Science in Christian Perspective



Keith Miller  Bernard Harnik  Monroe Peaston 
Hazel Goddard  William Sisterson

From: JASA 25 (June 1973): 83-87.

Keith Miller

Paul Tournier, How do I begin to write my feelings about a man whose presence and communication style I had been looking for all my life?

For ten years as a newly converted Christian I had realized that something was very unreal about the way communication was being taught in most Christian seminaries. The world had become depersonalized and people were terribly isolated from each other. Somehow the stance of the expert expounding abstract concepts or telling laymen bow they should live was furthering the depersonalizing process. And besides, the message of God's healing love was not catching the attention of the modern world-even many of those already in the churches.

I knew that w hat I needed personally was a model, someone who was seriously' committed to trying to be Cod's person but who also had the kinds of fears, problems, and failures I face. But this was evidently not a combination to he found in a single Christian communicator. If a person were seriously committed, he either did not have the kinds of struggles I had, or at least they were so insignificant that one never mentioned them. I had met some other strugglers like myself who were trying to slug it out with this paradox, but we were all nobodies. I had never rim across a communicator with any authority in the church who admitted being in this strange predicament of honestly wanting and trying to he Cod's person, and yet being terribly and specifically human in his communication of his inability to be whole.

Then Dr. Paul Tournier came to Laity Lodge in the isolated bill country of southwest Texas for a conference in 1965. I was director of the conference center. And although I had heard of Paul Tournier, I had never read anything lie had written.

The first evening he spoke, the "great ball" at the lodge was filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, all varieties of M.D.s, Christian ministers, and lay leaders from various professions. The air was almost electric with expectation, and I realized how much the conference guests were looking forward to hearing this man, whose hooks they had read. Many of the guests had conic hundreds nf miles for this' weekend. We had turned down as many requests to attend as we had been able to accommodate. As the group gathered for the first session, I was wondering how well Tournier would he able to cross the language barrier from his French through an interpreter to us. And 1 had no idea what to expect with regard to content.
Then be began to speak. Five minutes later the room had disappeared, and we were in another world. A little boy was describing his struggle is ith loneliness and feelings of lack of self worth almost sixty years ago in a country several thousands of miles away. You could have heard a pin drop on the stone floor. I was sitting behind the speaker near the huge fireplace. I looked
past Paul Tournier into the eyes of almost a hundred sophisticated American professionals. I could see inside those very open eyes a roomful of other lonely' little boys reliving their own struggles for identity and worth.

Before twenty minutes had passed a strange thing began to happen. When Paul would speak in French, we found ourselves nodding in agreement and understanding-before his words were translated. I have never seen this happen before or since. But we trusted him so much and felt that lie understood us so well that we knew at an unconscious level that we isould be able to assimilate or at least identify with what he was saying. He had spoken of problems, doubts, joys, meanings, fears-many of which still existed for him. He spoke of all of these experiences with equal naturalness, as if they were the materials God normally worked with in his healing ministry among all people, Christians included.

Before us was this man who dd not even speak our language, He was in his sixties, wore a wrinkled tweed suit, and was exhausted from a whirlwind trip across America. And yet as he spoke, fatigue, age, clothes, language difference-all faded into the background. All I was conscious of were his sparkling eyes, a kind of transparency, and a glow of genuine caring about his face.

I found myself having to fight back tears. There were tears of relief, gratitude, and release from the solitary' wondering if I were alone in the feelings I had about what men need. Because of my own struggles. I had felt that what men and is omen must have to be healed is not primarily advice or even excellent religious education. We need presence, vulnerable, personal presence. I knew the Bible claimed that was what Cod gave us in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. His own presence to heal and strengthen us. And I had felt that somehow we Christians were to be channels to allow that healing presence to be received personally in other people's lives through our own openness and vulnerability.

But there in Paul Tournier was a living model of the kind of communication I was trying in a stumbling, uncertain way to find. I made two decisions during that conference. I was going hack to school to get some psychological training. The second decision was that as soon as I finished a manuscript I was working on, I was going to read some of Tournier's hooks.

