I have always been drawn to the great commandment. I heard it read from the Book of Common Prayer every Sunday as I was growing up.
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
I was aware of the addition of “strength” from the Gospel of Mk. 12:30. When I heard about the four functions of type theory a big “Ah ha” went off in my brain and spirit. Sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling are the ways in which we love God and others with heart, soul, mind, and strength. From that time forward, I have been interested in discovering how the truths of scripture might be understood and described by the language of personality type theory, and how the knowledge of type theory might help us understand and develop our lives of faith and our exercise of ministry.
In my search, I found there is a growing body of literature making these connections. Most works focus on the broad topic of spirituality, or more specifically, upon the life of prayer. The earliest publication I found is a pamphlet, Prayer and Different Types of People, written by Christopher Bryant, S.S.J.E.
The first book relating type theory and spirituality is, From Image to Likeness: A Jungian Path in the Gospel Journey, by W. Harold Grant, Magdala Thompson and Thomas E. Clarke. This work is especially helpful in understanding the development of spirituality over the course of a lifetime. The authors describe the development of different functions and how these affect our interests, abilities and focus upon one’s spiritual life. I was happy to discover that they made the same connection between the four functions and the commandment to love with heart, soul, mind and strength. “With very little distortion it is possible to correlate these four aspects [heart, soul, mind, and strength] with the four functions, and so to see the exercise of these [functions] as flowering in love.”
Chester P. Michael and Marie C. Norrisey did an extensive research study into the relationship between type and prayer. Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms For Different Personality Types, explains in helpful detail what they learned. The SJ temperament prefers carefully organized regimen of prayer that helps them strive toward a relationship with God. They are strongly attached to tradition and militantly opposed to heresy. For SJs, historical dimensions are important and they view life as a spiritual journey. They particularly enjoy celebrating the liturgical year. The SP temperament find acts of loving service to be the most effective prayer. For them, God speaks through His creation to the senses. They relate well to the incarnation of Jesus parables about everyday life. They respond to a call to service and sacrifice. The NF temperament find it essential to have a personal relationship with God. For them daily prayer and quiet time is a must. The discover transcendent meaning as a quest. The use of symbols is most important for them. They have a visionary interest in the future and are especially open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. NT temperament uses systematic disciplines to move towards virtue. They prefer neat and orderly forms of worship. They earnestly pursue transcendent values such as truth, goodness, unity, love and life. They hunger for holiness and perfection and life is an intense search for the whole truth of God. Mystical contemplation is a favorite prayer for this temperament.
A recent work by Roy Oswald and Otto Kroeger, Personality Type and Religious Leadership, examines the use of type for helping professional clergy carry out their ministry of congregational leadership.
Terrence Duniho, in Wholeness Lies Within: 16 Natural Paths to Spirituality, has added yet another important ingredient to our understanding of type and spirituality. He encourages the use of the weaker functions and argues for balance in our personalities.
The most influential work on type theory as it relates to this dissertation is Dichotomies of the Mind: A Systems Model of the Mind and Personality, by Walter Lowen. I shall present Lowen’s rather complex theory in a form that is both understandable and applicable to the development of personal spirituality and ministry.
As you read through this manuscript you will learn much about me and my personality type, ENFJ. By the time you finish reading, letters like this will be understandable shorthand rather than strange hieroglyphics. In part those letters mean my personality type is one that see all kinds of interconnections. I hope you will also gather useful information about yourself, find many interconnections for your spiritual life, and have some new tools for ministry.
This is a comprehensive text for pastors and layperson alike that will use personality type theory as a map to explore the territory of Christian spirituality, including a summary of biblical and contemporary understandings of spiritual gifts. I have enhanced the material with definitions of each spiritual gift that are based upon the mental capacities used when they are manifest. I also propose a theory of progressive conversion. This process occurs in conjunction with the development of personality functions.
I will also explain in common language what I hope will be useful to all seekers whatever their belief systems the advanced type theory of Walter Lowen. Using Lowen’s material as a model, I will make connections to a variety of Christian experiences and I believe to the human experiences we all share as well. This process will explain sixteen separate areas of ministry available and how various personality types effect the performance of those ministries.. Moreover, it will indicate the levels of conscious application that each type will use to exercise these ministries.
Tools will be provided for using this material as an aid to spiritual direction. A chart will be presented to designate probable strengths for positive expression and possible negative temptations of ministry roles for each personality type.
