Science in Christian Perspective
Cognitive Style, North American
Values and the Body of Christ
MARY STEWART VAN LEEUWEN
Department of Psychology
York University Toronto, Ontario
From: JASA 27
(September 1975): 119-126.
Paper presented at the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Atlanta, Georgia in April, 1974 and published in Journal of Psychology and Theology 2, 77 (1974)
The Reformation doctrine of "the Word and the Spirit," as outlined by Bernard Ramm, is related to various psychological models of cognitive and personal style. It is suggested that Witkin's distinction between "analytic" and "global" cognitive styles has its parallel in two differing religious styles, which are labeled "Word-oriented" and "Spirit-oriented." The implications of these two styles for the functioning of pastors, parishioners, and Christian workers are examined in detail.
A Personal Introduction
Depending on their ecclesiastical traditions and perhaps on their social-educational background, Christians have tended to view psychology in one of two opposite ways: at one extreme, it may be seen as an instrument of Satan, making claims for itself which properly belong to the Word and power of Cod, and to be avoided no less stringently than the Adversary himself. At the other extreme, it risks being viewed as the panacea for all ills, with certain Christian counsellors and lay people only slightly behind the world at large in their enthusiasm to mount whatever current therapeutic bandwagon, after only the briefest of nods in the direction of Biblically based inquiry into the assumptions of the particular technique in vogue. Most of us would not fall neatly into either of these extremes-but it is certainly the case that only recently have Christian social scientists seriously tackled the issue of "Christian theories of personality", or "Christian therapies" in a way that attempts to remain within the conceptual mainstream of psychology and at the same time stay true to Biblical principles regarding the nature of man, his physical and social universe, the ultimate source of his alienation, and the final means of his redemption. Examples of such attempts include work done by Collins, Tweedie, Narramore, and many persons contributing to the proceedings of this association as well as to the recently instituted Journal of Psychology and Theology.
Such bridge-building efforts have remained largely in the sphere of clinical psychology-not surprisingly, since the practice of pastoral counselling stands to lose or gain by the influence of the broader clinical tradition. But aside from the work done by people like Malcolm Jeeves (Scientific Psychology and Christian Belief, The Scientific Enterprse and Christian Faith), Paul Meehl (What Then is Man?) and Donald McKay (Christianity in a Mechanistic Universe) I know of no continuing efforts to build similar bridges between Christianity and the findings of academic psychological research into the nature of man. Even the writing of Meehl, Jeeves, and McKay (who is actually a neuroscientist rather than a psychologist) is largely on the philosophy of science level, and makes no attempt to relate specific research findings in psychology to the Biblical model of man. To be sure, we have plenty to say to those academic psychologists like B. F. Skinner whose assumptions and recommendations are blatantly at variance with the very core of Biblical Christianity-but we have had almost nothing to say of the many other research traditions whose findings seem neither theologically black nor white, but merely some as-yet-undetermined shade of grey.
As a Christian of some three years, who was converted when within months of getting a Ph.D. in social psychology, I began-and remain-largely on my own without Christian role-models to suggest how to begin integrating my embryonic faith with my discipline. Like C. S. Lewis, I concluded for a time (in fact, for almost a year) that I would probably have to leave the academic life: my entire behaviourist upbringing was beginning to ring more and more hollow in my mind and in my teaching, and if the determinist principles by which I was trained were no longer sufficient in the light of Scripture to explain human behaviour and misbehaviour, then why remain a social psychologist? If, as was the case, I was becoming less and less willing to tolerate the ethical compromises inherent in the experimental deception practised by social psychologists, what was there left for me to do? It is only fair to say that such conclusions reflected much more the narrowness of my own graduate training than the actual and potential richness of my discipline, for when God in His grace and His own good timing began to point me to other than purely behaviourist research traditions, I slowly began to find my place as a Christian academic working in an avowedly secular university.