The first thing I did when I sent my manuscript to the publisher was to read The Meaning of Persons. Again tears. For years I had been looking for books in which the authors svere real and transparent so I could identify with their problems and move toward healing Christ. Since the nearest thing I had found was Augustine's Confessions, I had finally decided to write a hook to tell people bow it feels to struggle. But if I had read Tounuier first, I don't think I would have felt the need to write that manuscript, The Taste of New Wine.

Knowing that a man exists who loves God and yet who faces his own humanity and the realities of scientific investigation did something for me. And knowing that at least partially because of Christ this man could afford to be honest about his own struggles gave me a kind of hope and motivation which has already pushed me far beyond my small horizons of security and faith.

I remember turning to my wife, Mary-Allen, in the few seconds of silence following Paul Tournier's presentation that first night at Laity Lodge. I whispered through an overflowing heart (and eyes), "We've heard a lot of wonderful talks about healing love in this room, honey. But tonight, we have seen it walking around."

Keith Miller, who makes his home in Texas, is a a well-known speaker and author, lie has written The Taste of New Wine, A Second Touch, and Habitation of Dragons.

Bernard Harnik

I think that nothing can better characterize the fascinating person of Dr. Paul Tournier than the following experience. Prior to 1948 I was practicing pediatrics and living with my family in Roumania. Because of the Communist pressure and the conflict between my conviction as a committed Christian and the challenge of the Communist Party wanting me as a member, we tried hard to get out of the country. After a two-year struggle for freedom, we succeeded in a miraculous way to leave and move to Switzerland, my wife's home-country. Shortly after our arrival I contacted Dr. Tournier in Geneva, telling him that one of his books had given such a tremendous encouragement to our congregation that one of our members gave me a special message for him.

"You, Dr. Harnik, will see Dr. Tournier. I never will have such occasion on earth, but in Heaven he will he the first person I would like to see and thank."

Naturally Dr. Tournier was very much touched by this message, and invited me to a meeting of doctors held in the summer of 1948. We met in Bossey, on Lake Geneva and the group came to he known as "Group Bosscy" or "Groupe Médecine de la personne." At the end of the week of that retreat I wanted to pay my contribution, but Dr. Tournier, knowing that I was a refugee, said, "No, Ben, you have to pay nothing."

"But I want to make a sacrifice," I answered. He fixed his mild eyes on me and with much love he replied, "Well, then, sacrifice your pride." This incident illustrates his philosophy of life: meet people on a functional level as long as necessary, but then turn to them in a very personal, loving way.

However, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to characterize Tournier's personality. Those who know him use different words to describe him, but one characteristic arises repeatedly: "He is charming!" The word "charm" draws our attention on "magic", "mystic", and I think that his influence upon thousands of people is due to the fact that he offers himself as a person in a mysterious sense, as an "ambulant image of God", and not as a personality that can be analyzed.
Again and again psychologists of different schools have challenged him to give a definition of his concept of man. He has never done so because, for him, man is not an object to be defined. Tournier is concerned about man as a person, on a subjective level. "Meet man as a person, and you will know my concept," could be his answer but in reality he gives no answer. He is helpless when "scientists" attack him on an objective level.

It would he wrong, however, to consider Tournier an opponent of science in theory or in practice. He is sophisticated scientifically, a good practitioner and one ssho enjoys life. Without any psychological training he understands people and helps them as if he were a completely trained psychiatrist. He is one of those whom Sigmund Freud (himself untrained) described as being gifted for psychotherapy even without training. Dr. Tournier has great insight. His theoretical studies and practical experience with people having every kind of physical and psychological disorder allow him to be a very responsible doctor and spiritual adviser.
Dr. Tournier has no desire or qualifications to fill the role of a High Priest of a new religion. Among his colleagues in Europe, he is considered as a friend. He accepts everybody and is thankful to be accepted. He does not want to he adored. As with every man, however, Tournier has human weakness, prejudices, and anxieties. Once I saw him in a rage but on this occasion I loved him more than when he was brilliant.

