Science in Christian Perspective



The Psychological Implications of the New Birth*

From: JASA 6 (December 1954): 10-12.

I blush when I think of the paper I presented, "What's Wrong With the World", two years ago at the New York Convention. This year from the safe distance of New England, I send you one on the individual and leave the world to God. We will endeavor to pursue in this paper a: study of the dynamics peculiar to the Christian experience. While these forces involve and influence all areas of our being and personality, it is my intention to deal especially with those of the psyche2 and the pneuma3.

It being the purpose of this paper to deal with the psychological implications, the dynamics of the new birth experience-let us first survey the biblical theological background. From the standpoint of pnuemadynamiCS4, there is no more basic or dramatic verse in all the Bible than Matthew 21.44:

Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomever it shall fall it will grind him to powder.

This verse carries one step forward the dynamic principle of Matthew 16. 13-18, where Jesus asks of his followers, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am"? And Peter replies, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God". Then our Lord answers, "Upon this rock ("The Christ the Son of the living

God"), I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

The importance of Jesus Christ in the evangelical pnumema-dynamic concept is also stressed by the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1. 15-20. Here the Apostle climaxes his superb seven superiorities of Christ with the exclamation: "that in all things He might have the preeminence".

Since the Holy Scripture thus reveals The Lord Jesus Christ as absolutely essential to the new birth experience (spiritual regeneration), let us look for the psycho-dynamics involved. What are the psychological implications in ones relationship to Jesus Christ that bring about the new birth?

What Jesus Christ is to the sinner, to me, to you, is the heart of this experience! What the Lord Jesus Christ means to the individual in relationship to the spiritual new birth is the crucial difference between myself and some of my dearest frends whom I long

Paper presented at the Eighth Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation, Winona lake, Indiana, Septem ber 1-3, 1953

for in the Lord. What Jesus Christ is to the individual is the difference between so called modernism, neo-orthodoxy or liberalism and the evangelical scriptural position, theologically. Dynamically it is the difference between accepting eternal life, accepting The Way, The Truth and The Life5; (Jesus as God and Christ as Lord6): or denying Him and refusing eternal life. Denial is one of the most pathological mechanisms of the human mind, in this instance, an eternally fatal one.

Let us first consider that the new birth experience is a vital new relationship between two personalities or beings, the sinner and God. To understand what is involved it is necessary to isolate as much as possible each force and factor present in this relationship. In order to do this it will be necessary for us to understand something about "ego function" and the way in which the mind operates. As used here ego is defined as that portion of the personality which is in contact with the environment through the senses, perceives and evaluates the milieu, and directs behavior into acceptable compromises between the blind drives of the id, (the purely physiological and unconscious), and the demands and the idealizations of the super-ego (conscience and intellect).7,8

The ego function of the individual is that of administrative action. It is the contracting part of the personality. The contracting representative of the total personality. God's personality is represented by Jesus Chrsit.9,10

It is essential to accept the complete and absolute sovereignty of the individual to decide his own destiny-his right to hell or his right to contract with God for heaven. Corollary with that is the absolute sovereignty of God to do as He pleases, limited only by His promise not to send to hell anyone who does accept Jesus Christ on His terms. But in divine justice, He must send to hell everyone who does not meet these terms necessary to salvation through Jesus Christ.) This idea, of course, sets up God as the supreme, final and absolute authority. Any relationship which the sinner has to Him is strictly on a basis of God as authority, not on any authoritarian basis. Authority is used here to mean-one who has the legal rightful power, the right to command or act.

This is in contradistinction to authoritarianism, the advocation of the principle of obedience to authority as opposed to individual liberty. Authoritarianism infers a relationship to a principle rather than a person and is consequently vague, variable and ill defined. The precise definition of this nebulous "authority" is as varied as the number of people advocating such a principle. It eliminates completely the principle of free will and the right of the individual. This is a basic premise of communism, socialism and all the allied isms. It robs man of his sovereignty and the right to determine his own destiny. He is denied the right to think or act for himself, the right to be poor, the right to be ignorant, the right to be sick, and the right to go to hell; as well as the right to establish a vital relationship with God, as the Father and the Authority universal.

