Sunday, February 3, 2013
Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity: 4-MAT Review
This paper will review Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity: An Introduction to Worldview Issues, Philosophical Foundations, and Models of Integration by David Entwistle. The book introduces the foundation for integration by exploring the historical tension that existed between faith and science. Historically, these two realms have viewed as enemies with tensions growing stronger since the Enlightenment. Throughout history the disciplines of psychology and theology have often been used in tandem to aid society, cure individuals, and advance knowledge to improve delivery of services.
When looking at integration of psychology and theology, one must begin by examining the worldviews and presuppositions brought to the table, not only from the disciplines themselves, but from the individuals who operate within these disciplines. One’s basic presuppositions will determine how one thinks, approaches research methodologies, views integration, and ultimately treats people suffering from mental illness. The secular and Christian worldviews are diametrically opposed to one another. In examining one’s worldview it is important to examine three main areas: epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophical anthropology (Entwistle, 2010). Examining the specifics of worldview issues, Entwistle demonstrates how atheistic materialism falls short in being able to really ground any of its beliefs. Since the world is material, nothing beyond the material realm exists. How can the atheist account for thinking, ground morality, or construct a suitable philosophical anthropology? After all, the world is simply “matter in motion”. When one operates from a Christian worldview, one can ground ideas and theories based on the belief that God has ordered the world in such a way as to make these things discoverable. By examining the “book of God’s Word” and the “book of God’s Works” one can come to a proper model for integration (Entwistle, 2010).
Entwistle (2010) identifies 5 models of integration: Enemies, Spies, Colonialists, Neutral Parties, and Allies. These models provide an important and informative framework for understanding how different individuals approach integration. Enemies are those who believe that integration is not possible. This is an antagonistic model that sees these two disciplines as an either/or position. The Spies model is also antagonistic, yet has the goal of appropriating whatever might be useful from psychology and theology that would help people. Spies come from both sides with similar goals for the information they spy out. Colonialists on the other hand seek to make psychology subservient to theology. They “…[place] the book of God’s Word over the book of God’s Works…” (Entwistle, 2010, p. 145). Neutral models isolate the disciplines, however at times allow for the interaction of select findings. In essence, the two disciplines are autonomous. Finally, the Allies model serves to properly integrate the two by the proper admixture of the book of God’s Works and the book of God’s Word. This model sees that “all truth is God’s truth” and understands that each discipline operates under God’s sovereignty. Those who seek to apply the Allies model to their life must develop competency in both disciplines, and learn how to properly view the two books (Entwistle, 2010).
This book did not bring out one specific event in my life, but, rather, made me relive for a moment the kind of person I was just a few years back. I graduated with my M.A. in Theological Studies, worked as an Asst. Pastor, and worked for an apologetics ministry as an email responder and writer. I was arrogant, prideful, and only those who agreed with me were right. My theology had been developed over the two years I had studied, and I found myself committed to Reformed theology. One of my idols was John MacArthur. If MacArthur said it, well, it must be right. How can “Johnny Mac” be wrong? I was a bit of a sycophant. I came to the Enemies chapter and could not believe what I was reading. Here was John MacArthur classified as one who holds to an enemies model, may it never be! I immediately texted my friend who knew me quite well that, for once, I disagreed with the great John MacArthur. Entwistle’s examination of MacArthur’s lack of exegesis on certain passages was shocking. I could see how MacArthur forced passages to mean what he wanted them to mean, and I suspected that MacArthur himself knew this. Leading up to this chapter, I could see how this book had begun to shape my thinking in a different way. A few years ago, I would have dismissed Entwistle’s argument entirely. Now, critical thinking skills engaged, I saw where MacArthur’s presuppositions had clouded his judgment.
This book had many positives and a few negatives. Entwistle demonstrates clearly how worldviews affect the way we approach integration. In reality, there can never be neutrality in our thinking. Greg Bahnsen made this quite clear in his Defending the Faith lectures. Neutrality in thinking doesn’t exist, and it is important that one recognizes this and is up front about their prior commitments. Fruitful dialogue can never occur if one hides their true presuppositions. One problem with this book is that Entwistle appears to think that we can approach theology and psychology neutrally as long as we recognize our presuppositions. That one will not moreso inform the other. One criticism of William Lane Craig is that often his philosophy informs his theology more than the other way around. In this book, one gets the impression that each discipline should inform our thinking equally. Entwistle (2010), in discussing the Colonialist mindset, stated that they will often ask this question: “How can the Bible be used in counseling as a means of bringing truth, repentance, and reconciliation” (p. 145). This question should be asked by any Christian counselor. One can maintain an Allies model while still allowing one’s theology to inform their psychology. It could be asserted that for the Christian, a well developed theology should precede a well developed psychology. Perhaps this sounds Colonialist, however, if one holds to a Christian worldview then that worldview must permeate every area of their thinking. This worldview must inform and be the filter through which all information is passed.
I hold to a Reformed theology, and I tend to prefer cognitive-behavioral theories, more specifically Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. I am the type of individual who prefers certainty and commitment to those theories and ideas that make logical sense and that work. Through reading this book, I see where I do need to exercise a little more flexibility in my thinking even though I remain committed to specific ways of thinking. In fact, I’ve already said to a friend how I disagreed for the first time with one of my idols. In future discussions with friends and colleagues, I will need to watch the dogmatism that tends to color my responses. Toned down responses that demonstrate a bit more wisdom will be called for even though I know I will remain committed to certain theories and Reformed theology.
After reading this work, I am committed to constantly examining how my worldview affects the way I approach integration of two disciplines that I love. Entwistle’s book has had a profound impact on my thinking and has caused me to set personal goals. Gaining greater hermeneutical skill, more philosophical sophistication, and seeking out opportunities to apply this knowledge and refine it have become goals that I set for myself as I continue in Liberty’s Professional Counseling program.