It is difficult to specify exactly how I have been influenced by Tournier. 'During the time of the first world war, my family and environment greatly influenced me and my work. Then, at the age of 28, I experienced a conversion from an agnostic, materialistic "Weltanschaunng" to a very personal life as a committed Christian-between my medical and psychological training and my understanding of the Bible and Christian life. At that time I read The Person Reborn (the book that had so much impressed my fellow believers in Roumania) and I was amazed by the views and experience that Tonrnier expressed. Since 1948 he and I have had many contacts: in annual meetings, exchanging letters, sending each other patients for treatment. In recent years we have been on the program of the "Adventure of living" European workshops organized by WORD Travels International, Waco. My special joy is at meetings, where I can make the interpretation of his Bible-Studies and lectures from French into German or English. Many times he has asked me to interpret at private meetings with Americans. He is happy that I am an interpreter of his concept of "medicine of the person" in the United States, where I have traveled and lectured on several occasions. In November of 1972 I helped at the first American meeting of "Ministry and Medicine of the Whole Person" in North Carolina. Dr. Tournier wrote a very personal introduction to my first American book Risk and Chance in Marriage. More recently the European group of "Medicine of the Person" charged me to prepare a jubilee-book for the 75th anniversary of Dr. Tournier's birth.

This catalogue might show why it is difficult, if even possible, to characterize the impact of Dr. Tournier's person and his work on my life. However I would like to give one concluding example of his influence: Once I wrote a letter to Dr. Tournier indicating that my wife and I could not find a way out of some marital difficulties that were being caused by strong contrasts of temperament. He called and suggested that he would visit us together with his wife, Nelly. Shortly thereafter he drove from Geneva to St. Gallen, where we were living at that time, a distance of 300 miles. After listening to what my wife and I told them, he said simply this, "You are very much afraid of each other." We did not argue with him about his interpretation, but kept in mind his remark. It proved very helpful. Perhaps it was another second remark that represented the very help we needed. "And naturally, Nelly and I will pray for you."

The reading of Dr. Tournier's books, his Bible studies at the meetings of our Bossey group and our discussions together have clarified much of my thinking and had a great influence on my life and work as a marriage counselor.

Dr. Bernard Harnik is a fellow-countryman and personal friend of Dr. Tournier. The author of Risk and Chance in Marriage, Dr. Harnik is currently a marriage and family counselor who makes his home in Zurich, Switzerland. He is preparing a Festschrift in honor of Tournier's 75th birthday.

Monroe Peaston

I am honoured and happy to join a wide circle of friends its paying tribute to Paul Tournier on his 75th birthday.

The 75th birthday of a distinguished man is the day of the Festschrift when fellow practitioners, writers and scholars unite to write something which is appropriate to the occasion and to the man. Contributors to a Feslsehrift may choose to write about a topic which is of current interest to everyone in their particular field, they may expound a theme which is of special interest to them and to which they have devoted some significant research, or they may discuss a key concept in the thought of the man they wish to honour. Sometimes they may try to outline the man's main aim and achievement. I have attempted to do something like this in a book published last year and entitled, Personal Living: An Introduction to Paul Tournier (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).

Here I should like to attempt something much simpler and more personal. I wish to comment on something Tournier once said to me in personal conversation.

At a second meeting with him in Geneva he pulled from his pocket a small, loose-leaf - notebook, opened it at the point where the last entry had been made and said, "This morning in my meditation I thought about you."

I can think of no remark more characteristic of Paul Tournier.

In a contribution to a recent symposium edited by Paul B. Johnson and entitled, Healers of the Mind (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972), Tournier has explained how impressed he was by the example of a Dutch financier who once "spoke of his experience of morning meditation where he committed himself to God, kept silence before Him, and listened attentively in order to let himself be guided by Him" (p. 247). Rather falteringly and with some misgiving Tonrnier began the same practice himself. As part of this daily exercise he has schooled himself to reflect on Biblical passages, to engage in self-examination by looking honestly and carefully within, and to open his life resolutely before the Eternal Mystery who is ever symposium just mentioned still listening-in to God, to present and ever responsive and who may therefore be called the God who speaks. In concluding his remarks on his religious vocation as a physician in the
Tournier observed: "I am what He has to say to me today, and tomorrow and the day after all the tomorrows, until the final and total revelation of the resurrection" (p. 264).