What I have arrived at as a result is a principle that applies equally well to my teaching and to my research -namely, that even in heresy much truth may lie, and that it is my mandate as a Christian academic not only to demonstrate to my colleagues and students that Christianity is a force to be reckoned with by psychology, but also the opposite-namely, that there are insights in the psychological tradition which are not only inadvertently scriptural, so to speak, but insights which may have escaped most Christians just because the current traditions and theology of the church may have neglected them. In other words, it is my responsibility not only to expose the inadequacies and inconsistencies of any model of man or madness which is less than Biblical, but also to point out-to colleagues, students, and fellow-Christians alike, where the theory and research in psychology are compatible with the Biblical model of man, (I don't think, for instance, that Freud should have to have told us that man's mind, redeemed or unredeemed, is capable of tremendous rationalization and self-deceit; the Psalmist, the Prophets, and the Apostles have been telling us that all along.1 The real issue between Christians and Freudians centers not around the psychodynamic mechanisms Freud postulated, but as Paul Tournier put it: "that having shown man to be infinitely more complex than had been thought, Freud was then guilty of oversimplification in the explanation of man which he put forward, reducing the whole of his prodigious diversity to a standardized, instinct-based schema,"2)
Having set the stage with the foregoing remarks, let it lie said that my purpose in this paper is to build one such modest bridge between what we might call the Biblical and the secular psyehologies-between one set of intriguing findings in the social/ developmental psychology tradition and a somewhat neglected Biblical doctrine of man as he functions in the Christian body of believers-a doctrine that was lucidly expressed in the past by the Reformers, but which has, to my knowledge, only recently been resurrected and reviewed. I am referring, on the one hand, to the work of the cognitive style theorists on what they call "global" and "analytic" thinking, and on the other hand to the Reformation Doctrine of the Word and the Spirit as it applies to values and personal expression within the body of Christ.
The Word and the Spirit
Bernard Ramm, writing in His magazine3, tells us that "the great motto of the Reformation in the sixteenth century was 'the Word and the Spirit'. The concept was not new, but the clarity with which it was understood and applied was. In the narrowest sense, Word meant the revealed and inspired Holy Scripture; and correspondingly, the Spirit meant the Holy Spirit. Both terms, however suggest clusters of ideas. Word suggests the truth claims of Christianity, the meaning of the texts of Scripture, and the formulation of the contents of Scripture into theology. It also includes the great historical (space-time) acts of revelation and redemption which are recorded in Scripture." The "Word" concept encapsules the rational, articulated, objective aspect of the redeemed Christian life, whose lynch-pin is the unchanging standard of Scripture and its rationally evolved theologies. On the other hand, Spirit, Ramm suggests, "speaks of the power of the Christian faith, of the richness of personal experience, of faith, of trust, of hope, of the ability to transform life, and the entering of the supernatural into our lives." It encompasses that aspect of the redeemed Christian life which is richly experiential, emotional, personal and interpersonal, embracing the supernatural quality of our ongoing dialogue with Cod and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is my responsibility not only to expose the inadequacies and inconsistencies of any model of man or madness which is less than Biblical, but also to point out - to colleagues, students and fellow-Christians alike, where theory and research in psychology are compatible with the Biblical model of man.
Ramm goes on to point out (and I quote him extensively here, because I cannot improve on him) that "a healthy, normative and powerful Christianity is the proper balance and relationship of Word and Spirit. However, the history of the church reveals different periods when this balance was lost. Either too much was said of the Word at the expense of the Spirit, or too much of the Spirit at the expense of the Word."
At times of intense doctrinal conflict, there is always the temptation to become so precise in our theology that we forget that the troth of Scripture needs the reinforcement and enlightment of the Spirit of truth. When such a high premium is placed on correct theology, there is the further temptation to define a Christian as the one who believes the right theology-a kind of theological intellectualism of sorts.
This, Ramm points out, is what can happen when the Church becomes
at the expense of the spirit.
On the other hand,
at times of spiritual lethargy or powerlessness, or too much ecclesiatical 'overhead', some sort of movement of the Spirit sets in. It is a protest against 'dead orthodoxy' or 'lifeless liturgy' or powerless preaching or lack of a rich devotional life. Pietism arose in orthodox Lutheran Germany to protest the deadness of such an intensely theological understanding of Christianity. Methodism arose in England when the Anglican church was in need of such reform but seemed powerless to bring it to pass.
Pentecostalism emerged in the nineteenth century when Christianity was becoming more and more defined by denominationalism and when there were serious inroads of rationalism in the Christian church.
Ramm goes on to speak of the sensitive insight the Reformers had into
between the Word and the Spirit: without the Word to inform us, we
would not accurately
recognize the nature of the Spirit. Furthermore, we would have no
which to "test the spirits"-not all of which are of God. But without
the work of the Spirit, we would he unable to recognize the Word as
which calls for obedience, not just intellectual apprehension. The Word without
the quickening power of the Spirit would be just another lawbook or
historical record of the activities and beliefs of a particular
Thus there is an inextricable interdependence between the two
in the final analysis, the Reformers made the "Word"
because the Word both circumscribes and validates the kind of
we have; for no "spiritual experience" which is contrary to
matter how subjectively rich and real it may seem-is an experience of Truth. We
must allow our understanding of the Word to validate our experience
of the Spirit
and not vice-versa, and while the tendency of the church in the recent past may
have been to elevate the Word without regard to the Spirit, just as
is a trend in parts of the church today to do the opposite: to see
as self-validating, and to manipulate theology and the interpretation
of the Word
to accommodate it.
