On May 12 the Swiss physician and counselor Paul Tournier celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday. Widely known because of his fifteen practical and jargon-free books on psychology and Christianity, Tournier recently published another that bears the interesting title Learn to Grow Old. This is essentially an autobiography in which he describes his present life, analyzes the problems of old people, reaffirms his Christian commitment, and tells something of his past.
Tournier was born in Geneva, the son of a pastor who served for many years at St. Peter’s Cathedral, where Calvin had preached and taught three centuries earlier. Although he learned about Calvinistic theology as a young boy and committed his life to Christ after hearing an evangelistic sermon when he was eleven, Tournier grew up as a lonely orphan who had very little interest in spiritual matters. As a young man he read the Institutes and was involved in church work, but his religion was cold, impersonal, and not very satisfying.
Then in 1932, several years after his graduation from medical school, Tournier went to a meeting of the Oxford Group and learned both to talk with others about his insecurities and to spend an hour every day in quiet meditation before God. Slowly the young doctor’s aloofness toward people began to change. He started treating his patients as persons rather than as cases, and within a few years he had become a respected counselor, though he had never aspired to this kind of work and had never taken a formal course in psychiatry or psychology.
As his life work changed, Tournier began to keep a record of his experiences and observations, and this record formed the basis of his first book. Friends urged him not to publish the manuscript, and he ...1
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