Just as the title describes, Entwistle explains within the book the attempts and varied approaches of integrating both psychology and Christianity, two entities which seem to have been at odds with each other since the time of Galileo. By explaining key historical conflicts, such as instances of friction between religion and science, readers are able to understand how psychology and Christianity are intertwined, and how the same principles that hold them together also seek to push them apart. As said best by Entwistle, “The interaction of psychology and theology is virtually inevitable due to their mutual interest in understanding the ambiguities and mysteries of human behavior, and healing human brokenness.” (Entwistle, 2010, p.51) According to Entwistle each person has their own worldview, a unique way in which one sees the world around them shaped by their own experiences, knowledge, and culture. The family we were born into, the town we grew up, the continent our town is located all help shape our worldview.
Our worldview allows us to question if what we believe is true and if our beliefs have a place within our religion. In taking a Christian worldview believing and understanding in the creation, Fall, redemption, and consummation provides a starting point for integration by allowing Christians to understand how the world around them began and their place in that world. (Entwistle, 2010, p.67) Five paradigms are described as ways of relating psychology to Christianity and they are as follows: enemies, spies, colonialists, neutral parties, and allies as subjects of one sovereign. As enemies, there is no possible way that psychology and Christianity can be integrated. As spies, allegiance is held to one while borrowing principles from the other.
As colonialists, there is a recognition of the importance of psychology, but does not attempt to use any of its principles. As neutral parties, both psychology and Christianity recognize findings that are paramount between the two, however both are separated from one another. And lastly, as allies the integration of both psychology and Christianity embrace the word and works of God and his ability to rule over both disciplines. (Entwistle, 2010, p.154) In conclusion, the road to integrating psychology and Christianity continues to be a long one.
As Christians, we know that God is the creator of man and that we are born in His image but have sinfully fallen short, and that Jesus died for our sins so we are able to seek forgiveness. The Bible remains our guide for daily living. Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and our behaviors attempting to explain why we think and behave the ways we do. “Rather, the task at hand is the difficult work of reading the psychological and biblical sources, checking the research and the interpretations, and then asking how together they can help us attain a more complete picture of the human condition.” (Entiwistle, 2010, p.267)
In reading this book it triggered a memory from over ten years ago. In 2001, I lost my great-grandmother to heart related issues. For me her death went farther than just losing a relative. As far back as I can remember my great-grandmother was a part of my daily life. My mother had me when she was still in high school so naturally she still lived at home. My father was nonexistent in my life so my world revolved around a house full of women: my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I had just graduated high school and was anxiously approaching the start of my first semester in college the following August. Everyone else in the household was at work, while I was enjoying my summer vacation. It was still early in the morning and my great-grandmother had decided to lay down for an early nap. At this point in her life she needed help remembering when to take her medications so I went to her bedroom to wake her up.
Upon entering her bedroom I did not notice anything out of the ordinary, but as I nudged her and called her name I became more frantic as the realization of my worst fears came to fruition, that no matter what I did she would never wake up again. One of the first questions that came to mind was, “Why God?” Then, “Why me?” soon followed. But as a Christian, I understood that God has a plan for all of us. When I was able to see through my grief I knew that her suffering on Earth was over and she was in her heavenly home. However, this event solidified in my mind the concept that we are mortals and our days on Earth are numbered. In some way I feel this event helped shape my decision to help others.
In reading this book, some questions come to mind. While discussing the history and innate differences between psychology and Christianity why did Entwistle not find it relevant to discuss the ways the two had been integrated in the past? Relevant to the history of both are the few people through history that have used both psychology and theology in healing the minds and bodies of followers. Even Native American shamans used both the healing properties of plants and medicines and their belief and worship of spiritual beings to restore health to believers. I think it is important that in moving forward for one to understand the past in preventing history from repeating itself and by learning from others mistakes.
Another point I feel that Entwistle failed to make is the possibility of our worldview changing. I feel that although our worldview is shaped over the course of our life that there are reasons that would cause a person’s worldview to change dramatically. For instance, let’s consider a child that has known nothing but abuse and neglect since being brought into the world. Everything they know about the world is skewed by the will to merely survive from day to day. Consider how that child’s worldview would change once that child has been removed and placed with either a foster-family or relative that can begin to teach them that love, trust, and stability do exist in the world. Would that child now hold a different worldview?
I believe that I have learned many things concerning the integration of psychology and Christianity. The community mental health facility in which I work does not endorse the use of religion in counseling sessions due to their ethics and boundaries policy. However, I feel by allowing the client the opportunity to discuss their own feelings and stance on religion opens the door for me as a therapist to utilize that information in integrating religion into their counseling sessions. By allowing them to include such an integral part of their life I feel they are going to be more successful in overcoming illness and life problems that are their undoing.
In conclusion, knowing that I have such limited expertise and experience in combining both religion and psychology, I think it is important as a therapist to know if you are practicing outside your realm of knowledge, therefore I am interested in learning what facilities exist that provide Christian counseling in proximity to my hometown. Clients should feel empowered and have options with which services they receive. It is through my years of working as a therapist that I have also learned clients’ want to feel like they are choosing what is best for themselves rather than being forced. I know I share the same views in my own life and hope I can help others heal within theirs.
Entwistle, D.N. (2010). Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity. (Second Edition e.d.). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.
Courtney from Study Moose
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