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Educator scholarship

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There are many ways in which the"field of psychology can inform and clarify aspects of the Christian faith. Jones (1994), a notable Christian psychologist, affirms this in an article written for the American Psychologist and many other Christian psychologist have proposed this in their writings (Vande Kemp, 1996; Van Leeuwen, 1996). Among the many psychological concepts relevant to the Christian faith is the concept of identity, first introduced and developed by Erik Erikson (1956). The term itself has been a popular term in the English language for decades, used to describe specifically issues of adolescent development and crises of personality. Although the term is never used in the Bible, the dynamics of identity development and change are throughout Scripture. Therefore, this paper explores various aspects of the psychological concept of identity and its value in understanding what happens when people encounter a change of identity as they come into contact with Christ. In doing so, this paper will first offer a brief definition and overview of the concept of identity. Then, it will describe identity and its importance in the field of psychology. Given that understanding, the biblical narrative of the Gospels and Paul's letters will be used to illustrate how the concept of identity can help in understanding the dynamics of an encounter with Christ. Finally, I will suggest implications for further use of the term in helping people understand their potential for change as they continue in their life in Christ.


John Bechtold, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology at Messiah College.