They argue that Christians have taken different positions regarding the extent to which they should have anything to do with modern psychology. Some have embraced it whole heartedly, others rejecting it just as vigorously, and others falling somewhere between” (Johnson and Jones, 2000, p.9). Some believe that there are marvelous things to learn from modern psychology and thus embrace psychological findings and theories with enthusiasm while others approach secular psychology with great caution.
According to Johnson & Stanton, in the Western world, even though many still claim to be Christians only about 15% to 20% in the USA and about 5% to 10% in Europe continue to hold the traditional beliefs of classic Christianity and “consistently practice their faith” (Johnson & Jones, 2000, P.13). It seems modernism has superseded Christianity with influence. The most tangible example of the secular movement is the way institutions of Higher Education in USA and Europe have moved from Judeo- Christian to secular substitutes in the last 150 years. Gradually, beginning in the early 20th century unwritten rules have been developed that exclude religious views from education and Science.
There appears to be three broad views of proper relationship between Science and Religion. One is that it is an ever ending conflict while another suggests that the two are complimentary or independent of each other asking different questions about reality in incommensurable way. The third view is that the two can have mutual interaction and constructive influence to each other. Certain types of Religious beliefs may be more supportive and conducive to Science than others and Science and Religion can work to mutual advantage. Johnson & Jones argue that Christianity provided a strong justification for modern Science’s empirical approach to the natural world “which strives for an accurate and detailed understanding based on actual research” (Johnson &Jones, P. 26).
Christian psychology work of the early church, medieval and early modern periods was however based largely on various combinations of reason, speculation and human traditions accumulated over previous centuries. Human Sciences arose later at a time when the Western culture was moving away from Christianity. It is conceded that “the application of natural Science methods to human beings was facilitated by a shift in viewpoint regarding human beings: they had to be construed as a type of “thing” and “object of study” to which methods could be rightly applied” (Johnson & Jones, p. 26). It seems the emergence of Darwinism and the growing success of natural Science methods together made it easier to treat human beings as “empirical objects of study” (Johnson& Jones,P.26).
But what are the Four Views
The four views appear to be representative of the current state of affaires regarding the relationship between psychology and theology. Of these four views only one advocate’s full integration. This is the view proscribed by Gary Collins (2000). He states “The bible gives us all we need to know about God, human depravity, salvation, amazing grace and many other issues that psychologist never touch or try to comprehend. —The Bible does not tell us about issues such as biological basis for depression, the effect of accurate empathy, the life long devastation of emotional or physical abuse, the means by which people learn the development stages of infancy, the fine points if conflict resolution —Psychology focuses on issues like this” (Collins 2000, P.110).
According to him the study of integration helps us understand both fields and ultimately to engage in the Christian Psychology. To support his case for integration he says “students want guidance about significant issues such as the meaning of life, the causes of our struggles or where we are going. They discover instead that a scientific understanding of human behaviour does not answer any of these questions. It can’t” (Collins, 200, P.109). In his view appropriate integration IS:
- “bringing God’s truth from all areas of His creation, both special and natural revelation, to bare on the therapeutic endeavor
- Careful study, selection and orderly combination of compatible concepts from a variety of sources, based on the principle that “all truth is God’s truth”.
- Based on the presupposition that there is no fundamental incompatibility between the truth of the Bible and accurate, observation truth about, man. Incompatibility and conflict comes in man’s faulty observation or interpretation of either or both of these bodies of truth.
- Based on the thorough study and interpretation of the scriptures and the human condition to equip us to apply truth profoundly and specifically”.
It would then appear that this group actually puts the Bible truths at the same level as empirical evidence.
The second view known as the “A Levels-of- explanation” argues that psychology and theology are parallel disciplines that engage in different levels of explanations and thus are not truly integratable fields. David G. Myers, a major proponent of this view argues that both psychology and theology share “humility before nature and skepticism of human presumptions” (Myers, 2000, p79). He furthers suggests that psychological science is the discipline that is uncovering lawful principles that we must use continually to reform our understanding of theology. He suggests that Religion be made an independent variable by asking “whether it predicts attitudes and behaviors” (Myers, 2002, P.59).