What Is a Healthy Balance?
Now Ramm has stated that both the needs and the errors of the corporate church in history will influence whether the Word! Spirit interaction leans in one direction or the other, but that the optimal and scriptural situation is for the church to have a healthy balance of both. With this, none of us are likely to disagree. My question as a psychologist is: do we achieve such a balance in practice by assuming that every individual Christian is to he equally "Word" oriented and "Spirit" oriented, or do we, in fact, have within our ranks Christians who lean more to being "Word" specialists or "Word-gifted", and others who are more inclined to be "Spirit" specialists or "Spirit-gifted"-the average of these two broad tendencies then promoting the needed balance in the church as a whole? Do we, in fact, have "religious styles" akin to the "cognitive styles" of which I will speak presently, with individuals ranged along a sort of bipolar continuum, pure "Word" types at one extreme and pure "Spirit" types at the other? Such a "psycho-Christian" model would further suggest that while either of these extremes would be undesirable and unscriptural, and while all of us ideally have elements of both poles in our functioning, still there is the tendency in some to lean somewhat more to the "Word" aspects of Christianity, others to the "Spirit", and still others, perhaps, to oscillate quite happily between the two tendencies depending on the situation and the need.
A Psychological Treatment
Having posed the question from the doctrinal point of view, let me now jump back to the purely psychological treatment of the issue. The so-called "individual differences" tradition in psychology has approached the question of "personal styles" in a number of ways, all of which seem to share the central notion that some people (or perhaps all people some of the time) function in a way that is characterized by objectivity, abstraction, and differentiation in the intellectual sphere, independence and achievement in the social sphere, self-containment and relative stoicism in the emotional sphere. Other people (or again, perhaps all people some of the time) function in a way that is characterized by intuition, concreteness, and global perception in the intellectual sphere, interdependence and affiliative concern in the social sphere, and freedom of expression in the emotional sphere. It is a distinction made by many different writers using many different terms, some working from a theoretical, others from an empirical base. Jung4 distinguishes between people who proceed by reliance on processes like thinking and value-ordering, both of which require volition and judgment, and those who proceed by sensation and intuition, both of which are involuntary and non-rational. Piaget5 in his discussions of the intellectual development of children, refers to the functions of accommodation and assimilation, the former referring to the process of "seeing differences", the latter to the process of "seeing similarities", and Wadsworth6, one of his interpreters, suggests that although both processes occur in everybody, individuals may tend to be more "assimilators" or
acommodators" in intellectual style. David Bakan, in his Duality of Human Existence7 draws upon a wide range of theory and observation and suggests that all organisms manifest two opposing intellectual/ social tendencies, those of agency and communion.
Agency refers to the existence of an organism as an individual, and communion she participation of the individual in some larger organism of which the individual is part . . . Agency manifests itself in the formation of separations, communion in she lack of separations. Agency manifests itself in isolation, alienation, and aloneness; communion in contact, openness, and union. Agency manifests itself in the urge to master; communion in non-contractual co-operation. Agency manifests itself in the repression of feeling and impulse, communion in the lack and removal of repression.
Guttman8 makes the distinction between allocerttric
and autocentric egostyles, where the allocentrie mode "conveys
to the individual
that the centers and sources of organization, social bonds, and initiatives are
extraneous to him" and have their own objective logic which shapes him at
least as much as he shapes them, whereas the autocentrie mode "gives each
individual recurrent experiences of being a focus or center of communal events
and ties." Witkin,9 working from empirical as well as theoretical work on
cognitive style refers to articulated (or analytic, or
when the person can "disembed" a figure from a context perceptually,
has a well-developed sense of separate identity socially, and is
emotionally. By contrast, those with a global (or field-dependent) style have
trouble isolating detail from context perceptually (i.e., they
have a much greater sense of dependence socially, and are relatively open and
expressive emotionally. Paul Tournier10 speaks of separation and relation,
or of the developmental cycle in which children begin by being unable
to see themselves
as individuals distinct from
their parents, but later progress to greater and greater
which is ideally followed eventually by freely-chosen, other-oriented
All of these systems share in common the notion that there is some kind of tension, or polarity, between the objective, the analytic, the rational, the self-sufficient, the self-contained on the one hand, and the subjective, the synthesizing, the intuitive, the otherdependent, the emotive on the other hand. Some, like Witkin and Guttman, stress the individual differences in style, usually cautioning that there are 0 "pure types", but rather a continuum from one pole to the other along which individuals can in principle be ordered. Others, like Bakan, stress that the duality is inherent in each of us, and suggest that we must ultimately acknowledge and give play to both aspects. Still others, like Tournier, suggest a development-cumspiritual progression from dependence to independence to interdependence, with pathology equally defined as failure to move from either dependent ("weak") reactions or independent ("strong") reactions to a freelyembraced interdependence with others.11
A Continuum of Cognitive Styles
I have chosen in the remainder of this paper to characterize cognitive styles using Witkin's model and terminology, assuming the continuum of which he speaks, and suggesting that there are consistent, parallel individual differences in both cognitive and religious style which are attributable to basic, underlying differences in personality structure, itself dependent on both nature and nurture for the direction of its development. Witkio's model, although not conceptually unique in its broad outlines, has the advantage of having been empirically tested in many hundreds of studies. Let me give some examples with which some of you are undoubtedly already familiar.
