Trauma and Paradigms

Traumatic events often change the way people think.  We adjust our parameters of social acceptance and allow ourselves a little more or less freedom as a result.  Our abilities to discern what is acceptable become more and more skewed by our discretion or lack thereof as a result of trauma.  Someone is offended on a deep level by someone else.  As a result of the offense, a traumatic event triggers a self-defense mechanism within the offended party that then builds a wall or opens a gate.  We see it all the time.  For example, an abused person will either seek out other people who will continue abuse or they will push everyone else away.  Or a person who has lost a loved one will typically stay away from any deep relationships or they will cling to any and every relationship they can with greater extremity.    Either way they choose a path.

What this indicates is a paradigm shift in the way the affected party responds, from trust to distrust or from caution to recklessness.  What was once considered standard is now called into question.  There is a hardening one way or another.  Either the person will raise a hardened barrier to defend themselves or the person will harden themselves against the world.  Right or wrong, this is nature.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not the created order.  This is an effect of the fall.  It is an effect of the fall in that sin causes trauma and therefore trauma began at the fall.  God made humanity naturally adaptable.  We can adapt in small ways to our environment and in great measure we can invent ways of more or less adaptation.  Case in point: we wear coats in winter.  This is an adaptation to cold.  And there you go.  Adaptation takes place in the soul as well.  You see, we all have a paradigm by which we understand the world.  A set of norms that underlie other truths and that we expect to see and that we consider as true.

For example: we believe in gravity and that gravity will bring us back to earth, therefore we have no fear that jumping will propel us into the upper atmosphere (as cool as that sounds.)


Imagine a traumatic event being like jumping and not being pulled back down by gravity but having to be pulled back down another way.  This would then lead the jumper to think twice about jumping…  they even buy special shoes that prevent them from being propelled into space.  Or they might learn to jump with more freedom risking their lives in insane aerial acrobatics.  Either way, their paradigm for what is acceptable has changed.

Paradigms shift and change constantly, but that is not because of the nature of truth, it is because of the nature of belief.  We believe things based on supposed sets of knowledge that are often unverifiable, we call these supposed sets of knowledge: “theories.”  Now, having set this whole thing up; I want to ask a question (which I am not going to answer) and then tell a story.

Why does the persecuted church respond so amazingly to paradigm shifts?

When I arrived on campus at Baylor University in 2000 I had ambitions of being a doctor, a strong fervor for missions and missional lifestyle, and a love for the Bible as God’s word.  I was a solid young Christian man who was going to make a difference and change the world!  Or at least change the part I was in.  Anyhow, Louie Giglio and his Passion buddies were blowing out college campuses everywhere with messages of God’s sovereign grace and His great love as shown in Jesus Christ.  So, naturally, in a college dorm at a Baptist University where everyone wants to sound smart, discussions erupted as to what sovereignty is, how sovereign God is, predestination, free will, sublapsaranism vs. supralapsarianism, several other ‘isms,’ and so on and so on.  Sometimes these were beneficial discussions, sometimes they weren’t.  For me all these discussions triggered a theological trauma.  The truth is that I loved Jesus, but I didn’t know Him deeply.  Sure, sure, I knew he was stronger than everything and that He loves.  I knew my Bible, or at least I read it more than the average person.  I knew that God was both big and intimate.  But I couldn’t articulate much else other than, “Jesus loves you.“  My world was rocked.  So I did what any good Christian would do, I went to Whataburger, got a burger, then I went to my big brother and said something like, “isn’t this God stuff insane!?  I don’t get it.”  He responded with, “we learn who God is through the Bible.”  He kept talking for a while about spiritual disciplines, but that quote is the only thing that actually stuck with me from that conversation.  For all the statements my brother ever made to me, this one changed my paradigm the most… and it is the most simple. So I dug and dug.  Until that point my paradigm had been developed from my own meandering thoughts about God and what I had learned at camps and Sunday School.  I simply believed that God was the one who made things right and was distant from any disaster, because God is love and love is all flowers and teddy bears and sunshine!  (right.)  But as I dug into the Scripture, who God was began to shift from who I wanted Him to be toward who He says He is.  That was a radical change for me.  We must be careful that we do not make God who we want, but that we believe what He says about Himself.

I think the persecuted church probably understands what I had to learn.  I think it is why they can face sooo much trauma and still be surviving.  They understand that as Christians, our paradigm is based on God and who he says he is, not who we think he is.  And sometimes what we think needs to be changed to fit what is true.  Now that I have left you with all kinds of questions as to what I believe, I’ll end this blog.

One thought on “Trauma and Paradigms”

  1. Good Job, Yes you have spun up a few questions in my mine. But thing that stuck with you has stuck with me in that IF you want to know God, read His Word.

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