And in at least one such act of meditation Tournier thought about me. That was a natural thing for him to do since persons and the relationships between persons are all important to him. Indeed, this is the underlying assumption behind that movement which will always he associated with Tournier's name-"the medicine of the person." The medicine of the person stands for a distinctive combination of medical science, psychotherapy and religious insight but, for the practice of it, the personal relationship between physician and patient is all important. I find it impressive to read again a letter which Toornier wrote to his patients in August 1937 in which he explained that his ensuing work was to carry him beyond the diagnosis and treatment of physical complaints to the deeper problems within the personalities of his patients and to the study of human personality as a whole. The knowledge of persons, he knew, could never be reached merely by objective study but only by personal dialogue. Tournier's aim has been to reach such a true personal contact with his patients that a new spark of life may he kindled between them. "Le faeteur Ic plus déeisif de la médecine de la personne" he wrote in his latest hook, Appendre a' vieillir (Neuchdtel: Delaehaux et Niestlé 1971). "c'est e'tablir avec notre malade un contact si personnel qu'une sorte d'étincelle de vie jallit d'elle-méme... . p. 57)

It would he unfortunate if, with this emphasis on openness to God and the primacy of the personal, it was assumed that all this is utterly remote from science. It should never be forgotten that Tournier was trained in medical science and that he has spent a lifetime learning how to apply its techniques to the needs of his patients. That is why the relationship between science and faith has always been an important one to him. He devoted an early book, The Person Reborn to this very problem. The medicine of the person was an attempt to unite scientific observation of the body and of the mind with a spiritual understanding of man in his relationship with Cod arid his neighbour, Tournier came to think of medical technology as a means of preparing the way for a man to respond freely to the call of religious faith. Yet neither medical science nor psychological technique can provide answers to the mystery of life's meaning. As I have said elsewhere, "Faith is needed to complete the work of technology, while technology may often be a preliminary to the possibility of faith" (Personal Living p. 75).

As a theoretical synthesis of science and faith in the area of personal study this is satisfactory as far as it goes. But it has never gone far enough for Tournier. He has discovered that the only way to unite science and faith is in the clinical setting where objective study and personal encounter are combined. When he talks about soul healing he recognizes that it all depends (01 this kind of synthesis. I think of Tournier not so much as an expositor of the relation between science and faith as an embodiment of it, and that is why I regard his achievement as so significant.

Dr. Monroe Peaston is Associate Professor of Pas toral Psychology at McGill University and author of Personal Living: An Introduction to Paul Tournier.

Hazel Goddard

Several months ago I was asked to participate in a written tribute to commemorate Dr. Paul Tournier's seventy-fifth birthday. As I contemplated that awesome task I asked myself just how one wrote about such a man who is a gifted author and expresses himself so simply and profoundly. It became clear to me that although Paul Tournier had become a close, personal friend over the years, it was shat he had accomplished in the lives of my patients who had never met him, that also held deep meaning to me.

As I write this second tribute, I am wondering what I can say about Paul Tournier that would have the most meaning for you. What would you wish to know about this man? His hooks are well-known. His concepts and beliefs have been described and discussed by many authors. This spring the most comprehensive study to date of his life and work, (The Christian Psychology of Paul Tournier, by Gary Collins) came off the press. What more can I add?

Many of the troubled people in whose hands I place Tournier's hooks ask me the question, "What is he really like?" Beyond the roles of physician, counselor, lecturer and author, what about the man himself?

Vivid, personal experiences come to mind as I endeavor to answer that question. I will never forget the first time we met. It was during his first visit to the United States. Some time before I had discovered his book. The Meaning of Persons, and after reading it several times I gave it to Dr. Mary Breme with whom I am associated in a Doctor-Counselor team. I urged her to read it, saying, "This man believes in treating the person as we do." One evening Dr. Mary picked up the hook and did not put it clown until it was finished. She told me, "These are the concepts I have used in my medical practice for twenty years. Some clay, we will meet that man."

And meet we did. Dr. Tournier and his wife, Nellv, were guests of friends and neighbors in our hometown. When we heard he was so close we wondered if there might be an opportunity for us to meet him.

"But he's an important man.Why should he see us?" Dr. Mary asked. "I don't know," I replied. "I only know we are on the same wave length and we must meet."