Myers has a disturbing assertion to the effect that research can help us ask “how insights into human nature gleaned from psychological research corresponds to Biblical and Theological understanding” (p. 59). It is obvious, from this assumption, that psychology is elevated or is given more attention than theology. Whereas most proponents of integration give precedence to Biblical understandings of various disputed issues, Myers and his group (A levels of explanation theorists), is quick to urge a re-evaluation of our theological and Biblical understanding if a seeming contradiction emerges. By so doing they give psychology more surety and certainty than it actually has earned in it first century of existence as compared to the Bible.
The third view argues for a creation of a Christian psychology “using the wisdom of the saints who have gone before us rather than by attempting to distill truth from contemporary and largely secular sources of psychological information” (Roberts 2000). This view puts emphasis on Historical, Biblical, and Theological sources of information than of the psychological side. According to Robert C. Roberts, “A primary aim of Christian psychology is to make available the distinctive psychology of the Christian tradition to the intellect and practice of person in our time” (Roberts 2000, p.155). Indeed he adds that “The goal of Christian Psychology is two dimensional: to read the tradition pure, and yet to read it for what we and our contemporaries can recognize as psychology” (p.155).
Robert further alludes to the fact that the task of integrating is to retrieve Christian Psychology in the form that is recognizable to twenty-first century people as Psychology. He says that “the line we must toe between perverting substance of our psychology and failing to attain the form of a psychology is a fine one” (Roberts 2000, P.157). He states that the bible is the “fountainhead” of Christian ideas, including psychological ones. This mean that much of the foundational work in Christian psychology will therefore “be the careful reading of Scripture by people who know what psychology in the twentieth century was and can therefore sniff out the Biblical psychology” (Roberts 2000, P.159). The criticism for this view is that it unnecessarily distances itself from the proven as well as the potential value that modern psychological investigation can bring to us and to the church.
The fourth view advocates Biblical counseling. This view as described by David Powlison (2000) argues that we should not seek to integrate. This group maintains the position that “mental illness” and “psychopathology” are not valid categories in and of themselves, but rather contain two types of problems that should be distinguished. The first of these problems are best addressed by biological, medical or organic basis. The second category emanates from problems that have their cause from sins of omission and commission, sinning or being sinned against. Proper treatment of this kind requires spiritual interventions that assist the one suffering to identify the sin or sins that need attention so that the person’s relationship with God can be retained or restored.
Thus the fields of psychology and psychotherapy have nothing they can contribute to our understanding of these sinful conditions other than perhaps a more detailed description or symptom identification. Powlison avers that “We as Christians have a distinctive and comprehensive point of view about our souls and the cure for what ails us. God’s view of our Psychology and His call to psychotherapeutic interventions differ essentially and pervasively from both theories and therapies that have dominated psychological discourse and practice in the twentieth century” (Powlison 2000, P.197).
Powlison defines psychology as the functions of the human soul itself; In other words psychology is what you are about “the functional aspects of your life—as well as the various dynamics and interrelationships existing within the whole” (Powlison P. 198). He therefore ascribes to “the faith psychology” which is “as systematic as any personality theory but far more comprehensive, recognizing entire dimensions to which secularity is blind. — It is as distinctive as the Bible’s view of the human condition and Christ cure” (P.219). He argues that the Faith does not only offer a “better truer” psychological model competing with other models. The faith offers the true, redeeming person who competes with finally vacuous and misleading models.
The limitation for this view, it is submitted, is that it is contradictory in itself. Although it rejects integration, it cannot completely deny it and actually does integrate but at a bear minimal. It accepts diagnostic description and identification of problems. It also accepts the general format of the psychotherapy movement (the format of one to one conversation, clinics, appointments, fees, licensure counseling and specialized training) all borrowed from modern sources.