In their 196212 synthesis of some two hundred empirical studies, Witkin et al. conclude that at the perceptual, cognitive, social and emotional levels, individuals tend to function in a consistently analytic or a consistently global way. At the perceptual level, analytic (or field-independent) people show a greater ability than global (or field-dependent) people to isolate a familiar figure from a complex design (Embedded Figures Test), to adjust a rod to its true vertical position uninfluenced by the tilt of a surrounding frame (Rod-and-Frame Test), and to adjust themselves in a tilted chair to true upright uninfluenced by the lilt of an experimental room in which they sit (Body Adjustment Test). At the cognitive level, analytic people score better than global people on the Block Design, Picture Completion, and Object Assembly tasks of I.Q. tests, and are better able to switch to new problem-solving strategies ("set-breaking") when necessary. On the social level, analytic people show less need for guidance and support from others, are less suggestible and conforming, and generally maintain the same sense of self despite variations in the social context. On the emotional level, analytic people tend to be more distant and individualistic, and in situations of emotional conflict they tend to employ relatively specialized defense mechanisms, such as compartmentalization and intellectualization, whereas global persons tend towards simple denial or repression. The basic factor linking these various performance indices seems to be whether items, including the self - can be perceived as discrete and separate from the context (perceptual, intellectual, social, or emotional) in which they appear, of whether such items are only perceived as part of an undifferentiated whole-be it a design, a problem, a social system, or an emotional context.
Without the Word to inform us, we would not accurately recognize the nature of the Spirit. But without the work of the Spirit, we would be unable to recognize the Word as coherent truth which calls for obedience, not just intellectual apprehension.
The work done by the cognitive style researchers has indicated some very stable trends: differentiation of field-independence generally increases with age, although in later life it may level off or even reverse. Although there is substantial overlap in the distribution of male and female scores for the perceptual indices such as the Rod-and-Frame and Embedded Figures Test, there is nonetheless a small but reliable average difference in the direction of men being more analytic or field independent than women, and this difference persists cross-culturally with only a few exceptions to date-that is, within a given culture, men as a group will be more differentiated in their style than women. With regard to the question of origins, the hulk of evidence so far lays more at the door of nurture than of nature13 in North American studies, children whose autonomy is unnecessarily restrictive for their age and capabilities, who are highly socialized for conformity, for whom discipline is erratic and inconsistent, or whose mothers lack self-assurance or self-realization in their capacity as mothers, may find it difficult to develop a separate sense of self and internalized criteria for making judgments and decisions. This manifests in both the perceptual-intellectual and socio-emotional indices of differentiation listed previously-again, the difficulty being a general one of separating self from social context, items from perceptual context, or elements from a logical context.
Cross-cultural studies, of which there are an increasing number, 14 indicate that among traditional (non-westernized) groups there is another stable cluster of cultural-ecological traits which differentiate more analytic from more global societies: at the one extreme, there are groups which are nomadic hunter-gatherers, who also tend to function in small, loose social units, raise their children permissively, minimize sex-role differentiation, and have a nonauthoritarian mobile social system. Members of such groups tend to score high on field independence or differentiation. One can see why: their subsistence mode, in which group survival is enhanced by perceptual acuity and strong individualism, favours the development of a strongly differentiated cognitive style. At the other extreme, there are groups which are re'atively sedentary pastoralists and farmers, who tend to function in larger, highly-integrated social units, who stress the subservience of the individual to the survival needs of the group as a whole, who raise their children strictly, have more rigid sex-role definitions and a hierarchized, authoritarian social system. Members of such groups tend to score low on measures of differentiation. Again, one can see why: in this case, group survival does not depend on perceptual flexibility in an ever-changing environment, and strong individualism is dysfunctional in a society where herding and agriculture must be done cooperatively according to inflexible seasonal demands.
