspects of those other views, if not a realization of the need to incorporate some of those views into their own worldview. The result of this development on a personal level is often felt as maturity and/or a greater sense of wholeness, or a clearer sense of identity achievement. Those who work and live in relatively conservative environments, with expectations to view the world only through narrow lenses, may catch themselves thinking, “. . . if they knew what I was thinking,” or “. . . I’d be labeled as one of those people.”
As academics of faith we encounter and impact students who, in addition to being students, are often spiritual seekers. Part of our role is to assist them in the process of integrating their spiritual and religious life with the daily life of studies and the development of intellectual and vocational identities. However, a necessary condition for the integration of two concepts is the need for some level of equality or balance of influence/power between the two concepts. Arthur Frank Holmes points to a problem that is not atypical of Christian academics.26 Faculty, according to Holmes, in their respective fields has matured to a level consistent with that of an expert, as would be expected from individuals with doctoral level educations. Yet, often their faith appears arrested at an elementary Sunday school level. Therefore, the integration displayed is often lopsided, with a high level of sophistication in the field of study, and a little Sunday school thrown in. However, if one is expected to experience a personal level of mature integration, and then facilitate that same process in students, a more balanced level of sophistication and a broader spiritual worldview is essential.
Consistent with much of psychological theory,27 the transformational process of religious conversion is viewed as a developmental process and described as occurring in a series of developmental stages or steps.28 Hill’s description of a four-stage process serves as an example: an initial transition, attempting to answer life’s troubling questions. The second step is coming to grips with claims of [a particular] faith system. The third step is a greater immersion into the depth of a converted life, which leads to a final step, a total transformation. This fourth step might be considered consistent with entire sanctification, or being filled with the Spirit, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
The transformational nature of religious experience, as well as its psychological benefit, was presented by William James over a century ago and is described as the formation of a new habitual centre of personal energy.30 Regardless of how the steps might be labeled or progressed through, the end-result of conversion, from a developmental/stage-wise perspective, may not be viewed as psychologically complete until all steps have been accomplished; or, at the very least, until the individual reaches a point in development that is consistent with a predetermined set of benchmarks.31 Whether one ascribes to a series of stages that one passes through or a single event as James describes, there is agreement that a definite shift in perspective takes place, and that the change often hinges on some sort of personal crisis, or sense of urgency or despair.32 Thus, the sense of crisis motivates the individual on to the next stage of development.
The developmental and dynamic model proposed here presupposes an innate desire toward a sense of wholeness or completeness within the context of psychological development. Therefore, as perspectives change through the process of maturation, the view of what is important at different phases in life changes accordingly and impacts the individual’s emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social contexts. Experiencing a sense of emptiness, incompleteness, or inconsistency often motivates us to seek out more fulfilling or meaningful perspectives and experiences. If one perceives that the environment or situation is restricting growth or that they are incomplete, they are likely to be motivated to seek a solution that is more fulfilling. (Often, early in our lives we may be unaware of what is making us feel uneasy.) I heard it said many years ago, that for some people the denomination one becomes a Christian in is not the same one they are able to continue to grow in. And, that the denomination they change to, so they continue to experience growth, could not have been the one they were initially converted in. This concept seemed related to the variation in those individuals’ particular developmental needs between the initial transition stage and the later stage of greater immersion outlined earlier in the developmental section of this paper.33
Admittedly, an existential uneasiness does not account for all of the situations where an individual decides to change group loyalties, but it does seem to provide an apt and accurate description for many individuals with whom I have worked in a professional relationship as a psychologist and churchman. The implication is that people have switched churches and or denominations in order to continue to develop/grow spiritually. For the sake of discussion, accepting that this does account for a certain percentage of the population, it is worth considering the extent to which the denominational boundaries impedes and/or facilitates the seeking and growth process of individuals that come into and/or leave our churches.34 Thus, the impact and possible alienation of automatically assuming a negative personality trait or immaturity as the reason for the person leaving a fellowship must be reconsidered.
Within the inner circles of life-long devotees to an established denomination the opinions of those who change allegiances are often cast in heavily biased contexts. Depending on one’s particular vantage point, these opinions often attribute the changes of a person’s allegiance to various personality strengths or flaws the person might possess. If the person is changing to a perspective basically agreed with, or to our side, his or her action is assumed to be indicative of positive personality strengths such as being able to see the big picture, being flexible and adaptable, and so forth. However, if the person is leaving a group and changing to the other side—to the opposition—they are more likely to be characterized in a negative light. They might be said, for example, to lack commitment, to be wishy-washy, selfish, unstable—or, at the very least, ignorant of all the facts. Further, members of the group left behind often experience leaving as personal rejection.35 There is well-established folk wisdom guiding views on the appropriateness of making changes from one perspective to another. Examples include such axioms as being set in one’s ways, not being able to teach an old dog, new tricks, and the foolishness of changing horses in the middle of the stream. Interestingly, folk wisdom also validates the opposite. For example, the flexibility of the willow branch that can bend and shift under intense pressure with out breaking is frequently cited.
