The problem of loneliness and an examination of its incidence in the ministry of the Church of Scotland

Forbes, Ian Mackenzie (1976) The problem of loneliness and an examination of its incidence in the ministry of the Church of Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 10647980.pdf] PDF
Download (34MB)


The thesis begins with the basic understanding that the feeling of loneliness - the unsatisfied longing for human intimacy - has its roots in three areas of man's experience, - in his relations with himself, in his relations with others both personal and environmental, and in his relations with his God. Accordingly, the first section, examines the psychology of loneliness, and the works of those who revealed special concern for the subject. Freud, Jung and Adler write clearly of man's separation from himself with attendant feelings of anxiety, withdrawal and separation. Jung and Freud also stress the schizoidal nature of the personality of every man. The work of the social psychologists, from, Horney, Stack Sullivan and laing confirm the fragmented character of man, where the lost parts are felt to be lonely, and that this separation is one of the root causes of his loneliness. They also examine man's social nature, where the self -alienated person is alienated from others. Here the cause may come from without as well as from within, from faulty inter-personal relationships begun at an early age, and man's destructiveness of the other. Where there is a complete gulf between self and others, there is to be found intense loneliness. The second section examines the sociology of loneliness, beginning with man's personal deprivations. Wherever there is sensory deprivation. of maternal love, loss of loved ones in grief and old age, wherever groups are deprived of social acceptance, or are stigmatized, there is loneliness. The physical environment of man, examined in the areas of High Flats, Housing Estates and in the anonymous urban centres, also produces lonely people. The nature and structure of society itself produces the sociological diseases of anomie and alienation, with resultant isolation and loneliness. The forces of urbanization, totalitarian standards which govern behaviour, the decline of the influence of social groups, and mediated social influences, all these create for man an impersonal world where man is deprived of meaningful relations. There are also the social pressures of status, of too large kinship groupings in an urban society, the antagonism of social classes, and the helpless-ness of man having to conform helplessly with the mass majority. The writings of Riesman, Halmos, R.A. Nisbet and the Josephsons all confirm the existence of "the lonely crowd." Berger's view that only man in his individuality livinglimithe world as living actors on a stage, can in his loneliness re-construct his own environment, is a true one. At this present time, however, there exist the most powerful social forces driving men to loneliness. The third section, on the theology of loneliness, examines the works of existentialist theologians who see roan loneliness as the result of his estrange-ment from God. If loneliness is the symptom of meats estrangement from the source of Divine love, it is also his necessary experience in his search for it. This is the view of Kierkegaard, l3erdyaev, J3onhoeffer and Mitch, Huber takes the view that man finds the image of ultimate love in the 'I - Thou' relationship with his brother man, and Bonhoeffer sees Christ as the only Mediator between man and God, and man and his fellows. In this section, the examination of the work of existentialist writers, reveals the extent of man's loneliness whore God is absent. Without God there is abmardity, emptiness, nothingness, mean-inglessness, guilt, pessinism, hopelessness, and the symptoms of the horror of loneliness are graphically described. Cosmic loneliness issues in despair, suicide and death. The Bible itself confirms the findings of this section, the loneliness of the people of Israel due to manes estrangement and God's withdrawal, the loneliness of suffering, of God's chosen servants, and of Jesus. The conclusion is that there are two causes of man's cosmic loneliness - the absence of love, and the necessary cause of man searching for himself, for his fellow man, and for his God. Section IV examines the incidence of loneliness in the Ministry of the Church of Scotland. Through a questionnaire, designed to discover the symptoms of loneliness in the three areas covered by the psychological, sociological and theological disciples, a 10% sample of 160 ministers gave their full co-operation. Of the total sample, 58% admitted to loneliness, of which 10% would be estimated to be suffering from extreme loneliness. There was little evidence to indicate that their loneliness stemmed from personality structure or separation; a great deal of evidence to suggest the view or social isolation in the ministry; and equal evidence to support the view that necessary loneliness was ex-perienced in the search for and development of the Man-God relationship. There was overwhelming evidence of the critical factors of faith, prayer and honest doubt, as well as the factor of at least one deep and personal relationship, to point the way towards the conquest of loneliness.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Murdo Ewen Macdonald
Keywords: Philosophy of Religion
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-73416
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2019 08:56

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year