Now, in the preceding description, I have tried to avoid placing different value-labels on each of the cognitive styles, but this is difficult, because until recently the nature of the tests used and indeed the flavour of the entire literature have inevitably made field-independent, analytic, differentiated thinking somehow "better" than the field-dependent, global, less-differentiated style. Somehow, almost everything that is good, clever, admirable, and red-blooded-American has gotten attached to the notion of differentiation: field-independent people are more likely to be mature, male, scientific, logical, self-controlled, articulate, and socially and emotionally independent. As one of my colleagues puts it, "We all want to be research scientists and Hemingway heroes"-that is, to be intellectually hard-nosed and socially self-sufficient. It is only as accumulating cross-cultural studies have showed that the style developed by any group seems to be survivalrelevant to the group that the notion of more-differentiated-equals-more-adequate has started to be more seriously questioned. To be fair, Witkin and his coworkers have periodically suggested that the empirical evidence does not always favour the more differentiated style:
The characteristics common to held-independent perceivers ... may or may not contribute to optimal adjustment. Thus, although held-independent people are often able to function with a fair degree of autonomy from others, some of them are strikingly isolated individuals, overcontrolled, cold and distant, and unaware of their social stimulus value. We have in fact frequently encountered field-independent performance among hospitalized psychiatric patients who were actively delusional and apparently destined to remain institutionalized for the rest of their lives.
The "Word specialist" has a concern for theological correctness and a love of theological debate, e.g., Francis Schaeffer and John Warwick Montgomery. The "Spirit specialist" finds the essential cement of his faith in personal, ongoing dialogue with God, e.g., Oswald Chambers, David Wilkerson, and Edith Schaeffer.
Other studies, notably Crutchfield's 1958 work with Army Air Force captains,16 have scaled the field dependence/independence continuum in a way that confirms the notion that while extreme field dependence may be intellectually dysfunctional, extreme field independence may be socially maladaptive. Using checklist and Q-sort measures of personality in conjunction with measures of differentiation Crutchfield found that:
-extremely field-dependent men were concerned with making a good impression, gregarious, affectionate, considerate and tactful
-moderately field-dependent men were energetic, adventurous, socially poised and nonconforming
-moderately field-independent men were demanding, effective leaders, took ascendent roles, were self-reliant, and tended to manipulate people
-extremely field-independent men were cold and distant with others, unaware of their social stimulus value, concerned with philosophical problems, individualistic, and strong.
In short it appears that either extreme of cognitive style is a mixed blessing,
at least in a complex society like our own which increasingly stresses
competence, but at the same time requires people to associate with
others in large,
highly structured organizations.
More recent studies17 have stressed a totally new issue-that of the match or mismatch of cognitive styles between members of significant dyads: it turns out (not surprisingly) that field-independent therapists attract, retain, and have more success with field-independent clients and similarly for field-dependent therapists and clients. There is also evidence that students learn better, regardless of subject, from teachers whose cognitive styles match their own. At this point, one can only speculate about other possibilities: what about husbands and wives whose styles are matched or mismatched? How, in each case, do they communicate, resolve conflicts and order priorities? (The classic mismatch seems to be the analytic, logical male mated to the global, intuitive female, but the opposite is not uncommon either). Do we tend to choose mates and close friends whose styles are similar or complementary to our own? And what about our church life? Does pastoral work demand one style more than the other, or do pastors of either style attract like-minded adherents, with the result that the entire ethos of the church eventually leans in one direction more than the other? How, in short, does the analytic-global distinction in cognitive style relate to our earlier dichotomy between the Word and the Spirit?