He did not consider himself "too important" for us and he graciously accepted our invitation. After a brief time in our home in Wheaton, I drove Paul and Nelly Tournier through town, along back country roads to visit the clinic, then on to meet in Dr. Mary's home with close friends. I did not know it then, but this was a ride Nelly Tournier would never forget.

As we arrived at Dr. Mary's house I reminded myself that Dr. Tournier did not know what to expect in this meeting. But any fear I had was groundless. A friendship and meeting of minds and spirits was born that night. There were theologians, medical doctors, counselors and interpreters present in that meeting. Questions about theology, medicine, psychology and how they were related were asked. Concepts and treatment of the whole person were discussed. There was mental and spiritual stimulation such as I have never felt in any other group. I will always remember Paul Tourisier's expression as he turned to his wife as we were leaving: "Nelly, to think we find this in America!"

There were other meetings in Switzerland, Spain and Italy, and always the deep communication about psychology, faith and the treatment of patients. I could neither speak nor understand French and he could understand and speak only a little English. And yet there were times when we did not need an interpreter because we understood the "language of the person."
You cannot know this man without sensing the kindness, compassion, humility and love which make up his person. Many treasured experiences come to mind as I think of ways iii which he manifested these qualities, but one stands out above the rest.

Dr. Breme and her daughter and I were travelling in Europe. On our schedule were plans for a meeting with the Tourniers in Geneva, Switzerland. When Dr. Tournier realized that our trip included a long drive down the Yougoslavian coast he felt we would be traveling out of our way to go to Geneva and so offered to meet us in Beatenberg. He and Nelly had to travel one hundred miles by train and change trains twice in order to do so, but then that is the kind of people they are.

Our meeting at the Beatenberg Seminary looking out through the Alps to the Jungfrau, was another unforgettable day. We spent hours of sharing ideas and beliefs about the Scriptures and psychology. Because both Dr. Gertrude Wasserzug, director of the seminary, and Dr. Tournier spoke French fluently we depended largely on expression and body language. We found when we asked the interpreter however, that we understood the meaning of their conversation and occasional friendly sparring.

At the end of the day we suggested that our friends drive with us as far as Berne where they could take the trip to Geneva. They gently declined, however. Failing to understand why, we urged them to go with us. Finally, with a twinkle in his eyes, Dr. Tournier took the interpreter and me aside and explained that Nelly was fearful of driving through the mountains with me. She still remembered the winding country drive in Illinois! I promised to drive slowly and we had a delightful ride to Berne. Nelly's parting words to me were, "Magnifique!"

Not long after our first meeting, Dr. Tournier learned of an unfinished manuscript I had in my desk drawer. He urged me to finish it and convinced me I had something to say to needy people. The manuscript came out of the drawer and I resumed work on it.

Some time later as we were discussing the manuscript again, I shared my feeling about the way hurting people are over-w helmed with books, articles, and TV talks on problems and sterile "how to" advice. I wanted to somehow help my readers to hope. Dr. Tournier responded enthusiastically:

"Ah, yes! Hope! That is it-hut it will be difficult." It was difficult and I seemed to reach an impasse. I met with Paul and Nelly Tournier in Majorca and confided in him that I felt I had a block. "I don't understand it," I told him. "It's never happened to me before."

We arranged a working session in my hotel room.

As the interpreter read, I watched Dr. Tournier closely. He was sitting, slightly hunched forward, with his hands between his knees, his eyes and facial expression reflecting his interest in what was being read. Now and then lie would nod his head. After much thoughtful listening, he stopped the reader. Before he even spoke I somehow knew what he was going to say, his silent expressions had been so positive and reassuring.

He began to gesticulate with his hands. "You could not write like that if von had a block. You think von have a block? You have no block." His kind voice was full of confidence as he added simply, "Finish the book!"

This assurance was all that was needed. The book, Hope for Tomorrow was published, with a sixteen page forward by Paul Tournier.

What are you really like, Paul Tournier?

You are a friend-to me, to others who have had the privilege of personal contact, and the many thousands of readers who know you through your books.

