Visiting Scholar (2016–17)
Ph.D., M.S., Washington State University
M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary
B.A., Eastern Washington University
Jim Nelson was a Guest Faculty in the Center during the 2016–17 academic year. Born and raised in eastern Washington, he received his theology training (M.Div.) at Fuller Theological Seminary, with further degrees in clinical psychology (M.S., Ph.D.) from Washington State University. He has been a faculty member at Valparaiso University in Indiana since 1987, where he currently holds the rank of Professor in the departments of Psychology and International Studies and serves as the organizing chairperson for the university neurosciences committee. He has been visiting faculty at UCLA and Zhejiang University in China, where he directed the Lutheran Colleges China program for three years. He is a licensed psychologist in the state of Indiana and has served in a variety of professional roles including a term as President of the Indiana Counseling Association. His research interests focus on theoretical issues in psychology, as well as the relationship between psychology and religion. Professor Nelson, his wife Dr. Jeanne Brown, and their children Anthony and Teresa enjoy family time as well as traveling in the United States and overseas.
At the Center, his current project is developing a description of early Christian ideas of human flourishing, and how these ideas have affected subsequent Western understandings of mental health and illness. Patristic authors developed a virtue-rich understanding of mental health that incorporated the spiritual, ethical, and embodied aspects of the human person in a holistic model and set of practices. This is in stark contrast to the contemporary situation, where practices and understandings of mental health are quite fragmented and tend to neglect spiritual and ethical aspects of human flourishing. The project develops an understanding of the historical and conceptual difficulties that have led to this fragmentation and neglect, with the hope of using resources from early Christianity to develop more holistic ideas and practices relating to mental health and illness.