Finally, I shall present a narrative description of each of the sixteen personality types. These narratives will give a summary of all the above information as it applies to each type.
This book rests upon several biblical principles. Foremost is Jesus’ summary of the Law, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is like this, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mk. 12.30-31 . Paul’s ecclesiology of the body of Christ is also central to this work. It is especially important because he stresses the equality of gifts. In personality type theory no one type is better than another. Each has an important contribution to make.
The view of conversion I am proposing suggests there is a place for nearly all theological perspectives. It is our individual personality types predispose us to prefer certain theologies. It touches upon our complete Christian experience, from our view of salvation, to our preference for mission. It will especially explore the implications for Christology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and missiology.
The chapters that discuss spiritual gifts include a survey of the contemporary debate regarding the nature and origins of the gifts. On one side is a view, held mostly by Pentecostals and Charismatics, that the gifts are purely supernatural in origin and expression. The other side, more mainline and liberal theologies, sees the gifts as biblical language for the rather ordinary differences we find in the development of our personalities.
My view is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Personality type theory, and especially the development of this theory by Walter Lowen, helps us understand that spiritual gifts are expressed, and may be found, in a variety of levels of conscious behavior. The most conscious expressions will appear more natural. The least conscious will appear more supernatural.
It is also the contention of this work that the contemporary practice of discerning spiritual gifts with various inventories is flawed, because they are too subjective. A community based model for the discernment of gifts will be presented. This model is based upon biblical principles of discernment: giftedness, effectiveness, receptiveness, and fruitfulness. It is offered as a balance between the subjective nature of spiritual gifts inventories and objective psychological implications of type theory.
This is a large undertaking. The biggest challenge is taking what is rather technical material from personality type theory and making it accessible to ministers. The second challenge is to expand the reader’s horizons to see other theological perspectives as not only valid, but also as interconnected.
- 1 Bible references are all NIV.
- 1  Harold Grant, Magdala Thompson, and Thomas E. Clarke, From Image to Likeness: A Jungian Path in the Gospel Journey (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 186.
- The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Book of Common Prayer: and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church (New York: The Seabury Press, 1928), 69.
- Heart (kardia)–This word has many nuances of meaning in the Bible. It indicates the seat of physical, spiritual, and mental life. It can refer to moral decision making (2 Cor. 9:7) as well as describe emotions, wishes and desires (Rom. 1:24). Feeling–This word to denotes one of Jung’s categories of mental functioning is likewise a relatively complex and broadly defined term. As with the Biblical understanding of “heart” the feeling function is not just a matter of emotions. It is in fact a mental function. Feeling denotes a particular set of things people think about. For example, values and harmony. I would not argue that there is a one-to-one exact relationship between these two words and related concepts. Nor will I for the other three (soul, mind, and strength). However, I am convinced there is enough overlap to make a useful comparison that can help us move towards the totality of commitment implicit in the great commandment.Soul (yuch)–This word also has a variety of complex meanings in the Bible. It ranges from the simple idea of life itself (Gen. 9:4) to the idea of the soul which transcends this life (1 Pt. 1:9). It is the paradoxical inner and transcendent nature of the soul which makes it similar to intuition. Intuition is connected to remote input of smell and the sixth sense. It is also is oriented towards infinite possibilities in the future. At the same time it is a mental function that seems to operate from within. Intuitions are deep inner hunches as opposed to hands-on concrete data.Mind (dianoia)–This word is a bit more focused in its meaning. The lexicons give three basic Biblical definitions: 1. intelligence (Eph. 4:18) 2. thought (2 Pt 3:1) 3. imagination (Num 15:39). The mental function labeled thinking is most like the first two of these definitions. It is concerned with logical abstract things.
- Yet like the use of mind in the Bible, the Thinking function can also have some strong emotions connected to these thoughts. Thinkers may feel passionately about ideas.Strength (iscuo)–This word is translated variously as strength, power, or might. It is most often used of God or the power given by God. (Rev. 5:12, 1 Pt. 4:11, Eph. 1:19). I reason that the sensing function is most connected to the actions of the body. Certainly we need strength and power of will and emotions. Yet, it is only when we put the will and emotions into action (with strength, power, or might) that the body becomes fully involved. That involvement is also connected to the sensing functions preferences for one thing at a time in the here-and-now of the present.
- W. Harold Grant, Magdala Thompson, and Thomas E. Clarke, From Image to Likeness: A Jungian Path in the Gospel Journey (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 186.