Additionally, there is often significant variability within those denominations that appear, at first glance, to be homogeneous. For example, the denomination to which I belong, the Church of the Nazarene, has become a much more heterogeneous denomination than it was in the early years of its development. An example of this is the idea of how an individual becomes, or develops into a mature Christian. Instead of taking predominately one view or the other, sixty-three percent of the participants in one study describe a developmental path to their faith other than an entire and complete one-time experience.36 This leaves thirty-seven percent who hold to a single event or occurrence. Thus, the more an organization can embrace and encourage broader world views within its belief system, the more those who are seekers may be able to remain in the denomination. And, it would seem, the healthier the organization is for those individual’s continued investment.
This dynamic triangle model provides a growth perspective on the impact that traversing various religious contexts has on the process of spiritual seeking. This growth-oriented context for understanding what previously may have seemed to be aimless meanderings has certainly been helpful to me. At the same time it also emphasizes the essential place that various theological perspectives have in each other’s existence. Also suggested is a heightened sense of responsibility to facilitate and support those individuals who cross our paths. Especially for those who seem to be preoccupied with what is “not correct” about their present position in life, or seem to be wandering in a wilderness of ideas and believed-in behaviors that should be taking place. These thoughts also urge us to encourage each other, when we find ourselves drawn to opposing points of view, to allow a continuation of the process of spiritual seeking.
Doug Henning is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Mid-America Nazarene University. This paper was presented at the C. S. Lewis Foundation’s triennial Summer Institute, Oxbridge, in the summer of 2005.
1“Church” throughout this paper will usually refer to broader associations such as denominations, rather than a single and specific gathering of individuals.
2An example of such change within a political context was witnessed midway through the last century when the son of former Russian Premier Khrushchev moved to the United States to be a professor at a prominent Ivy League university. Less dramatic, although nonetheless significant to the individuals making the change, shifts can be observed in changing political parties within a democracy such as the United States. In some situations the change appears to have lead to the individual thriving because of the change such as Ronald Regan switching to the Republican Party and eventually becoming President of the United States (Wills, 1988). Yet in other situations the individual may be viewed as a traitor to the cause, never seeming to grow beyond the event of changing allegiances. The field of psychology looks to its changers as contributing significantly to its breadth of perspectives. Prominent developers of newer theories in psychology were originally trained in the tradition of Sigmund Freud, yet went on to establish theories, some of which varied significantly from Freud’s tradition – Alfred Adler, Albert Ellis, Carl Rogers, to name a few.
3Acts 9: 13-19
4The largest percentage of new people who joined a congregation in [a five year period] transferred from another congregation of the same faith tradition – fifty seven percent. 18 percent of worshipers [those currently worshiping within a particular congregation have] switched from a congregation of a different faith (Congregational Life Survey, 2002).
6Kosmin, Mayer, and Keysar (2001) found that . . . more than thirty-three million American adults, [about 16% of the total U.S. adult population], report that they have changed their religious preference or identification.
9The point of this example is not to draw clear differences between various denominational or even religious sects, but to emphasize an inter-dynamic between the various sides of the triangle. There is not even anything sacred about the triangle. A square or even other multisided geometric figures may represent the point even better.
10Bernard Spilka, et.al., (2003) The Psychology of Religion, 3rd ed., pp 132-134.
11Cited in Spilka, et.al. (2003)
13Spilka, p. 134
14Nancy J. Cobb, Adolescence: Continuity, Change, and Diversity, 5th ed., (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004). According to Marcia an individual’s progress toward Identity Achievement can be identified as falling within at least four stages – Identity Achievement which includes having experienced a significant level of internal crisis, exploration of various options, and finally committing to a set of beliefs that have been worked out in the process. Identity Moratorium includes the sense of crisis and exploration/searching, but no commitment has yet been made. Identity Foreclosure is characteristic of the firm commitments seen in the Achievement stage, but no sense of crisis or exploration has taken place. The commitments are secondary to the strong influence of significant role model types in the person’s life, and not of their own sorting out. And Identity Diffusion which is described as the state, or awareness, of not searching and not making commitments to either their culture’s ideals or values, or trying to establish their own.
