Sep 19, 2006

Psychology professor brings unique perspective

by Amy Field, Asst. News Editor
“I’m an odd one,” Dr. Ed Barker says. 

And indeed, the psychology professor has had a life that most would not consider normal. Barker was born in Japan, the son of a career military man who moved around often. As a boy he enjoyed shooting rattlesnakes in his own backyard in the western slopes of Colorado.

“When I was eight I had my own .22 and I would go up into the mountains with my canteen and a little backpack and I would shoot rattlesnakes,” Barker said. “It was a good way to spend your life.”

For 20 years, he made his home near Oslo, Sweden. He has attended school for most of his life and attained more than four degrees. He has been a respected professor here at Liberty for the past four years and is currently teaching a new criminal psychology class.

 Successful as his life sounds, it is hard to believe that his high school advisor told Barker that he would not go any further than doing heavy manual labor for the rest of his life.

“My high school guidance counselors told me to prepare for a career unloading trucks and ships because I was big, strong and dumb, according to them,” Barker said. “And it wasn’t until I took the PSAT and became a National Merit student that I realized I wasn’t a complete idiot.” Since then, Barker has gone on to be both a student and a teacher, and, ironically, a high school guidance counselor.

“I always told my students to believe in themselves and not to sell themselves short,” he said. Ever since that PSAT test, Barker has been listening to his own advice.

“I’m curious. I like to know ‘why,’” he said. “I’ll read cereal boxes. If I’m stuck in traffic I’ll read billboards and traffic signs, bumper stickers and everything under the sun. I’m just curious.” That curiosity has led to his studying and attaining quite a few degrees, mainly in education, counseling/psychology, theology and Jewish studies, primarily focusing on the early church.

After attending Bible college in Pennsylvania during the Vietnam War era, Barker also did some doctorate work at the Lund University. Currently, he has an ABD (All But Dissertation) Ph.D. in Religion, focusing on Judaism, from Lund. During his stay in Sweden he met Gina, who became his wife. They have been married for six years. Dr. Gina Barker now teaches public relations courses in Communication Studies and received her doctorate from Regent University.

“I have a wonderful wife,” he said with a smile. “My wife is the most organized person I know. She is the greatest example of Christ’s love in my life and I am blessed by her every day.”

After Sweden, his next trip took him to the United Kingdom.

“I ended up going to Oxford to study for a masters,” he said. Then his eyes lit up. “Oh -- Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford! It was one of the best parts of studying at Oxford.” An avid reader and book collector, Barker had to use a station wagon with a rooftop carrier to transport his books from Oxford at the end of his time there. 

Since then, Barker came back to the states with Gina, and through what Barker described as God’s intervention, they both ended up teaching at Liberty. 

“I have never seen students the heart and the quality of (Liberty students),” he said. “I love you guys so much and I always get so blessed every semester- that’s why I keep coming back.” If students have affected Barker so deeply, it is nothing compared to the mark he leaves on those who pass through his classroom.

“Dr. Barker teaches in such a way that you can already envision how you will put the knowledge gained into practice,” said senior Karen Young, a psychology major. “He brings his lectures to life for his students.” Even after graduation, many alumni still fondly remember his influence on the academic and spiritual aspects of their lives.

“One thing I learned from him was that you really can put the passion of the Lord in psychology. Not a lot of people can do that,” said alum Kati Wimber. “He makes everything he has to say relevant. He would even just stop and pray in class if he felt it was needed.”

 The bottom line for Barker: “Only one life / Twill soon be past / Only what's done for Christ will last.”
“I want my students to understand that absolutely nothing they do on the face of this earth is going to last after them, unless it’s done for God’s glory,” he said. “When I talk about crisis intervention, marriage and family, dealing with crisis and trauma, you hit people where they really live. You see them at their very worst. And if you have nothing more than psychology to give them, if you don’t have anything from God and you can’t show another aspect, you’re hollow. I don’t believe psychology has the answers. Psychology deals with people’s thoughts and actions — understanding them. But if it doesn’t change a person — if it doesn’t make a difference, why do it? I’m a very pragmatic person from a spiritual point of view.”

Contact Amy Field at

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