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This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023

 

What Is A Prototype?

02.1.7

Prototype - "An original or model after which anything is formed;  a pattern;  archetype." - Thatcher.  (1971, p. 670)

 

Prototype - "3.  A standard to which all others must conform."  - Readers Digest Assoc. (1966, p. 1084)

 

 

From time to time you will see me use the word 'prototype'.  I use the term to describe a 'model' or 'typical example'.  We all know that individual people will differ from one another wildly.  Someone likes pickles, someone else doesn't.  That kind of thing.  Yet, we still think and speak of people in groups.  Hopefully these are meaningful groups.  When we speak of a group of people, we don't refer to these idiosyncratic details of the individuals.  Instead, we think of people in groups based upon their similarity, their shared characteristics.  When we think of a 'fast horse', we often think of a horse that tends to win races.  I assume that all the horses entered in the Kentucky Derby have each won multiple races and are considered 'fast horses'.  Similarly, when an apple tree is described as a 'prolific bearer' we expect that it will bear many large apples, compared to other apple trees.

 

When I describe a maturing Christian as displaying a 'prototypical' character quality, it tends to reflect the expectation that someone at that level of development will display more of those qualities, compared to someone at an earlier level of growth.  Given the developmental nature of the 2nd Peter Theory, one would expect to continue to see some of these qualities displayed at later levels of growth, though maybe not as frequently.

 

In addition to the sheer number of instances of the character quality displayed, there will often be an increase in the intensity of the display.  The person will often be focused on these issues and, frequently, in some distress regarding them.  The issues will be a focus of their attention and concern.

 

Why am I concerned with 'prototypes'?  You may have noticed that the scriptural text we will be focusing on, 2 Peter 1:5-7, is, essentially, a list of nouns.  Aside from this list we have almost nothing else to go on.  The Second Peter Theory will be developing the emotional/spiritual underpinning to better understand the characteristics of these nouns and the processes used to move from one character quality to the next.  It is in the process of seeking to understand and describe these characteristics that the term 'prototype' becomes useful.  Specifically, the picture we develop for each of these eight nouns will become a 'prototype' to describe the nature of the spirituality present at each level.

 

Does this mean that all people at a given level will be alike?  No.  Remember what we said about individual differences.  There will always be variability between individuals.  What it does mean is that, for those persons at a given level of development, the character qualities they display, the concerns they have, and the spiritual issues they are dealing with should be more similar to others in the same group, and somewhat less similar to those outside the group.

 

But, the picture gets more complicated.  People are messy.  When we say that a person is functioning at a given level of development, that does not mean that the only things you will see are the qualities characteristic of that level.  Due to the demands or 'pull' of the environment the person may display characteristics wildly disparate from the prototype.  For example:  a Sunday School Teacher may steal a pen from the bank.

 

Sometimes a recent environment may 'bleed over' into one's responses to a current, different, environment.  So, brooding over memories of having had a bad argument with one's spouse may effect your responses to another person.  How we respond to a given environment and what behavior is displayed may not be what is expected for that environment.

 

Further, in addition to environmental 'pull' there is sometimes an internal 'push'.  Various inner states may tend to suggest or compel behaviors.  Stress, lack of sleep, or low blood sugar spring to mind as examples.  With a little thought I'm sure that you will be able to supply numerous examples of your own.

 

The upshot of all this is that when a person is at a given level of development the 'prototype' for that level may appear somewhat confused, being displayed in the midst of all these other actors in the drama.

 

It is expected that this 'confused' presentation may be worse at the earlier levels of development.  The converse would also seem likely.  The more advanced levels should be less 'confused' and more distinct.  Earlier in the sequence multiple lessons have yet to be learned and much of one's previous, unconverted, life would, likely, still be around competing for attention.  As one matures there are fewer lessons to be learned and much of one's life has been transformed to allow us to approach our Lord.

 

As you can probably guess, this variability in behavior can be much more dramatic when you consider abnormalities of development.  The reader is referred to the Pathology section of this web site for a more complete discussion of these issues.

 

While variability in presentation may cloud the picture, the concept of a pattern of spirituality and behavior that is characteristic of a given level of development is, potentially, quite powerful.  It is hoped that we will be able to successfully describe patterns of spirituality characteristic of each of the eight Second Peter levels of development.