15James W. Fowler, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian, (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 2000)
16Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1935)
17C.S. Lewis, (1984) The Second Coming, May 7, in The Business of Heaven.
18J. B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1958).
19B. Michael Thorne and Tracy B. Henley, Connections in the History and Systems of Psychology, (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001)
20Not all boundaries and compartmentalisations are necessarily bad; in fact some are absolutely essential. Such as the boundaries we build around our families that make a clear distinction between who is inside the family and who is outside. In complex societies our ability to compartmentalize helps us juggle a variety of responsibilities, such as the ability to carry out several roles at various points throughout our lives – husband, father, grandfather, professor, psychologist, property owner, grounds keeper around my house, etceteras. Our environments provide us with various compartments that aid our day-to-day functioning as well as our development, such as school, church, work, and social clubs. Religious denominations is an example of a compartmentalization provided by society that can be quite helpful in providing particular sets of beliefs and prescribed doctrines. By being a member of a particular denomination we know that we will be around people that share our basic beliefs and perspectives and shape our spirituality.
21Phillips, pp. 38-40.
22C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, (Great Britian: G. Bles, 1946).
23The author’s adaptation.
24Romans 8:28. New International Version of The Holy Bible.
25This is analogous to throwing a rock into a pond and observing that the ripples expand to take over ever larger areas of the pond’s surface.
26Arthur Frank Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, Revised edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987)
27Since the beginning of modern day psychology’s relatively short history, its foundational thinkers like Freud, Erikson, Piaget, (Santrock, 2002) and Jung (Schaie & Willis, 1996) have established a framework for understanding normal and predictable human development. More recently theorists such as Kohlberg and Gilligan (Cobb 2004), and Fowler (2000) have continued to expand a developmental and systematic framework for viewing human growth in areas such as moral thinking and religious faith respectively.
28Fowler, James (2000). Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian. Josey Bass, Inc. San Francisco, CA
29Peter C. Hill, “Spiritual Transformation: Forming the Habitual Center of Personal Energy” in Psychology of Religion Newsletter, v. 26, no. 4 (American Psychological Association Division 36).
30William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, (New York: Longman Green & Co., 1902), p. 230.
31The shift in the habitual centre described by James characterizes religious conversion as impacting the focal point the individual relies on to habitually guide his or her life as they navigate life’s journey. Thus, conversion includes the psychological process of altering that centre. James believed that it is part of human nature to be spiritual, and that prior to a religious conversion the spiritual part of a person exists only in the periphery of the self. Then upon conversion, the spiritual part of the self shifts from the periphery to the centre of who we are and becomes the guiding part of the self (James, 1902, pg. 230).
34Within the total population of the U.S., 16% (33 million adults) have changed their religious preference. It is suggested that this could reflect some kind of spiritual seeking. (Keysar, Kosmin, & Mayer, 2001)
35A more complete discussion of the concept of attributional theory, as well as common attributional error, can be found in undergraduate psychology texts (Cobb, 2004, pg 558-559; Santrock, 2001, pg 426-429; and Berk, 2004, pg 316-317).
36Within the membership of the Church of the Nazarene in the United States nearly 21% state that they came to their faith through a gradual process, 19% state that they have had the level of faith they now have for as long as they can remember, and over 23% report that they experienced a number of specific moments of commitment or re-commitment [The U.S. Congregational Life Survey: Nazarene Worshipers – 100 congregations and 6,000 worshipers participated (Houseal, R. 2001). The U.S. Congregational Life Survey, supported by the Lilly Endowment Inc., the Louisville Institute, and the Research Services office to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was conducted in April and May 2001. Deborah Bruce, Cynthia Woolever, and Keith Wulff directed this survey of more than 2,000 congregations and 300,000 worshipers in the United States.
Berk, L. (2004) Development Through the Life Span, 3rd Ed, Alyn and Bacon, Boston.
Chambers, O. (1935) My Utmost for His Highest. Dodd, Mead, and Company, New York.
Cobb, N. (2004) Adolescence: Continuity, Change, and Diversity, 5th Ed. McGraw Hill, New York, NY.
Fowler, J. (2000), Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian. Josey Bass, Inc. San Francisco, CA.
Hill, P. (2001) “Spiritual Transformation: Forming the Habitual Center of Personal Energy.” In Psychology of Religion Newsletter. American Psychological Association Division. 36.
Holmes, A. (1987) The Idea of a Christian College, Revised Edition. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI.
Harrison, E. Editor (1980) Baker’s Dictionary of Theology.
Houseal, R. (2001) The U.S. Congregational Life Survey: Nazarene Worshipers.
James, W (1902) Varieties of Religious Experience. Longman Green & Co, New York.
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