Human growth and development is a significant subject to observe in the discipline of psychology. How a human being changes across the lifespan and how they develop cognitively, physically, biologically, and socially is important. There have been many that have observed the behaviors that occur at certain periods of human development. Such examples include Erik Erickson, who developed what was known as eight stages of psychosocial development. Erik Erickson posited that each developmental stage had two developmental outcomes (a positive outcome and a negative outcome) and a crisis that one needed to overcome. If one did not overcome the crisis at each particular development they would lack positive qualities and outcomes in their life. However if one could overcome the crisis in that particular stage of development they would develop these characteristics as shown below:
McLeod, S (2018). Erik erickson eight stages of psychosocial development. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html.
Erik Erickson’s theoretical model has greatly influenced human growth and development and has been significant in writing countless textbooks, articles, and other resources on the subject. In addition, there was Jean Piaget, who observed how human beings, specifically young children and preadolescence, build their perception of the world. His model became known as the cognitive developmental model. He theorized that a human being, from the time they are an infant, makes sense of the world predominantly through the use of their five senses. Over the course of time as they continue to grow they acquire more skills in their development. The stages in Jean Piaget’s theory are shown below:
Life span development: psychologist and their contributions. Retrieved from https://ysglifespanpsychologists.weebly.com/jean-piaget.html.
Jean Piaget’s theory has also had a significant impact on psychology, specifically in the discipline of primary education. Many have developed teaching styles and instructional models based on his theory. However, despite the influence these men had in observing human growth and development there was one area of their observations that was missing, and this was the spiritual quality of mankind. For Erik Erikson, he believed that Christianity was a coping strategy one used to resolve the crisis that they were to face at a particular stage of development:
[Erik Erikson] used [Martin] Luther’s example to discuss in much greater detail than before the fifth stage of his eight-stage psychosocial schema, Ego Identity versus Role Confusion, as it culminates in an identity crisis. Martin Luther resolved his identity crisis, according to Erikson, by advancing a new concept of man’s relationship to God, thus initiating the Protestant Reformation.
“Erikson, Erik Homburger.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/erikson-erik-homburger
For Jean Piaget, he did not deny the existence of God and rejected Darwinian evolution. However, Piaget saw God as a creative force or energy and saw knowledge as the highest pursuit. Both theorists missed an important spiritual quality of the human being. How would this specific aspect in the context of the lifespan be observed from a biblical worldview?
Sacred Scripture reveals that human beings begin in the mind of God. This truth is highlighted in the Book of Jeremiah concerning the prophet Jeremiah when God says:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Jer. 1:5 NASB emphasis mine
Before Jeremiah physically existed God had intimate knowledge of who he was as a person. In addition, the sacred Scripture also highlights human beings are not just physical beings, but spiritual beings, as seen in Genesis 2:5-7:
Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:5-7 NASB emphasis mine
The sacred Scripture also underscores that God fashioned (or built) Eve from the rib of Adam (Gen. 2:22-24). David emphasized in the Psalms that it is God, by the means of conception, who had knit (or wove) David in the womb of his mother (Ps. 139:13). In short, man’s origin does not begin with the physical aspect of man, but from the biblical worldview, it begins with God.
The development of human beings across the physical lifespan is nothing short than amazing. In fact, mankind was created during day six of creation week and was marked as the capstone of God’s creation (c.f., Gen. 1:26-31). It is the development of mankind to grow and develop from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that reveals, along with the rest of creation, in clear detail God’s invisible attributes, power, and divine nature (c.f., Rom. 1:18-20). Human growth and development also shows the reality of the curse of the Fall of man. Since all of mankind is affected by this curse this is the reason mankind grows old and eventually physically dies (c.f., Gen. 3:1-19; Ecc. 12:1-7; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 6:23).
Although Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget observe some of the developmental changes in mankind they, due to their worldview cannot account the development after one dies physically. However, the biblical worldview does account for this aspect of mankind. Sacred Scripture revealed that one exists beyond their physical bodies, with complete cognition, intuition, and volition. For the one who believes in what God has said concerning Himself and His Son has eternal life, that is, they know God and His Son whom He has sent (Jn. 3:15-16; 17:1-3). When one physically dies the believer is carried into Paradise (c.f., Lk. 23:29-43), and is in the presence of the Lord (c.f., 2 Cor. 5:6-9). For living saints, the imminent appearing of Christ is in view with the reality of the rapture of the Church-Age saints (1 Thess. 4:12-19). Believers will be given a new body that will match their spiritual identity (1 Cor. 15:20-57). By contrast, a person who does not have eternal life will be ushered into what is known as outer darkness (c.f., Lk. 16:19-31). Prior to the start of the Eternal state, they will be resurrected, pronounced eternally condemned, and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). The precise finality of man, from a biblical worldview, is not when one physically expires, but just like the origin of mankind began it will end with God.
Both Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget contributed much to human growth and development in the discipline of psychology. However, both theories when compared to a biblical worldview are incomplete. They acknowledge mankind has the ability to learn and grow however they fail to observe the origin of why mankind does this: Because mankind comes from a Creator who has made mankind with these qualities. By this development, this underscores the invisible attributes and divine nature of God in creation. Both Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget acknowledge the reality of growing old, however, they fail to know the reason why human beings grow old. This is due to the curse of the Fall that all mankind is subjected to. Finally, both theorists acknowledge the physical expiration of man but they fell short in providing an answer as to what happens after man physically dies. It is the word of God that gives a complete overview of how mankind is to view human growth and development.
Let us as believers in Christ observe the study of the whole man in light of what God’s word has revealed. It is here that mankind is more than just a physical body, but a spiritual being whose purpose is to make much of His Creator. Amen.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!
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