The Holy Scriptures are replete with examples of those who have thought to set themselves up as their own god.11 The first example is that of Adam and Eve found in Genesis 3. 5-6. Their primary sin was in the spiritual area. Psychologically Satan's temptation was for them as it is for us-on the basis of "Ye shall be as gods. . .". The next example is in the next chapter (Genesis 4. 3-8). God accepted Abel's offering but not Cain's. Cain gave the kind of offering he wanted to give instead of what God had commanded. He did "not do well and sin lay at the door". ". . . Without shedding of blood is no remission (forgiveness)."12

Similarly, Pharaoh in the first chapters of Exodus hardened his own heart and refused to listen to God's messenger. God then hardened his heart for him and he ended his life at the bottom of the Red Sea. The first king of the nation of Israel furnishes a good example of one acting in his own sovereignty. Saul took matters into his own band and offered sacrifice only to hear God's messenger telling him he had done foolishly and his kingdom was given to another.13

The Scriptures tell of many heroes of the faith who surrendered to the sovereign will of God. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews, 'God's Hall of Faith", lists twenty such alone. We shall mention only two who dealt directly with Christ. The first is in the third chapter of John where a ruler of Israel came to see Jesus at night. Regardless of what he may have come for, our Lord brought him face to face with the burning question of all time-Are you born again? He not only demonstrates very clearly that this experience is very necessary to eternal life, but also held Himself up as the one to be believed in-that Nicodemus "should not perish but have eternal life".14

In the ninth chapter of Acts we find perhaps the most militant religionist of all times, halted on the Damascus Road by the vision of Jesus and the question, "Why persecutest thou me"? The key to the successfulness of the subsequent ministry of the Apostie Paul is indicated in his first response to the demands of Christ-"Who art thou Lord" He immediately accepted Christ as God and as his own 1,ord and Saviour.

This remarkable surrender experience of the great Apostle encompasses the surrender reaction which I will now discuss from a purely psychiatric view. It will be easier for us to grasp the mechanisms and implications if we shall think of it in terms of an individual wrestling with the problems of alcohol.15 This surrender experience of Paul's which is identical to that essential to the new birth is described by a psychiatrist in dealing with the alcoholic problem as an event.16

Surrender differs from submission in that submission is a conscious, not unconscious acceptance of reality. Submission is a superficial yielding but the tension still continues. Surrender is an unconscious act involving a certain set of circumstances and traits in the unconscious mind. It must be seen in its unconscious ramifications to glimpse its reality. When one sees himself in a situation about which he can do nothing, only then can the act of surrender take place. It is when he no longer fights, when he concedes that he needs help, when he cannot help himself. Spiritually it is when the sinner knows and feels he is licked. It occurs when the unconscious defiance17 and grandiosity18 cease to function effectively.

The act of surrender is the doorway to the state of surrender, when the individual is wide open to accept reality, at a time when he can learn without conflict or without fighting back. There is a persisting capacity to accept reality in an active sense without trying to avoid it, dodge it or deny it. The act and state comprise 

The Surrender Reaction.

This surrender reaction is the one condition for the beginning of a genuine growth and maturation.

One can build upon reality. It frees him from "kicking against the pricks" of the spiritual realities in pnuema-therapyl9, as well as psychotherapy.20 The individual is thus freed from a state of storm and conflict, from a need for psychological or physiological mobilization for flight or fight.

As one is a "new creation in Christ jesus"21 we can see how surrender to Him as Lord and Saviour changes ones attitude from a negative to a positive approach. It is inevitable that there should be a change in the behaviour pattern following this act; if not there is obviously no surrender. It applies to the emotional tone of all thinking. This surrender reaction is essential to a positive relationship to God in particular and to life in general.

This type of relationship with God must be in terms of Jesus Christ22 as God's representative and our mediator.10 It is impossible for man to do business with God except through God's direct and only representative the Lord Jesus Christ.22 We enter into a contractual relationship with God thru Christ as the negotiating representative and party of the first part. We as sinners are parties of the second part.

The surrender reaction (composed of the act and state of surrender), provides man with a new reality relationship to God as Father with a spiritual reorientation. This new relationship and orientation makes a man effective in everyday living in the world. It is especially important in the home, in dealing with our children. A father who has surrendered to Jesus Christ has learned the most healthful pattern for father-child relationship, for their growth and development.

