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Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity

The psychological practice of believers is usually different from the atheists’ psychological counseling methods. That is because faith enriches individuals and allows them to reveal those facets of the human soul that may not be available to academic knowledge. This paper aims to summarize and critically analyze the book by David Entwistle Integrative approaches to Psychology and Christianity and tell a personal story that correlates with the author’s concepts.

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Summary

In his book, David Entwistle explains the issue of the interaction of faith and science in self-knowledge. He opens the chapter “The Question of Necessity: Athens and Jerusalem” with a newspaper article describing how Christians in a church were poisoned by carbon monoxide but continued to pray without noticing it (Entwistle, 2015). Entwistle argues that this kind of informational messages can be considered from different scientific and theistic points of view. According to the author, depending on the point of view, the researchers will come to very different conclusions, reflecting their interests.

The author further cites the words of the early Christian Tertullian about the nature of the interaction of Christianity and psychology. Tertullian wonders, “what indeed Athens has to do with Jerusalem,” and “what concord there is between the Academy and the Church,” meaning that human reason and biblical truth are incompatible (Entwistle, 2015, p. 8). However, in the introduction, David Entwistle points out that both approaches are analogous to a fork in the road that leads to a single destination.

Besides, the chapter discusses the question of how tangible the belief in Christ for a psychologist is and what ideas or practices of Christianity psychologists can implement in their work. The author also emphasizes Christian pastors should not stigmatize and deny psychology (Entwistle, 2015). The chapter ends with a discussion of the need to integrate psychology and Christianity. Entwistle draws the reader’s attention to the fact that Christianity and psychology do not necessarily need integration since these are two separate paths, two integral systems that work perfectly on their own. In the following chapter, the author discusses psychology and Christianity interaction through the prism of dialogue and confrontation of clinical psychologists and pastors. He emphasizes that communication should also happen between nonclinical psychologists and Christianity (Entwistle, 2015). Moreover, the author notes that such interactions usually occur in the framework of a personal understanding of the nature of knowledge, world, and humanity.

Further, in the chapter “The Pursuit of Truth: Epistemology – Ways of Knowing,” the author discusses the epistemological approach in psychology and religion. This approach implies that individuals should ask themselves, what they think the truth is, and how they obtained their knowledge. Therefore, epistemology casts doubt on the finality of any personal conclusions based on previous subjective assumptions (Entwistle, 2015). Further, in the chapter “The Nature of the World: Metaphysics,” the author describes the principles of the origin of cosmos for metaphysicists and theists. The theistic point of view, according to Entwistle, implies that, even though man is infinitely small compared to a vast universe, faith in God, who created men and women and endowed them with divine qualities, fills their life with meaning. In the final chapters of the book, the author considers antagonistic, intermediate, and integrative models, guided by which one can combine religious and scientific approaches.

Concrete Responses

Once in my life, quite dark times came – I had problems with work, personal growth, friends, and parents. It seemed to me that everyone turned away from me, and I have no chance for the future. The situation described was exacerbated by depression and internal conflict. But, despite the difficult times, I knew very clearly that they would end, and if possible, I wanted to speed up this process. So I decided to start visiting a psychologist who specialized in art therapy and hypnotic therapy. Firstly, it was interesting to talk with a new person who would not be biased towards me and will honestly answer my questions. Secondly, the term ‘hypnotic therapy’ was intriguing, and I wanted to know whether hypnosis would affect me.

At one of the sessions, I managed to find out that hypnosis, unfortunately, had almost no effect. However, in the context of this book, I would like to mention my dialogue with the therapist about the benefits of faith in treating patients. One day, the psychotherapist asked if I was a believer, and I said yes, I am somehow. Then she advised me to find a priest who would agree to become my confessor and support me on the path to the restoration of my psyche. At that moment, I was surprised that the psychologist promotes a religious approach, and I asked her about it.

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The therapist gladly agreed to share her views and admitted that some patients are utterly immune to therapy, but prayer and church attendance work healingly for them. She also said that she and her colleagues usually advise believers to seek help from the church, since, for many people, establishing contact with the foundation of their personality, occurs through faith. In response, I suggested that perhaps confession helps to get rid of guilty feelings, to which the therapist nodded affirmatively and added that believers could practice any religious practices that lead to the healing of the soul without fear. She also repeated that this usually accelerates the therapeutic process. Thus, even before reading the book by David Entwistle, I met a person who shares the author’s point of view that psychology and religion are two roads leading to the same place – the soul of a person.

