TEMPERAMENT AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Ole Hallesby was a Lutheran Minister whose theology was solidly based on Christ's work on the cross and the classic emphasis of Luther, namely justification by faith alone. For forty years he taught in a Bible seminary in Norway and some eight or so of his books were translated into English. He tirelessly taught against the liberalising trends in the church of his day, and against the Nazi doctrines of Hitler. This led to a two year incarceration in a concentration camp. So, all in all a man to read. Just one or two books are still available new but most of the others are easily obtained cheaply second hand. Tim Lahaye wrote a book on the classic old view of the four temperaments but his book is, although helpful, a little more lightweight than this short book by Hallesby. Although the idea that mankind falls into either the sanguine, melancholic, choleric or phlegmatic temperament mould is of an old origin, it has fallen into disrepute and is not highly regarded today. Nevertheless it does have value and should be considered. Obviously, when reading books of this nature we can fall into the risk of an unwise self assessment, or even worse, categorising others and putting them into a neat box. However, we should not be afraid of considering the wisdom of the ancients and of Christian writers such as Lahaye and Hallesby as we reflect upon the differences that so clearly obtain among human beings. Hallesby’s writing goes deeper, it is more formal in language, but is only a little over one hundred pages and is instructive. The author makes it clear that although, in his estimation, one temperament predominates in each person, in actual fact, all are also a mix of all four. This should be borne in mind at all times. Firstly there is chapter of introduction dealing a little with the history of the fourfold temperament idea and with the way variety is intrinsic to all God’s creation, therefore He created human beings in an endless God glorifying variety. He also shows how sin has distorted each temperament and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit a person can be brought into that balance that is appropriate, not eradicating differences but making each whole. Each chapter shows the strengths of a particular temperament, its weaknesses and then the author gives some hints to pastors and counsellors as they seek to help people. The four chapters then conclude with counsel as to the self-discipline that is needful to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying work. As some will know, this view of human psychology is rejected and has been replaced by other attempts at analysis such as the enneagram method which has its roots in the occult although some Christian counsellors, especially those from a Roman Catholic background do not regard it as dangerous. So, any reader of Lahaye or Hallesby is looking at old ideas but those that can help in understanding who we are and the possibility of the unity and wholeness that can be gained as the variety is respected and understood among those committed to each other in the churches.