You are a friend who understands. You have keen and unusual insights into the suffering of the person, horn out of your sensitivity to the shadows of loneliness and suffering in your own life.
Paul Tournier, your life, and your willingness to share it with others, is a tribute; a tribute which we now give back to you.

Hazel Goddard is on the counseling staff of Warrenville Clinic in northern Illinois. A personal friend of Tournier, she is also the author of Hope for Tomorrow, a book for which Tournier wrote the foreword.

William D. Sisterson

Since I have never met or personally heard Paul Tournier, it is with considerable fear arid trepidation that I contribute this article in salute to him. Yet I am thankful for this opportunity to express my gratitude to one who has greatly affected my life. Of the four individuals who have most influenced my life for good, he is the only one with whom I was not closely involved in a personal relationship.

My most serious' and lengthy exposure to Tournier came through rather devious means during my last two years at Dallas Seminary. I remember well sitting in the coffee shop at the Seminary discussing the "relevance" of theology with the head of the theology department and striking upon an ideal subject for my master's thesis. Most theology majors seemed to write on subjects that I was bored even to hear about. The thought of spending hundreds of hours in a dusty corner of the library searching scores of books for occasional references to obscure topics did not strike me as something I could do, much less enjoy. The coffee shop inspiration was to study the writings of Tournier in the light of Biblical theology.

I had already read three or four of his books and was eager to read more. With Tournier's concern for the whole man, it was a natural to study his theology of man. What a great relief it was when the subject was cleared with my advisor and 1 could look forward to over a year of reading and study of Tournier's writings.

As a result of our time spent together on the written page during this period, Tournier molded my thinking and action its a number of areas. The most important thinking change came in beginning to see man (and myself) as a whole. The concepts of man created in the image of God, man as a fallen sinner and man as a redeemed creature, began to come together into an understandable unity. Man was not just a shiner, not just a physical being, not just a bundle of psychological mechanisms-he was all of these and more. Tournier introduced me to the "theology of the person" and molded a framework that still endures.

The most important change came in how I learned to cope better with guilt. Tournier freed me from the burden of viewing all guilt feelings as the result of some moral blunder. Although of course, I do commit many moral blunders and thus experience the just burden of trite guilt, many guilt feelings were founded on mechanisms set up by culture, society' and self apart from any real moral sin.

I can best illustrate this change by an experience I had during the writing of my thesis when this concept of false guilt first became a reality. It was on one of those rich spring days when you feel great and everything is going your way. I had enjoyed a good morning of classes and was spending the early afternoon in some Bible Study and prayer. A phone call interrupted my' "quiet time" and when I returned I found that a vague and uneasy sense of guilt had settled on my person. Pray as I might or search for some sin leading to this feeling of guilt, nothing seemed to help. Suddenly I remembered what Tournier said about false guilt. I reflected on the events of the afternoon and soon realized that the phone call had precipitated my guilt. An insurance salesman who had been after me for several weeks had called and "succeeded" in producing the kind of false guilt that certain salesmen are especially good at. He made me feel that I had failed him by not buying his insurance, even though I had more than I needed. The conflict between good judgment and projected guilt resulted in depressed feelings. The pinpointing of the cause in this s ay relieved the pressure of the false guilt and left me able to enjoy the rest of that marvelous spring day'.

To the reader of this article who has read little or none of Tournier's writings I would give a warning. While you have a great feast of reading before you, you will probably find Tournier's style of writing a bit tedious. It is something like reading a lengthy one-sided conversation with numerous excursions of examples. I confess that I often found it easy to set his books aside for awhile even in the middle of them. This is one of the reasons I am thankful for the discipline of the thesis that got me through all of them. Of course, this weakness is actually part of the strength of his writings since I felt that I was relating to him as 'i person in his honks, rather than just reading great thought abstractions,

Thus I cannot help but feel that I truly know Paul Tournier even though we have never been together. Indeed we have spent many hours together although all the benefit has been one-sided. I do hope that heaven is like many have suggested and that we will be able to meet and fellowship with all the saints of history. One of the first that I will look up will be Paul Tournier.

William D. Sisterson is Executive Secretary of the American Scientific Affiliation. A graduate of Southern Methodist University and Dallas Theological Seminary, he wrote his Master's thesis on "Paul Tournier's Concept of Man."