Paul Maxwell on What Missionaries Should Know About Trauma

Everybody is talking about trauma. Our culture is highly concerned with mental health, but a lot of half-baked opinions from pop psychology dominate the conversation. Simultaneously, those within the church are usually the last to show any willingness to address the legitimacy of biblically-informed psychology. For missionaries, the pressures are even greater as they face the stresses of life in a new culture—so how should missionaries think about trauma and the brain? Paul C. Maxwell joins us address how serious, Bible-believing, conservative Christians can should think about trauma, PTSD, and related struggles facing people in ministry.

Paul runs TheoFit. Paul earned his B. A. in Biblical Languages from Moody Bible Institute and his M.Div from Westminster Theological Seminary. While in Philadelphia, Paul served at a think tank devoted to integrating psychology and theology, where he was encouraged to research more about trauma as he began to process his own childhood abuse. Paul witnessed in conservative Protestantism a closed posture toward psychology, while at the same time, he saw in the psychological literature a growing obsession and hysteria with the concept of trauma among therapists in particular. Conservative Protestants were too captivated by the concept of moral responsibility to see the real pathological elements of trauma, and psychologists could not explain why or how the traumatized could take moral responsibility for their own recovery. Both opposing camps seemed, to Paul, too ideologically motivated to do meaningful work at the intersection of masculinity, faith, and trauma.

Paul earned his Ph.D. in 2018 from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a focus on trauma psychology. His doctoral dissertation was The Trauma of Doctrine: A Dogmatic Account of the Effects of Abuse upon the Believer’s Experience of God. Paul was a professor of philosophy for 3 years at Moody and published over 12 peer-reviewed articles and reviews in journals such as Journal of Psychology & TheologyJournal of Spirituality in Mental Health,  Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul CareJournal of Interdisciplinary StudiesPhiloWestminster Theological Journal, and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 

After finishing his final year of doctoral research, Paul moved to Noblesville, IN, with his wife Molly. He is currently a personal trainer in the Indianapolis area. Paul has also consulted with university administrations to improve their level of mental health care for students. Follow him on Twitter.

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Want to ask a question for a future episode? Email alex@missionspodcast.com.

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One comment

  • Thank you so much for posting this episode. I was so encouraged to learn more about trauma from a biblical perspective. I had much education on however never through the grid of scripture. I am left with the question what is the accurate biblical theology of trauma 🙂

    I am so thankful for this podcast and resource. I listen to every one on my way too and from work and I’m consistently encouraged at your boldness in addressing and asking the hard questions. Thanks for your faithfulness! Keep up the great work.

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