Let me state at this point what I am not implying; there are studies relating religiosity to cognitive style which suggest a relationship between orthodoxy and field-dependence"18 the idea being that those who are conformist and responsive to authority will feel right at home in the ancestral faith. But such a hypothesis usually fails to take into account the necessary distinction between "extrinsic" and "intrinsic" religiosity", the former term applying to persons who regard religious practices primarily as means to other ends, such as social status, friendship, and aid and succourance in times of distress; the latter terms applies to persons who, regardless of the presence or absence of such side benefits, have come freely into a dynamic faith which they see as the lynch-pin of their existence, and for which they are willing, if necessary, to endure considerable scorn on the part of others. It may well be that, relatively speaking there are more field-dependent people among the extrinsically motivated-although the one study I was able to track down on this showed no significant relationship between the two factors.20 But I do suggest that elements of the global/analytic distinction persist
even among the truly born-again, regardless of their peculiar socialization and religious histories. I would further suggest that each style, in its nonpathological, middle-range manifestation is an enrichment to the Body and helps to maintain that Scripturally-founded balance of which the Reformers wrote. Recall what we mean by the concept of the Word: "the truth claims of Christianity, the meaning of the texts of scripture, and the formulation of the contents of scripture into theology." And the Spirit: "speaks of the power of the Christian faith, of the richness of personal experience, of faith, of trust, of hope, of the ability to transform life, and the entering of the supernatural into our personal lives," Are the Christians oriented to the former, on the average, the analytic ones, and the latter the global ones? Such a notion, to my knowledge, has never really been tested using the standard measure of fielddependence/independence. But without having done so (this is on my research agenda), it may be possible even now to sketch out a cluster of traits that characterizes the performance of each in the Body. Let me suggest a possible profile for the "Word specialist" and the "Spirit specialist" within the church, cautioning again that there are probably few if any "pure types", but using this distinction for the sake of clarity and contrast.
The "Word Specialist"
I suggest that the "Word specialist" has a concern for theological correctness and a love of theological debate. He leans towards the "truth" side of Paul's admonition to "speak the truth in love", and if not careful, he can end up speaking the truth with too little love at times, If he has the gift of writing, he may end up authoring commentaries, reference volumes, or apologetic works. If he is a pastor, his sermons will probably emphasize the "observation" and "interpretation" of Scriptural passages more than the "application". At his best, he is apt to be a strong, articulate, respected leader, but if he is not careful and Scriptural, he may end up delegating too little responsibility or using his parishioners to implement decisions he has failed to involve them in. He is the kind of person who has a well-developed, ever-expanding analysis of his faith. For this reason, he is usually not afraid to engage nonChristians in discussion, and may be a highly successful evangelist when dealing with people whose background and interests are similar to his own. The defence of his faith rests particularly on the unity and integrity of Scriptural revelation, and the solidness of the claims for the historicity of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. If he has been converted as an adult, it is apt to have been one of these two things which originally convinced him.
(By way of example, I think of Francis Schaeffer, who as a student originally read the Bible to compare it to other near-eastern writing of its time, and ended up concluding that it was the only system which adequately explained the way the world really was. I also think of John Warwick Montgomery, who as an undergraduate in classics became a Christian after concluding that if he denied the historicity of the New Testament documents any longer, he would also have to throw out all the other writings of classical antiquity, which by the standards of any good historian were much more poorly attested. Both these men, from their writings, would seem to be strong "Word specialists"; such a study of "conversion styles" as predictive of later, lasting "religious styles" merits more intensive study).
While certainly not unaware of the power of God in his personal life, the Word
specialist seems more drawn by larger, more cosmic spiritual trends,
and for this
reason may have tremendous vision for a large, clearly-structured ministry in
the form of a growing church, a mission society, an evangelistic organization,
or a college. He is apt to build up such a ministry by means of
which by their clarity convince workers and supporters that he is
worthy of theft
allegiance and trust. However, because of his articulateness, efficiency, and
breath of vision, he may intimidate people who are in need of a warm, intensely
personal ministry and who find him hard to identify with, let alone
his strengths lean in the direction of the analytic and the abstract, he must
be careful not to sacrifice individual needs to larger principles where this is
inappropriate. He works best with people whose style matches his own, although
he may also realize that he and his ministry need the balance that is supplied
by a more-spiritual co-worker or spouse.
Note that I have described my generic "Word specialist" as if he were a person with a full-time ministry, such as teaching, pastoring, or administering a Christian organization, but what I have said should apply at the more molecular level as well: Wordoriented parishioners, I suspect are attracted to pastors of like style, thrive on listening to strong, analytic teaching, and enjoy building up the organizational aspects of the church and its related para-ecclesiastical work. They show a concern that their children he grounded solidly in Biblical teaching from an early age, and see this as the major responsibility of the church to its young. Although one is tempted to conclude that more men than women are Word-oriented, I do not believe that the dichotomy is all that clear, for even among Christian women who lead fairly traditional lives, I see many who share the above concerns and priorities to the extent that their domestic lives and educational backgrounds allow.