Reflection

In my opinion, the most exciting topics discussed in the book related to the integration of psychology and Christianity and in what form this integration should take place. Strength of the book is that the author offers comprehensive models of interdisciplinary interaction. The use of an epistemological approach is no less impressive since it analyses the influence of beliefs on the formation of personal ideas about the world and the nature of knowledge.

Interestingly, the author’s position on the need for dialogue between non-clinical psychologists and faithful Christians in some ways echoes the ideas of Agneta Schreurs. The latter explores the psychological counseling of believers in her book How to Integrate Spirituality in Psychotherapeutic Practice: Working with Spiritually-Minded Clients. The scientist notes that “religion and spirituality are good for physical and mental health” (Schreurs, 2019, p. 6). Entwistle also indicates this in the chapter “The Soul of Psychology and the Psyche of the Soul.” Besides, both authors agree that it is impossible to live in Western society and not have distorted ideas about the church and religion. However, while Entwistle analyses religiosity and spirituality from philosophical knowledge positions, Schreurs is speaking more about the differences between mental and spiritual processes. Entwistle relies on reason, while Schreurs is more intuitive in her ideas. Therefore, I consider treating patients relying solely on the mind as a negative aspect of Entwistle’s theory.

Theological Integration

According to the author, there are five main models of the disciplinary relationship between psychology and Christianity: enemies, spies, colonialists, neutral parties, and allies. I most resonate with the neutral parties model since, in my opinion, there is no need for the forcible integration of Christianity and psychology. These two disciplines are complete, and even if applicable to one person at the same time, both will bear their fruits. I believe this is true since psychology is a science and therefore refers to the human mind, while religion is based on faith and offers the salvation of the soul through an irrational agreement with certain postulates.

Besides, I consider it reasonable and convenient to adhere to the neutral parties model, since I do not think I understand each of the disciplines well enough to begin the process of their integration. From my perspective, preserving a certain imperativeness of scientific and religious approaches is necessary for the continuing discussion and a healthy confrontation. I do not adhere to the position of antagonists that science and faith are incompatible in principle – I only think that apart they will be more useful.

Although many criticize the scientific approach for a rather stern denial of faith or religious principles, I believe that the Bible canon is much more rigorous and imperative than scientific discussions. For example, the Scripture is based on the fact that Christ is God, and no one else: not a prophet, not a teacher, and not a person. The reader also encounters an imperative tone in other passages. In the parable about the talent that should be realized, by all means, believers are left with no choice but to work with gratitude for God’s gifts (Matthew 25: 14-23). From my point of view, such an imperative tone has more in common with the ‘do or die’ vision of large companies. Therefore, psychology, as well as Christianity, has the right to independent existence and imperativeness. Its principles and goals can go against the canons of Christianity, and even exempt from them.

As for the other models, attempts to create an integrated psychological-Christian method of therapy, based on the charismatic experience of Christians, which is typical for the spies’ model, seem to be far-fetched. Besides, I am not impressed by the colonialists’ model, who use psychological tactics to make their sermons more convincing. I think that believers should have access to the classical Bible canon to proceed with the formation of their religious worldview, and the pastor’s task is to convey this canon to them. From my point of view, the model of allies is fairer, as it rejects the idea that theology should obey psychology.

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Action

Thanks to my acquaintance with the book, I got the opportunity to change my idea about the existing options for integrating Christianity and psychology in counseling. This knowledge will allow me to rely on the chosen model of disciplinary relations with greater confidence. Besides, after reading the book, I can more clearly distinguish those aspirations in my practice that are accepted by most practicing psychologists and counseling pastors. Now I will be able to separate the subjective layers acquired during the formation of my personality under the influence of my upbringing and environment and maintain the highest possible objectivity when working with patients.

Conclusion

Thus, the book by David Entwistle Integrative approaches to Psychology and Christianity was summarized and critically evaluated. To summarize, the author provides an exhaustive analysis of the disciplinary relations of Christianity and psychology in his book. He concludes that these relations can be fruitful and describes the existing models of such interaction. Therefore, understanding the integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity is exceptionally favorable for successful psychotherapeutic practice.

References

Bible, H. O. L. M. A. N. (2018). Holy bible. Cambridge University Press.

Entwistle, D. N. (2015).Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Schreurs, A. (2019). How to Integrate Spirituality in Psychotherapeutic Practice: Working with Spiritually-Minded Clients. Routledge.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, March 15). Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/integrative-approaches-to-psychology-and-christianity/

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