A Theological Dialogue with and Evaluation of Erik H. Erikson’s Theory of Identity Development in Light of Pauline Baptismal Theology in Romans and Some Implications for Pastoral Care
Steele, Walter R. “A Theological Dialogue with and Evaluation of Erik H. Erikson’s Theory of Identity Development in Light of Pauline Baptismal Theology in Romans and Some Implications for Pastoral Care” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2017. 304pp.
The Issue of identity and identity development, or actualization, is both a psychological and a theological issue. Among psychologists who have been concerned with identity, the name of Erik H. Erikson is at the forefront. His psychosocial theory has been appropriated by several people in the field of pastoral care, yet his theory has not been adequately subjected to a robust and thorough theological critique based on solid exegesis. This dissertation provides such a critique by using a revised-correlational dialogue between Erikson’s and Eriksonian theory and Paul’s baptismal theology of identity drawn principally from Romans.
The dissertation first describes Erikson’s theory and a major adaptation of his theory by James Marcia and his associates. It then explores Romans to determine Paul’s understanding of identity and the actualization of a Christian identity by means of baptism. A revised correlation dialogue next reveals that Erikson’s theory must not be applied to the conferral or imputation of identity, which is given as a gift and received by faith. However, his theory is helpful in two ways. First, it is useful in describing the deleterious effects of mistrusting God and building identity on the foundation of rebellious autonomy. In this case, both the syntonic and dystonic elements can be viewed as antithetical to the Christian life. On the other hand, if identity is first based upon trust in God and the gospel of the free gift of righteousness in Christ, and autonomy is understood in terms of self-control and individuation, his theory can be properly used in the pastoral care work of assisting Christians in actualizing that identity in the various stages of life. The final chapter provides trajectories for further study and presents an initial proposal for using the Rite of Holy Baptism in pastoral care.