The "Spirit Specialist"
By contrast, the "Spirit specialist", while not necessarily loving or submitting to the Word any less than his analytically-oriented brother, finds the essential cement of his faith in personal, ongoing dialogue with God. He may well be theologically much less articulate, but still recognizes truth from error, not just in principle, but especially in concrete situations in his own personal life and the lives of others. His strength is his freely contracted, supportive emotional involvement with others, especially on a one-to-one basis, and he must take care at times not to let love compromise essential truth. He often has the gift of discerning spiritual needs and God's power in very down-to-earth personal and interpersonal events, and has a strong sense of God's concern for and power over even apparently insignificant aspects of life. He reads the Word like today's newspaper culling from it not so much historic truth or systematic theology as a dynamic personal message for his own (or someone else's) needs of the moment. If he writes or preaches, he is apt to stress current application as much as analysis and interpretation of the Word. (Oswald Chambers is a classic example among Christian writers). If he can recall the circumstances of his conversion, he is apt to say that it was a conviction of God's immanence, love, and urgency that initially made him sit up and take notice and thereafter sent him back to a deeper study of the Word.
It is his personal love, concern and solid faith towards which others are drawn, and not so much his skills as an analyst or organizer, things for which he may have very little predisposition. His success as evangelist rests as much in the testimony-conscious and otherwise-of his peacefulness, love, and humility. He (or she-because there are a fair number of "she's" in this category) may never score the winning point in a theological debate, yet will win over an opponent through a loving acceptance of him as a person and through a practical, godly concern for aspects of his life that the Word-specialist may miss-aspects such as personal loneliness, temptation, the ups and downs of family life, or personal occasions of joy and sorrow. His spiritual vision is not always far-reaching in terms of clearly-defined goals, and even when it is, he may rely more on a day-to-day trust in God for its outworking. Witness David Wilkerson, Edith Schaeffer, and countless others "buying" a piece of property to begin a ministry without the slightest idea where the funds for it were to come from, yet watching those funds trickle in, mortgage payment by mortgage payment, often no more and no less than needed at that specific moment. (I am not implying that the Word-specialist, in his long-range, careful planning, somehow lacks a degree of faith that the Spirit-specialist has; clearly God calls His people to work in both ways. The real danger lies in lack of discernment: trying to do it one way when the other is called for, or assuming that because our personal style has worked for us, then the opposite style cannot possibly he of God).
As a pastor, the Spirit-specialist tends the needs of his flock well, and leans naturally towards a Body ministry, gradually and almost casually involving many co-participants in an organic network of interpersonal support and outreach. However, his more Wordoriented parishoners may easily tire of "all this endless personal sharing", and wonder why he doesn't get more solid, intellectual teaching from a strongly-articulated theology. Eventually, he may take his membership to a church where the leadership, like himself, is more Word-oriented. By contrast, the Spirit-oriented members rejoice in the close personal ties, emotional refreshment, and spiritual emphasis fostered by such a congregation, and see of supreme importance that their children experience God's love through the Body even as they learn the Word. For them, strong Bible-teaching in the Sunday School would not compensate for insensitivity or inflexibility towards their children's personal needs.
Implications of this Dichotomy
What are some of the implications of this dichotomy-or rather, of
if that is what it is?
It seems significant to me that Paul names the work of "pastor-teacher" as a single ministry. Yet the pastoral function suggests an intensely personal shepherding, and the teaching function an articulate, analytic approach.
Like Ramm, I am personally and scripturally convinced that the ministry of Jesus Christ is to the whole manbody, brains, social and emotional needs, and I suspect that the most fruitful ministries are those whose leadership includes men and women of both Word and Spirit orientations, working together in an attitude which recognizes the strengths and limitations of each style. Occasionally there are people who have a "fused style", going from one orientation to the other as the situation suggests and as God leads-and perhaps, as Bakan suggests, it is only socialization which prevents the Wordspecialist from recognizing and developing his Spiritual side, and the Spirit-specialist from giving due to his Word-oriented side. Occasionally I have known people discerning enough to realize that they need regular, systematic exposure to activities and people of the style that is not their naturally preferred one-but such people are rare. Too frequently we prefer selfconfirmation to the struggle of growth.
Then too, I am distressed by the overemphasis placed by individual Christians and, indeed, whole organizations, on one style to the exclusion of the other. Too often, in the recent past, we have either latched onto or overreacted against the North American deification of the rational, analytic "research scientist and Hemingway hero", and this has fostered Christian bodies which suffer from Ramm's "theological intellectualism", or its opposite-a vague spirituality based more on "good vibes" than on solid, scriptural understanding.
