Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tim LaHaye's Four Temperaments

Just mucking about on the web, I came across an article regarding Tim LaHaye. Mr. LaHaye, along with having done the first contemporary evangelical sex manual (The Act of Marriage), and also having co-written the wildly successful "Left Behind" series, began his authorial career with a pop psychology book called The Four Temperaments.

Katherine Yuricka delves into the background of that first book, and for a Christian in particular it makes interesting reading:

For the fact of the matter is that Tim LaHaye resurrected a discredited pseudoscience that owed much of its success to physiognomy, (the divinatory art of discovering temperaments and character from outward appearance as from facial features.) He simply borrowed his “Four Temperament Theory” from writers who borrowed from the long tradition that grew out of the ancient Greeks’ concept of causes of illness.

For centuries, people believed in the notion that four excessive bodily fluids (or humors) caused diseases. This belief later led physicians to the odious practice of bloodletting by using leeches or cupping. But the four bodily fluids were also linked to distinctive personality attributes, and this theory, called the “humoral theory of personality” was assiduously followed by everyone from crackpots to scholars from the early Greeks to the nineteenth century. It gave birth to the term “temperament,” which was used to indicate the prevailing mood of a person, which in turn was based upon the individual’s supposed prevailing bodily fluid.

Thus an excess of yellow bile would supposedly cause a person to be chronically angry, hence the word choleric (hot tempered, quick to react), which literally means bile. Similarly, an excess of black bile would supposedly cause a person to be chronically sad and depressed, hence the word melancholy. An excess of phlegm meant a person was slow-moving, impassive and apathetic from the cold, moist influence of the humor, hence the word phlegmatic. And an excess of blood was supposed to produce a warm, pleasant mood, hence the word sanguine, which literally means blood.

All that remains of the humoral theory of temperaments today are the four words with their singular meanings still basically intact from the original Greek usage. In fact, the word “temperament” has disappeared entirely from psychology textbooks in the modern western world largely due to the discrediting of such typological theories.

And Yuricka goes on to explore parallels between LaHaye's "typology" and that of Astrology, with somewhat painful results. Both, she concludes, are rooted in pseudo-science. She concludes:

After reading Tim LaHaye’s embarrassingly untrue and inaccurate historical facts; and after reading his own assertions that imply acceptance of his system by the scientific community; and after reading his claim that his scheme is not only “Christian” but compatible with the scriptures, I am tempted to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, who after hearing an incredible statement from a theologian said: “After a man has said that, why need one attend to anything else he says about anything in the world?”
And that sounds right from here. PLease read her entire article for the convincing evidence.

Perhaps I should hesitate to make the link between this sort of illogic and the Christian Right overall. But I think of the various theories offered by spokespersons such as Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, Rush Limbaugh (who a Christian acquaintance told me yesterday had "converted" him from liberal to conservative politics; I groaned aloud and made a face!), Jerry Falwell, and the litany of others... and I find myself thinking about our collective need for simplification.

I could add a bit more re LaHaye.

There was 80s-era "Mother Jones" incident, where his wife Beverley helped out a reporter from MJ by givng him a cassette tape when his own interview tape with her filled. That tape, it turned out later, had been used by Tim to record thoughts involving a Christian Right coalition between himself, Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, and Rev. Jerry Falwell. THe tape was for Bo Hi Pak, a Moon lieutenant, and whistfully wondered if then-Vice President George Bush, Sr., could be replaced by Jerry Falwell. The fact that Moon viewed Jesus' mission to earth a "failure" and view himself as the one fulfilling the mission Jesus failed at didn't seem an issue at the time; Moon was then, and continues today, to donate money to the Christian Right. Again, the lesson seems to be that some people don't mind something unchristian as long as it is labeled "Christian"... or "conservative," which seems these days to be confused with Christian.

Today, LaHaye's Uber-Zionism is evident in the "Left Behind" series and echoed by Pat Robertson's recent scandalous comments regarding both Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin, that God was punishing both men for their allowing Palestinians any of "God's land." The theology / logic behind this is just as unconvincing as the psychology behind LaHaye's "four temperaments" theories.

And just as unbiblical.

Yet his books continue to be bestsellers, whether on the four temperaments, properly submissive female sexuality, or his own strange take on the Second Coming. In the end, the real issue isn't what that says about him. It is what it says about us.


Lainie Petersen said...

Yeah, but those Left Behind books have long been one of my favorite guilty pleasures.


Marty Phillips said...

Pat is a post trib believer though.

Justin said...

On the topic of sexuality, is oral roberts appropriate between consenting adults? Just kidding. I'm tagging you for this "4 Times" blog meme... (if you wanna do it).

Anonymous said...

Whatta blog! Adding to what you said about LaHaye's lack of originality, Carl Olson has revealed that LaHaye's "Left Behind" is incredibly similar to Salem Kirban's "666" while Dave MacPherson's "The Rapture Plot" has side-by-side quotes exhibiting LaHaye's plagiarism of both Lindsey and Walvoord. And a rather different web piece entitled "LaHaye's Temperament" shocks us with additional insights into him. While I think of it - when Tim reproduced Margaret Macdonald's brief 1830 "rapture" account, he left out 48 words - the same 48 words that Tommy Ice left out when he reproduced it several years earlier (which changed the meaning)! But here's something that everyone has missed: Remember crazy musician Spike Jones of the 1950's? There's an eerie resemblance between Jones and LaHaye; not only do they look alike and have California connections, but Jones had doo-wacka-doo music while LaHaye has doo-wacka-doo theology and church history! B.N.

Jon Trott said...

Lainie! Bad girl. Now what did I tell you about reading Tim LaHaye! Stand in the corner right now!

Justin! You are also a bad person, and will be punished. I'll check out the meme and add (maybe) a do-re-mi.

Anonymous! I'm better than LaHaye. My crummy verbiage is copied from no-one... and everyone reminds me of the fact. How crummy it is, I mean, not that I didn't plagiarize. I tried to plagiarize once, but someone said I hadda learn to raad first.