As the father becomes a follower of Christ, it becomes safe for his child to identify with him and try to be like his father. As the child grows in maturity the father (and to a lesser extent the mother), the authority and head of the home, gradually helps the child to see God as The Authority in the absolute and Christ as the head of the Church.

Children who grow up in such a home have real security and develop strong ego structures, for they learn to obey authority, without compromise, because it is right. This fulfills the child's need for limits-limits that are not rigid, but set to meet the need of the child, not the needs of the parents; these are not authoritarian limits but limits representing the authority and responsibility of the father who sets them.

Thus the child comes to understand his proper relation to God in terms of the God delegated authority his father exercises. When the child becomes a parent he recognizes what he means to God the heavenly Father-in terms he easily understands.


It has been my purpose in this paper to show God as authority in the absolute and Jesus Christ as God's way of making himself known to man.23

Jesus Christ therefore has the right to command our wills, possess our lives, use our talents. He is sovereign and ruler absolute.

Throwing ourselves upon The Rock, we find security in broken helpless surrender, declaring:

Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.24 Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?25

This bespeaks a surrendered ego, one that now deals in eternal values. One that is spiritually alive.+

This spiritually oriented ego can therefore accept the delegated authority of God in the home structurethe father as the head of the family, as Christ is the head of the church.

The child's relation to authority is developed in terms of the earthly father and transferred, as the child's grasp and understanding permit, to its heavenly Father. Limits are understood, responded to, and the surrender mechanism of the ego is developed so that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and God, the most ego shattering experience, is made simple, natural, normal and necessary.

My earnest hope is that psychiatry will be utilized by evangelical Christians in heeding the admonition to Timothy:

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth . . . 27 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good workS.28


lConsulting psychiatrist, staff physician, Buldpate Inc., Georgetown, Massachusetts.
Psyche-the mind; the mental life; including b3th
the con scious and unconscious processes; the human soul; the part of mail's personality that relates to man.
Pneuma-the spirit, the part of man's personality that relates to God.
Pneuma-dynamics.-The moving spiritual forces
of any kind and the laws relating to them. I believe that pneuma-dynamics may be defined psycho-dynamicss which carry eternal values and implications above and beyond those ascribed to just the psyche.
5John 14.6.
6Colossians 1. 17, 27.
Mules H. Masserman, M.D., Principles of Dynamic Psychiatry, Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1946, p. 247.
Is this what Paul Is referring to W his discussion of the two natures under the law in Romans 7. 15-25.
91 do not mean to infer, that the other members of the Godhead correspond to the other strata of personality as given In psycho-analytical theory or Freudian psychiatry.
10I Timothy 2.5.
Romans 1.28 -32
1211ebrews 9. 22.
131 Samuel 13. 8-14
14John 3. 4-15.
15The Alcoholic Anonymous program with its twelve steps is a classical example of the dynamics involved in the initial primary relationships with God and in the subsequent continuous process of spiritual growth and development. We have only to substitute Jesus Christ for a power greater than ourself and sin foil alcohol wherever they appear in the program; substitute our own pet besetting sin, and it provides. an excellent program for dealing with that specific problem and for growth In the spirit.
16Harry M. Tiebout, M.D., "The Act of Surrender in the Therapeutic Process", Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, (June 1949), Vol. 10. No. 1.
17Defiance-that quality which enables the individual to snap his fingers in the face of reality and live on unperturbed; to deny that a fact is so In the non-conscious part of the mind, a shield against the truth. (Tlebout, ref. no. 16)
18Grandiosity--springs from a persisting of the infantile ego which enables the individual to maintain his childish egocentricity and sense of over importance, feelings of omnipotence, demands for direct gratification of wishes, proneness to interpret frustration a evidence of rejection and lack of love. (Tiebout, 15).
Pneuma-therapy-therapeuties of the spirit; treatment of the disease states In man's relationship to God.
Psycho-therapy-mental or psychologic treatment of flin especially functional nervous disorders and maladjustments.
2111 Corinthians
5. 17.
22Matthew 22:42
23John 1. 1-5, 8-18, 29, 34.
24MAtthew 16:16
25Acts 9.6
261 Corinthians 15.22
27II Timothy 2.15
2811Timothy 3.17