I am distressed, too, by the intolerance I frequently see shown by each type of Christian for the other-and I suspect that the Spirit-oriented Christian is more frequently victimized by this. The Word-specialist who is unhappy in a Spirit-oriented Body is usually articulate enough to have his complaints heard and heeded. Failing that, he usually has a strongly-enough-developed individualism to pick up and go elsewhere if he is dissatisfied. But I have seen many sensitive Spiritoriented Christians whose needs are ill-met in a Wordoriented setting, and whose very nature, being more dependent on the immediate social context for affirmation, prevents them from seeking out a more Spiritual setting. Furthermore, being less able logically to articulate the reasons for their needs, dispositions, and dissatisfactions, they may he branded by themselves and others as misfits, when in fact their Spiritual gifts (of prayer, of encouragement, of love) if recognized and tapped, might enrich and even revitalize the lives and ministries of theft churches or organizations.
I think too of the potential contradiction posed by large, structured impersonal Christian organizations whose avowed purpose is that of fostering one-to-one, personal ministry. One such organization in my city High School outreach which was part of an international organization-has recently disintegrated, in part because it workers were chosen for their Spiritual and interpersonal sensitivity, but its leaders for their nononsense, uncompromising organizational ability. (This is the conclusion of a colleague of mine who has acted as interim vocational counsellor to many of the organization's now-jobless workers). The Word-specialist administrators and their Spirit-specialist workers just couldn't adequately comprehend each other's priorities -although, as is often the ease, the Spirit-specialists (part of whose strength is interpersonal sensitivity) were more aware of the discrepancy, even while they were less able to articulate a solution.
Finally, it seems significant to me that Paul, in his list in Ephesians 4 of the gifts given "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service" names the work of "pastor-teacher" as a single ministry. Yet the pastoral function suggests an intensely personal shepherding, and the teaching function an articulate, analytic approach. Could Paul be making a plea for each Christian minister (which in the final analysis means each Christian) to set as his or her goal an integration of both these values, these styles, in the personality? For those of us who tend to he Word-specialists by nature, this would mean deliberate exposure to situations and people who can help us develop our Spiritual side; for those of us who are more intrinsically Spiritoriented, this might call for the self-discipline of scholarship when it would be more comfortable to continue merely enjoying the warmth and supportiveness of like-minded Christians. In either case, whether as individuals or as a Body, it is only as we recognize and value the necessary contribution of both styles that "speaking the truth in love, we (can) grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head-even Jesus Christ."21
1See for instance, Ps. 44:21, Ps. 58:2, EccI. 9:3, Is. 44:20, Jer. 17:9, Mark 7:21-23, Ram. 7:15-24.
2Tournier, P. The Meaning of Persons, SCM, London, 1957, p. 58.
3Ramm, B. "The Holy Alliance", His, 1974, 34 (5), 12-15. "The Way of the Spirit", His, 1974, 34 (6), 16-18, 22.
4Jnng, C. G. Man and His Symbols, Aldus Banks, Ltd., London, 1964.
5Piaget, J. The Origins of Intelligence in Children. International Universities Press, New York, 1952.
6Wadswnrth, B. J. Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development, David McKay Company Inc., New York, 1971.
7Bakan, D. The Duality of Human Existence. Rand McNally and Company, Chicago, 1966.
8Cnttman, D. "Female Ego Styles and Generational Conflict." In Bardwick, J. et al. (Ed,). Feminine Personality and
Conflict. Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., Belmont, California, 1970.
9Wiltkin, H. I. et al., Psychological Differentiation, Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, 1962.
10Touroier, P. Op. cit., p. 127 fl
11Tournier, P. The Strong and the Weak, trans. Edwin Hudson, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1963.
12Witkin, H. I. Op. cit.
14Witkin, H. I. "A Cognitive-Style Approach to Cross-Cultural Research." International Journal of Psychology, 1967, 2 (4), 233-250.
14Witkio, H. I. Ibid.
15Witkin, H. I. Psychological Differentiation, p. 3.
16Crutchfield, R. S., Woodworth, D. C. and Albrecht, R. E. "Perceptual Performance and the Effective Person." Lackland AFB, Texas, Personnel Lab. Rep. WADC-TN-58-60, ASTIA Doe. No. AD 151 039.
l7Witkin, H.I. Personal Communication, December, 1973.
18Witkiu, H. I. Ibid.
19Allport, C. W, and Ross, J. M. "Personal Religious Orientation and Prejudice." Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 1967, 5, 432-443.
20Becker, J. 0. "The Cognitive Factor in Religious Orientations." Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, St. Louis University, 1969. University Microfilms Order No. 70-20, 366).