The Jesus jigsaw When the thought first occurred to me that Jesus was a psychologist, I was excited, because it was like seeing a pattern in a jigsaw puzzle that had baffled me for most of my life. I had always been interested in the parables of Jesus. I gathered them together, noticed similarities; I read books about them; a couple of the parables became the guiding principles of my life. But no matter how much I looked there were still some that didn't make sense, and readers who have been Bible students will have hit the same problem. For instance, what would you make of an employer who throws his staff in jail, or another employer who gives some of his workers 12 hours’ pay for one hour’s work, or a father who throws a party for a son who has just blown the family fortune, or a king who has his managers tortured. These pieces don’t fit. But if you love the parables, as I do, you come back to them from time to time. That’s what I was a doing a few years ago. I was preparing to go back into the Methodist ministry, after a long break. Another part was updating my study of psychology. I had studied it as part of my original ministry training, but I wanted to study the main new version today, cognitive therapy. With this approach, if a client looks worried; the therapist says: “What are are you feeling right now?” And the client says, “I feel tense and stressed.” And the therapist says, “What were you thinking about just before you started feeling stressed? And a pattern emerges of the things that get this client into trouble. These patterns are called “schemas”.
The penny drops Well, I was doing these two kinds of research when it occurred to me that there were characters in the parables who had bad schemas. And immediately some of my problem parables made sense! The people in these parables needed therapy. And I believe that’s why Jesus was telling parables: to help people recognize their bad schemas and do something about them.
Let's not exaggerate I don't want to overstate the case. These parallels between Jesus and psychology don’t apply to everything he said: they mainly apply to his parables. And even the bit of psychology that Jesus did do was pretty hit and miss. He did it in public, so you couldn’t really discuss your problem with him, and you might sit on the edge of a crowd of listeners for a couple of hours and your particular problem might not come up at all. Or you might be a hypochondriac and start trying medicine that doesn’t really suit you at all. You might hear a parable about loving your neighbor, and you might think: my husband is beating me up but it’s my duty to love him. And you would be dead wrong; you should be calling the police. It’s like taking somebody else’s medicine! So I’d advise readers not to be too keen to copy the parables! When in doubt, see a professional.
Public education An important part of Jesus’ psychology is that he did it in public, and that is one of my hopes in publishing this book, that people will read it, preachers will preach about it, and it will contribute to public understanding. Email me, if you'd like further information at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Hines was born in New Zealand in 1939, into a Christian pacifi st home. His theological training included client-centered therapy. He did a BA, including philosophy and psychology, then a BD. He was a pastor in evangelical and liberal churches for 10 years and convened the Methodist Faith and Order committee. He was a network chief reporter for Radio New Zealand. Later, as an atheist, he continued to be a lay preacher and worked for the Catholic newspaper, Zealandia, winning a national award in business journalism. Preparing to return to the ministry in 2000, he studied cognitive therapy and New Testament eschatology. He served two periods as minister in 2000-2001, but for family reasons didn’t pursue the idea of ministry further at that time. He continues to be a Methodist lay preacher and also writes drama and hymns, and hosts a Christian website at www.wesleyschair.com.